Author/Artist: Tom Morello, Dan Jackson, Scott Hepburn
Genre: Manga & Comics, Dystopia, Biopunk
Publication Date: July 11, 2012 (North America – Dark Horse Comics)
Summary: When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed. Now, 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, who overlook swampland shantytowns from their fortresslike cities. Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves. Welcome to the world of Orchid.
Orchid, along with her little brother and an unexpected ally named Simon, find themselves in unknown territory after they’re captured and sold by slave traders. Headed toward the feared Fortress Penuel, Simon must mount an escape plan if he’s going to rescue his rebel comrades and return the mysterious and powerful mask of General China to its rightful owner–a saint believed to save the oppressed from the wicked Tomo Wolfe.
☆: 4/5 – a fun new dystopic world!
Review: I’ve always been a fan of Rage Against the Machine. So when I heard their guitarist, Tom Morello, was putting out a comic, I was intrigued. The art on the cover looked gorgeous (I’m a sucker for pretty covers. There, I said it.), so I decided to dive in. And I’m glad I did. Even though there’s a bit of a slow start to it, “Orchid” is a great dystopian story of the human race being forced back to its beginnings after a major global warming event nearly wipes it out. Warning: this one is DEFINITELY not for kids, so I’d advise older YA and above for an audience. All the same, it’s dark and gritty and unflinching, warning us about a future that may be in our reach if we don’t shape up our act now.
What I love most about “Orchid” is Morello’s absolute staunchness in telling us how bad things get. Well, not exactly that – just when you think things are bad (the seas are rising, people are becoming displaced on boats to survive the flooding), he makes them worse (guess what? the boats are full of crazy cannibals!). People are divided into two classes: the ruling class, and slaves. He also emphasizes that it’s probably best to trust no one in either class – because everyone’s just doing what they can to survive, which includes killing, maiming, betraying, and the like.
This is not a happy story. I’ll say that flat out. But it is one that will make you want to cheer for our heroine. Pretty much everything that can go wrong does for her, yet she still stands up and wants to fight for her right to simply exist. She kicks ass and takes names even after all of the horrible things that happen to her – she refuses to lie down and take it (as so many women in her part of the slave/sex trade do). It’s nice to see a heroine so feisty in such a terrible world, so I really, really enjoyed watching how she evolved in the few short issues that are included in this volume.
However – since this is the introductory volume, the character building in the larger sense isn’t quite where I would have liked it to be. Anyone who wasn’t David or Orchid (or later, Barabas) wasn’t really filled out too well, except for the occasional villain of the week. But the worldbuilding knocked my socks off in how detailed it was in the story of how things came to be, and how things are now. The art really puts a gorgeous touch on the worldbuilding, too. Since the worldbuilding really makes up for the wobbly character structure and mostly backstory chapters outside of the main cast and story, I’ll give Morello a pass on this one.
So if you’re not sick of dystopian stories yet, I’d definitely give this one a read. “Orchid: Volume 1” will be out in North America through Dark Horse Comics July 10, 2012. Definitely check this one out when you get the time, guys – I think Morello is going to prove to be a fantastic comic writer if we just give him the chance.