It is official. The #HotOrcSummer has begun, the first we’ve had in many moons. But what does that mean? What makes it so hot (besides all the global warming)? G. Willow Wilson’s newest comic might just give us the answer. The Hunger And The Dusk is an unusual book for Wilson, who has never really ventured into the realms of true Western High Fantasy (her 2019 fantasy novel The Bird King comes close but sets its action in the 15th century Emirate of Grenada). The idea for the book came to Wilson during the pandemic, and the decision to write it came from the emotions she felt coming out of that chaotic time for the world. It’s a story of war, love, violence, and maybe even hope as two ancient foes join forces to help prevent the end of the world, and I got a chance to check out the first issue.
The story begins with some backstory and one of the most classic fantasy tropes out there: idyllic farming village attacked by monsters. At first it feels like it’s an attack by orcs, a small band of whom is seen to be in the area. But it quickly becomes evident that the attackers are something much more dangerous as the orc warriors and the village’s militia are dispatched quickly and bloodily by strange shadowy figures. The humans and orcs are massacred and the village burned, with only a young boy, Will, left alone among the wreckage.
The real story kicks off six months later, where Callum Battle-child and his band of mercenaries prepare for a summit with the orc clans at a place sacred to both. It is here that the human clerics plan to forge a peace treaty with the orcs against the monsters from the prologue, which are revealed to be called the Vangol. The Vangol have been rampaging across the land and are so powerful that neither side can truly defeat them. Orcish warlord Troth Icemane offers up his sister Tara to Callum’s band The Last Men as a representative of the new treaty. But just as the deal is finally made, the Vangol attack and the alliance is immediately tested as they fight side by side against the monsters.
In the end, Tara and Callum prove their worth to each other in the battle and sparks begin to immediately fly between the two. Troth, meanwhile, looks over the bloodied warriors and reflects on the tenuous world he has helped forge.
The first issue of a new comic rarely gets to much beyond exposit on the characters and setting, but Wilson is deft in this issue at weaving details into the dialogue without making it feel stilted. The setting itself isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but there’s some unique aesthetic choices that still help it feel like an interesting enough backdrop to the drama. I especially love that the orcs ride Yaks instead of horses. Oh and the orcs…yeah the orcs are hot. Chris Wildgoose’s art is phenomenal the whole way through, giving everything a bit of dark fantasy edge without losing any vibrancy in the process.
Wilson’s writing also avoids going too hard into “fantasy speak,” and characters speak fairly naturally. It’s not truly modern speech, but it’s not weighted down with all the thees and thous that can be a trap for so many fantasy writers. I’m immediately intrigued by Callum and Tara, who are set up perfectly for the sort of healing romance straight out of a fanfic. The end of the comic is melancholy and hopeful, with plenty of threads left to explore and mysteries to solve going into the next issue.
The Hunger And The Dusk #1 is available for pre-order through May 29th, and hits shelves in July! Keep an eye out for some of the variant covers including special foil covers by Cliff Chiang. And stay tuned for the next issue!
Images and review copy via IDW Publishing
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