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‘Burn the Orphanage #1:’ Advance Comic Book Review

Burn the Orphanage is a 3-part miniseries from Image, created and written by Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman, with artwork by Grace. It's all pure fun, a fun that incorporates an incredible homage to '90s video games. The story is a simple and direct one and plays out like the cut scenes in a video game: a decades-old mystery is tilled to the surface through the rough and tumble fisticuffs of Rock, one of the now-adult orphans from the orphanage of the title, and dark secrets are brought to light after much street fighting. Oh, and there are stripper ninjas.

The story is energetic and visceral, making great use of character-centric flashbacks that provide integral background information on the central characters and their relationship to Rock. Actually, we kind of know the least about Rock, even though the whole first issue focuses on his personal mission to find out who burnt down the orphanage, and why. But, there are a few important facts about Rock that we do know, and those are that he is determined, cares about the truth, and can fight. The only issue I have is that this feels like a one-shot, instead of the first of three - there's nothing that really leads into a second issue. I wanted at least some kind of mystery or idea of what adventures may be in store for Rock and his friends. No new plots started up, and I wanted something to carry over - it feels like everything was already solved, making me wonder if these three issues are going to be more episodic as opposed to having an overarching story. Perhaps in the next two issues, we will learn more about Rock's past, because there is plenty here for Grace and Freedman to build off of, especially if they elaborate more on the world they've created. The very end of this issue, even though it feels a bit disjointed, is totally out of the '90s and quite hilarious, and so their style and sense of humor are already making me want to come back for more.

There are so many phenomenal Easter eggs related to '90s video games, especially the Streets of Rage franchise that I grew up playing on the Sega, and those are enough of a reason to check out this unconventional and rollicking revenge story. I kept grinning wider and wider as more influences made themselves known, and Grace and Freedman wear their inspirations on their sleeves and create their own world around the joy of nostalgia. Some of the panels are wide shots of the heroes fighting against the forces of urban evil, and in these panels Grace's artwork is blocky, but detailed, and perfectly conveys the look of a video game screen, which I found to be wonderfully clever. At one point the word “Fight!” is even emblazoned in a panel. I knew the video game storytelling tropes that Grace and Freedman were playing with, complete with end level bosses and the Big Boss at the top of the highest building, and they do it so unabashedly that I just fell in love with all of it. Burn the Orphanage is a creative trip down memory lane, just make sure you go with friends, a bat, and a never-give-up mentality, because these streets are tough and you never know what you might encounter when you turn down that nostalgic alley.

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