20 years after all of the adults died, the surviving children have grown up to build themselves a new life. Orphan Age from AfterShock Comics is packed with post-apocalyptic trappings and characters who will do anything to survive.
With a more subdued aesthetic than other comics of a similar nature, The Walking Dead for example, Orphan Age appears to look at its dystopian future through rose tinted glasses but is everything as it seems on the surface?
On the run from The Church, an aggressive inclusionist cult, Princess, Daniel and their new friend Willa realise that they are short of supplies. Daniel also believes that Princess must have a way to protect herself: this means acquiring a gun.
Luckily for them, Willa knows of a Mall on their path to Albany, somewhere they can get what they need. But will the small band of travellers get more than they bargained for?
Ted Anderson draws inspiration for classic post-apocalyptic movies and modern dystopian tales to create his setting and situations. This second issue of Orphan Age is like an issue of The Walking Dead set in The Dawn of the Dead movie.
Anderson sets the scene in the opening sequence, reminding the reader that the main characters are on the run and desperate, and then compares this to the opulence of the settlement they visit.
There is an element of world building throughout this issue as Anderson uses the two sets of new characters to discuss what came before and the journeys that the surviving children took. However, the central premise of the Orphan Age still isn’t utilised in a way to make this future world much different from many other stories of the same genre. How the world ‘ended’ is what this story should be about but instead the reader is treated to another world full of hatred towards strangers and constant gun play.
There are some touching moments in this issue and there is a sense that the story is being told from the point of view of Princess. There is a child-like tone to the way the story unfolds and the feeling of innocence in the way it is being told. Unfortunately, this barely disguises the rather obvious plot twist that this comic revolves around.
Whereas the story is fairly soft and, despite the subject matter, light hearted, the art work is heavy handed. Nuno Plati uses thick inked lines to outline the characters making them standout against the often sun bleached backgrounds. This makes the setting faded rather than decayed, as if the past has slowly been forgotten instead of being wiped out or destroyed.
This style suits Orphan Age because the characters have grown up in world they don’t really understand, taking what they knew and making that the centre of their lives. It would appear that whatever was the driving force behind their lives as children dictated what they would become as adults. Plati’s art choices, especially in the design for the characters, illustrates this.
The coloring gives the entire comic a washed out atmosphere, as if life itself has drained from the world. There is no vibrancy or energy left and even the splashes of brighter colors are still neutered to give the impression they have faded over time.
This coloring choice by Joas Lemos and Nuno Plati means that a lot of the character comes from the speech and lettering by Marshall Dillon. It is his job to make the characters stand out from this world. Dillon uses very thin boarders on his balloons, which matches the font used for the speech but contrasts the heavy lines Plati uses for the characters. This seems to accentuate the whiteness of the balloons and make them stand out on the page. The purpose here is to remind the reader that what the characters say is as, if not more, important than what they do.
Orphan Age is an enjoyable, although predictable, read. The art style marks this out from other comics in a similar genre because it is not focused on gruesome images or visions of destruction. It is difficult to tell what the impact of the adults disappearing had on the world, other than reducing the population, but with each issue more details are being revealed.
There is an element of Utopia about the story which is slowly being dissolved by the main character’s journey. Unfortunately, the main plot twists of the story are nothing new and unless the comic finds a fresh, young audience, this can be easily passed over for more established comics.