ORPHAN BLACK #1
Written by John Fawcett, Graeme Manson, and Jody Houser
Art by Szymon Kudranski
Published by IDW Publishing
Release Date: February 25, 2015
As a proud member of the Clone Club, I desperately wanted this miniseries to be good. I love the layers in the show, and all the ways it loops back onto itself. The story doesn’t unfold in a straight line, and that’s a big part of what keeps the show interesting and intriguing. This comic, on the other hand, is much more linear (as is evident given the first pages focus on Sarah’s birth – something we didn’t learn about in the show for quite some time). I wouldn’t go so far as to call Orphan Black #1 a bad comic; it’s just kind of… there.
The idea behind the miniseries is to focus on a different clone’s story for each issue; each story is supposed to provide some of the history of that particular clone. That concept is great! Each clone is distinct in her own way, and much (if not all) of that can be directly contributed to her upbringing. One of the many layers of the show is the interesting way the writers have tackled the old nature vs. nurture debate, so learning more about each clone’s younger days could be a very cool way to continue delving into the psychology of their personalities; specifically, which traits came from their nurturing vs. which are innate to their shared DNA.
What we actually get in this comic, however, is a basic retelling of the first episode with an over-arching internal monologue and a few flashbacks thrown in here and there. If you’ve seen the show, the comic is largely boring. If you haven’t seen the show, it’s probably less boring, but runs the risk of being difficult to follow as information is glossed over with the assumption that the reader is familiar with what’s going on already.
As far as the artwork? It’s ok. If you’ve read any of my other reviews, you know that one of my pet peeves is lack of detail on faces. There are a few panels in which the character’s faces are front-and-center and are given enough detail to be distinguishable and readable. For the most part, however, their faces are pretty simple and in many ways unremarkable.
I also felt there was a little too much reliance on computer graphics to fill in details. At one point, a character is wearing a red, plaid shirt that is so obviously a computer overlay that it’s actually distracting from the rest of the page. It’s particularly sad because when Kudranski is on, he’s spot on. Certain panels capture the look and feel of the show and it’s actors brilliantly (so much so that I wouldn’t be surprised if those panels were drawn using screenshots as direct references). Unfortunately, when those beautiful panels are just scattered throughout the other, lackluster panels, it knocks all of the artwork down a peg.
Given the great concept behind this comic, and the artistry Kudranski is capable of, it’s more than a little disappointing that it was just kind of… meh. I would have loved to have had a full comic dedicated to a story about Sarah and Felix growing up under Mrs. S, to delve deeper into their personalities and illustrate the creation of the bond between them rather than a retelling of the first episode with some disjointed flashbacks thrown in. A story just about Mrs. S’s days back in Europe, or about Sarah and Helena’s mother, or even a story about Mrs. S raising Kira after Sarah left would be much more worth our time.
The comics should be a place where we can go deeper into the story; where the writers can really sink into the meat of a character/storyline or show us some of the adventures of the supporting cast without having to worry about the time and budget constraints of a television episode. Unfortunately, that doesn’t appear to be what we’re getting with this miniseries, and that makes me sad.
The Verdict: 5.0/10