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Orphan Black #1 Review: Preserve Your Deoxyribonucleic Acid!

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Writers: Graeme Manson, John Fawcett, and Jody Houser

Artist: Szymon Kudranski

Colors: Mat Lopes

Letters: Neil Uyetake


Orphan Black #1 is one of the strangest comics to hit store shelves in years. Each issue of this series focuses on a different clone from the hit television series. The show has a soap opera tone in which it delivers plot in a fast and furious manner. This first story gives the reader an episode worth of narrative reveals in the span of one short installment, and as a result, the plot comes at the detriment of the pacing within the story itself. The comic may alienate pre-existing fans of the franchise, as the pilot’s general scenario is rehashed in this issue. The approach is puzzling, and leads to a frustratingly obtuse book that serves as a less interesting reproduction of an incredible television show.

A lot can happen in just one hour of a television show, and comics don’t have that same sense of space. However, this tale does offer slight kernels of added context for fans looking to explore the Orphan Black Universe in a little more detail. The opening sequence in particular has a fairly massive plot reveal that’s something that Orphan Black has not covered as of this season. This shoots into the next piece of new information that isn’t in the show – we finally get to dig deeper into the character of Elizabeth Childs. Comics have the advantage to be more interpersonal than film and television, this is a great aspect that is utilized in just the right manner within this one instance. The ways in which this story is intercut with life of Elizabeth and Sarah together gives new information that fans are likely starved for. Flashbacks and page reveals also add some much needed layers of intrigue to this story.

Szymon Kudranski’s art in this comic is perfect for the tone of the story itself. Orphan Black as a television show looks pleasant, but always contains a certain layer of grit. Kudranski has both of these piece mixed together for the interior work in this tale. The more cerebral artist is able to tackle multiple perspectives and attitudes regarding these different characters. Because his work is so stylized, the artist completely does not have to concern himself with the likeness of their televised counterparts. Unfortunately, the color work in this comic is a little hard to decipher at times. In the brighter moments, Mat Lopes’ hues in this issue remain surreal, which can make it hard to feel some of the brighter spots of emotion that the story delivers on. For the flashbacks and different parts of the page, the coloring does assist the tone with gloomy greys and obtuse oranges.

Pilot episodes of television shows contain a hefty amount of narrative, and this first installment could possibly be good to give someone who could use a refresher on the character. This would likely not be the comic you would want to give someone with no exposure to the franchise. With the next issue being centered around the more cryptic Helena, that could be a better place for fans of the story to start. Ultimately, Graeme Manson, John Fawcett, and Jody Houser pen a perfectly fine retelling of the first episode of Orphan Black in the space of comics with a few nice bells and whistles, but it’s a saga that’s ultimately not suited for comics as a medium.

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