If the name Tom Morello sounds familiar it’s probably because over the past 20 years he has been a staple of modern music. From his ear shattering solo’s in a little band called Rage Against the Machine, to his political folk alter-ego The Nightwatchman, Morello has more than earned his place in the pantheon of the Guitar Gods. This time however, Morello put down the pick and grabbed a pen to write his own twelve issue post-apocalyptic epic for Dark Horse Comics called ‘Orchid’.
With the help of artist Scott Hepburn, Morello’s ‘Orchid’ takes place centuries after the second great flood. With most of humanity wiped out, those few survivors are separated between the rich and the poor. The rich live in a sheltered fortress built upon the highest peak safe from the dangers of the outside world. The poor meanwhile, live below the fallen bridges of their own forgotten civilization, forced into slavery, prostitution and basic survival against genetically altered beasts.
The story revolves around a prostitute named, you guessed it, Orchid. Orchid, a tough as nails gal, joins an odd-ball rebel wimp named Simon as they seek out to rescue the rebel leader Anzio and topple the fascist Tomo Wolfe’s oppressive regime once and for all. The key to victory lies in the mask of General China, an enchanted relic that either kills the wearer or grants them great and terrible powers.
As with most epic tales, the story starts out a little slow. The first issue alone begins with four pages of disposition, but once the story shifts its focus into the details of the rebellion the tale truly comes into its own. Morello, an avid comic fan himself, has seemingly drawn influences from any great tale he could get his hands on. This is the series blessing and curse. The world and its mythology are intriguing and original. The overall plot and characters however suffer from genre recognition. If you’ve read any dystopian future book before, you know where the story is going.
Dialogue is clunky at times, with lines that seem to be lifted directly from the Final Fantasy games. That being said, Orchid’s journey from aimless prostitute to freedom fighter is the highlight here. It may be a by the number’s set-up, but there is a reason this genre is still popular. You know why you’re reading it, and the pay-off outshines the flaws.
Scott Hepburn’s art is the stand out in the series. The exaggerated, cartoony character design, specifically that of General China’s mask just ooze cool all over each panel. The battle scenes, which can be difficult for even the most seasoned artist, are plotted nicely, with the actions of each character quite clear. The only criticism is the lack of background in some panels, instead opting for solid colours. In a series where Morello is clearly giving it his all, this technique seems lazy.
‘Orchid’ is a great read for anyone who is a fan of epic tales of class struggles and rebellion. While not perfect, the world itself is so rife with mythology that this series could continue to be mined for years to come. Though it is Morello’s baby, passing the reigns to a more seasoned writer in the future could help ‘Orchid’ reach its full potential. Overall, ‘Orchid’ is a satisfying journey that at least leaves the reader wanting for a sequel.
The final issue of ‘Orchid,’ issue #12 hits stores today.