Thursday 28 July 2011

"The Black Orchid is Watching You." Phantom Stranger #35.

Black Orchid splash page, Phantom Stranger #35
Phantom Stranger #35, Jim Aparo cover
I don't like to moan but I can't help feeling disappointed with my laptop. It cost me £400 from Currys and has never once shown its gratitude by conceiving the perfect crime for me to commit.

Howard Lunge's 1970s computer, on the other hand, enables him to commit intricately plotted felonies that leave no trace of his own involvement. And, in Phantom Stranger #35, he uses it to frame a young man called Dubbish for murder.

What his supercomputer hasn't accounted for is the existence of the Black Orchid.

Black Orchid, Nestor Redondo, Phantom Stranger #35
Almost as soon as the frame-up's been performed, the Orchid's on the tail of Lunge's chief lackey Mr Flint but, before she can stop him, the crook burns the mask that's the only evidence of his subterfuge. To make matters worse he's then shot  dead by his own accomplices. Now how can our plucky petal wearer foil her foe's fiendish finagling?

But that's not all. As we leave Part One of this two-parter, Lunge orders his supercomputer to calculate the true identity of the Black Orchid. This is bad news. Computers are infallible. Could this be curtains for our flowery femme?

The Black Orchid does come across as a curious mix of the infallible and the inept in this tale, somehow knowing all about Lunge, his plans and his supercomputer but also giving his man Flint the time to burn the only evidence, and letting Lunge's other lackeys get away scot free.

On the upside it's as beautifully drawn as ever by Nestor Redondo who gifts it an atmospheric style that helps overcome the strip's noticeable lack of depth and characterisation.

All of these concerns are secondary of course. The real question is will The Phantom Stranger #36 finally do it? Will it finally tell us the truth about the Black Orchid? Will it reveal the real name of a beautiful woman who can fly, has super-strength, is a genius and bounces bullets off her as though they're no more than peas? For some reason my own supercomputer's flinging the name Linda Danvers at me.

It couldn't be.

Could it?

To be Steveinued.


david_b said...

Something about how those early issues were drawn.., they just had a very soft sense of eroticism.

Not sure how to explain it, but sure made me buy copies.

david_b said...

Talking about the Orchid of course..