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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Re-read: Black Orchid

 While rummaging through my collection of comics for Boen, I found Black Orchid, one of Neil Gaiman's first graphic novels. It's mostly been forgotten in recent times, and in the re-read, I found several interesting foreshadowing of what Gaiman would write.

For one thing, this was the first instance of Gaiman using his signature, "build up to a climax for you to expect a massive combat scene, and then deflate it with a whimper." He would use this repeatedly later in his career, including that infamous scene in hell where the lord of dreams goes to hell prepared for a fight and then gets handed the keys to hell instead.

There are lots of holes in the work otherwise: the characters aren't well developed, and his use of other DC universe characters are weak. We get some idea of what Black Orchid can or cannot do, but no clear understanding of where it all comes from. We get a tour of the DC universe's plant-based characters (Swamp Thing, Poison Ivy, the Flouronic man) but nothing that really ties them all together.

The art is nothing short of outstanding, with Dave McKean's paintings and mixed media work reminding me a lot of Bill Sienkiewicz at his best.

Overall, it's a good book, but nothing that indicates that Gaiman would rise above all this to become one of the greats. Worth reading.

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