By Garen Ewing (Egmont UK)
Garen Ewing’s stunning pastiche of the genre pioneered by the groundbreaking HergÃ© continues in this even better middle instalment of The Rainbow Orchid.
The character of plucky Julius Chancer and his adventuresome pals began popping up around 2003 in self-published mini-comics and small press publications before migrating to and unfolding online (still available to view at the website www.rainboworchid.co.uk ) to rapturous praise from industry and public alike. Tintin publisher Egmont sagaciously picked up the series and this fabulous old fashioned tale of globe-girdling, treasure-seeking derring-do has quickly become a notable addition to the ranks of magnificent all-ages full-colour adventure albums.
The story is set in the Roaring 1920s and relates how young yet capable archaeological assistant Chancer is drawn into a web of international intrigue, corporate skulduggery and rip-roaring peril by his boss’ latest client. Said employer is renowned historical researcher and gentleman breeder of orchids Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey, who once ran a very hush-hush government artefact-hunting department dubbed the Empire Survey Branch.
Now working freelance, Sir Alfred was approached by Lord Reginald Lawrence who had been tricked into an impossible wager by dastardly entrepreneur Urkaz Grope. At stake was the â€œTrembling Sword of Tybalt Stoneâ€ a priceless antique that has been the seat of the family’s honour since 1445, and without which Lord Lawrence would have to surrender all his estates and titlesâ€¦
To win the wager Lawrence needed an example of Iriode Orchino – the rainbow orchid, a mythical bloom last seen by Alexander the Great over two thousand years ago. After some initial reservations Catesby-Grey dispatched Julius and a disparate group including Lord Lawrence’s daughter Lily to track down the Orchid whilst he pursues some enquires amongst his old clandestine colleaguesâ€¦
After some deadly clashes with Grope’s murderous fixer Evelyn Crow and her hired thugs, Julius, Lily, American impresario Nathaniel Crumpole and pilot Benoit Tayaut reach India, narrowly escaping blazing doom as their aeroplane crashes. Rendezvousing with British Civil Servant Major Fraser-Tipping the explorers begin the next stage of their trek with Crow and cronies in deadly hot pursuitâ€¦
In England journalist William Pickle, who broke the story of the orchid wager, is a prisoner of a secret society although his newshound colleague George Scrubbs is diligently on his trail. Grope’s plans to bully and buy his way into the upper echelons of English Society proceed apace and Catesby-Grey is uncovering some previously unsuspected military and political interest in the projectâ€¦
In India after another brutal attack by Crow’s goons the desperate voyagers find an unexpected ally in Meru, servant of the dead missionary who was the last man to see a rainbow orchid.
Heading into the wastes of Hasan Wahan, Julius and his enlarged party are unaware that they have a traitor in their group. After making one more incredibly lucky and fantastic discovery and nearing the end of their quest, Evelyn Crow launches another murderous assault and one of our plucky heroes seemingly plunges to their deathâ€¦
In a saga delightfully referencing the Golden age of Adventure Literature; everything from Margery Allingham’s Campion tales to Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger stories, Rider Haggard’s Allan Quatermain to John Buchan’s Richard Hannay tales and so very much more, Ewing has managed to synthesise something vibrant, vital, fresh and uniquely entertaining for modern readers of all ages.
Enchantingly engaging, astonishingly authentic and masterfully illustrated in the seductive Ligne Claire style, this is a magical yarn which ranks amongst the very best of graphic narratives. With the final instalment imminently in sight we can only hope that there’s more to follow that long-awaited event.
Pure comics mastery – and where else could you get hot fresh nostalgia, just like your granddad used to love?
Â© 2010 Garen Ewing. All rights reserved.