Artvoice: Buffalo's #1 Newsweekly
Home Blogs Web Features Calendar Listings Artvoice TV Real Estate Classifieds Contact
Previous story: Scalped Deluxe Edition Vol. One
Next story: News of the Weird

Black Orchid

black orchid
Neil Gaiman (Author), Dave McKean (Illustrator)
> Review by Jack Dumpert

A recent New York Times review describes Neil Gaiman as “a writer of considerable gifts and transcendent ambition.” High praise, and well deserved. Gaiman is one of the most popular fiction writers publishing today. But in 1988, he was virtually unknown in this country. Until, that is, he burst on the scene with the publication of Black Orchid. In the first pages, Gaiman does away with Black Orchid, an obscure and somewhat lame character from the DC Comics universe. Then the re-imagining begins as Gaiman adds a very human backstory touched with friendship, love and betrayal, amidst what is also an often violent crime story. But most of all, there is the deeply engaging story of the emerging consciousness of a new Black Orchid. She is no superhero; instead, she is an amalgam of the woman who was the previous character and the botanical research of that woman’s murdered friend. Her quest to understand who she is and how she came to be takes her from Gotham City to the swamps of Louisiana and the South American rain forest. Gaiman is greatly aided by the stunningly beautiful painted art of his frequent collaborator, Dave McKean. The artist mixes photorealism with abstraction, all of it colored with a vivid palette. The transition sequences are just plain masterful. Make no mistake, Black Orchid is set firmly in the DC Comics universe. The arch villain is Superman’s nemesis, Lex Luthor. There’s a visit to Arkham Asylum, where Batman’s foes are committed. And the Caped Crusader makes his statutory cross-over visit. But Gaiman creates a new DCU, more real but mysterious, more moving and profound. In the nearly two decades since it first appeared, Black Orchid has never been out of print.

blog comments powered by Disqus