Saturday, January 16, 2016

Orc Stain by James Stokoe

The world has been overrun by orckind for a million millennia. Kingdoms rise and fall in a matter of months—or days. The world is chaos, but chaos is all the world's ever known.

However, one day an orc rises to power—and doesn't fall back down. He manages to unite kingdoms never thought uniteable, and conquer lands never thought conquerable. Timeless borders are abolished; ancient lands are littered with the corpses of any who stand in the way of the southern world's new tyrant. Nothing can escape the wrath of the Orctzar.

Far up north lives our protagonist, a one-eyed orc nicknamed "One-Eye". (None of them have actual names, but the greatest are given numbers post-mortem.) One-Eye likes to stick to his own business—busting locks, and surviving. He lives in a part of the world that's mostly at peace—or as much at peace as a province filled with orcs ever could be—doing what he can to stay out of trouble.

Unbeknownst to One-Eye, the Orctzar has learned from an ancient prophetess that in order to find an object of great power that he seeks, he must find an unspecified one-eyed orc in the north. Eager to obtain this object, and be supreme ruler of the entire world, the Orctzar sends multitudes of troops to round up every one-eyed orc in the northern hemisphere of the planet. One-Eye obviously wants nothing to do with these goings-on, and hightails the hell out of there.

This is the premise to the first volume of Orc Stain by James Stokoe, a beautiful, crazy and vulgar graphic novel about a brilliant and insane world. Stokoe is the creator, writer, artist, colorist, and letterer. Seeing as this is a top-quality graphic novel with incredible art, hilarious writing, and an tremendous amount of worldbuilding, that is mightily impressive.

Stokoe takes us on a highly fantastical tale though incredibly intricate lands, full of strange creatures and odd whatnots. It's a very unique concept, and the amount of content packed into this book (168 full-color pages) is impressive. The fact that it was all created one man is awe-inspiring. If this seems like something you'd be interested in, definitely check it out.

Caution: Orc Stain contains adult content and is intended for mature readers.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Soundtrack of the Month: January 2016

Remember when I complained that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. never got a soundtrack release? Remember when an Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. soundtrack released five days later? Remember when I didn't realize this for the next month? I blame Amazon and Spotify for neglecting to tell me when they should've. I'd be upset, except for the fact that I get to listen to the soundtrack now regardless.

Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is a television series that takes place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe about the story of Agent Phil Coulson, after his iconic death at the hands of the demigod Loki in The Avengers. Coulson, having "magically" recovered following the events of the film, puts together an unlikely task force to work various missions for the government organization S.H.I.E.L.D.

Wait, doesn't bringing the character back to life nullify the meaning and heaviness of his death in the first place? Well, if you watched the series for long enough you would know that is not necessarily the case. A lot of people quit watching in the first half season, for no logical reason I can think of, and so they missed out on some pretty powerful story developments.

S.H.I.E.L.D. is scored by Emmy-winning composer Bear McCreary, and performed by a full orchestra, which is a very rare occurrence for television soundtracks. The skill and dedication Bear brings to the series, along with the addition of the full orchestra, brings the quality of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s music up past numerous film scores in the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and believe me, those scores are some of the best soundtracks in the industry.

This single CD covers the first two seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and thus covers many different episodes and themes. As this is compilation of the finest pieces and moments drawn from all over 44 episodes, there is never a single dull moment, nor a single moment that isn't positively incredible.

Featured Tracks

Track 1: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Overture – An outstanding rendition of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s main theme, a.k.a. Coulson's theme. It appears most often and prominently in the score of Season 1, and a version acts as the end credits theme of every episode. This is easily one of the greatest themes among all of Marvel Studios' film and television soundtracks.

Track 6: Aftermath of the Uprising – This is the track that plays at the end of the majorly game-changing Captain America: The Winter Soldier crossover episode, "Turn, Turn, Turn". This is one of Bear's personal favorite tracks, and I understand why.

Track 9: Cello Concerto – One of the most elaborately-composed pieces of score I'm aware of in existence. Bear talks about it extensively here. (Contains major spoilers for the series, up to and including the classic episode it's featured in, "The Only Light in the Darkness".)

Purchase Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Original Soundtrack Album) on Amazon or iTunes.
Or listen to it for free on Spotify or YouTube.