Con artist Sarah Manning witnessed a strange suicide before realizing that the woman looked exactly like her. In an attempt to find out why, she has taken over the strange woman’s life, but things are about to get even stranger… Your Major Spoilers review of Orphan Black #2 awaits!
ORPHAN BLACK #2
Writer: Graeme Manson and John Fawcett with Jody Houser
Artist: Syzmon Kudranski
Colorist: Mat Lopes
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Editor: Denton J. Tipton
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99
Previously in Orphan Black: “Sarah Manning, con artist by trade, witnessed the suicide of a woman, Beth Childs, who appears to be her doppelgänger. Sarah takes on Beth’s identity and occupation as a police detective after Beth’s death, in order to find out why they look so much alike.” Of course, what she doesn’t know is that Beth wasn’t the only Other Sarah out there, and that one of them, Helena, is a skilled assassin…
MEANWHILE, IN EUROPE
When Stephen and I took on Orphan Black #1 in Dueling Reviews, my biggest concern was a lack on context, as we were thrown headlong into the events of episode one of the television show, with Sarah taking over Beth’s life and little context to it all. That may be the experience of watching a television show all about unraveling the mysteries, but it made for a pretty difficult comic-reading experience. Still, I really wanted to see how it all shook down in the next issue, and whether we’d get more context, but this issue completely torpedoes that expectation by switching perspective to Helena, a mysterious European woman with a strange history and a job as an assassin. The art is fascinating this issue, showing us Helena’s horrifying childhood in a series of flashbacks, crossing back and forth with her pursuit of Beth-who-is-secretly-Maggie. Helena has a tendency to talk to an imaginary (?) scorpion friend and views the “others” (they book hasn’t yet dropped the knowledge that they’re clones) as abominations and silly toys to be broken. It’s very disturbing, effectively so, but once again the lack of context works against me as a reader.
As a reader/reviewer, it’s important for me to try to balance my own bias against the quality of the book I’m reading, and I want to make it clear that this is a very intriguing comic book. The art is fascinating, and I really enjoy the coloring effects used to differentiate the flashbacks. Helena has her own font and color for her narration which, aside from being occasionally hard to read, is a very effective way of conveying her disjointed thought process and strange thinking, and overall it’s a book that requires the reader to carefully follow in order to comprehend all the moving parts. The art is solid throughout, but there are a few panels where the main actresses face is suddenly and noticeably photo-referenced, a slight flaw of many licensed comic adaptations. Unfortunately for me, the largest problem with issue #1 is magnified here: The writers have crafted a story that gives you no assistance in getting context across to a reader who isn’t familiar with the show. While I appreciate that work that goes into this book, after reading it more than once, I’m still kind of blurry around the edges. That can be a plus, as that’s exactly how I got into reading Marvel and DC Comics in my youth, and a story that causes you to go hunting for more is always a good thing, but this issue left me a little bit disoriented.
THE BOTTOM LINE: ONLY FOR THE FANS
If you already know and love Orphan Black, this issue seems like a great chance to get a deeper look into the minds of the characters you already love, but it doesn’t really make for a fully balanced comic reading experience to the uninitiated. Orphan Black #2 has some lovely visuals, and balances photo-reference with unusual but effective story-telling, with a plot that seems to want the reader to already be familiar with the main story, earning 3 out of 5 stars overall. It’s a better-than-average comic book, but one that stands as ancillary material to the TV show rather than as a stand-alone story…