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Review: Orchid #1

Written by Royal Nonesuch on Wednesday, October 12 2011 and posted in Reviews

Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave guitarist enters the world of comic book writing with Dark Horse's Orchid!

Comic Review Cover

Credits & Solicit Info:

From the mind of musician Tom Morello (Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, The Nightwatchman), with art by Scott Hepburn (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), Orchid is the tale of a teenage prostitute who learns that she is more than the role society has imposed upon her.

When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Human settlements are ringed by a dense wilderness from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless. The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful that overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortress-like cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves. Welcome to the world of Orchid.

* Featuring a variant cover by the best known and influential street artist Shepard Fairey!

Writer: Tom Morello
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Cover Artist: Shepard Fairey
Genre: Action/Adventure

Publication Date: October 12, 2011
Format: FC, 32 pages
Price: $3.50
UPC: 7 61568 16912 6 00121


Considering his leftist writings and music, it's probably no surprise that a comic book by Tom Morello would include oppressive regimes and a downtrodden underclass trying to rebel and get out from under someone's thumb.  The concept of speaking truth to power, as well as examining what those two concepts mean today, becomes potent again as Wall Street is occupied and police actions are questioned in cities across the country.  What may be more surprising is the way Morello expresses his ideas in his comics debut, Orchid.

Set in a possible future when unchecked climate change leads to natural disasters strong enough to reshape the entire world, Orchid tells the tale of a ruling class opposed by a veritable army of oppressed citizens who at one point followed a mysterious masked ruler, and now see that mask as a rallying symbol.  All this information comes after four clunky pages of exposition about how the world of Orchid came to be this way, and from there explores the land through a chase scene that leads to the introduction of the main characters.  The world of Orchid is totally grungy and dirty, and the craggy, gritty, textured artwork of Scott Hepburn and Dan Jackson reflects that reality.  Things just look so distorted and gross in a way that really brings to life the horrifying existence the characters have to live through.  That reality, although we know it takes place in our future, looks like a mish-mash of timelines come together in a post-apocalyptic horror show.  The factions, clothing, speech patterns, feudalism, and slave trading bring to mind ancient times, and there are monsters to remind us of fantasy stories, but one of the main characters is wearing a business suit and glasses, and there are several other visual cues to show us that this new world doesn't really have a look of its own.  This is the look of improvised survival. 

How interesting then that in Morello's story class distinctions and struggles persevere after a horrible environmental apocalypse.    Although things are exaggerated, the negatives of our society continue on in the future depicted in Orchid #1.  The exploitation and violence are cranked up to a horrifying degree.  In fact, the world is endlessly brutal, but after the first few pages, it all rides along very smoothly.  The story finds its feet and moves at a natural clip and, as a first issue of a new series, does a good job of introducing most of what we need to know about the story, and despite some trouble spots with exposition (the old "character speaks out loud to nobody in particular so that we can catch up with what he's thinking" trick is utilized here), the story does come together in an interesting way.  The world of Orchid is the real attraction here, and despite the brutal tone, it is pretty fascinating.  Orchid is surprising and unpredictable in parts, and it's even a little funny.  Ultimately, it's certainly worth a read. 

Review by: Royal Nonesuch

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About the Author - Royal Nonesuch

As Senior Media Correspondent (which may be a made-up title), Royal Nonesuch tends to spearhead a lot of film and television content on The Outhouse. He's still a very active participant in the comic book section of the site, though. Nonesuch writes reviews of film, television, and comics, and conducts interviews for the site as well.  You can reach out to him on Twitter or with Email.


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