Orchid is an underdog story of the classic rebellion vs. an evil dictator variety, but more than most titles the bad guys are f—ing evil and underline all the reasons to fight their rule. After escaping from a life of prostitution, Orchid finds herself traveling alongside Simon and Opal, two survivors from the failing rebellion on a quest to make it strong again.
Orchid is not for the faint of heart. This is an extremely bloody title, with a ton of violence, dismemberment, and so on. Even if you’re comfortable with lots of blood and gore in your comics, I can guarantee at least one scene you’re going to wince at unless you’ve seen worse in real life (by the Force, I hope none of you have). The book does avoid stronger curse words, even when they’d otherwise seem the only appropriate thing to say given the circumstances. There’s not really nudity in the title either, but there are some rather detailed silhouettes, including one scene early on in the volume that manages to show a lot, some would say too much, in this manner.
The world of Orchid is mismatched from top to bottom. The main cast alone looks like they’ve come out of five different genres and some of them are mismatched themselves, wearing articles of clothing from all over or being contradictory in terms of the role they appear to be filling in the story. This same melting pot of designs is represented in the larger setting and world from the machines used to the background characters, to even the fact that sometimes magic and technology are blended together. The use of magic is interesting in the way it’s both overt but rare. Like everything in this world, making use of it extracts a high cost. I really like all of these aspects of the setting.
In addition, the setting is extremely harsh. The main plot revolves around a rebellion against tyrants who see no problem enslaving, murdering, and raping to their heart’s content. Vehicles known as “rape barges” and places known as “baby farms” (an evil warlord’s got to eat) exist in the setting for crying out loud. As bad as this sounds, it does its job well in creating an emotional investment in the characters’ struggles and a desire to see the bad guys’ heads on pikes.
One of the things I like best about Orchid is its empowerment of women. Women are not treated kindly in Orchid‘s world, often being exploited for sex, but the two lead characters, Opal and Orchid, are women who rose above the restrictions men tried to place on them and continue to fight for the freedom of others and, more importantly, teach them to fight for themselves. I adore the mentor relationship between Opal and Orchid. How often do we see an old, grizzled warrior train someone young who is just losing their innocence? All the time. How often are both of these characters women? Almost never. Opal and Orchid aren’t defined by their sex and are written intelligently and powerfully.
I hope it doesn’t sound like I disliked Orchid, quite the contrary, but it’s a book that took a lot out of me, and I want readers to be prepared for that. Orchid has a ton of emotion behind it, and this volume is filled with a lot of sadness and a lot of anger, that’s important for Orchid’s overall growth and journey as a character and the evolution of this world, but those emotions are draining. The title also has its small moments of humor and plenty of moments of unbridled, action awesomeness, but for me these were more secondary considerations. From page 1 to the end, I was on a journey with Orchid and it’s a hell of a ride.