Review: Tom Morello’s Orchid #3

The dark secret of the rebellion's legendary General China is revealed in the Rage Against The Machine star's dystopian epic.

Andy Hunsakerby Andy Hunsaker

Orchid #3

Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave and Nightwatchman fame is writing a comic book for Dark Horse, in case you didn't know.  It's called Orchid, and he's even writing music for each issue.  That's a cool undertaking, and it's certainly worthy of respect.  The first couple issues had some good action, but felt a bit heavy on exposition – setting the stage of this new dystopian world where the seas have risen, genetic codes are smashed, weird giant monsters rule the food chain and what's left of humanity is divided into the have-alls and have-nones. 

Orchid #3 gives us more exposition, as our newly orphaned teenage prostitute, or "valk," Orchid and her little injured brother Yezu and our intellectual and mildly insufferable revolutionary Simon discover the tale of General China, the hero of the last uprising against the ruling class – including his ugly secret shame – as told to them by a mysterious older woman named Opal, who claims to have been his concubine. 

Opal is an interesting new addition to the cast.  The first half of the issue is devoted to depicting her as an eccentric sort of badass who does nothing but kill monsters, ignore her guests and sing songs to her horse – interestingly shown to be an exotic creature to Simon, who has never seen an animal that wasn't a giant mutant beast out to eat him.  Then, after Orchid throws a little cry fit about Simon ruining her life (such that it was), Opal suddenly breaks character and blurts out her entire life story as if these kids were her best friends and beloved family.  Then, after explaining that she's devoted herself to this weird hermit's life in penance for all the lives lost in General China's last miserable failure of a rebellion, she inexplicably says 'fuck it' and decides to join the kids on their travels. 

Thus, we see Morello's sense of pacing is still a bit off, but whereas the dialog can be a little clunky as it is here, he's still building a very interesting world, which makes these rookie glitches here and there more ignorable. But there's only so long that these kinds of problems will be something to shrug off instead of something that hooks in the brain pet-peeve style.

Scott Hepburn's art seems to be about as full of good ideas with occasionally shaky execution as Morello's scripting is.  There's a lot of great detail and some really emotive work, but there are also some unpleasant angular things happening, too.  It's certainly serviceable, though – nothing jarring or patently offensive or anything like that.

The mystery of the General China mask has yet to be answered, though.  What sort of magic inhabits it?  Why does it tear most of its wearers apart instantly, but granted China amazing power to wield against the nefarious Tomo Wolfe and his massive war resources?  It has its "chosen ones," apparently, and all traditional storytelling methods would lead us to believe that, eventually, Orchid is going to put this thing on and become "the Spartacus of whores" that Morello promised us from the first announcement of this series.  We'll see how he really shakes out as an author when that finally does or does not come to pass.  If he can make something that telegraphed still come off well, the mis-steps can be completely forgiven, and we'll know that all he needs is more practice.

Orchid is still a compelling, interesting series.  Time will tell if it becomes a truly great one.