The writers who create post-apocalyptic worlds almost always rely on an outdated cultural milieu. This isn’t a negative criticism of this strategy; instead, the technique ensures that the reader will understand this future world as something we already know, as something we feel we’ve surpassed and overcome.
Dystopias are a projection of our current fears, and our current fears are a combination of the uncertainty of the future and a desperation to never turn back. With that said, Orchid definitely plays on this, feeling like a hodgepodge of the Middle Ages, Deadwood, and a Cambodian border town.
I was expecting for the story to begin with the eponymous hero, Orchid, but instead the protagonist is Simon, a skinny, snarky blond guy who wears a pair of big blue glasses and speaks with an excessively polite and possibly British accent. We quickly learn that Simon was a slave for 12 years and a rebel fighter for two, and now he’s returned back to his home town with a mystical mask he retrieved from the enemy.
It’s not until several pages into the comic that we’re actually introduced to Orchid. She’s a tough prostitute; she apparently hates weakness in other women; and she isn’t afraid of fighting back. She returns home to find Simon with her family, and immediately distrusts him.
When the town officials come to the home, both Simon and Orchid believe they’ve been caught–Simon for stealing the mask, Orchid for smashing in the face of her pimp–and Simon, Orchid, and Orchid’s little brother are thrown in the back of a wagon while Orchid’s mother is murdered.
Alright. So that’s a brief description of the story. Now, here’s what I thought about it.
As a writer I tend to focus on the story more than the art, but overall I enjoyed it. Orchid uses a relatively subdued and muted palate, with flashes of color in specific panels to bring out certain elements (fear, sexuality).
Now for the plot and characters.
Neither protagonist gained my sympathy in this issue, but it’s a brand new comic, with no history, no back-story, no recognizable cast.
Orchid is the typical sexy-yet-tough female character, as 99% of female comic book characters are. As with most women in comics, her sexuality is her most prominent feature, and her (potential and expected) ability to save the world comes in second. I can see Orchid becoming a more likable and interesting hero, though; the comic ends with a close-up of her face, devastated and enraged at seeing her mother killed.
Simon reminds me of the kind of man who would lurk for hours in coffee shops when I worked as a barista, talking about himself until he’d get a dreamy, far-away look in his eyes, and I’d have to kick him out because it was closing time and I couldn’t listen to another goddamn word out of his mouth. But! There is a spark of likability in his scruffy face, and his banter has an almost Whedonesque quality to it, which I have a soft spot for.
I’ll be curious to see how Orchid and Simon’s characters progress throughout the series, so I guess that’s saying something.
As for how this comic book rates on a girl-friendly level, I’d say it’s in the low middle. Aside from the branded and enslaved prostitutes, Orchid’s mother is the only other female character, and she shuffles around anxiously in her bathrobe, looking weak and haggard. So there’s definitely a mother/whore dichotomy going on here. Simon, on the other hand, is both hero and nerd, gentleman and vagabond, all in one.
While I’m pretty sure Orchid will become the savior they’ve all been waiting for, I’m curious to see how and if other female characters will be introduced, and whether or not they’ll be given a fuller and more complex personality.