Thursday, 20 January 2011

Adventure Comics #428. The Black Orchid flutters in.

Adventure Comics #428 Black Orchid's first appearance
Did any super-heroine ever have a more baffling costume than the Black Orchid? Just how exactly did it fit together? Then again was any super-heroine ever more baffling than the Black Orchid herself? A woman forged from a fluid but shapely dose of mystery that seemed to have been poured into that self-same costume. Adventure Comics #428 features her first appearance and, despite its proud boast that it incorporates her origin, we're no clearer about who she is at the end of it than we are at the start.

What we do know is that some bad guys have killed some good guy. Exactly why, I'm not sure but the DA's on their case.

Trouble is, they're on his, meaning the Orchid's going to have to keep him alive as he does his sleuthing. The Black Orchid can fly, is super-strong and invulnerable to bullets, so, to a large extent she's not that different to Supergirl, her long-standing predecessor as Adventure Comics' leading light.

The big difference is the Black Orchid's also a mistress of disguise and, after rendering everyone clueless as to which of the tale's female characters she is or isn't, she's got the case solved, leaving all and sundry no wiser than ever.

Despite its impracticality it's a great costume, defying all known laws of physics - and sometimes, you suspect, its artists' comprehension - while doing its all-important job of showing off her chest and backside. To be honest, I don't really know what was going on in the story or who all these people are but it is at least an intriguing debut that makes you want to read more, if only to find out what's to do.

The back-up story involves a character called Dr 13: the Ghost Breaker, which does make it sound like he's in the habit of torturing helpless spirits. I have no great knowledge of Dr 13 but, from what I can see here, he seems to be modelled on Michael Caine. He's brought in on a case that involves a pair of spectacles that kill anyone who wears them but Dr 13 isn't a man to be outwitted by a pair of horn-rims and he soon puts things to rights. The twist at the end somehow manages to be both inspired and completely lame simultaneously.

Both tales in this issue are drawn by Tony De Zuniga, so they both look classy and elegant - although Sheldon Mayer's dialogue in the Orchid tale's pretty dire, being crammed full of creaking exposition and stiltedness and it's hard to work out just why anyone in it's doing what they're doing.

Would the Black Orchid be back?

Of course she would.

Would her strip, like the woman herself, take flight and soar to new triumphs?

Sadly not. She was gone after just three issues, replaced by the Spectre, as she found herself relegated to the back of the Phantom Stranger's comic but, like the trail of perfume she left behind her wherever she went, she was nice while she lasted.


Lazarus Lupin said...

Her costume is elegant as drawn. I shudder to think of the horror it would become if some modern artists" gave it a go.

Lazarus Lupin
art and review

Steve said...

I was also wondering how they'd be able to get it to work if they ever made a Black Orchid movie. I suspect they'd have to go down the CGI route with it.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget she came back in the mid to late eighties, in a mini-series executed by N. Gaiman and D. McKean - their first work for DC Comics if I recall correctly.

B Smith

Steve said...

Sadly I've never read the Neil Gaiman version. I say "sadly" but I'm sure I read somewhere that he revealed that she's half-woman half-plant. I really don't like to think of the Black Orchid as being half-plant.

hobbyfan said...

Based on your description, it sounds like Gaiman had intended for Black Orchid, who was perfectly fine the way she was initially, IMPO, as a female answer to Swamp Thing, after the reboot Alan Moore gave it. I wasn't on board with Moore's version of Swamp Thing, although to his credit it was far more successful commercially. Orchid, unfortunately, can't say the same regardless of how she's been portrayed.

I wish I had this issue, but I never was able to acquire it. I'd like to think, though, that the original concept would be the way I'd remember her.

Kid said...

Steve, women don't have "chests". only men. Women have "bosoms", "cleavage", "puppies", etc.

Steve said...

I have so much to learn.

Steve Chung said...

Fallout New Vegas paid homage to this cover.

Steve Chung

Steve W. said...

It did? I like to feel my lack of knowledge of video games is total. I hope they did it in the best possible taste.

Anonymous said...

Dr. 13's specialty was exposing hoaxes. Somehow his skepticism remained intact even though he was in the same "universe" as Deadman and the Spectre.

Steve W. said...

I'm sure I've read a story somewhere where he meets the Phantom Stranger - and still remains skeptical.

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