Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean – A Book Review

Originally published in the early Nineties, Black Orchid is an early work of Neil Gaiman.  It debuted long before his rise to fame as a novelist, a children’s author, and a luminary within the comic book industry.

True to form, I just now read it in the year 2014.

Decades later, Black Orchid still impressed me as a comic book unlike anything I’ve ever read (which is quite a statement as I’ve been reading them since the early Eighties).

Gaiman wrote a super hero comic that mostly breaks with the clichés and tropes of the genre yet still somehow adheres to it.  Though the character seems to have returned to her more conventional super hero roots in the present, this Black Orchid is a vegetated clone created from the DNA of a scientist’s troubled best friend and, consequently, only love.  Black Orchid retains some knowledge of her human source, but is also a blank slate in many ways.  Furthermore, she’s not the only clone.  A story ensues, as one would hope, and in many ways it is more a path to self-discovery than it is an adventure.

That is not to say it’s perfect.  Batman appears and utters some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever experienced from the character.  Lex Luthor is a major component I also could have done without.  There are other characters more regulated to the Vertigo universe, which is this book’s imprint, and they feel far more organic.

To be honest, Dave McKean is the true reason this book flourishes.  His surrealistic style molds this book into something unique, something original, something that has already withstood the test of time.  His Black Orchid is creepy, moody, and without the usual methods one expects from a comic book.

If you consider yourself a Neil Gaiman or Dave McKean fan, I urge you to add this to your collection.  Black Orchid is early proof that both men deserve every accolade bestowed upon them during the last two decades.

 

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