Black Orchid

Black Orchid

Book - 2012
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A plant/human hybrid superhero called Black Orchid goes on a spiritual journey in the wake of her death, during which she reviews her life, investigates her origins, and is given the opportunity to avenge herself.
Publisher: New York, NY DC comics/Vertigo, 2012
Edition: Deluxe ed
ISBN: 9781401233358
140123335X
Branch Call Number: GRAPHIC NOVEL Gaiman
Characteristics: 1 v. (unpaged) : col. ill. ' 29 cm
Additional Contributors: Klein, Todd
McKean, Dave

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FindingJane Jun 21, 2016

This slim graphic is a wonder, with a twist springing upon us from the very first chapter. Black Orchid is a superhero like no other—presumably. We don’t get to know her because she dies even before we get to see her in action. The rest of the novel is both dreamlike and all too realistic, with brutal men employing brutal means to achieve their ends. Whether on the side of justice or crime, violence of one sort or the other is seen as the only way to solve problems…until it isn’t. When the Batman appears (and he’s only a secondary character—again, surprise) and talks about the nobility of dying for the cause of justice, you sense just what an enormous load of rubbish that is. All the elements of the superhero genre are in place. Gunplay? Check. Murder? Check. Destruction? Check. Fisticuffs? Check. Torture and interrogation? Check. Crime bosses? Check. Explosions? Check and doublecheck. But it’s the way Mr. Gaiman throws these pieces together that gives this graphic such a unique slant. Mr. Gaiman plays against type and expectations and you have to adore him for it. With “Black Orchid” Mr. Gaiman demonstrates once again how he stretches the boundaries of storytelling. Superhero fans may have been horrified by the vicious beginning and frustrated by the enigmatic ending, with no real confrontation between Black Orchid and Lex Luthor or even a promise of reckoning in the future. But those who weary of the predictability of the genre will find themselves pulled into the lurid beauty of this graphic novel. The illustrations of Dave McKean, a frequent collaborator with Mr. Gaiman, are incredible as well. He combines photorealism with splashes of color that seem random but manage to convey mood as well as character, ably matching typeface. (Batman’s word bubbles are white letters on black background; Orchid-Susan’s is black on purple; Suzy’s is black on lilac.) Even the pages themselves are a revelation. Close the book and look at the edges of the paper. The first half is white with a thread of black, while the latter half is black with a thread of black. (I wonder if that was deliberate.) Whether you’re a Gaiman devotee or not, this book is something to see. Subverting and refreshing the superhero field, “Black Orchid” is a rare flower indeed.

b
BrianLaBelle
Feb 11, 2014

Beautifully illustrated story and an excellent reimagining of a Classic DC character. Those reading Justice League Dark may be interested in reading Black Orchid's origin story but this reinvention for the Vertigo universe bears little semblance to the one currently appearing in New 52 continuity. An excellent self-contained read with many nods to the larger DC Universe. Very highly recommended.

Mark_Daly Jul 30, 2013

Gaiman and McKean's first published work for DC Comics, from all the way back in 1988, wears its influences on its sleeve. The story is an addendum to Alan Moore's Swamp Thing mythos, and the art closely resembles the controlled photorealism of Bill Sienkiewicz's work of this era, set into the panel grids from Watchmen. It's made (modestly) special by McKean's lovely color work and Gaiman's unconventional opening (which suits Black Orchid, an unconventional DC character). The 2012 reissued collected volume sports attractive McKean cover art and faithful reproduction of the interior pages, on quality paper.

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