Beginning from a baseline that’s basically the premise of a Godzilla movie writ large, musican Tom Morello’s Orchid, just out in trade paperback from Dark Horse Comics, is as good a post-apocalyptic comic as I’ve read in years–and I include The Walking Dead in that list.
With a famous name like Morello’s (he was the frontman for Rage Against the Machine and played guitar on Bruce Springsteen’s most recent album, Wrecking Ball) on the front of the book, it’s easy to give him most of the credit for the series’ success. Doubly so when you consider that Morello’s leftist politics jive pretty well with the book’s premise, which is essentially that an environmental catastrophe lays waste the most of the world.
With due respect to the talented Mr. Morello, though, it’s artist Scott Hepburn who’s the series’ MVP. He has a style that has similarities to Stuart Immonen’s work, photorealistic enough to pull off shots like images of recognizable settings and monuments but a cartoonish enough style to keep you from being too put off by some really awful things that appear on the page. Think Darick Robertson’s work on Transmetropolitan for the closest comic book counterpart I can come up with, although frankly Orchid feels more like Blade Runner than anything much you see in comic boks.
It’s a little more fantastical than that, though; animals appear in nearly every chapter who have been horribly mutated or mis-evolved, giving the already-brutal world of Orchid a feeling of brutality. There’s something far less “clean,” after all, about being eaten by some gargantauan bird-thing than being shot blown up–or even sliced to bits, as is not an unfamiliar fate to the people in this story.
It’s a great book, but not for the weak-of-heart. It’s full of thinly-veiled political metaphor, violence and some of the cruelest and foulest characters you’re likely to fall in love with.