In Review: Orphan Age #1

The children have grown up, but they're making their parents' mistakes.

The covers: Two covers to pick up for this premiere issue. The Regular cover is by interior artist Nuno Plati and features protagonist Daniel in profile looking down in thought. Behind him is a city and a map, with several of the cities crossed out and one, Dallas, renamed. This is good precursor of what’s to come within. The Variant cover is by Juan Doe (Go get yourself a copy of Dark Ark now!) and has Willa riding on horseback through a valley. The mountains on either side of her seem to be growing closer as she progresses. There’s an amazing sunrise behind her and her mount’s eyes are fierce in neon yellow. On the woman’s back is a rifle, teasing that this age is not the most peaceful. Overall grades: Both A

The story: Daniel and his older brother Joey make their way through crashed cars and adults lying unconscious in the streets. “Don’t look, Daniel! Will find mom, and she’ll know what’s going on. Just don’t stop running, okay?” Joey says. They get home and discover their mother is also dead. Twenty years later, outside the renamed Dallastown, Brian Raleigh is watching his daughter Princess ride a horse. He turns from her when a horse comes out of the woods with a rider slumped atop it. After looking at the man, Brian says, “…Get on your horse, Princess. Ride back to town and tell Doc to get her tools ready.” His face is grim as he tells her to leave now. Back in town, the man is taken care of, but Princess is excluded from helping, making her upset. Willa notices Princess’s ire. This is a slow tease from writer and co-creator Ted Anderson for this series. A plague (?) has wiped out everyone over twenty and twenty years later the children are trying to make the best they can of this new world. There’s a sharing sequence that gives a lot of weight to what the survivors are dealing with, even after such a great span of time. The man on the horse is Daniel who brings a warning to all in the community. His warning is quickly followed by the arrival of a group of antagonists: the New Church. The justification for their actions is typical of apocalyptic fiction and what they do isn’t surprising. They serve the need to get Daniel, Willa, and Princess off on their adventure. The story is fine, albeit typical of this genre of fiction and has been done before a myriad of times, J.Michael Straczynski’s Jeremiah comes to mind. However, I’m interested to see where this is going. Overall grade: B

The art: I like Nuno Plati’s art. He is also a co-creator of this series and his characters are expressive and create tension with only a look. The book opens with brothers Joey and Daniel making their way through chaos to get home. I like that there’s nothing graphic in what’s shown, instead having a distant car crash and a body on the ground with the face turned so it cannot be seen. This allows the reader to create their own horrors in their mind, though the wide eyed looks from the brothers effectively communicate the unspeakable things they see. The final panel on the first page has a lot of impact. The panel that stretches across Pages 2 and 3 is a cool way to transition the story and I love how Daniel is in the image, calling back to the last page’s final panel. Brian and Princess can also be seen in this illustration. Brian’s lack of emotion after his turn to the reader is great; the reader is seeing him from Daniel’s point of view. His furled brow and Princess’s wide eyes increase the seriousness of Daniel’s arrival. I’m very pleased to see that Plati creates horses so well; I’ve seen some bad horses in comics throughout my readings, but these look good, such as on Page 5. The final two panels on 6 feature no dialogue but communicate much to the reader. Seeing the community on 7 helps to populate this setting and focusing on Willa’s contribution at the end is a good entry point for her. The three leads for this series are shown in consecutive panels on 12 and it’s a great way to show them at the same time, doing the same thing. I love Brian’s squint on 14 and how his eyes widen in the first panel on 15. When Brian’s head drops on 16 every reader will know that people are doomed. The arrival of the antagonists on 17 is ominous not only for their look and posture, but how one character’s horse is decorated. The pairing up of two individuals on 19 and 20 is dramatic. The violence that follows is expected and I appreciated that Plati chooses to focus more on Princess as the hell begins. Her wide eyes speak volumes each time they appear. The action on 24 is outstanding; it’s surprising and very cool. I love the last two pages: what else would the characters be doing? How else would they be standing or sitting after what’s occurred? The last four panels of the issue are a great conclusion for this premiere. I’m anxious to see more of Plati’s work. Overall grade: A

The colors: Older brother Joey draws attention on the opening page for his red jacket that makes him stand out each time he appears. The bodies of the dead adults are given dark colors because they are in the foreground of the panels they appear. This is also a good coloring choice to show that they are lifeless. The beautiful blue sky that stretches across the top panel on the second and third page is a positive change in tone after the sad state of the previous page. However, look how clever colorist João Lemos is by coloring unconscious Daniel in the same colors as the dead adults of the previous page. When people yell their speech balloons are given a crimson ring around them to increase their stress. The colors of the people and settings of Dallastown are browns and tans, which creates a rustic environment that lacks the technology of the present world. I love the dark colors on 12, with some neat lighting effects. The leader of the antagonists is the blue eyed, blonde haired villain one would expect, but it’s the colors of horse that caught my eye. The last four pages have some dark, earthy colors giving the entire affair the feel of a western. I like this. Overall grade: A

The letters: Marshall Dillon is an outstanding letterer and he’s responsible for this book’s dialogue, transition text, a song, sounds, yells, loud speech, whispers, and quoted text. The transition text on 2 and 3 is really dramatic and very apt for the moment. I like that the song Willa sings is set off by musical notes to show the reader what she’s doing, and placing her lines in italics make it more song-like. The sounds are good and there are quite a variety of them, especially in the climax of the issue. The loud speech is perfect for the speaker and his intent. I also liked the whispered text which is small enough to get across that it’s whispers, but not so tiny that it can’t be read. The final five panels of the issue feature text from another source and it’s got a powerful flair for not only what it says but how it looks. Overall grade: A

The final line: The children have grown up, but they’re making their parents’ mistakes in this opening issue. The premise is a familiar one, but I’m intrigued enough to see where Anderson is going to take this. I really enjoyed the visuals by Plati and Lemos. This is a series I’ll be following. Overall grade: A-

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Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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