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Tuesday 13 July 2010

In Review: The Rainbow Orchid - Adventures of Julius Chancer Volume 2

by Garen Ewing
Publisher: Egmont UK
Out: Now

The Book: In Volume Two of The Rainbow Orchid, the intrepid Julius Chancer journeys from Europe to the Indian sub-continent as he steps up his quest for the rainbow orchid. He soon discovers he has enemies more dangerous than he could ever have imagined who are determined to prevent him from finding the mystical flower. The Rainbow Orchid is an ambitious blend of classic storytelling, and cinematic artwork, in which adventure, historical drama and legend are seamlessly intertwined...

The Review: Creator Garen Ewing continues to delight his fans with this second volume of his historical adventure series, pitting earnest hero Julian Chancer and chums against a nefarious bunch of evil-doers working for the clearly bonkers Urkaz Grope, a business man not only trying to seize the rare orchid before anyone else, but prove himself a lord of the British realm to boot. The scoundrel!

Lovingly illustrated throughout - establishing shots such as the Natural History Museum, Karachi Railway Station and some London street scenes, to name but a few, are a delight - this second volume is all-new material. (Longtime readers of downthetubes will know much of the first volume of Rainbow Orchid, reviewed here, appeared in more than one form before being published by Egmont). As such, the volume holds together better, I think: Ewing weaves a careful tapestry of inter-connected plot threads, spanning events in Britain - not least the intriguing activities of the mysterious but cash-strapped Empire Survey Branch - to Chancer and chums continued hunt for the fabled orchid in India.

There's so much to like about Rainbow Orchid. While there is clear homage to past comic heroes, most obviously Herge's Tintin, Ewing has created his own mythos and a huge range of characters. Fans already have their favourites: the deliciously wicked Evelyn Crow (left) continues to prove a thorn in Julian's side, and I imagine her wicked ways will ultimately do her no good whatsoever.

I'm also enjoying the antics of Nathaniel Crumpole, a self-obsessed hapless lover of animals, who successfully continues to cause more problems for the goodies than he solves, right up to the last page. While he's inevitably going to be compared with Tintin's Captain Haddock, he has his own idiosyncracies.

With such characters in the mix, it's strange that Chancer himself is something of a cypher, although Ewing does develop his hero's background in this volume.

There has been such expectation of this second volume of Rainbow Orchid that I feared the final story might not measure up to them. I need not have been concerned: while inevitably, this second volume progresses at a slower pace than Volume 1, it also lays the foundations for a thrilling finale with considerable aplomb.

Ewing continues to bring his growing readership a superb adventure story that leaves you guessing wildly at how the many plot threads will be resolved in the third and final volume...

The Rainbow Orchid volume 2 is out now, available in bookshops across the land, but if you have trouble finding it, try Orchic Volume 2, The Book Depository (free worldwide delivery), Egmont, or you can even nab yourself a signed and sketched-in copy from Garen Ewing's official web site.

 Read our review of The Rainbow Orchid Volume 1

• The Official Rainbow Orchid web site: 
You can  read a huge preview of The Rainbow Orchid online here, including an exclusive peek at volume two. Special features include pencils, annotations and more.

Upcoming Rainbow Orchid Signings

31st Jul - 1st August 2010 - Oxford: Caption
23-24th August 2010 - Edinburgh: Edinburgh International Book Festival
25th September 2010 - Bath: Bath Festival of Childrens' Literature
20th Nov 2010 - Leeds: Thought Bubble

More reviews:

Birmingham Mail - Speech Balloons 
"...kidnappings, chases, betrayal, intrigue, several twists and some slapstick from animal-loving Hollywood agent Nathaniel over the 40 action packed pages..."
• The Book Bag
"With a lot of characters and plot strands this is still an admirable thriller. The balance of cartoon comedy (one character and his love of exotic animals, for example) and serious Saturday morning serial stuff is evident, and the settings and 1920s moods, dialogue and attitudes are spot on..."

Richard Bruton - Forbidden Planet International
"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..."

"I've read a lot of comics that I love, but I wouldn't give to someone who wasn't comics-literate. The Rainbow Orchid is not such a beast - it's a really good comic that (I'm trying to avoid the word "accessible" or "appeals") anyone can enjoy."

Love Reading 4 Kids
"Garen Ewing surpassed himself in the first volume of The Rainbow Orchid and this, the second one, is an absolute cracker.  The panel artwork is beautifully rendered and the storyline incredibly intricate and yet hugely accessible to any reader – child or adult."

Peter Richardson on Cloud 109 
"...Fabulous artistry throughout and even more assured than Book 1, this really is a book well worth adding to your library."

• All images © 2010 Garen Ewing

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