Orange - Benjamin (ZHANG Bin 本杰明), CHEN Weidong Appeal Characteristics: STRIKING ART, Gorgeous colors, suicide, depression, teenage, china, youth culture, issues, dreams, self-identity


A lot of people will have a hard time reading this book. Not because of the distraction of artwork due to it's FANTASTIC-NESS) and not in story layout...it's because the translated story is "hard" to follow...notice it's not impossible, just a bit difficult. Foreign works especially translated poetry works is hard in English...as sometimes the language barrier means we only get a small rough "gist" of what the original meaning might have conveyed. I think of the writing this way..if he was popular enough to mainstream outside his original country...there was something appealing that people felt in his work. I remember in that era (2003-2008) especially in trending Asian culture (rise in anime, graphic novels here, my friends news of happenings in the following of some j-rock/pop groups) when a lot of suicides did get press (internet especially) over many different reasons from bands to grades. This is definitely an advance reader, and one who is open to lots of assumptions. A lot of stuff may seem "lost in translation" but it's easily open to interpretation.

In addition, having a background in the culture being represented is necessary, too. This isn't a typical Korean or Japanese comic. This is not manga nor manhwa...this is manhua: a mainland Chinese culture comic. This works is a "slice of life" in featuring what youth teenagers struggle with. That doesn't mean the "world-wide" appeal isn't there. Some might find it hard to relate too in the story-telling aspect. On the other hand, I find it absolutely fascinating!

Meet Orange. She's this beautiful girl who can't seem to find her purpose in life or even as to what is life all about. She might seem vain, shallow, or even narcissistic, but she's desperately searching for some truth. There is so much snippets of social commentary gleaned that can be discussed in topics ranging from her parents to her friend's life dreams, even her life choices in order to "feel." Enter Dashu an older guy who changes her life...for better or for worse.

The beauty of this novel is that this really depressing story is visually breathtaking. This isn't your "dark, gloomy, gothic, broody" teenagers...but a group of normal kids each trying to desperately navigate between childhood dreams, reality, and adult-like expectations. To capture such a dark subject issue that teens struggle with...and render it with so much beauty is phenomenal. It's is like watching the new Judge Dredd in 3D. Storyline aside, what they did with the artistic visuals was stunningly captivating. That's how Zhang Bin (Benjamin) drawings are. {Plus I read in an interview that he can draw those panels in sometimes less than an hour....THAT'S TALENT!)

My only gripe is I wish I had more access to Chinese manhua. :)

Red Flags: adult situations, language, mild disturbing images