Orchid…A Beautiful Flower & an All Too Real World

Review by Shaun Daniels and Edited by Sharon Wong

Orchid Issue #2  Written by Tom Morello, Art by Scott Hepburn, Colors by Dan Jackson, Cover by Massimo Carnevale and Published by Dark Horse Comics

Nowadays, it is a rarity for a reader or a viewer to jump into and land safely in the middle of a story, especially a meaty one, in a book or television series.  Issue #2 of Orchid, from writer Tom Morello and artist Scott Hepburn, may not be the middle of the 12-issue series but it allows the comic’s readers to hit the ground running all while knowing the facts about the continuing story.

For the few people who missed issue #1 of Orchid (which is selling for just a $1), here’s a quick recap.  Earth’s water levels have slowly risen, changing the landscape of the planet and its inhabitants including those not of the two-legged variety.  Much like in the real world, the social & political elite have the means to seek higher ground while the less fortunate must find what little land is still available, wherever it may be.  Of course in any good dystopian society, there exists the staples of cannibals, slaves and those of the age-old profession, prostitutes.  In the world of Orchid, a group rose up to challenge the ruling classes of the city states that were popping up across the world.  The rebellion, led by General China, was unsuccessful yet his legend continues to live on in the form of a mask.  Normally, a mask would not make a legend but this one bequeaths some pretty amazing abilities to the person donning the mask, that is if the mask deems the person worthy.  In this first issue, we are introduced to main characters Orchid, her little brother, Yehzu, and what’s left of freedom fighter/terrorist Simon, who has only one thing going for him and that is he carries the mask.  Simon manages to get himself, Orchid, and Yehzu captured and sold into slavery.

And this is where issue #2 picks up though things don’t look promising.  Sold to a Caligula-like man, Simon, Orchid and Yehzu are to be brought to the pits to become gladiators.  This is definite for Simon but the fate of Orchid and Yehzu is something you can fill-in-the-blanks when dealing with this Caligula-type figure.  The trio search for an escape but it really isn’t an escape when you could just as easily land in a boat full of cannibals or a scorpion bear (yes, a scorpion bear).

Morello is doing a great job on his first comic writing tour.  Orchid is full of political juxtaposition to the current socio-political state of America, giving the book a high voltage political charge.  The choice of name that Morello has given the original leader of the freedom fighters, General China, is both straightforward and ironic (with a wink and a nudge).  When it comes to freedom, China is not the first country to be mentioned in the same sentence, let alone paragraph, of this f-word.  The use of freedom as a name was very specific, mostly to challenge readers’ perceptions of the world.  The one bit of criticism of Morello’s writing is that he is cramming too much into this book; he is introducing the world and its issues to readers as well as a lot of concepts and future plot threads, which is a good thing, but it is overwhelming.

Hepburn is killing it.  If there is one person who can draw a pretty-looking dystopian future, it’s Hepburn.  He’s clearly having fun with the panel layouts in the opening flashback stories with characters spilling out of the borders.  One of our favorite panels is the Barge Master, think cannibal meets Conan.  Hepburn’s art hints at a European style, helping create the book’s mood.  Finally, the Massimo Carnevale covers are gorgeously rendered.

If you’re looking for a dystopian book chock-full of political undertones and scorpion bears, this is exactly the book for you.

Feedback is always welcomed at shaun@horrorhaven.com and sharon@horrorhaven.com

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