Book: Black Orchid

"Black Orchid"

In an anonymous corporate boardroom, a super-hero is shot through the head. Her body is consumed by flames, and her killer walks free.

So begins Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean’s BLACK ORCHID, one of comics’ most remarkable and transformative creations. Simultaneously a deconstruction and a resurrection of an entire genre, this tale of the uncanny lives of Susan Linden embodies the new maturity in graphic storytelling that revolutionized the medium at the turn of the millennium.

I didn’t have any expectations when I picked this title up. I didn’t even know who Black Orchid was. I’m a Marvel kid. I’m familiar with DC heroes, the popular ones, but I prefer my Marvel heroes. Hence, the reason why I didn’t know that Black Orchid was a heroine.

Truth be told, it was Neil Gaiman’s name that drew me to pick this up. And the promise of a very good story.

And it is. A very good story. No buts.

Black Orchid, the mini-series that Neil Gaiman wrote in the 80’s is an origin story for the little-known heroine. It tells her story as she tries to find out who she is, what she is, and she gets a little help from better known DC characters, heroes and villains alike.

It tells the story in such a way that it feels like a mystery to be solved. But it’s really not. I mean, it wasn’t to me. Black Orchid was who she was from the very first page.

The very first page she appears in, that is.

Our heroine goes on a journey to understand who she is, and what she is, and she takes us along for the ride. But this is not an origin story so much as it is a character study. Of a battered wife. Of a woman who longed to have a child. Of a broken woman who sought paradise…and found it. But what use is a paradise to a woman used to heartache?

Neil Gaiman, with Dave McKean’s art, tells a very powerful story about the importance of identity. Of knowing who we are, what we want to be, and where we want to go.

The book starts out with an introduction from a contributing editor of the Rolling Stones. He says people have issues with how the series ends, that they yearned for a fourth volume to properly finish the series. I don’t see why. The ending we get, the ending in the book, is beautiful as it is.

It doesn’t end with a bang, no. But it ends with a promise. And when you have a story this beautiful, what better way to end it than with a promise, right? That another story will blossom soon.

And it did. According to Wikipedia. I don’t like where it went though, so I’m going to end my journey with the Black Orchid here with Neil Gaiman’s story.

I’m going to end it with the hopeful promise for our protagonists.