I have never been a huge reader of graphic novels and comics. As a child I loved the Beano, and then I religiously bought the Eagle comic when it was relaunched in the 80s. I was also a huge Tintin fan, and to a lesser degree an Asterix fan. These days I prefer to devote my dwindling spare time to reading non-graphic novels, although I still own that same complete collection of Tintin books which I continue to enjoy reading immensely from time to time - they are books that I will never tire of reading (remind me to write a Tintin article for my blog sometime). But now that has all changed.....
"The Rainbow Orchid" is an ambitious blend of classic storytelling and cinematic artwork in which adventure, historical drama and legend are seamlessly intertwined. In Volume One, follow the story's hero, Julius Chancer, as he embarks on a hazardous quest for the rainbow orchid - a mythical flower last mentioned by the ancient Greek philosopher, Theophrastus, and steeped in legend. His epic journey takes him from 1920s Britain to the Indian subcontinent and its mysterious lost valleys.
I stumbled across The Rainbow Orchid on Amazon whilst buying a couple of Tintin books for my godson Max's birthday, and the cover immediately grabbed my attention - it was obvious to me that the artist had been heavily influenced by the work of Herge, and the reviews on Amazon suggested that Tintin fans would not be disappointed by the story either. Thank you Amazon reviewers - thanks to you I added it to my shopping basket and now that I have read it I have no regrets at all.
This book is very different in style to many of the more popular graphics novels around today by the likes of Alan Moore and Frank Miller. The artwork is beautifully drawn and rendered and I experienced a wave of nostalgia surround me as I started to read it. The story is just as wonderful - to me it is a seamless hybrid of Tintin, young Indiana Jones, Republic Serials and old-school Boy's Own adventure. The story is exciting and fast paced and the dialogue is realistic and sparkling with good humour.
Personally, I think this book would have greater appeal amongst slightly older boys as, unlike the Tintin stories, there is a lot more dialogue text with the images. The other obvious difference between this and the Tintin books is that Garen Ewing's characters are far more believable and 'real'. Much as I love the Tintin books sometimes the slapstick humour does become a little too much and whilst there is a character in this book (Nathaniel Crumpole) who has obviously been used to create a few Thompson and Thomson laughs, these moments never detract from the story itself.
My only moan - this is only Volume one and I am going to have to wait some time for the conclusion of this great story - Volume two is scheduled for May 2010. According to Garen Ewing's website Volume three will follow in late 2010 or early 2011. In the meantime though, Mr Ewing's website is well worth a look if you want to discover more about the world of Julius Chancer and also contains an informative entertaining blog by the author.