Review – Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 (Dark Horse Comics)

  • Writing - 8.5/10
  • Art - 10/10
  • Overall - 9.5/10

Orphan and the Five Beasts #1

Writer: James Stokoe
Artist: James Stokoe 
Letterer: James Stokoe
Maturity Rating: Mature
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Release Date: March 17, 2021

A martial arts master’s former students have corrupted his teaching. His dying wish is for his final student, the one who has mastered all five styles, to defeat these now-enemies before they destroy the land. Orphan Mo will need all her skills to defeat the Five Beasts.

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“I’ll let you try my Wu-Tang style” Orphan and the Five Beasts #1

Hey Brent, you like old kung-fu movies? “Well, yeah!” Like the classic film Five Deadly Venoms? “Why yes, I do!” Would you like to see James Stokoe do a story like that in comic book form? “Umm, you betcha I would love that!” Well, if your thought process is like mine then get ready, because Stokoe brings the thunder in Orphan and the Five Beasts #1. Mo, an orphan and the last student of a reclusive martial arts master, must fulfill her master’s last wish. The reluctant teacher once had five students that he taught each an individual style; after they defended the land, their power has now corrupted them. Their minds have been infested by demons. It is up to Mo to defeat them. Mo knows all the five styles of the individual beasts, but will her martial arts mastery be enough to defeat these monstrosities? 

Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 (Dark Horse Comics) cover by James Stokoe
Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 (Dark Horse Comics) cover by James Stokoe

Bro, if you know me, you know I love some kung-fu epics and some James Stokoe comics. So, Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 is a match made in heaven for me. I love when comic books do these epic kung-fu stories (the severely underrated Iron Fist run by Ed Brisson, Andy Perkins did a great one). Now you throw in one of the wildest creative talents in comics ever in James Stokoe and it is a recipe for success!


Look, yeah, basically like I said at the beginning, the basic plot setting is Five Deadly Venoms. The first issue does not really expand on that motif much. We get the plot set up and our lead character, Mo, is on her way. We do not get to know much about her, besides the whole Orphan thing and, obviously, she is a very skilled combatant. 

Though we do not get much character-wise, everything is set up to get the series started and leaves you anticipating her first encounter with one of the “five beasts”. It is a solid final-page fight tease that only Stokoe could do. I am sure Stokoe has some surprises up his sleeve for the next three issues.

Stokoe does build up the “epicness” of the storyline well, as the old Master details the triumph and downfall of his five former students. Stokoe has a way with his dialogue that, at times, feels manic. He can make characters feel like they are speaking in a very fast, almost wild manner. But yet, they also feel calm and serene in another instance. His art and lettering also help create this almost crazed/demented feeling at times. He also catches the calmness as well; again, another calling to his lettering work in Orphan and the Five Beasts #1.


James Stokoe is one of the top artists out there today. If he is doing a book it is always worth a look. Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 showcases his incredible skill once again. I will never understand how he is able to pack so much into a single image. Even his smallest panels are filled with incredible details. A lot of times Stokoe’s work feels like a Where’s Waldo image in that he has so much going in in the foreground and background, you find yourself staring at it and catching little details for a long time.

In a series that is playing off of kung-fu classics like Five Deadly Venoms and others, you expect some wild action, and Stokoe delivers that in spades in Orphan and the Five Beasts #1. I mean, it is James Stokoe doing wild martial arts action; what’s not to love? Stokoe always brings a wonderful sense of motion, impact, and a frenzy of energy to the pages. Stokoe’s work oozes these wild, almost fever-dream-like action sequences that will leave your heart pumping.

Stokoe also continues to showcase great character acting and visual storytelling through his work in Orphan and the Five Beasts #1. He is fantastic at using that exaggerated style to bring out delightful emotions from his characters. He gets a lot of the story told through characters’ actions and looks. Also, the series has a wonderful design to it. The characters all look fantastic and I can’t wait to see what the other 4 “beasts” look like. Stokoe always has some insane monster/character designs. After seeing the first beast in Orphan and the Five Beasts #1, who knows what he has in store for the other four.


Look, I love old kung-fu movies and I adore James Stokoe, so obviously Orphan and the Five Beasts #1 was made for me to praise. I loved every second of it. Now, not much happens story-wise besides the setup, but Stokoe lays everything out and by the end, I was immediately wanting the second issue. The art is splendid and, as always, a treat to look at every single panel and page. Stokoe’s art is like nothing else on the shelves. I am superbly hyped to see what Stokoe has created in that mad mind of his for the next three issues.

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