Rainbow Orchid Volume 2 – The (continuing) Adventures of Julius Chancer
by Garen Ewing
Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way first with Rainbow Orchid Volume 2, something that I’ve already seen mentioned several times in some so-so reviews of the book online. This is the middle bit of a three part series and as such it slows down the action as the narrative unfolds and the characterisation takes hold. Ewing himself has already gone on record as saying that he sometimes wonders…..
“…… if three volumes was the best way to go with The Rainbow Orchid as it’s meant to be read as a single book with its story-flow steadily rising throughout. If I’d have planned it as three separate books the build-up and pace would certainly be different for each volume with a more rapid rise in each. But with the three separate volumes, at least it’s available right now and with volume two imminent, time will fly by. Before you know it, volume three and the story’s exciting conclusion will be upon us.”
Even the comic that Garen Ewing’s Ligne Claire style adventure is always going to be compared with; Herge’s wonderful adventures of Tintin did exactly the same thing, slowing as the story unfolded in the middle section of each single volume story.
So in this way I think we can just consider Ewing’s second volume having a slower, more thought out pace than volume 1 as a natural function of this type of story and reviewing Rainbow Orchid Volume 2 as a unique, stand alone experience is about as much use as walking into a three act play as act two begins and walking out again as the curtain rises on act three.
What matters most, of course, is not whether it’s fast or slow paced, but whether it’s correctly paced and whether it’s as damnably enjoyable as Volume 1, of which I said……
“Rainbow Orchid isn’t just something very pretty to look at – it’s also that very rare thing – a really solidly constructed, fun for all ages adventure story. Again, the comparison with Tintin and Blake & Mortimer is valid here. Rainbow Orchid has that same sense of adventure, that wonder at the world, the sense of the exotic that every Tintin album evoked when you first read it.“
(From Rainbow Orchid Volume 1 – Julius Chancer’s hot headed nature and refusal to quit – sure signs he’s adventure hero material!)
Volume 1 saw the establishment of the story – a quest for the mythical “Rainbow Orchid”, needed to save the ancestral estate of Lord Reginald Lawrence after a wager with the dubious businessman Urkaz Grope over each man’s success in an upcoming orchid show.
Writing it like that makes the whole thing seem a little too flimsy and far fetched, but trust me, when you read Volume 1, it all works perfectly and sets up the subsequent adventure with style.
The search is on for the mysterious Rainbow Orchid with Julian Chancer, the assistant of historical researcher Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey leading an expedition to India to find the Rainbow Orchid, bring it home, save the Stone estate and who knows, maybe even get the girl in the process.
(The Order Of The Black Lion crops up several times, connecting Grope with his intended target Lord Reginald Lawrence and making it seem like the orchid is merely a clever ruse…. From Rainbow Orchid Volume 2 by Garen Ewing, published by Egmont.)
In Volume Two, we follow Chancer across Europe to the Indian sub-continent in his search. But Grope’s lackeys are on their trail, and often one step ahead. Along the way we’ll meet new allies, mysterious strangers and get a feeling that there’s something more than a simple search for a flower, no matter how rare, at work here.
Volume 2 of The Rainbow Orchid continues where volume 1 left off, with Ewing’s Ligne Claire art making every page a visual delight and his classic adventure tale a pleasurable read. The multiple plots, the extended cast of characters, the increasing complexity of the story – all of these things have been cited as problems in some places. But I’ll have none of it. It’s these things that make The Rainbow Orchid a far better thing than any simple modern blockbuster movie in comic form that adventure works so often read as nowadays.
(A quiet beautiful opening page, showing Ewing’s lovely, tight line to it’s best. From Rainbow Orchid Volume 2, published by Egmont)
So Volume 2 is a success, building, albeit slowly, on the thrills and adventure of the first Volume. Definitely not something that can be read alone though, you really must pick up Volume 1 first. Do that and you’re two thirds of the way through a great adventure, with echoes of the past, classic storytelling and beautifully cinematic, stylish Euro-style artwork.