Review: Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean

Title: Black Orchid
Author: Neil Gaiman & Dave McKean
Series: None
Publisher: Vertigo, an imprint of DC Comics
Publication Date: 1990
Pages: 160
Format/Source: Hardback Graphic Novel/Library 
Age Group/Genre: Adult/Science Fiction, Fantasy

After being viciously murdered, Susan Linden is reborn fully grown as the Black Orchid, a hybrid of plant and human, destined to avenge her own death. Now, as this demigoddess attempts to reconcile human memory and botanical origins, she must untangle the webs of deception and secrets that led to her death. Beginning in the cold streets of a heartless metropolis and ending in the Amazon rainforest, this book takes the reader on a journey through secrets, suffering and self-rediscovery. (Cover and synopsis from Goodreads.)

When I was a kid, I read some comic books. Not many, just Superman, X-Men, Archie, and Betty and Veronica, and maybe a couple others. And now I’m trying to get back into comics and graphic novels, and because I’m still a noob, I often don’t know much about the whole world of comics and graphic novels.

A few things I didn’t know until recently:

  • Comic books are called graphic novels once several issues are bound together to make a larger volume.
  • DC Comics have what is called the DC Universe (and Marvel might have this, too, but I’m not sure), where a lot of the characters interact in the same world. So, for instance, in Black Orchid, we see characters from Batman as well as Superman. I knew that there were individual comics that brought these characters together (like the Superman/Batman comics), but I didn’t realize that Batman might just pop up in another DC comic book. I’m a NOOOOOOB. I also think this is pretty cool.
Anyway, so while reading this graphic novel, I didn’t realize that the Black Orchid was a character that had been around for a while in DC comics. I thought it was a new character brought to life by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. (See? Noob.) So when I finished, I thought, “Hmm, that was a cool story, but that’s it? We’re told she’s a superhero but we never even really see that in action!” But, of course, I didn’t know about all the other comic books featuring the Black Orchid.
I really did like the storyline, and loved the art. I really liked how this story was about saving the Earth from climate change without being too political or preachy. I’ve read other books that have a type of message and some of them come off as really political, but Black Orchid doesn’t fall into that trap. I also really liked all the extras in the copy I read. It had Neil Gaiman’s notes while writing the story, as well as letters from the editor, etc. I did find myself confused at times while reading the story, but perhaps that was because I’m really not familiar with the Black Orchid’s background and this whole DC Universe.
My rating for Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean:
4 stars. I have always felt like more of a Marvel person, even though I like Batman and Superman, but after reading Black Orchid I think I’m definitely going to have to read more DC soon.
Find it:  Goodreads │ Amazon │ Vertigo
Disclaimer:  I borrowed a copy of this book from my library.  I was in no way compensated for this review.

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