Monday, 19 November 2012

Post Thought Bubble 2012 Reviews: The Complete Rainbow Orchid

Image lifted direct from Garen's own blog.

Well last weekend saw the return of the Leeds based "Thought Bubble" Comic Convention. This was my second time attending the con and I had a prewritten list of everything I wanted to buy a while in advance. This mainly consisted of a few DC Vertigo and Dark Horse graphic novels I had fallen behind on along with one or two singular small press titles I had gotten in to at previous conventions over the last year.
Now since I was going to be there selling my own comic book "Lou Scannon" I wanted to find out what other titles I hadn't previously heard of would be available there for me to take a look at too.
For this there are two Comic Blog sites I use regularly. One is Comics Anonymous - Great bunch of guys and girls who do great reviews and have really taken a liking to my comic. The other is Small Press, Big Mouth. Now it was on SPBM that I first heard of the adventures of Julius Chancer, the protagonist of "The Complete Rainbow Orchid".
There were many titles that SPBM said to keep and eye out for, each with a small paragraph accompanying a photograph of said title but for one reason or another, Garen's work leapt off the screen at me.
Now I was instantly drawn to the charm that comes with Garen's art. It has a distinctly old school feel to it which I found to be reminiscient of "Tin Tin" but with a twist and that can never be a bad thing. The colour scheme was simple but effective and overall it had a classical comic feel to it which I absolutely adore.
So based on the art alone, I decided I wanted to find out more about the title. I discovered it to be a tale of high adventure, with the character getting to travel the world! It hinted at ancient civilisations and criminal organisations! A femme fatale was surely a guarantee too! It brought to mind the image of old television serials, adventure romps. Indiana Jones would not be out of place in this sort of setting!
My mind was made up. I was buying the complete volume as soon as I could at Thought Bubble. Garen was offering what I considered to be an absolute bargain. Normal retail on the graph is £14.99 but he would be selling them for £10 at the convention.
So Saturday morning came and the second the con opened, in my hungover state, I made my way over to Garens table, which was the other side of the hall to my own. I was already too late to be the first served as he was sketching the inside cover for a chap who must have been purchasing the first copy of the day. Seriously, I didn't waste my time getting there. That's how popular this comic must be. The doors had literally just opened and he was already busy.
I patiently waited my turn and then eagerly thrust my money in to Garen's face, he then offered me a sketch and signed it to me too as his daughter eagerly looked on. It's wonderful that he had taken his family with him and his little girl is as cute as a button.
I quickly made my way back to my table to stop my fellow team mates from lynching me for my abscence and flicked through the book to be greated by wonderfully detailed art such as this:

There's no skipping attention to detail and Garen has more detailed backgrounds than most titles on the market these days.
Seriously, if there were to be a computer game made of this comic, it would be a point and click adventure in the same vein as the wonderful "Broken Sword" series. It really does have that flow and feel to it.
Now I have read on Garen's blog that he has come under fire for the cost of the graph when it comes to things like postage etc etc. Let me say now that there is absolutely nothing about this book that isn't high quality. Everything about this is beautifully produced and highly polished and with it being a COMPLETE story, it has a bit of weight to it so of course it will cost a touch more to post it!
I think his pricing is completely reasonable and the £10 convention price is an absolute steal!

Now I think I have covered its initial appearance and appeal. At least, from my own point of view.
Time to move on to the story.
Julius Chancer is assistant to Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey in a post WW1 era. They are historical researchers who seem to specialise in retrieving... hard to acquire ancient artifacts. Garen's set up is perfect. It brings you straight in to Chancer's world immediately with the story starting at the end of another adventure. You learn that despite the excitement of the all the adventures they have had to go on, it hasn't quite left Sir Alfred and Julius in a strong financial situation as far as their business is concerned. So when a rich aristocrat turns up with his famous daughter in the hope of hiring them to find a rather rare flower, Julius thinks it's a great idea.
Now I'm skipping over a rogueish reporter here - William Pickle. Basically he's a reporter in the same sort of intrusive way as Lois Lane is. With the exception that he is actually pretty good at his job and doesn't rely on a guy in blue spandex to come and save him. He seems to be full of self importance and does not seem to feel fear. Something which gets him in to more trouble than any one man would want. He writes a story in the paper that mentions Sir Alfred and brings him to the attention of rich aristocrat Lord Reginald Lawrence and his daughter Lily. It also draws the attention of a shadier element.
Lord Reginald wants to pay handsomely for Sir Alfred to locate a very rare orchid which should he find it, would save Lord Reginalds estate from falling in to the hands of an evil businessman. This is after a gentlemans agreement Lord Reginald made one night whilst intoxicated.
Thus starts a tale of high adventure involving travel by Boats, planes, trains and automobiles! Gun fights, cults, international travel, brawls and ancient cities, this book has it all!

I don't want to give anything away in what happens during the story as such as I know a lot of people if not all, loathe spoilers.
I will say though that Julius Chancer is a thoroughly likable character. A strong leading man and Lily makes for a good heroine if not love interest too. There are some great supporting characters that form part of the team too. A slightly overweight Hollywood agent who plays the role of comic relief. A ballsy French stunt pilot who seems to be up for anything - personally I would have liked more of him appearing as he was my favourite supporting character. There is also Meru, a mysterious man from a lost civilisation who basically comes across as the warrior member of Chancer's group.
Start to finish you will love this book. The pacing is perfect throughout. It never lets up or has a dull moment and the art is equally consistent all the way through.
Now in the interests of being fairly balanced I think I should point out the less positives, though these are very, VERY minor but one does have to have balance. At the end of the book I found the history of a civilisation a touch confusing at first as it was all thrown at me rather fast with the explanation behind it a touch hard to follow. I would have liked to see more of a resolution with the situation Pickle finds himself in. Finally, I really wanted to see the Stunt Pilot Benoit again at the end as part of the stories resolution. I wanted to see more from Meru's ending too but something tells me we haven't seen the last of him. That's it. Those are my only niggles in a 117 page story and I'm only mentioning these as I have to mention something in the interests of balance. Hard to find fault with this book really and hard to go in to detail without giving spoilers.
I was left feeling satisfied though that I had read a great story but absolutely gutted that I had reached the end. The one thing I did love though was that it has been left very open for more Chancer stories and it does look like we haven't heard the end of the bad guys that cause Chancer so much trouble throughout!
So all in all, I will say that this is one of the finest things I have read in a while. It has charm, laughs, a lot of likeable characters with brilliant extra content and I do genuinely long for more from Mr. Ewing and his delightful cast!

All in all, I would give this book 5/5
Definitely check it out!

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