This series went completely under my radar until it was pointed out to me that it’s just one big riff on the tropes and cliches of the fighting games and brawlers that dominated videogame consoles and arcades throughout the 90’s. Knowing that beforehand makes it much easier to appreciate what writer/artist Sina Grace and his co-writer Daniel Freedman are going for here with their story of hard-headed brawler Rock, burly best friend Bear, and badass best female friend Lex. Things start off with a fight through the streets to find out who burned down Rock’s orphanage as a kid before seguing into a mystical martial arts island tournament, and then an adventure on an alien planet. A lot -- everything, really -- is borrowed from the likes of “Final Fight,” “Streets of Rage,” and old-school “Mortal Kombat” (with some more overt references in the book’s final third) and I’ll certainly admit that it’s fun to see the tropes of the genre and time presented in this fashion. Granted, the whole thing does require at least a basic familiarity with the subject matter being exploited here. So if you never ventured into an arcade before the turn of the millenium or grew up with a Super Nintendo or Genesis then the appeal of this title is going to be limited.
In fact, “Burn the Orphanage’s” appeal is diminished based on its coloring alone. I’ve come down on colorist John Rauch before as a result of his work on “Invincible” as the book’s colors have been less appealing ever since he took over from FCO Plascencia a few years back. Here, he bathes the entire comic in a low-light murk which gives you the impression that this is a serious work which is meant to be taken seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth here, and anyone who goes into this comic expecting that is going to find themselves in for a very rude awakening. As someone who played a lot of the games that this series takes its cues from, I can tell you that they had a much brighter color scheme than the one presented here. Hell, videogame colors were downright ridiculous in the 90’s before everyone decided that more “realistic” colors were necessary if gaming was ever going to be taken seriously. I’m sure Rauch is a really nice guy in person, but his approach is all wrong for the tone of “Burn the Orphanage.” I’m sure he’s a really nice guy in person, but I can only hope that he’s been replaced for the new miniseries, “Reign of Terror,” with someone who knows how to color this title to make it look like the games that inspired it..