Posted on January 19, 2013 AT 08:32pm
Tom Morello’s epic series Orchid has finally come to a close, and with the release of its final issue, the time has come to take a look at the series as a whole. The complete, twelve-issue series, that focuses on revolution, triumph, and a bit of the supernatural, was a roller-coaster ride of a tale. Writer, Tom Morello, artist, Scott Hepburn, and colorist, Dan Jackson, have crafted a unique tale that follows a young, abused prostitute and takes her on the adventure of a life-time.
The tale of Orchid is one that is very difficult to explain in a few short sentences. However, a tale that takes on so many overarching themes is very impressive. From the use of an uneven caste system (with those who live in the highly exclusive Penuel towering over the lower-class system filled with swampland and shanty houses) to the use of a supernatural force that inspires the rebellion against those who have oppressed the lower class (represented by the mask of the great rebel leader, General China) and the journey of the focal character, Orchid, a prostitute who ends up being the voice of the oppressed, there is a lot to take in. Following the trek of not only Orchid, but of the several and varied characters that cross her path throughout the course of twelve issues creates an emotional and engrossing plot that spans great lands, incredible danger, and graphic (but justifiable) violence.
From the first glimpse of Orchid as a Valk (a group of abused and oppressed prostitutes) to her kidnapping and eventual role as the book carries on (Spoiler: She plays a pretty big role in the overall conclusion of the story), Orchid is a dynamic lead in a medium that needs more female lead characters. Those who follow her path are also very dynamic. From the book smart yet annoying, Simon, to the courageous and mysterious, Opal, the characters are the biggest portion of this complicated story. That and the monsters. The monsters, a result of a break down in genetic evolution, are terrifying and shocking in a way that can’t help but be awe-inspiring. Hybrid Bear-Scorpions fill the land called “The Wild”, representing just one of the deadly creatures that fill the book. While there is too much story for one review to cover, this can definitely be said about the series: it’s quite a ride and with twelve issues of plot to move through, it’s a long and thrilling trip.
The entirety of this story is a complex ride, but while the twists and turns of the story aren’t always clear, the characters and environments have a lasting impact. Tom Morello is definitely known more for his work as a musician, but with this series, he’s proved that his writing skills go far beyond the medium of music. While at times Morello’s scripting is a bit off, showing his inexperience (mainly in pacing and locations of pivotal plot details), more often than not, Morello displays impressive prowess as a comic book writer. There are plenty of great examples of his skills in this series from the twisting plot, the varying characters, and the terrifying hybrid creatures created by Morello and artist Scott Hepburn. This series was a surprise hit and with its touching story filled with violence, rebellion, and emotion, Morello can place his story on the very short list of great ones told in recent memory.
Hepburn shows great skill creating a beautiful and emotion-stirring environment full of great battlefields, ornate castles, run down villages, and spectacular creatures. While there is little in the way of lighting effects from either Hepburn or Jackson, the shadowing, color work, and successful use of proper anatomical human figures makes up for it. Not quite as detailed as some of the other comic books out there, Orchid more than makes up for it with character, both in the literal and figurative sense.
Summary: From the gripping plot to the elaborate artwork, Orchid is a series that cannot be missed. While there are some moments of inexperience by Morello (mainly plot device placement and pacing) and a lack of lighting detail (a common detraction with Dark Horse titles), this is overall a very fun and very rewarding series. The writing and plot are terrific, the artwork is stellar, and the sheer creativity of the series (from the hybrid creatures to the incredible development of the title character from downtrodden prostitute to icon) makes this a can’t miss project. The mind of Tom Morello is one of vast imagination and perspective, and his writing skills (both in his musical career as well as this) are very prominent in this title. While the story may have ended, this is a story that can (and should) be read several times over, just out of sheer entertainment.
The Good: Terrific Writing, Amazing Characters, Great Artwork.
The Bad: Plot Placement, Pacing Issues.
The Ugly: Scorpion-Bears. Enough Said.
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