"Orchid: Volume 2" Trade Paperback Review
Written by James Ferguson
Published by Dark Horse Comics
Originally published as Orchid #5 - #8
Written by Tom Morello
Illustrated by Scott Hepburn
2012, 114 Pages
Trade Paperback released on December 19th, 2012
A former prostitute who has been living in the dregs of society is starting to find her purpose. Orchid is helping Simon rescue Anzio, the leader of the Shadow Rebels, from the clutches of the evil emperor Tomo Wolfe. You'd think this would be a simple snatch and grab, but that's far from the case when hundreds of soldiers are ready to tear them apart. Fortunately, Orchid has the old woman Opal on her side. Opal doesn't look like much, but she fought with the legendary General China years ago in the failed rebellion. She has some secrets of her own too. As it turns out, she was the face behind the powerful mask that became a symbol of hope to so many. With the mask on, Opal is ready to kick some serious ass.
There's a lot going on in this second volume of Orchid, but it all goes to cementing the overall theme of hope that flows throughout the series. It can be a very powerful thing. It can destroy someone with its absence or revitalize them if even a glimmer exists. You can see the little flame of hope come alive in Orchid as she witnesses Opal's reign of terror against Tomo Wolfe's soldiers. For the first time in her life she has a strong female role model and it's changing her.
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The first half of this volume is very fast paced. It involves the crew breaking into the fortress to rescue Anzio and then making their escape. They have to fight their way out against soldiers and the sire varesh (which is quickly becoming one of my favorite monsters in comics). This thing looks like a wolf with an oil slick for a tail, a coal burning stove for a heart, and giant metal jaws. It's like a steampunk version of the Big Bad Wolf.
All of this momentum is lost around the halfway mark where we get a flurry of exposition from Tomo Wolfe detailing his rise to power. This isn't really needed. Wolfe is an intimidating character on his own and he works better as an inhuman force of nature. Explaining how he was raised in a baby farm aboard a cannibal barge doesn't make him relatable or add anything to the character. It doesn't matter how he got where he is. What matters is what he's doing now that he is in this position and that's already been made very clear. He's a tyrant that thrives on his power and the oppression of the bridge people. This hiccup distracts from the main flow of the story.
Speaking of the flow, it's pretty obvious early on that Orchid is meant to wear General China's mask. Everything has been leading up to that point. Although this was very predictable, it didn't deter from the moment at all. When Orchid finally puts the mask on, it's in desperation, not triumph. Her hope has been shattered and she's lost once again, so she decides to end her life with the mask as it instantly kills any unworthy people that put it on. Of course, by this point, Orchid has more than proven herself worthy and the results are dramatic. She can now finally become the leader she was meant to be.
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Throughout this ride, Scott Hepburn is there to guide you. He definitely improves as the book goes on, like he's finding his groove with the title. Hepburn has a talent for framing scenes. The opening panel of the trade has a topless Orchid looking for refuge at a guard station in an effort to trick them. Her face looks troubled and scared. She's vulnerable, but there's defiance in her eyes. She stands in front of a vast landscape with fire in the sky. It's an epic shot in just a single moment.
Hepburn draws a great action scene too. Anzio's rescue is probably one of the bloodiest on record as Opal hacks and slashes her way through countless soldiers. There's a panel where she stabs her blade through the heads of four guys that were unlucky enough to be standing next to each other. The sword goes through all of their noggins, popping out the other side with a bloody "Shhukk." This is just a sample of the gore that's contained in these pages. The sire varesh eviscerates someone. Opal literally tears people apart. It's crazy but it never stops being fun.
Orchid is a unique adventure story. It's set in a horrific post-apocalyptic world where people live in fear of a tyrannical emperor. It isn't until they see someone openly fighting back that they realize they can do something about this. That spark of hope that began in the first volume is catching now. It's starting to burn. The third and final volume is where the inferno begins.