Consciously taking his inspiration from Hergé, E.P. Jacobs and others in the ligne claire school, Garen Ewing has just released The Rainbow Orchid Volume One. Originally a black and white self-published strip that first appeared in 1997, which then evolved into a webcomic, and is now finally published--as it should have always been--in a full-colour album. The years Ewing has spent honing his craft and storytelling have paid off in spades. Set in the 1920s, the story chronicles the adventures of WWI veteran Julius Chancer, an assistant to Sir Alfred Catesby-Grey an "antique collector", in the same way that Dr. Indiana Jones is an archaeology professor. The two get mixed up with a British actress, Lily Lawrence--recently returned from Hollywood--her publicist, Nathaniel Crumpole; and her father, Lord Reginald Lawrence; who is faced with losing his estate to the mysterious--and wonderfully named--Urkaz Grope.
The principle macguffin--the search for a mythical bloom--the Rainbow Orchid--so that they can win a flower show and save Lord Lawrence's estate--is an obvious red herring, and great fun is derived from trying to second-guess the villains' true nefarious intentions. The story has it all, from lumbering henchmen; a sexy--but devious--"flapper"; and sumptuous country houses, to classic cars and a well thought-out mystery.
While each page initially appears dense and packed to the gills with panels and prose, it's to Ewing's credit that he keeps the pacing and storytelling tight, and the tale tears along at a pace. If there was any "criticism" it was that I read it too fast and can't wait for the next two volumes!