Orphan Age #1
Ted Anderson (writer), Marshall Dillon (letterer), Juan Doe (variant cover artist), Nuno Plati (illustrator)
As the parent of an 11 and 13-year old, their independence means magic to me. It means I am free to go out on my own, without dragging them along or worrying about daycare. It means I can sleep in, trusting them to make their own breakfast. Their independence also means, “OMG, what if they burn down the house while I’m gone? What if they slip in the shower and hit their head?”
But in Ted Anderson’s Orphan Age, my joys and fears no longer matter. Because I, like all the other adults, have died, leaving the children to figure out this world we have left them. Given the way we are leaving the world for our children right now, I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing for the next generation. Maybe they will do better than us. Maybe they will save this planet and come together, without us adults getting in the way of their learning and discovery.
There’s no fanfare to the passing of the adults. It’s all delivered in a single page, with a single, almost wordless panel revealing the tragedy. The story then skips 20 years ahead to a society that seems to be, well, doing okay. The kids are just fine. There’s no internet or television, but there are horses and caravans that connect the small towns that are sharing and learning to reshape the world. Unlike many post apocalyptic stories, it’s a blessing to finally find a story that focuses first on the notion that humans don’t automatically gravitate towards domination and murder. Shaping a functional society based on rules and respect, with kind and fair leadership is totally possible. Mayor Brian runs his small town, raising his daughter and inviting the townspeople to gather each evening and share their dreams and fears. But when a wounded stranger arrives, warning of a pending attack by the unstoppable Firemen of the New Church, the peaceful existence is broken.
So, I guess, given humanity’s penchant for being the worst, I shouldn’t be surprised that this is the turn the story quickly takes. I am wary of post-apocalyptic stories that spend too much time focusing on murderous zealots and despots, but I’m going to have to trust Anderson to address this dystopian future trope in a new and interesting way. His interview with Hollywood Reporter leads me to believe he’s walking a good path and I am willing to go on this road trip with him, which is how he describes the story in our interview here at WWAC.
With that in mind, the pacing of the first issue makes sense, moving quickly from the generational genocide, to an escape from a doomed town by a young girl, a quiet and deadly songstress, and the stranger who road in with the warning. There is not much to go by in terms of getting to know these characters, but there’s enough of a hook to make me want to know their secrets and discover how they will deal with the other people they will meet along the way.
Plati’s artwork is simple but expressive. I am smitten with the way he draws eyes, lips, and thick flowing hair. But he’s also responsible for the muted palate the colours this world, pointedly keeping the tones soft and warm during the day, and cool and peaceful at night or in shaded areas, then subtly intensifying the brightness when things get heated.
This first issue seems deceptively sparse, but Anderson adeptly gives the reader so much to read between the panels. He promises that, despite the tragedy that starts and ends Orphan Age, it is still a story of hope for our future. I could use a little more of that right about now.