Title: Black Orchid.
Author: Neil Gaiman.
Artist: Dave McKean.
Genre: Fiction, graphic novel, super heroes, fantasy, mystery, crime.
Publication Date: 1988.
Summary: 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, the story takes a journey through secrets, suffering, and self-rediscovery.
My rating: 8.5/10.
My preview: It was a compelling narrative, although, this being an origins story, I'm sure I would have gotten much more out of it if I was more familiar with the original character (I had not actually realized there was such an established DC character until I read this book and looked it up). Because of this, I found the plot slightly vague and confusing, and a lot of aspects of the story unclear and too open-ended. I did really appreciate the guest appearances of some DC favourites - Lex Luthor, the Swamp Man, and Batman, notably. But what really got me about this book, and influenced most of my rating, was the art, which was absolutely stunning. It was especially surprising to me because I have come across Dave McKean's art several times in the recent few years, and I was always incredibly repulsed by it - I really dislike the mixed-media-collage style he utilizes so often. But his work with paint is gorgeous. I loved the purple flowing motif of the Black Orchid herself (purple being my favourite colour), and he drew nature - the Amazon rain-forest and the swamps - so evocatively. The shot of the Swamp Thing appearing out of the green mist (pictured below) joins the list of some of my favourite graphic novel frames. I would say the story may not be too interesting if you're not familiar with the character, but the book's tying into the DC universe, and the art specifically, definitely makes it worth checking out.
♥ Can't sleep. Won't sleep. Vigil for the dead. The scraps of my life. Cuttings in a cuttings book. They'll never be planted. Never take root.
Pretty postcards, Suzy. What were you doing in Amsterdam? My highschool yearbook. "Phil 'Bilko' Sylvian - boy most likely to live in his garden." Yeah, very funny. The piece I wrote for the U. Met Weekly. Jeezus. Was I ever that crass? Sure I was. It's basic high school stuff. Johnny Rose, gee that guy could act.
Whatever happened to them? Where do people go? More names. More faces. That song from Patience - how did it go?
"Then a sentimental passion of a vegetable fashion must delight your languid spleen,
An attachment a la Plato for a bashful young potato or a not-too-French French bean!
Though the philistines may jostle, you will rank as an apostle in the high aesthetic band,
If you walk down Piccadilly with a poppy or a lily in your medieval hand."
♥ Going down. Going back. Falling. In dreams we find contradictions.
...The undertow of time pulls me further back, further down. So much feels arbitrary. In dreams we find only questions. And the answers fall randomly, like cards of dice.
...And the world dissolves, disbands, dismantles. My father's Susan's father. And I know this is a dream because he doesn't hit me, or do any of those things he used to do to me. He just sits me down. And he talks to me. He explains everything. Who I am. Where I'm going. The whole thing. The meaning of it all.. It feels so good. And even as he tells me this stuff, I know I'll never remember it when I awake. Then the winds of time begin to blow. For a moment. I surface. And then the dreams take me away, sweep me apart; and once again I'm going down. Falling...
♥ "You see, One thing I've learned is that there's two kinds of people. There's the wolves and there is the sheep. Now the wolves - that's me - we go out and we fight for what we want. We take what we want. We goddamn kill for what we want. And the sheep - that's you - the sheep just follow the rules. They got no dreams. They aren't alive. They couldn't kill. Only the wolves are really alive. And tonight the wolves are running.
♥ Outside the fingers of the trees clutch the sky, scratch the air, drag at the wind... Anticipating. Appearance is the simplest thing. Pigment and petal only. Red. Green. Black. Wondering what I seek... An end to ignorance? A remedy or counterweight to Phil's lost breathing? He was so gentle. So much greenness. So much world.
♥ "Alec Holland is dead! He died years ago. Everybody knows that!"
"Most of the things "everybody knows" are wrong. The rest are merely unreliable."
♥ Drifting through the cool underwater twilight, following a child who sings forever of yes of living things of green in the sunlight in the young. So glad and quiet and still diving through the heart of the world. Far from cruelty. Far from violence and from sudden, pointless death.