Review: Orchid #1 by Tom Morello

Title: Orchid #1

Author: Tom Morello

Illustrator: Scott Hepburn

Rating: 

Publisher: Dark Horse Comics

Review:

In a dystopian future, the polar ice caps have melted and the world is flooded. High grounds belonged to the rich and the poor “bridge people” became enslaved. To make matters worse, the environmental shift smashed the Earth’s genetic codes and evolutionary beasts emerged from the waters. Amidst the turmoil, an uprising is stirring. Orchid, our heroine, accepts her lot in life — she is a prostitute who will do whatever it takes to care for her family. But when she finds herself entangled with a revolutionary leader named Simon, her life is turned upside-down.

The premise of Orchid is nothing new — in fact it falls right in line with the latest dystopian trends. Fortunately, Morello has a unique take on the trope. Orchid is somewhat cliche — a gritty, down-on-her-luck prostitute who is also a benevolent caretaker for her family. She has a rough edge and is scantily-clad with the word “property” tattooed across her chest. With so much self-loathing it is surprising that she could show the love she does toward her family.

What the novel did well is in world-building. I enjoyed the evolutionary monsters, diverse in their levels of grotesqueness. It adds a level of havoc that parts from the calculating oppression they suffer from the soldiers. The beasts are indiscriminate in their attacks, really helping to flesh out the world.

There was a tendency throughout the novel to info-dump and in fact, it was an unfortunate start to the novel. Following the initial pages of background history, we are led into an exciting action scene of a failed revolution attempt that was perhaps the most riveting of the entire novel. While I don’t have a glowing review of the first collection, I do think this series has a lot of potential. The dialog is a bit inconsistent — sometimes it comes across as dark and serious, other times as comic or pulpy. But overall, the characters are strong enough that they have room to develop and there are many ways the story can evolve.

I enjoyed the artwork and on several panels there is great architectural detail that expounds upon the world-building found in the text. Even in panels with less detail, the action can be visualized, like in the 2-panel sequence shown to the right.

Overall, I felt that the first Orchid novel focused a little too much on world-building and it could have been strengthened with a stronger story arc. The premise is strong and the characters have a level of complexity to them. The idea of monsters evolving because of a flood has little plausibility, but it is the element of the story that I find most intriguing. For comic fans, I think Orchid is worth giving a shot.

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