Orientations is the first arc of Skin Deep, and as such, acts to introduce the reader to the mechanics and terminology of the Skin Deep universe. It also introduces the first four main characters, Michelle, Jim, Merial, and Greg. Orientations takes place in Springfield, Missouri and surrounding areas. The plot of Orientations focuses on the turning of Michelle, the last living Sphinx. Her rarity and vast amount of magic attract the attention of some demons, who work to capture her for their mistress. Michelle is helped by her friends from college, who also happen to be mythological creatures, and also by Eustace and Marshall from the Springfield Avalon.
There's also a dragon.
Orientations: Part I
Michelle Jocasta and her mother are shown in the first strip, sans title page. They are unpacking boxes in Michelle's new dorm, and the date reads August, 2004. Her mother asks if her roommate has shown up yet, to which the answer is no, and then she comments that Michelle looks down. Michelle reassures her she's fine.
She amends that, though, and admits she's nervous. Her mother tells her it'll be fine, and she'll make new friends. Michelle is wary, because she didn't have any in highschool, but her mother points out that there are 20,000 people on campus to choose from. Her mother encourages her so that she smiles.
In the next strip, her mother leaves a cheered Michelle. Later, the strip says. Michelle announces to the room that she's done unpacking, at which point a foot and skirt open the door, startling Michelle.
It turns out that this is none other than Merial McMinnus, her roommate. Merial kind of decides to bunk the beds, her outgoingness startling Michelle again.
The two become good friends, as shown in the next strip where Michelle writes an email to her mother. Merial plays Michelle's old Nintendo, but soonn goes over and reads Michelle's email - which says that Merial is a smartass. She denies it, but Michelle doesn't dispute the point. Evidently, it's been a few weeks, as Michelle's email comments, "I don't know how I would have survived the first few weeks without Merial."
Commentary is shown as part of the email over images from Michelle's new life. She makes it sound strange that she has made three friends, then goes on to describe them. Jim Finn is in highlight for this one. Michelle says she didn't even know someone could be more eccentric than Merial, but he is. She also notes it's really hard to tell when he's joking or serious.
Greg Tragos is starred in the next part of her email. She says he's very quiet, and is a sweetheart who likes making people happy. Michelle also notes his oddness about wearing a hat, even in summer.
Michelle finishes up the email, telling her mother about how she's planning on visiting downtown the next day, and visiting antique stores. The panels show that Michelle is walking, when a hooded figure slips past and she stops.
The next strip has no dialogue, instead showing the hooded figure slipping around a corner and dropping a shiny necklace.
Michelle goes to pick it up, and when she touches it she gets a strange feeling. When she next looks down the alley he turned to, intending to return it, it is shown to be a dead end. And there's no "weird creepy cloaked guy."
Michelle goes back to the dorm, where she finds a note left by Merial informing her she went home for the weekend. In the background, you can see that the names 'Kory' and 'Holly' are on the door opposite Merial and Michelle's. Michelle ends up on the computer, when all of a sudden the neckalce she found does some funky stuff - hissing, and emitting something.
The noises made by the necklace get louder and louder, so Michelle picks it up, but as soon as she does, her hand turns into something resembling a lion's paw! She drops it, only for the transformation to keep spreading.
The next strip is blank, but for a gradient blue to fade into white, and the words "Michelle. My belle." imposed on the middle and bottom. Following that, the next page has "These are words that go together well." at the top and it turns into the same blue by the bottom. This time, though, there is a faint drawing of two creatures in a wood.
"My michelle" is in blue the first box of the next page, before it's back to Michelle and her furry little problem. She wakes up in the middle of a forest, complete with wings, large ears, and a fully-furred and lionlike body.
She screams. Then, she panicks, seeing claws and wings. On the next panel, Michelle attempts to stand up, but falls over. Now on the ground, she tries to find a logical explanation for this, and comes up with "This is a dream."
Michelle begins to walk, remembering before she passed out. She pauses, though, when she hears a loud sound nearby.
The sounds fade out, and Michelle gives chase, trying to find some help. When the runner finally stops, it turns out, to both their surprise, it's Greg.
On the next page, it's just Merial, Jim, and Greg. That's the last strip of Orientations: Part I.