By Zack Quaintance — Orphan Age #1 is a quick read that has a lot going on. It launches a relatively complex world pretty quickly. In this book, all of the adults on the planet died mysteriously 20 years ago, and now the children are running the world. This concept seems like one that could drive the book by itself, making the conflict one of unprepared youths shedding their childhoods and learning to establish a functional society. While there’s a bit of that in this comic, Orphan Age makes a choice to push past it and add additional layers.
Indeed, by the end of the first act of this comic, the book finds itself in a place where the world has essentially been rebuilt, albeit a bit smaller and more localized. Characters sort of off-handedly mention that there’s been some struggle since the day the adults all horrifically died in mass, but the story doesn’t show us. It instead delivers us in many ways a world that has been rebuilt better in the two decades since the incident, and it doesn’t look back.
This is an interesting narrative choice, one I would have maybe liked to have spent more time thinking about, but Orphan Age didn’t really give me that luxury. Instead, it rode rapidly toward another conflict that involves violent and oppressive forces acting in the name of religion. See what I mean? This is a fast-paced comic, to be sure, but its thematic interests—for lack of a better phrasing—encompass a lot.
Within that, there are some great moments. An escape that happens toward the end of the book is thrilling, and it’s a major credit to this comic that it gets across so much exposition, doing so early and without anything that even vaguely feels like some kind of info dump. I’m not sure, however, that the density of big ideas serves the comic as well as it could. I’m all for compressed storytelling in comics, and I certainly can’t fault storytellers for wanting to address fundamental questions of existence like survival, community governance, and religion. At times while reading this debut issue, however, I did feel a little overwhelmed with how fast entire worlds, families, and villages were destroyed without much (or any) time spent on what was lost.
That’s not to say I didn’t like this comic—I did, quite a bit, and there is still plenty of time in subsequent issues for the creative team to orient us to the impact of what happened in this first issue. Nuno Plati’s artwork is also to be praised for its clean clarity. Plati especially does a great job with the young heroine Princess’ facial expressions, using them to clue us in on what the girl is feeling during any given moment. It’s well done and clear. This team has, in the end, given itself quite a bit to work with moving forward, and I’ll be there to see how it all turns out.
Overall: Orphan Age is an easy to read debut comic that leaves much to be explored moving forward. I have some questions about the book’s many thematic interests, but I’ll definitely keep reading to see how it all sorts out. 7.5/10
Orphan Age #1
Writer: Ted Anderson
Artist: Nuno Plati
Letterers: Joao Lemos & Marshall Dillon
Publisher: AfterShock Comics
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Zack Quaintance is a tech reporter by day and freelance writer by night/weekend. He Tweets compulsively about storytelling and comics as BatmansBookcase.