Orchid #1


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Orchid #1


  • Words: Tom Morello
  • Art: Scott Hepburn
  • Colors: Dan Jackson
  • Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
  • Price: $1.00
  • Release Date: Oct 12, 2011

Musicians creating comics is nothing new. Members of The Dandy Warhols and Coheed and Cambria have written comics, and Anthrax’s Scott Ian is set to write The Demon next year, although I assume that project is up in the air since DC’s relaunch. Tom Morello is the former guitarist of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave and this is his new dystopian comic. It’s the kind of end of the world scenario we’ve seen before but has enough dark potential to become interesting.

Set in an alternate present, the first four pages are filled with poetic (almost over the top) prose and images of worldwide destruction, which set the stage for this new world. “When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed” is the cool opening line and hints at the divergence that the creatures of the Earth took, although humans look the same (so far). In this primordial environment surrounded by ruins of skyscrapers and civilizations, everything is bigger, like in the days of the dinosaur, including the flowers and wild animal combinations. The first few pages neatly summarize the history, in which rich rulers literally look down on the common folk in the overrun forests. Eventually, the slaves united under their leader, General China, to challenge their dictator. However, China was defeated and his mask taken as a prize, leading the slaves to be caught between a rock and a hard place; the rock being the ever present danger of the slave traders and the hard place being the deadly wild. The story then kicks off with Anzio and his rebels as they reclaim the mysterious mask, but at a terrible price. As the rebels are rounded up, the young, bespectacled Simon manages to escape with the unusual headwear and finds his way to a shantytown where he quickly meets some locals, and the hardnosed and cynical prostitute of the title. Their meeting doesn’t start or end well, but it’s obvious that this pair will be the driving force of this proposed 12 issue series.

Scott Hepburn’s art is light, yet frenetic when it needs to be. Somewhat reminiscent of Kyle Hotz, it features delicate line work and great character design. The costumes reveal the role of each person, going a long way to enriching the world that Morello has created. Each issue of Orchid is accompanied by a song from Morello and although this is a novel idea, not enough has been done with it to bring his fans into comic shops. There’s no digital code to gain access to the song (despite the website saying there is), so it’s not necessary to buy the issue to hear the song. Anyone can get the first song, It Begins Tonight for free off the Nightwatchman’s (Morello’s current band) site, and it’s also included on their most recent album. If the intended 12 songs over the next year are truly enhancing the world building being done in the pages of Orchid, the opportunity for more synergy between the two projects should be taken, especially as this series is also being offered on Dark Horse’s digital store.

A Tolkien influence can be seen amongst Orchid’s unusual character names, and the mask which wields dangerous power, much like the One Ring. However, this is a more adult take on fantasy. With its low tech and focus on the low class, it’s more akin to Lord of the Flies than Lord of the Rings. Prostitutes are property and branded as such, wounded veterans of the rebellion await death and scrawny addicts use strange leeches to while away their meager lives. Almost a Dickensian version of Mad Max with its societal structure and hand to mouth existence, there’s no mistaking that the world of Orchid is a tough one. Fans of The Umbrella Academy (from another muso – Gerard Way) should revel in Orchid, as it slightly mirrors its off-centre approach to end of the world heroics.

As a debut, it’s clear that Morello has a grand plan in mind and questions that will be answered, such as what does Anzio know about the mask that he’s not letting on? It still has a way to go set itself apart from the grimy, depressing futures already seen many times in fiction, but with the combination of a tough female protagonist mismatched with a more naive partner, and a crazy world that we've so far only glimpsed, this could very well lead to some interesting places.

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