“Orchid” is a gritty post-Apoc tale full of action and wit. There’s a flavor of “Game of Thrones” and “Mad Max” with a strong cast of characters from the get-go. We begin with this juicy concept: “When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed.” Lovely, isn’t it? We are way past civilization! This is Tom Morello’s answer to a science fiction class war epic and he’s the man to do it. Since his heydey with Rage Against The Machine and up to the present, Tom Morello is someone very involved with social justice. Check out his site devoted to the cause here. So, yeah, this 12-issue comic is definitely a natural for him to do. Each issue comes with a free music download which adds to your reading experience. At the moment, I’m listening to one of Tom’s podcasts. He is showcasing progressive music, starting off with Soundgarden. And, of course, Tom would agree, that is also very fitting for “Orchid.” Anyway, let’s see where we’ve been with this comic and why you will want to dive in yourself.
The main character, Orchid, a young woman forced into prostitution just to barely survive, is a powerful symbol for the disenfranchised world-wide. Across her chest she has a tattoo that says, “PROPERTY,” and on her right arm, another tattoo to remind her to, “KNOW YOUR ROLE.” She is what she is. She grew up hated, hungry, unloved, and she could be living in a post-Apoc world or somewhere on the planet right now. Look at Orchid as a strong symbolic character that avoids getting didactic, and you’ll get into what keeps this comic going. This is story of what happens when the world is ripped apart, the 99 percent are left to fend against genetically mutated creatures, and the wealthy 1 percent rule in cities high above. The wealthy do what they want with people like Orchid. It is Orchid’s destiny to lead a rebellion.
And there’s this mask. You’ll see it many times on the covers to “Orchid” and it holds a key to escape. If a worthy person wears it, they can harness the energy they need to fight the power. It used to belong to a rebel leader, General China, and, once he’s dead, the mask is a free agent. We’ll get back to that.
Keeping this rig moving like it should, is the artwork of Scott Hepburn, a Dark Horse Comics veteran, who knows how to kick ass. It looks and feels like Mr. Hepburn has a lot of experience with women in his life. We are not getting shallow cheesecake from this guy. There’s girl power, serious girl power, at play.
Simon is a very important character. He is book smart in an illiterate world. You could say we’re already in a illiterate world and you’d be right. That’s one of the big hints in this story. Wake up, guys, we’re already on the brink! Gloabl warming. Corporate greed. Misguided consumerism. The cocktail has been mixed. So, again, Simon is important. Since he managed to squirrel himself away within reach of some of the last remaining things to read, he’s gotten to exercise his mind and is able to articulate his thoughts in a more sophisticated manner than what’s left of the average person. Any hint of refinement, of a precise turn of phrase, rubs the locals the wrong way. “You talk funny, mister!” is the usual response he gets to whatever he says. And he also happens to have picked up some cool robotic powers. He’s the perfect mentor, or is it sidekick? for Orchid. They are thrown together after Orchid’s mother is brutally murdered. It’s Orchid, her little brother, Yehzu, and Simon against the powers that be.
And then there’s Opal and we return to that mask. Opal is a wierdo old woman who might not look like much but, with just one hand, she can strike down a mutated grizzly bear. That is after she slips on the legendary mask. That’s because she has a direct link to the only other person to not only have survived wearing the mask but have also gained superhuman powers from it, the legendary General China. He and Opal had been mere bridge people, young sweethearts, when China’s fate was cast with the mask. After saving Orchid and the gang from that bear, now Opal’s fate is cast with the mask too.
The path to glory will be harsh as the cursed mask makes it way to Orchid. After many deaths, much blood spilled, it all comes down to Orchid, the whore turned saint. We see Orchid evlove into something far more than she would ever have imagined, ever have dared to dream. It is a story about sheer determination and power in numbers, the power of the people. That mask even turns Orchid into an orator. She uses language far more effectively to rally the crowds than Simon ever could! Now, it’s just a matter of one last bloody battle with the mad dictator, Tomo Wolfe.
“Orchid #11” comes out December 12 and the final issue will arrive January 16, 2013. Visit our friends at Dark Horse Comics.