Friday, 14 March 2014

Burn the Orphanage, Volume 1: Born to Lose Review (Sina Grace, Daniel Freedman)


Someone burns down an orphanage in a book called Burn the Orphanage - this is a book that doesn’t mess about with things like subtlety or metaphor and goes for plain-speaking, up-front storytelling instead. And this is both its charm and its undoing. 

Burn the Orphanage is basically Streets of Rage/Double Dragon/any side-scrolling beat ‘em up: the comic. Rock (ruggedly handsome denim aficionado) and his buddies Bear (a big bearded gay dude) and Lex (tough street chick) fight their way through numbers of faceless goons to the truth. But only the first of the three stories is about the burned orphanage – the second is a Mortal Kombat/Enter the Dragon-esque story where Rock goes to a mystical island to take part in a fighting tournament and the third is Rock running about a desert landscape fighting a big purple monster while Bear and Lex have a night out. 

The first two stories are really good. Their simplicity is refreshing and the action is fast and fun – if you enjoyed fighting games, either side scrollers (my favourite was Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles 2 for the NES) or beat ‘em ups like Street Fighter 2, you’ll enjoy this book. Some of the panels literally look like screenshots of side-scrolling games and, in the third story, literally incorporates elements of games like Mario and Sonic into the comic. 

The third story is definitely the weakest of the bunch. Most of it concerns Bear and Lex as they moon about love problems and the difficulty of committing to a relationship, which is just blah. Rock’s story where he enters a trippy desert landscape felt arbitrary and wasn’t as fun or interesting as his earlier adventures. 

There isn’t much to Burn the Orphanage – it’s a tribute to computer games both Sina Grace and Daniel Freedman enjoyed, and that’s about it. It’s not a very deep book and because of its shallowness, it’s hard to feel very strongly about it – “hey, I recognise that Goro-like character”, “wow that’s a wicked move!”, etc. is basically the most it got out of me. I didn’t really care about the characters, their lives or their world but their adventures were fun and the writing and art were both fine but nothing special. Burn the Orphanage, like the games it references, is enjoyable but dispensable entertainment.

Burn the Orphanage Volume 1: Born to Lose TP

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