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Black Orchid [Paperback]

Neil Gaiman , Dave McKean
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Paperback, Aug. 29 1991 --  
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Book Description

Aug. 29 1991
From one of the most highly recognised and award winning comic writers on the scene today, Neil Gaiman (Sandman, Death, Violent Cases), and his sometime collaborator, innovative artist Dave McKean (Arkham Asylum, Cages, Violent Cases) comes a haunting and stylish exploration of birth, death and renewal. Both human and flower the heroine, Black Orchid, undertakes a hazardous journey to uncover her true origins, providing a moving ecological parable for our times. This work by Gaiman and Mckean is an early showcase for the talent we know today.

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About the Author

Neil Gaiman is the most critically acclaimed comics writer of the 1990s and is the author of numerous books and graphic novels. He is the New York Times No. 1 best-selling author of American Gods and Anansi Boys. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I am not a DC comic fan or collector, so please bear with me in giving you this review from a non-comic owner perspective.
While not a follower of the comics, I do love Neil Gaiman. This is the story of how Black Orchid comes to life and seeks out a meaning for, literally, the life given to her. She wants answers to the questions "Who am I? Why am I here?" and is desperate to find a place that she will belong.
Her tale is told with cameo appearances by Batman, Swamp Thing, and Poison Ivy; and you should not miss the nightmarish visit to the Arkham Asylum where a skeletal, sleepless man spills his nightmares on the floor, and the x-ray man weeps burning tears onto the floor.
She awakens as the Black Orchid in the greenhouse at Dr. Phillip Sylvian, with the memories of a woman named Susan Linden. Phil tells her about a little of her background, and tells her of those who he went to college with, without whom she would not be alive; Dr. Jason Woodrue, Pamela Isley and Alec Holland.
But before he can reveal everything to her, Phil is killed and the Black Orchid is on her own. Her ex husband Carl Thorne finds out about her plant-reincarnation, and makes a visit to her, killing all but one of the smaller plants that Phil has been nurturing. Black Orchid takes the little one with her, "Suzy", to Gotham city where a tip from a friend sends her off along to Arkham Asylum to speak with Poison Ivy. Suzy is snatched by Lexcorp, but after a quick visit with Swamp Thing, Black Orchid rescues Suzy and they fly off to the Amazon Rainforest where Black Orchid can plant her seeds.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but still a journeyman work Jan. 26 2003
I picked this up for three dollars at a remainder fair in Denver while I was there for Anaconism, and read it on the plane coming home. It was a whim purchase, based solely on my good impression of Gaiman from Good Omens (co-written with Terry Pratchett) and his comic series, "Sandman." Black Orchid is a comic, and unlike "Sandman" for the most part, it is set in the superhero populated DC Universe (Batman, Swamp Thing, and the current inhabitants of the Arkham Asylum feature prominently in the story). Gaiman's treatment of the superhero genre is similar to Alan Moore's ("Swamp Thing," "Watchman")--much grittier, much more introspective than the usual porcelain doll pip-ups engaging in the endless slugfest. You know from the beginning, as stated in the introduction by Rolling Stone writer Mikal Gilmore, that something is different: the villain captures the heroine and, instead of revealing his plans to her, he kills her. It is startling in its suddenness and its other-worldliness (at least for superhero comics). Nudity? Sex? Language? These are not taboos anymore in the comic world, but to actually *kill* a character, and in such a matter-of-fact, realistic way, that's shocking. The rest of the book (actually a collection of three comics published in series in 1990) tries to live up to that moment, and sometimes comes close, but ultimately it isn't quite satisfying. Gaiman's willingness to find the trigger makes him someone to search out.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Gaiman delivers July 12 2001
I don't like everything that Neil Gaiman writes but I have to say that I DO like this book. Philip, an old classmate of Alec Holland (who became Swamp Thing later) has never had too many friends during his youth. He was considered a geek because most of his attention went to botanism in which he put almost all his time. One of the people who HAS been his friend during his young years is Susan, who he loved dearly. Once the time came that Susan disappeared out of Philips life he was heartbroken. Susan went on to marry a criminal, Carl, which got her killed, and Philip went back to his dream of trying to breed living 'flowerpeople', hybrids. Now, the present. After seven years in jail Carl, who blames Susan for his arrest, comes looking for Philip because he blames Philip for what went wrong between him and Susan . What he then finds in Philips basement is too stunning for words, Philip succeeded ! He calls his old employer Luthor about what he found (indeed, Superman's Luthor ) hoping to get in his grace again, but before Luthor is able to arrive Carl screws up and the whole basement is destroyed, and everything alive in it is dead, bar two creatures who got away. Than starts the quest of the two heavily confused escaped beings, Black Orchids, to find out what they are, who they are and where they belong. A quest which leads them through places like Arkham Asylum and even to the jungle-swamp of Swamp Thing himself. Meanwhile the hordes of Luthor are trying to track them down and there's also the matter of the man who has fallen from grace, Carl, who's also madly in pursuit.
This book takes superhero characters (like Batman, Swamp Thing, Batman, Poison Ivy etc.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good Beginning May 25 2001
Black Orchid was first released at approximately the same time as Sandman #1 and was the second major work by both Gaiman and McKean after Violent Cases. As a result, it was the North American audience's first real exposure to their work. This made reading it the first time especially interesting, not knowing what to expect from the two creators, but with their current greater familiarity, the experience of reading Black Orchid is now less exciting. Also, since they did not have their reputations yet, a lot of big-name characters such as Batman and Swamp Thing make distracting cameo appearances for the obvious reason of attracting readers when they would have been better left out.
McKean's artwork in this book goes for more of a photorealistic style that was more distinctive from Bill Sienkiewicz's work than Violent Cases, but is far less interesting than McKean's more recent and more surreal work, and with the exception of a few photographs is less multimedia and more straight painting. Furthermore, the scenes taking place in the city are largely black, white and gray, and not until the action moves to the jungle do you get brilliant flashes of colour. This was done purposely for dramatic effect, but also makes much of the art less interesting than usual. McKean himself said he was glad when he started painting the jungle scenes because he was getting utterly bored painting the rest.
Gaiman's story itself presents an interesting contrast between modern, patriachal, business-driven society with the beauty and serenity of the natural world.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Gaiman's done better
First, the good news. McKean's art is a real asset. It's varied, skilled, and very expressive.
The story just didn't work for me, though. Read more
Published on June 30 2004 by wiredweird
5.0 out of 5 stars Gaiman's graceful, introspective tale.
About the same time that Neil Gaiman took a little-known hero called the Sandman and created the rich mythology of Dream and the Endless, he reinvented another obscure character,... Read more
Published on July 7 2003 by Tom Knapp
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Orchid
One of the most beautiful graphic novels I have ever seen! Vivid colours and an excellent story (it's neil, of course the story is fantastic). Read more
Published on June 13 2003 by "reaven"
2.0 out of 5 stars Everyone Has To Start Somewhere
As a big fan of Neil Gaiman's novels and Sandman series, I was truly looking forward to this. Of course, as seen in the early issues of Sandman, Gaiman wasn't a natural at writing... Read more
Published on March 28 2002 by Tom Kelly
5.0 out of 5 stars Impressive
This TPB was very strong. I love the art, the dialogue, nearly everything about it. Sure, there are "distracting" cameos by Swamp Thing and Batman, but when you realize... Read more
Published on Sept. 21 2001 by B_Metal88
3.0 out of 5 stars Passable
Love the artwork, but every time I read this, I just end up scratching my head. It wanders, and just doesn't get anythig interesting done. Read more
Published on Sept. 29 2000 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Black Orchid, A Woman Done By Top Two Men in Graphic Novels!
I bought this before "Veils", also reviewed by me, and was very happy since this work, unlike most "comics" work, was more clearly aimed at women. Read more
Published on May 28 2000 by carol irvin
3.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Story From the Protean Days of Gaiman/McKean
Fans of the Neil Gaiman/Dave McKean collaboration which revolutionized the comic art form will find "Black Orchid" an interesting look back at this alliance in its... Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2000 by Jeffrey A. Veyera
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad but not great either
this is the one gaiman/mckean work that had escaped my collection until recently and to tell the truth I was a bit disappointed. Read more
Published on Dec 22 1999
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