The Orphan Black TV series skillfully mixes science fiction, mystery, and action in thrilling storylines. Much of its allure is owed to the masterful Tatiana Maslany, who plays well over a dozen of the show’s characters, that just so happen to be clones. Each of the clones portrayed by Maslany is fully realized with individual quirks and unique personalities; however, some are more mysterious than others. Veera, also known as MK, is the newest clone introduced in the current season of Orphan Black and has more secrets than anyone we’ve met before. The question is: how does the comic fare as a storytelling medium in comparison to the TV show?
Orphan Black: Helsinki takes place in 2001 and introduces us to Finnish Veera Suominen as a 17 year old teenager. She quickly learns that things aren’t as they seem. Her caretaker, Uncle Matti, has been spying on her and two other girls, but to what extent? The first issue of Helsinki follows Veera as she starts a dangerous road towards unraveling the mystery of her identity. She soon discovers that these two girls her uncle is spying on look startlingly similar to herself.
Early parts of the story spend a lot of time creating new environments, characters, and plot, but with the series only being 5 issues long, this creates a slight drop in tension as we wait to get into the heart of it all. The dialogue in Helsinki is often fun and calls back to early 2000’s pop culture with references to Britney Spears and dial up internet, but can also use exposition a bit too much in order to clue the reader into the situation. Fortunately, these issues even themselves out as Veera’s story progresses through each issue.
While the comic features an all new story, it’s one that feels familiar and calls to mind Sarah’s discovery of her fellow sisters from the TV show. What makes the story compelling is that Veera shares similarities and differences to her troubled counterpart. They both have a curiosity and tenacious nature that push them into danger, but Veera struggles with social anxiety and questions her actions. She has no friends and must challenge herself in order to gain the trust of her new sisters.
The artwork in Helsinki blends comic-like features with a realistic take on its characters. While Veera may not look like Tatiana Maslany as we know her, it’s easy to see how her appearance has inspired these comic book clones. And much like the TV show, certain clones look closer to Maslany than others. It’s an interesting reminder of how much clothes and hairstyle lend itself to the suspending of reality with these characters.
The latter issues of Helsinki continue to follow Veera as she meets characters old and new. We also get a chance to see Rachel Duncan as a 17 year old DYAD ingenue who crosses paths with Ferdinand Chevalier for the very first time. The beginning of their relationship, both professional and intimate, is explored with some hilariously tongue in cheek flirting. Both Topside and Rachel learn of Veera’s self-awareness and discovery of her fellow clones, which spells doom for them all.
Issues 1 through 4 take us down the rabbit hole with escalating tension and danger, but it’s the final chapter that packs a wallop. Issue 5 is phenomenally tense, keeping readers on the edge of their seat as we find out what happens to Veera and co, but most surprisingly of all, it’s also heartbreaking. We’ve already known for years that Project Helsinki led to the death of six clones, but the final issue manages to evoke the tragedy of their tale through its excellent artwork and shocking storyline.
What’s brilliant about Helsinki is that the comic book and TV show were released alongside each other, giving fans a complex, interwoven story that highlights details from both mediums. It’s a risk that could easily fail, but the creators succeed in enriching an already deeply loved story. How does the the comic fare as a storytelling medium in comparison to the TV show? Orphan Black: Helsinki proves that it can stand on its own two feet, bringing forth a surprising depth to the history of its characters and creating a story that feels just as impactful as the one on screen.
- Lively art that enhances shocking moments
- Fun nods towards the TV show and details that fill in the story and provides a satisfyingly compelling end to the Helsinki tale
- New clones that feel just as unique as the ones we already know
- Dialogue can feel a bit expository
- Takes a few issues to build ground, but has an excellent payoff