Orphan Age from AfterShocks Comics steps up to fill the Apocalyptic hole left by The Walking Dead. But does it pack enough punch to make its presence known or is it cowering in the shadows?
After 3 issues with the central characters crossing the wilds of America, issue 4 features Princess and Co reaching their destination: Albany. This has been their single goal since the attack on Dallastown by The New Church but will they find what they are looking for?
Ted Anderson uses this issue to examine the three central characters by allowing them time to reflect on their situations. The change of location and the sudden shift from being alone in the wilderness to being surrounded by thousands of people elicits different reactions in each of the three.
For Princess it’s a time to grieve; for Daniel a time to reconnect; and for Willa it’s more complicated.
Anderson has created a moment of calm in the narrative. The entrance into the city of Albany gives him, as writer, a chance to explore the world and the characters a little bit more, opening up Orphan Age for the reader. But it is also the calm before the storm. Throughout the issue Anderson lays hints at a darkness just underneath the seemingly normal city of Albany. This is a reflection of Willa; she is quiet and sedate on the surface but there is something underneath, bubbling away. An anger that Anderson hints at on several pages in this issue.
Willa is a condensed version of the world at large. On the surface, life has found a way to survive the tragedy that killed all of the adults but the legacy left by the previous world is still evident and still influencing the survivors. Religion, war, greed, and corruption all play a part in Orphan Age and are all hang overs from a world most of the survivors can barely remember.
Orphan Age is a character driven comic, much like The Walking Dead was, and it succeeds because of the detail that Nuni Plati puts into rendering the cast. His attention to detail and focus on facial expressions gives the reader an insight into the personalities and their emotional reactions to their surroundings. Plati is also a master at scene composition. He positions the characters in way that juxtaposes the speech with the cast, highlighting emotional reactions. The separation between the cast member’s is as telling as the vocal interactions.
As with previous issues of Orphan Age, the coloring has a sepia tone. Everything is muted and the whole atmosphere has a slightly dirty feel as if the world is covered with a layer of dust. This gives the impression that the comic is a western with all of the connotations that a western brings. Daniel and Willa are clearly gunslingers and their relationship is similar to Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef’s in the movie For A Few Dollars More.
Only the lettering has a modern look to it. The crisp white speech balloons and neat black font are a striking contrast to the muted colors. This highlights the speech and the conversations between the characters. It focuses the reader on the interactions and enhances the personalities. On the rare occasion that the color palate changes, the speech becomes less imposing. It is as if the conversations are being swallowed by a world larger than the individual characters.
Each layer of the comic builds on top of a simply foundation: the three central characters. The artwork, the plot and the lettering/speech enhances the relationship that the reader has with Princess, Daniel and Willa. Building this relationship is important for the narrative because the reader has to care about what happens to the characters. Without that empathy, nothing that happens will matter, there would be no connection. Anderson, Plati, Joao Lemos and Marshall Dillon all work together to construct emotional driven storytelling that draws the reader in and gives the reader characters to care about.
Just like the early days of The Walking Dead, Orphan Age understands that the survivors and their relationships are the important aspect of any good post-apocalyptic world. Without that the story is simply people killing monsters or other people. Anderson has set up the emotional hook to make the coming conflict a dramatic affair with real stakes involved.
With each issue Orphan Age grows as an interesting world but also a comic worth reading. The characters are maturing and so is the storytelling. Great things are in this comics future.