Shiny Shelf

The Rainbow Orchid

By Mark Clapham on 06 October 2009

Early October saw 2009’s British International Comics Show (BICS) in Birmingham, and I’ll be reviewing some of the books I picked up at BICS over the next few days.

Judging by the level of interest around author Garen Ewing’s table, ‘The Rainbow Orchid’ was one of the sleeper hits of the show, with little queues forming as Ewing added a sketch to every copy sold. It’s unsurprising – Ewing’s art is instantly appealing, allowing anticipation to build through the years of small press and webcomic publication.

Now the first volume of ‘The Rainbow Orchid’ is here, via mainstream publisher Egmont, and in the format to which Ewing’s Herge-esque art style seems most suited – a glossy, album-sized paperback. The price is pretty impressive as well, higher than a comic but less than most graphic novels.

As with those first pages that emerged a few years back, it’s the art that grabs you first. Ewing’s linework is precise and appealing, using broad strokes to convey surprisingly subtle characterisation – just watch the determined furrow of hero Julius Chancer’s brow as it undulates across the page, or the way that the dot eyes of one character turn white when he’s been drinking. The storytelling is clear and concise, with collage flashbacks worked into the narrative. While stylised, the backgrounds are busy with 20s period detail. Lovely stuff.

Like the art, the story is seemingly straightforward, but immersively complex. On one level it’s simple enough – a race to find a flower, to win an Orchid competition and save a fortune from being lost in a bet. But then there’s the kinks that the vast cast of characters and their motivations bring to the table – what is the villain up to, and why, and how did he get the resources to do all this? Exactly how complicated will things be by a Hollywood starlet going on an exotic adventure, her agent and publicist in tow? And how did the titular Orchid get from where it is supposed to have originally been found, to where it was last sighted?

This is a great, all-ages mystery story, with fantastic artwork and writing. Mr Ewing deserves applause for persevering to getting this first volume into print, and Egmont deserve applause for bringing a new graphic novel series to print, with the profile and publishing the material warrants.

Roll on volume two…

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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named

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