For those of you already caught up on the exploits of Rock and his friends, Lex and Bear, his girlfriend Jess, and the morally ambiguous Izabel, then let’s get down to business. As artist and co-writer Grace and writer Freedman are wont to do, much to my joy, they turn to the depths of nostalgia from which to draw various elements of their story and characters, and this time they pull in some Robocop-centric ideas and make them all their own in great, crazy ways. Upon second reading, I also realized the character of Kat, who also happens to work in a diner, is a reference to Kat Dennings and her role on the show, Two Broke Girls. It is incongruous zaniness like this that makes Burn the Orphanage (BTO) so much fun. The situation that Rock finds himself a part of in Reign of Terror is directly connected to the choices he made in the first collection, where he took out the man, actually the Mann, responsible for burning down his orphanage, and these are the consequences of those actions. In this slight futurescape, though, Lex is the one in charge, and Rock finds himself more of a stranger in a strange land.
Grace’s art in Terror is rougher at the start, which plays into Rock’s discombobulation at being thrust into this new world order, but as Rock gets his bearings as the issues progress, so, too, does the art. It becomes leaner, more detailed and exacting. Add to that Renee Keyes’ colors and you have one fine-looking book, especially if you’re looking for no-way-out fisticuffs and last-ditch plans to save the day. More than the previous BTO collection, Terror is a team book. Lex and Bear have joined up with the other undesirables of the city to fight Mann, Jr.’s mechanized monsters, and they have become a family. One thing that always rings true in BTO is how much fun Grace and Freedman are having, and the feeling that they are putting their all into each and every issue, be it in emotionally resonant character interactions, one-off gag jokes, or rip-roaring fight scenes. While the circumstances may be dire, it is always an immense joy to tag along.
One of my favorite elements was the return of the stripper ninjas, and the way in which they played a larger part in the story and helped to deck out all the ladies in fancy, new duds, though for my money, Lex is already the queen of style, complete with baseball bat. Burn the Orphanage is a blast from beginning to end, and no BTO collection would be worth its mettle without a menagerie of extras, from fan art and pin-ups to cosplay photos and guest artist character designs, and all of that creates a real sense of camaraderie amongst fans and other comic creators, helping to build up and strengthen the mythos and world of Burn the Orphanage. If you like your action no-holds-barred and your heroes perpetually up against the wall, but without ever losing their sense of humor or the fire of determination in their eyes, then give Reign of Terror a look. There’s a very good chance you’ll be back for more, and I know Grace and Freedman will, and I know I will. We’ve been through Born to Lose, and now Reign of Terror, so who knows what the future holds for Rock, Lex, Bear, and Jess. I do know that whatever it is, it will probably need a sound beating.