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When a female comic book fan navigates the seas that are heavily controlled by the Y-chromosome, she tends to be hesitant when picking up a new action-oriented series wherein the protagonist is female and the writer and artist are men. This is the case especially if the protagonist is described in the synopsis as a prostitute and is then unnecessarily posed both unnaturally and provocatively in skimpy attire on one of the splash pages.
This is the case in Orchid Vol.1, written by Rage Against The Machine‚Äôs Tom Morello, with art from Scott Hepburn and colors by Dan Jackson. Still the instinct is to push on in hopes that it was merely a piece of fanservice and not indicative of the overall tone. Sometimes, like in the case of Orchid, the female fan does not end up disappointed.
Within the first pages of text the audience is introduced to a unique view of post-apocalyptic Earth, dated at an unspecified time in the distant future. An era of mass flooding has destroyed most of the planet and, because of heavy pollution, that water had turned into a cesspool of chemical waste. By the time the seas finally receded, there were races of giant, mutated animals emerging to rule the land, known to the surviving humans as The Wild. In order to stay alive against the dangerous terrain and the creatures that live there, humanity has grown to limp on under a despotic government system, ruled by the cruel Tomo Wolfe.
The audience learns immediately of the ill-fated savior of the ‚Äúbridge people‚ÄĚ ‚Äď those unlucky enough to be in the lower class of this new world ‚Äď is General China, who wore a magic mask as he attempted to lead a revolution.¬† He was defeated by Wolfe, his mask claimed by the victor, and years later, the mask is liberated by a new band of rebels. This is where the story truly begins, in media res.
The audience meets the rebels as they‚Äôre escaping from Wolfe‚Äôs soldiers, led by the enigmatic Anzio. It is almost immediately apparent, however, that Anzio is not who this story is going to be about. Stealing the show from the first page of dialogue is Simon, an awkward man who has educated himself through reading ‚Äď something so rare in these times that his verbose wit is seen as ‚Äústrange‚ÄĚ by the majority of people he comes across.
And while he is clearly amusing and his speech is much wordier and more sardonic than others, it doesn‚Äôt seem as though the fact that his dialogue is apparently so exceedingly different ‚Äď to the point that it prompts things like ‚ÄúHe talks funny‚ÄĚ from other characters – comes across on paper. Other than his dialogue just being generically longer and more involved, there‚Äôs no immediate difference.
The rebels are stopped and Anzio is instantly captured and taken prisoner, but Simon is able to escape with the magic mask in his grasp. The narrative then follows Simon as his life collides with that of Orchid, the namesake of the comic, and the stereotypical hardened prostitute with a heart of gold.
She‚Äôs likeable enough as a character, and points are given for her profession only being utilized in the story where strictly necessary for plot, but there are times in the book when she comes across as vaguely unsympathetic, unreasonable, and blind to the way that her life could be so much worse if she hadn‚Äôt forged a tentative partnership with Simon, which was driven purely by the need for survival after both find themselves being sold as slaves.
The story itself is engaging, a tale of a necessary revolution and the invisible heroes who inch it toward fruition, and the pacing is excellent. The art is well done – not too distracting, except for a few close-up shots that make the characters look more like caricatures – and the characters do feel real, flaws and all.
Most impressive is the fact that the comic uses Orchid as more than just eye-candy (in fact, aside from her prostitute ‚Äúuniform‚ÄĚ that she wears the entire issue, and that bit of fanservice on the splash page, she‚Äôs not treated as eye-candy at all); they give her a real purpose, a real mission and destiny to fulfill.¬† Cautious female comic book fans may find safe harbor in the pages of Orchid Vol. 1.
Warnings: Nudity, graphic violence and gore, disturbing themes and imagery