Book Review: Orcs: Forged for War by Stan Nicholls and Joe Flood (Illustrator)

Orcs: Forged for War by Stan Nicholls and Joe Flood (illustrator) is a graphic novel based on what if's. What if orcs, like all living creatures, have members of the group that are good and honorable. Perhaps be even more honorable and humane than mankind. These are not the orcs that most people picture, mainly garnered from Tolkien's works. These are orcs based on older mythology, legends and what ifs. There is a book series that already maps out this universe, where humans are struggling to gain dominion over the Elder Races; like orcs, elves, goblins and so forth. I have not read the series, but I will now that I am aware of the series and have a taste of the world built by Nicholls I intend to read the books. Reading the prior books is not necessary for understanding and enjoying Orcs: Forged for War.

In Orcs: Forged for War it is orcs against the world. Humans in general fear and despise the elder races, including the orcs that they use to fight their battles. Other elder races look down on orcs as all muscle, no brain or magic. Orcs are considered useful in only one respect, their fighting skills, and the orcs rather like it that way. The band of orcs depicted in this graphic novel are in the service of a ruthless witch, that is half human. The story consists of one mission that the orcs must undergo by her orders. However, the entire mission seems less than desirable or clear to the orcs from day one. They need to guard a band of goblins as they transport and test a weapon, but the wording of the order has them questioning whether they are to be babysitters for a goblin team or spies to make sure they are following orders. While i found the major parts of the story a little predictable, I still enjoyed the book as a whole. The other major story within Orcs: Forged for War follows humans fighting for their own side, and the rather crazy holy man that accompanies them. Fire and brimstone is mild compared to the beliefs that the holy man spouts, forcing his young daughter to witness the death and destruction of entire villages to further what he deems the duty to his god. I think that the story is a good reminder that what might seem obviously bad, like orcs, could be better or more humane than those making judgements to punish, kill, or restrict their actions simply because of the race they were born into.

I found the art of Orcs: Forged for War to be very striking and well done.It begins as simple, but does a fantastic job of portraying the harsh, grim life of the orcs. The facial expressions and detail of the artwork added a special element to the story. I highly recommend the book to fans of earlier books by Nicholls, those that like gritty graphic novels, and those that like some blood and violence in their graphic novel. I do not recommend this book to anyone that is offended or bothered by blood and guts included through a good portion of a graphic novel. One look at the cover or red and black art gives a good indicator of what you will find inside the cover, and whether you will like the book.
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