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Orpheus Comic Review - -

Story 8.5
Art 8.5
Value 7.0
Total 8.0
Publisher: Viper Comics
Release Date: December 2010
Reviewer: Troy Mayes


Exclusive First Review: Orpheus

Viper Comics continues their trend of releasing original graphic novels with the graphic novel Orpheus. Written by Dale Mettam Orpheus is also another attempt at giving a classic tale, like Nosferatu, a more modern setting. Does lightning strike twice for Viper? 

Orpheus takes inspiration from the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice. Orpheus is actually Orpheus Newman the world’s foremost escape artist. Eurydice is Ellen, his wife, who is constantly begging him to give up his dangerous profession. On the night that Orpheus attempts his last escape things go horribly wrong and Orpheus enters into a horrible pact with Death in an attempt to save his life. So while you’ve got the myth of Orpheus there are also aspects of things like The Prestige and Houdini thrown in as well.  

Mettam has created a very original tale with an ending that will leave you shocked and surprised, much like a good escape artist should.  Mettam’s Orpheus deals with some pretty dark and freaky stuff as Orpheus attempts to find out what went wrong in his last escape. It’s not exactly a horror tale but you could call it a very dark noir or Gothic tale with the whole potential murder mystery aspect. There is a sense of being closed in, surrounded by death and, well, you are generally chatting to Death. Funnily enough the character of Death is a really creepy yet rather wise and insightful one and also a little girl. Yeah, I did not see that one coming either.  The conversations between Orpheus and Death are also brilliant and a great read and surprisingly a way to inject a little humor into this otherwise serious tale. The artwork also helps sell it as a mysterious dark noir tale as it features predominantly black and white art with a few brownish sepia tones. What Mettam does really well is help the reader to feel a connection to Orpheus. I found myself making the same judgments and coming to the same conclusions as Orpheus to then be as shocked as Orpheus was later on. There are also some nice little clues from Mettam for the reader, showing how in control of his story he is.  

At only 72 pages you might think that Orpheus would feel rushed but the book felt perfectly paced. There was a sense of urgency to the story but it didn’t go at such a blinding pace that you couldn’t keep up with the characters and what was going on. About the only problem I had was that I could not really pick what era the book was supposed to be set in. It was a minor thing but an annoying thing. Orpheus and his wife were dressed very early 20th century and spoke in a somewhat posh manor but then Orpheus’s number one fan was dressed and spoke more like a modern teenager/youth. It was just a distraction that drew some of my attention away from the story. I also felt that while 72 pages suited the book fine there seemed like so much more Mettam could have explored, like Orpheus’s early days as an escape artist and near death experiences. I guess that’s a compliment for the book though that I wanted to stay immersed in the dark, Gothic world Mettam had created for just a little longer. Curiously I also found a few little spelling or grammar mistakes, sentences like “Thank, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you” didn’t quite make sense and once again broke the spell of the story. 

The most stunning aspect of Sallamari Rantala’s artwork would have to be the use of color or should I say the various tones and shades of black, brown and white throughout the story. It almost seemed fitting that a story that focuses on death is surrounded by such dark and oppressive tones. The character designs were good, with the women looking like something out of The Corpse Bride and all the designs generally having a bit of a ghoulish quality to them. Some people may not like the fact that Rantala focuses all of his attention on the character’s close up and any in the background lose definition but I find that it adds to the effect, making them look almost like ghouls or spirits. The beginning of chapter two and the scenes in Denny Vildspor’s apartment also show off some impressive splash pages where Rantala really shows off his drawing skills.  

Altogether I was very impressed with Mettam’s Orpheus and only wish that it could have been longer. For me it’s the best Orpheus tale since Nick Cave's epic ballad The Lyre of Orpheus. Escape artists, a hint of murder, mystery and gorgeous artwork, what's not to love?    


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