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Comic Review: Orbit: Keith Richards
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Orbit: Keith Richards
Written by Brian McCarthy & Michael Lent
Pencils by Luis Chichón
Colors by Luis Chichón
Letters: Luis Chichón
Cover by Michael Szyksznian
Bluewater Productions
Release date: January 5, 2012
Price: $3.99 (print); $5.99 (ebook)

He’s one of the greatest rock musicians alive and the fact that he’s still alive is a wonder – he’s Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and this is his story.

Orbit: Keith Richards is a biographical comic from Bluewater Productions which gives us the down and dirty on the life and crazy times of Keith Richards, who’s been a driving force behind one of the biggest rock bands in history. Richards is responsible for mega-hits like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “Brown Sugar,” “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and “Honky Tonk Woman,” to name just a few of the many popular songs he wrote. The musician is also known for other things, like his long-term major drug use and his many run-ins with the police. It’s been a mystery how this man, who’s now 68 years old, is still alive after all the drugs he’s done.

The comic book starts off very strangely with Richards introducing his tale while undergoing brain surgery, which he actually did in 2006. This leads into a brief run through his childhood in England during World War II and his later obsession with the guitar. Once we see how he got together with his bandmate and long-time collaborator Mick Jagger, we quickly get into their musical success in the 1960 and 1970s with The Rolling Stones. And with that success came the drug use, which was so severe that Richards at times couldn’t get out of bed to go to band rehearsals.

Along with the sordid drug details and arrests comes the ups and downs of rock stardom. As for his romantic life, this comic mainly focuses on Richards’s long-term relationship to Anita Pallenberg and how their addictions adversely affected their lives and the raising of their children.

The writing by Brian McCarthy and Michael Lent is very clear and they make this mainly third-person bio more interesting by having Richards frequently pop up in panels to give an affirmation or a quote. The panels are also sprinkled with familiar lyrics, which is cool. I’ve been a Stones fan my whole life and have read and watched interviews with Richards over the years, and I feel like this comic really nailed his vibe. Any fan of Richards or the Stones is going to dig what’s being offered here.

Unfortunately, the artwork by Luis Chichón is some of the most horrendous I’ve ever seen in a comic book. It pains me to say that, because, well, I hate to have to criticize an artist so harshly. I was unfamiliar with his works before this comic, so I did look him up and see that he does some beautiful fine art painting, so perhaps he was rushed on Orbit: Keith Richards. The comic is informative, has the right tone, and the subject matter sells itself, but the art is just not up to par. Keith Richards is one of the most recognizable people in the world, so to see him drawn so terribly is a shame. His likeness is all over this comic, but it’s very inconsistent and disproportionate. Chichón’s strength in sequential art seems to lie in the page layouts, which are very nicely done — some of it looking like scrapbook pages from Richards’s life; his rendering of inanimate objects and his color tones are good, as is his lettering.

I can’t deny, I did enjoy reading Orbit: Keith Richards and I think it was because the writing was good and the subject matter is one I’m familiar with. I’m really not sure who this comic book is being marketed too because someone like me, who reads comics regularly, probably wouldn’t get beyond the art to throw down four bucks for this. The “capes and cowls” crew wouldn’t give this a second look, while the topic is too mainstream for the indie comics crowd. Forget the kids, the subject matter is much too mature for them, so who does that leave? My mom for sure would love this comic, being a fan of classic rock and having an indiscriminate eye when it comes to comic book art, but when will my mom ever walk into a comic book shop or browse the new comics online at TFAW? Yeah, never. And while the art might not stop mom from reading, she sure as hell would be calling me up to ask me what’s wrong with it. So, perhaps Orbit: Keith Richards would make a good gift for the classic rock fan in your life who is unfamiliar with comic books and would just enjoy learning about the life of Keith Richards.

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