Continuing the journey through the empty wastelands of America, Orphan Age from AfterShock Comics takes a sedated look at survival in a harsh world. It has more in common with the 1970’s Terry Nation T.V. series The Survivors than it does The Walking Dead but whatever it’s influences Orphan Age has a compelling story to tell.
In this issue Princess must learn a number of lessons. In order to survive in the world, she must face the realisation that the utopian ideal she grew up with was a cover to protect her from the cruelties of nature. Not everyone was as lucky as her father when the Adults died 20 years previously.
Each issue of Orphan Age stands alone as a discussion around one aspect of Ted Anderson’s future world. In this third issue, the concept of nature and nurture is examined as Princess comes face to face with an uneducated, uncivilised survivor of the mysterious incident that left the world in the shape it is.
Anderson uses the confrontation to illustrate Princess’ upbringing and compare it to the characters around her. It is also a catalyst for Daniel, Princess’ protector, to speak about his past and final allows the reader to see some of the transitional period between before the incident and the present of the comic.
Although the Feral character in this issue is nothing more than a plot device to question the current status que around the characters and the world, it is an effective one. A simple character that is neither hero or villain provides Anderson with an opportunity to compare the central cast. He is able to advance the world view while developing the characters via a simple, yet effective, narrative.
In plot sense not very much happens in this issue but as it is all about creating character driven drama, Anderson is successful in providing an emotionally gripping story.
For this issue to succeed, Nuno Plati has to focus on the details and bring the characters to the foreground. So much of this comic is drawn from a medium or close up view point so that when there is a wide shot it really stands out. The relationships of the central three characters is reflected via the environment and their impact upon it. At times they blend into it, as if they are comfortable within the world they live. Other times they stand out, shocking grey figures against a garish orange backdrop, as far from the world as they can be while still being a part of it.
The ever changing conflict that they encounter as they travel across this America is visually more evident in this issue than it has been in previous issues. The color work by Plati and Joao Lemos really stands out and, in turn, makes the character’s conflicts stand out. The story may be sedate but the force of the art work is not. There are some powerful images and the extreme close ups with heavy black lines give the comic an emotional weight.
There is a claustrophobia to Orphan Age, despite the vast wilderness that it is set in. This is brought about by the tight points of view that Plati uses for his panels and is aided by Marshall Dillon lettering. His stark white speech balloons stand out against the naturalistic backgrounds and intentionally crowd the characters. This serves as a reinforcement of the character driven narrative but also makes the open, large vista panels that much more impactful. Not only is the reader able to see something of this world but it free from sound and speech; it becomes an all-encompassing space which in turn emphasises the closeness of the characters.
Dillon’s placement of the speech covers the backgrounds, removes any void and traps the characters together in an emotional and physical struggle for space.
Orphan Age is a comic about three characters and their emotional journey. That concept is more evident in this issue than in previous ones and the character work, both narratively and visually, is extremely engaging. Princess has an innocence which is slowly being eroded away and the tragedy of this can be seen in Plati’s panels of her. His framing and composition, although following a fairly ridged layout with grids and white gutters, is surprisingly emotional. He creates a huge empathy for Princess within the reader.
It has taken a few issues for Orphan Age to find its feet but this issue is definitely the best so far. Emotional and thought provoking. Plus, it is a great jumping on point for new readers.