There was something about Orchid that had me interested right from the get go. Sure, the basic premise of the comic was interesting, and the fact that it was written by former Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello was pretty cool, but there was something else about the comic that intrigued me. Maybe it was the way artist Massimo Carnivale rendered her on the issue's cover. Maybe it was the striking red variant cover created by Shepard Fairey, who also created the famous Obama "Hope" poster. Whatever it was, I was really looking forward to reading this comic, and for the most part, the first issue didn't disappoint.
The issue opens with a lengthly prologue that does a great job of establishing the comic's universe, even if it drags on for a little longer than I would've liked. In Orchid, the rising of the sea has completely changed the landscape of the planet. The rich live safely on the higher ground, while the poor are enslaved and preyed on by the monstrous beasts that now walk the earth. There was initially an uprising, but the rebels were mostly stamped out, and only a small few remain. Most of the world, from the females forced to serve as prostitutes to the people who know they could be monster chow any minute, seem pretty resigned to the status quo.
There are several elements introduced here that I'm fascinated by. From a magic mask that can only be worn by saints to hints of the world's strange history, Morello has a lot of ideas, and I'm excited to see how they play out. The creativity displayed throughout the book makes its more cliche aspects stand out a little more. There were a few bits in the book I feel like I should've had more of an emotional reaction to, and I wish the comic had had a bigger ending. But there was more than enough in the comic to get me to come back, and I suspect that the story will get stronger now that the set-up's out of the way. Based on solicits, it looks like we'll get a nice mixture of present day action and backstory in the issues to come, and I'm curious to see if this issue will read any differently a few months down the line.
What really made this issue for me was a character named Simon, who I grew attached to almost instantly. He remains strangely lighthearted in this strange and desolate world, and serves as a great balance to everything else the story throws at you. He has a bit of a steampunk look to him, and an engineering background that should make him useful in the issues to come. He actually felt more like this issue's main character than Orchid did, and I hope he still gets plenty of pagetime as her character gets developed more. I genuinely laughed out loud at several of his lines, and he had me smiling throughout the comic.
Scott Hepburn's art is a little uneven, but I think he's a great fit for the book. He does an excellent job of showcasing the bizarre world our characters live in, especially in the early pages, and his creatures feel like something that could actual exist. There are flaws in his work- some of his character expressions are great, while others feel a bit rushed, and there are occasionally inconsistencies from panel to panel. But for me, the good aspects of his art made up for the bad, and I'm really hoping to see him improve in the issues to come. Dan Jackson's colors are solid, but I'd love to see the comic employ a color scheme more like the one on the cover.
Given Morello's background, it should come as no surprise that music is an integral part of the comic. Orchid will actually have its own musical soundtrack, and a code for a free song will be included with every comic. This issue's tune, "It Begins Tonight" has sort of a rough folk rock vibe. I'm not sure the song was meant to be read along with the issue, but it's a cool idea, and I'd love to see more of this sort of thing in comics. For big fans of Rage Against the Machine or other Morello music projects, the free download alone is reason enough to check out this comic.
Orchid #1 isn't perfect, but it's a good start. Given that the first issue is only $1.00, it gives readers a lot for their money, and the free song only sweetens the pot. I'd recommend Orchid to fans of tales set in post-apocalyptic worlds, and to anyone who's a sucker for a good rebellion story. I think I'll be a little more excited about this comic a few issues in, but the low purchase price is more than enough reason to pick this up now. If this review isn't enough for you to make up your mind on Orchid, you can check out a free preview of the comic here.