"Dr. Orange" Comic Review
Written by James Ferguson
Written and lettered by Joseph Duis
Illustrated by Jose Raul Orte Crespo
Colored by Maulana Faris
2018, 22 Pages
With Halloween fast approaching, you might be thinking about buying a pumpkin and carving up a jack-o-lantern. After reading Dr. Orange, you might want to try some different decorations. The one-shot follows Suhaila, a schizophrenic woman controlling her mental illness through medication. She leads a peaceful life with her wife Chetana, although the two don't see each other much due to Chetana's job. This leaves Suhaila with a lot of time and there's only so much she can do with her dog, Rusty. When she makes a jack-o-lantern and names it Dr. Orange, her visions get a little too real.
Dr. Orange plays with one of my favorite horror tropes. Suhaila can't trust her own mind. That creates a terrifying world where anything is possible. She's questioning reality itself, so by extension she's become an unreliable narrator. Is she really seeing this pumpkin all over the house? Or is she just losing it?
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The pumpkin itself is unshakable. It doesn't change its expression or move. It's just there, constantly grinning up at Suhaila, even when she finds it in her bed or outside her room. This adds to the scare factor. Writer Joseph Duis could have had this gourd spouting off obscenities like Freddy Krueger. Instead, it's a more subdued approach.
Some of these uneasy moments would have been enough to make for a frightening read, but the creators up the ante with Suhaila's dreams. These are trippy experiences where artist Jose Raul Orte Crespo creates some Kafkaesque terrors, putting this poor woman on the receiving end of the attacks a pumpkin might endure during the Halloween season.
These nightmares are interspersed with Suhaila's everyday life at first, but then the horrors of the night start to leave their mark on the day. Things get bloody. She can't remember if she's sleeping or awake. This is where Dr. Orange pushes into a higher gear. You're sucked deeper into Suhaila's world with every page turn. Can she pull up out of this downward spiral of madness? Or will she succumb to the grinning jack-o-lantern?
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Dr. Orange is very much a Halloween comic and not just because it's named after a pumpkin. Maulana Faris' colors scream Fall with oranges, browns, and reds. It's a welcome sight for people who love leaves, sweatshirts, and candy corn, but that feeling quickly turns to dread with every appearance of the haunting jack-o-lantern's wide-toothed smile.
The idea of a killer pumpkin sounds ridiculous. While we don't see this thing picking up a knife or growing feet, it is still very horrifying. We're scared of what we can't explain, even if it's something simple, like a jack-o-lantern appearing where it should not be. The mind struggles to come up with reasons why it would be here instead of out on the porch where you left it. That's where the madness begins and it does not stop. Dr. Orange is an unsettling comic that will have you rethinking that pumpkin spice latte order.
The creators of Dr. Orange are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the release of the book.