Black Orchid (Neil Gaiman)

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Black Orchid is an interesting comic. Gaiman’s storytelling and McKean’s artwork combine to make this compilation of the comics (a three-part series originally published in 1988 and 1989 that spins off of the original 1970s comics) an enjoyable and quick read. McKean’s artwork is, quite simply, beautiful. Okay, at times it’s haunting, but when it comes to Black Orchid and Suzy, it’s vibrant and lovely. As for Gaiman’s storytelling, well, it’s interesting. Not his best work, but certainly not “too shabby” (as the saying goes). It’s complex enough to keep you reading, and simple enough for you to enjoy the images and appreciate the dark silences.

The introduction to this collection, written in 1991, hails the comics as groundbreaking in their acknowledgment and refusal of traditional comic book conventions — especially those governing violence. <<SPOILER ALERT!!>> Since the trilogy ends with an act of mercy and the would-be killers deciding that violence is not the right action for the moment, it might be perceived as quite unusual for this superhero genre of comics. I definitely thought it was interesting, although not quite as groundbreaking as Mikal Gilmore (author of the intro) thought; after all, even though Black Orchid spares the lives of the men who’ve come to kill/capture her and Suzy, she only does so after her ex-husband has inexplicably killed off several of the hunters…and before saying that if their boss comesafter her again she will find out what he loves and take it away from him (implication of violence despite her statement that she won’t kill him). So yes, the series does refuse to conform to conventions, but at the same time it still offers plenty of violence (graphically illustrated, at that) from beginning to end that make me think it’s not as revolutionary as it could have been.

That being said, it was a great read. Quick, entertaining, and even thought-provoking at times. It’s worth the read, for sure.

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