Or – “I Remember Him From Guitar Hero…”

I didn’t even realize that Tom Morello (the first level boss on Guitar Hero III) was no longer with Rage Against The Machine until I started this review.  More interestingly, I didn’t realize that he was with Audioslave, another band I really liked…

***The More You KNOOOOW***

Oh, also?  He wrote this comic book.

ORCHID #1
Writer: Tom Morello
Artist: Scott Hepburn
Colorist: Dan Jackson
Letterer: Nate Piekos of Blambot
Publisher: Dark Horse Comics
Cover Price: $1.00

Previously, on Orchid:  Rarely do you find a book that gives you the lead-in in such an easily digested manner: “When the seas rose, genetic codes were smashed.  Human settlements are ringed by the wild, from which ferocious new animal species prey on the helpless.  The high ground belongs to the rich and powerful, who over-loo swampland shantytowns from their fortresslike cities.  Iron-fisted rule ensures order and allows the wealthy to harvest the poor as slaves.  Welcome to the world of Orchid.”  Gotta love a book that’s plug-n-play…

OF COURSE, EVERY COIN HAS TWO SIDES…

A\I have to say, though, as much as I liked the opening scroll quoted above, I found myself experiencing a strange sense of deja vu as the first story page began with the same words.  And then, again, on the bottom of page 4, those same opening words appeared, an odd repeating refrain which suddenly reminds me that I’m reading a book written by someone who is primarily known as a songwriter.  Morello’s writing is interesting, verging on purple prose without ever veering off into complete self-parody, and we are told bits of history/mythology, the story of the mask of General China, a mask now sought after as a high prize, and rumored to grant great power to the one who wears it.  Places and things and characters are introduced with breathtaking speed, and the mask falls into the hands of a young man named Simon, who quickly gets captured, is thrown off a bridge, and enters a truly epic monologue within the space of just a few pages.  The art throughout the book reminds me a bit of Rick Veitch crossed with Berni Wrightson, which makes for an intricate sort of reading experience, even though the patchwork dystopian future settlement in which our protagonist ends up feels a bit familiar.

HERE THERE BE MONSTERS!

This particular future (one in which the text repeatedly reminds us, “genetic codes were smashed”) has it’s share of mutated monstrosities, reminding me of when I was a boy, reading a serialized comic adaptation of ‘The White Mountains” in Boys’ Life magazine.  Of course, that story never had ritualized prostitution, a somewhat new element, and a career in which we find our titular Orchid engaged.  Tagged with a permanent tattoo that marks her as “PROPERTY”, she lives a particularly unpleasant life (especially the parts of it we see regarding her clientele.)  Orchid returns home to find Simon hiding out with her family, but it’s only a few moments before mysterious armed men arrive to take them into custody.  Orchid and Simon end the issue about to be sold into slavery, as she watches her mother murdered in the streets.  The last page is a compelling image of Orchid’s face, twisted by pain and rage, an image that is very much in the vein that Stephen would call “European Heavy Metal-type drawing.”

THE VERDICT: BREAKNECK PACE, BUT INTERESTING.

There are a few structural issues with this issue, but it all moves fast enough that it may take a second reading to notice them.  I found myself reminded of the  ‘Aeon Flux’ episode wherein our protagonist kept shifting as the central characters kept getting killed, as this issue takes us from place to place in an endless rush.  Even so, the sheer lushness of the language here creates an interestingly poetic experience for me as a reader, and the art is exotic enough that even the icky parts (teenage prostitution, ritual murder, blood, guts, and an on-panel magical mutilation) are interesting to look at.  The issue caused me to re-read, not out of confusion, but out of a wish for deeper understanding, and it makes me want to pick up #2 to see where this story goes.  Even the familiar trappings of dystopian future crapsack world don’t ruin the enjoyment of Orchid #1, and the book earns 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  After Morello, Claudio Sanchez, Gerard Way and the guy from Fallout Boy, I can’t wait until Micky Dolenz and they guy from AC/DC who looks like Gallagher get their comic book opuses in print…

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Are there any futures that aren’t either perfect or awful?  Can there be no Mediocre World Of Tomorrow?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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4 Comments

  1. Joshy
    October 16, 2011 at 8:22 am — Reply

    BUT did you listen to the song while reading??

    • October 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm — Reply

      BUT did you listen to the song while reading??

      I did not.

  2. Mark
    October 16, 2011 at 3:42 pm — Reply

    Aren’t we living in the Mediocre World of Tomorrow? ;)

    • October 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm — Reply

      Aren’t we living in the Mediocre World of Tomorrow? ;)

      Well, I don’t have a flying car or a robot sidekick. So, probably…

      Wait, does my Android phone count?

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