Pullbox Reviews The Hunger and the Dusk, an outstanding start to an epic new fantasy series!

In a dying world, only humans and orcs remain, mortal enemies battling for territory and political advantage. But when a group of fearsome ancient humanoids known as the Vangol arrive from across the sea, the two struggling civilizations are forced into a fragile alliance to protect what they have built.

As a gesture of his commitment to the cause, the most powerful orc overlord, Troth Icemane, sends his beloved cousin, Tara, a high-ranking young healer, to fight alongside brash human commander Callum Battlechild and his company of warriors. With a crisis looming, the success of this unlikely pair’s partnership and the survival of their peoples will depend on their ability to unlearn a lifetime of antagonistic instincts toward one another…and rise above the sting of heartbreak.

Full of themes, from leaving the past behind, rising from humble beginnings, and enemies allying against a common threat, The Hunger and the Dusk isn’t just about one thing. More than anything else in the opening issue, the layers and interwoven threads are what stuck. There’s a great show of ambition behind the idea that a story doesn’t have to be limited to a single idea and can cover a broad range without bogging down in lore-heavy exposition dumps.

Just about anyone who’s cracked open a comicbook has heard of G. Willow Wilson. Her writing credits aren’t limited to comics, with three novels etched into her belt, and she’s covered most of the cornerstone titles for DC & Marvel. Racking up a laundry list of awards since her first graphic novel Cairo in 2007, and her first ongoing series Air in 2008 (both for Vertigo Comics), she’s more than earned a seat at the Big Table of Writers. With The Hunger, Wilson tackles a host of ideas and historical themes (she studied history at Boston University), but instead of spiraling into a convoluted bog she’s on track to keeping the story grounded in personal stakes.

In Troth, readers find a leader who sees the only path forward for his people is to leave the past behind and unite with ancient enemies. Troth’s cousin, Tara Icemane, is the symbol for that alliance as she’s assigned to a spot with a human band of adventurers for the coming war. That band, a group of survivors aptly dubbed The Last Men Standing, is led by Callum Battlechild and for his part he can think of many… so very many… reasons that someone else should have been picked for this gig. Everyone has their own demons to face in the looming conflict against the ancient enemy known as the Vangol, a thing that could keep Wilson’s canvas from getting too big too fast.

Backing Wilson up on the publisher’s promise of a “breathtaking fantasy saga”, artist Chris Wildgoose goes straight to work. He manages to mix up sweeping landscapes with close, more personal character work, often in the same panel. I don’t know if it’s a deliberate thing, but for me it worked to reinforce the intimate story being told on a grand setting. Another huge point in Wildgoose’s favor is the amount of personality he’s able to invest in the characters. The orcs, in many other cases shown as brutish and bordering on animalistic, are given a lot more to do than growl and ramble on about chewing on man-flesh. They joke, they ponder, and occasionally they even philosophize. Under Wildgoose’s pencil, all of their personalities are shown.

My last bit of praise goes out to the finishers, the closers of the comic industry, Michele Assarasakorn on colors & Simon Bowland on letters. “Msassyk” brings the world of Hunger & Dusk to life, fleshing out the characters and their world. Noteworthy is her ability to keep back and foregrounds separate without losing any of the details put into the landscape. I can also appreciate not falling into the all orcs are green artistic choice. Throwing in shades of orange and brown was a big help in distinguishing some of the different characters. Simon Bowland’s lettering does a fantastic job of fading into the background, keeping the story moving and never getting in the way of the art.

I’m very much looking forward to watching this story play out, in seeing how well it lives up to its promise as a “high fantasy tour de force promising heartrending drama, pulse-quickening romance, awe-inspiring world-building, and bloody carnage to satisfy every manner of genre fan!” That’s a tall order, but even though I only have the first issue to go by, there’s a lot of promise here.

Final Score: 12/13

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