I am admittedly new to Dark Horse Comics' "Orchid," but with the launch of the second storyline in issue #5, I do not feel lost or left behind in the least. Tom Morello's script in "Orchid" #5 drops the reader right into the fray of a world teetering on the brink of revolution, then pulling the action back and allows us to spend time with these interesting characters. The result is that by the end of this single issue, we have been given reasons to care about these characters and to care about this born-from-love revolution.
The world of "Orchid" is not a pleasant one. The initial pages of issue #5 offer up violence, objectification and squalor in rapid succession. The initial impression of this world is it would be rare to have anyone looking out for one another, which sparks interest in our rag-tag group of protagonists immediately. Why do they stick together in such a cut-throat epoch? While not all of the answers are spelled out in Morello's script, the underlying tone to "Orchid" #5, despite the desolation of the setting, remains a hopeful one.
Once the motley crew of would-be revolutionaries is assembled, Morello shows great restraint as a writer and equally great faith in Scott Hepburn's art as we are treated to an extended journey sequence where the dialogue is sparse and the world these characters inhabit is allowed to come to the fore. Hepburn's style privileges motion and liveliness over strict detail during action sequences, but the montage of the characters' travels proves he's quite comfortable offering up lush backgrounds as well. Whereas an artist with less skill could over-exaggerate the dynamism of "Orchid's" action sequences (where outstretched arms are lanky and muscles are fully flexed), the consistency of Hepburn's pencils ensures no image trips up the reader on any page. Morello and Hepburn clearly understand what the other is capable of and the result is a marriage of story and art reminding us why we turn to comics over any other medium.
There is an awful lot of story packed into "Orchid" #5, a comic book where the plot can't easily be summarized. The only drawback to this robust issue is the individual characters themselves are left somewhat unexplored in favor of exploring the world and the situation. This is perfectly understandable given the scope of the book. At times it feels like trying to drink from a fire hose because the information is coming so quickly. I can't help but hope that we get closer to the group of companions and the titular character before long.
"Orchid" #5 is a book reminding us why we read dystopian stories in the first place -- more than just cool and unknown settings, dystopian fiction allows us to play out our worst political fears and perhaps follow characters as they pursue our personal hopes against all odds. Issue #5 is a perfect place to jump into the world of "Orchid," even if you haven't heard of the book before. Hurry up, the shops in my town sold out completely. Get your copy while the gettin' is good.