Aftershock Comics’ newest title Orphan Age came out in stores this week with its premiere issue, titled “Childhood.” It is written by Ted Anderson (IDW’s My Little Pony), with artwork by Nuno Plati (Amazing Spider-Man and various other Marvel titles). Set 20 years after an unknown cataclysmic event that killed every adult on the planet, Orphan Age is the story of what might happen if the children of the world were left behind to pick up the pieces and rebuild society from the ground up with no laws, electricity, or modern technology.
This first installment takes place in what was once Dallas, Texas, now reduced to a small farming community and renamed Dallastown. Sheriff Brian Raleigh is out enjoying the day with his daughter Princess, teaching her how to ride a horse when out of nowhere another horse appears carrying a man, unconscious and bleeding. Brian sends his daughter ahead to alert the town doctor of the situation and arrives shortly after with the young man.
The injured stranger awakens the next morning and introduces himself as Daniel. He informs Brian that he needs to pack up the town and leave immediately. An ultra religious group of zealots known as the New Church are headed their way, taking over any town in their path and killing anyone who does not believe in their ways. Daniel narrowly escaped their attack on the nearby town of McAllister and was shot as he was fleeing. Before the sheriff can react to this news, a group of heavily-armed riders arrive at the town. Brian enters the center of town and is approached by the leader of the New Church who demands that he and the rest of Dallastown proclaim their faith and allegiance to the New Church. As the situation starts to escalate, Daniel grabs Princess and takes her to the horse stables to make their escape at the request of her father.
Before the two can get away, the sound of gunfire fills the air as the members of New Church open fire on the townspeople. One of the gunman enters the stable and discovers the two escapees but before he can act, a young girl named Willa sneaks up behind him, slicing his throat with a knife. The three of them quickly mount up and burst out of the stable doors in a blaze of gunfire, narrowly escaping the wrath of the deadly religious fanatics. Once they are a good distance away from the town and safe for the moment at least, Daniel informs Princess that they will stick to her father’s plan and escort her to Albany. Willa joins them on their journey and the issue ends with Brian deciding to ride through the night without stopping to get as far ahead of the New Church as possible.
The writing on this issue is brilliant and a severe departure from Ted Anderson’s lighthearted work on My Little Pony to say the least. The idea of a power fantasy in a post-apocalyptic Western setting is not a new concept, but the way Anderson writes and defines these characters is very compelling and the pacing of the action is perfection. Just in this first issue alone, there is already an air of mystery and suspense surrounding these characters that have been thrust together in a fight for survival. He defines characters like Daniel and Willa with great depth, yet plays on the unknown. This is very effective at sucking the reader into their stories both together in the present situation as well as individually with their mysterious pasts and what brought them all together.
The intense drama and excitement of their perilous escape from Dallastown moves the story along at a fever pitch, while also keeping the speculation of what happened all those years ago during the Apocalypse in the back of the reader’s mind. The New Church is also a very interesting concept as the youth of the world came to blame the sins of the adults that perished 20 years ago for their hardships. They exact judgment and vengeful punishment on those who would follow in their parents’ footsteps. Even the youthful character of Princess is forever changed by the events of the story as Anderson concludes the issue with quotes from Walter Savage Landor’s ‘Dante and Beatrice in Imaginary Conversations’ echoing the young girls end of youthful innocence and exodus from all she has known as home.
Nuno Plati’s art on this book is nothing short of masterful; Orphan Age benefits from beautiful art from this comic book veteran. His minimalistic approach to the imagery and detail, as well as his use of drab oranges, reds, yellows and browns, complement this post-apocalyptic western setting, adding even more depth and dimension to the ruin and desolation of this new way of life. The action and intensity of the action scenes at the end is palpable and draws the reader in deeper with every turn of the page.
This new series is a fresh and exciting take on a familiar concept and fits in perfectly with Aftershock’s goal of putting out wonderful titles with unique stories, crafted by some of today’s most talented artists and writers. It is very clear that Anderson and Plati have so much more in store for these characters as well as the reader in future issues to come. I for one can’t wait to see what happens next, and I highly recommend this title to anyone looking for something fresh and different to delve into on the comic book store shelves.
Orphan Age #1 is awesome! It’s a compelling exciting story full of action and suspense that explores how people would react and adapt socially, personally, and morally when thrust into a savage desolate world void of law, order, and technology. This title is unlike anything else out right now and is a much-needed addition to the comic book world.