I reviewed Volume 2 of Orchid some time ago and found it disturbing, heart wrenching, inspiring, enraging, depressing, funny, and shocking. This cocktail of emotions was enough that I knew I had to come back for a second helping and finish the series.
The world has gone to s–t in Orchid. Tomo Wolfe and his self-named nobility has control of everything, and your average person is treated as nothing more than a disposable item. Slavery is common, as is prostitution. Hell, they have zero problems eating someone if they need to or felt an odd craving that day. This is the world that Orchid, a former prostitute tattooed as “Property” and with the phrase, “Know Your Place,” has grown up in. She was rescued by Opal and Simon, two freedom fighters who were aiming at taking down Tomo Wolfe, but a rescue mission went terrible wrong and Opal was killed, leaving Orchid, Simon, and their rescue, Anzio, on their own, but not before slaying a lot of Wolfe’s men, enraging him to the point that he swore to wipe out the Bridge People, who sheltered the trio of survivors following the attack.
Opal had possession of a dangerous magical mask, the mask of General China, which only a saint can wear. Anyone else who wears the mask dies. Orchid retrieved it and, in act of desperation, donned it; instead of dying, she became the new General China and inspiring the Bridge People to rebel, all in one final act to kill Wolfe and go down fighting.
This comic does not hide its political and social agenda. There are clear themes of feminism, equality, communism (as in actual communism, not what communism has been historically), and some disturbing parallels to the modern day. I was quite pleased with this volume’s portrayal of women. After two volumes of being mistreated, raped, and murdered, the women are finally in a position to fight back this volume. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find some delight in their revenge.
While less gory, profanity-laden, and heart wrenching than Volume 2, Orchid Volume 3 still does all of those things well. There’s no castration, but decapitations, slicing someone open so their spine falls out, and lots and lots of blood are the norm, and given that the entire volume is centered around a war, it’s got a lot of excuses to show such things. Speaking of, the action in this volume is incredible. Scott Hepburn outdid himself when it comes to showing the actions of war: the heroic, the vicious, and the desperate. Overall, Orchid is a great-looking book and its setting is filled with vibrant colors, strange clothes, and even stranger creatures. (Porcupine monkey, anyone?) All of this gives Orchid a more exotic feel and makes it easy to believe magic, such as the mask, exists.
There is a crude ebb and flow to Orchid. Lots of action and then moments of downtime are largely due to someone being dead or dying, and this comic does not shy away from messing up its characters. This volume finds plenty for each of the main cast to do, giving everyone their hero moment. Orchid Volume 3 ties back together all of the plot lines from the first two volumes, giving a sense of closure to all of Orchid’s adventures. While I don’t want to give anything away, I found the end satisfying on several different levels. It’s a hard-earned ending and a worthy bit of closure to a comic that played with my emotions since page one.
Five Blade-Headed Horses out of Five