The Order, the comic about a group of “ordinary” people who are identified as being (in one way or another) heroic and are then given the chance to try out to become superheroes for a year, reminds me quite a bit of two off-beat superhero comic books that I enjoyed quite a bit, Peter Milligan’s X-Force and Keith Giffen and JM DeMatteis’ Justice League. The result is an engaging first issue with characters that we want to know more about.
The description of the series is fairly high concept, but writer Matt Fraction does not get bogged down in it, with perhaps the exception being of the whole “modeling the team on the pantheon of Greek gods” thing, which is complicated to explain, and even when explained doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why would you model a team after the pantheon of Greek gods? I mean, it would be one thing if you gave people powers modeled after Greek gods. THAT’d make sense. But having each member take on a role LIKE a Greek god? That doesn’t seem to make all that much sense. Thankfully, Fraction basically glances over the concept, so that’s good.
The stars of the book are Henry Hellrung, (the Apollo of the group) a former actor (playing Iron Man on television) who became an alcoholic before recovering and helping to make AA seem like a cool thing to do in California, and Pepper Potts, former Tony Stark assistant who is now the operational brains behind the team.
Fraction develops Hellrung quite well, giving him nuances that you just do not expect to see in the introduction of a character, like his little tic of forgetting the names of his fellow heroes, showing that he is more flustered in his role as team leader than he lets on. The sexual tension between Hellrung and Potts is cute, and comes off as quite natural. Another strong piece of writing on Fraction’s part.
It is this keen eye for characterization that reminds me of Giffen/DeMatteis’ Justice League, which was built upon character interaction. Millgan’s X-Force was, too, but it is the set-up that is more similar to X-Force than any characterization, as just like X-Force, these heroes know that they have a finite time as member of the Order – a year at the MOST (I’m sure Fraction might be able to come up with a trick to extend that period if certain characters prove to be indispensable – which is a nice problem to have as a writer – “My character I created is too cool to write out of the book!”), and there is always the fear of death hanging in the air, although Hellrung takes a question on that topic with a nice piece of frankness – “Am I afraid to die? I suppose? I don’t know – I mean, no more than anyone ELSE is afraid of dying, I guess……Should I be?”
The ephemeral nature of the team is established when we see most of the team replaced after their first mission, which is cool, as the ones who were replaced DID seem a bit on the bland side.
Their replacements are much cooler.
As for the artwork, Barry Kitson and Mark Morales do a solid job on the artwork. Everything is clear and crisp. I might have preferred, for a book so built upon characterization, to have an artist more known for character expressions, but really, that’s a minor quibble. Kitson does a fine job on the book.
So – a fun comic, with a sense of humor, some nice superhero action (and a regular ol’ superhero cliffhanger!), and a group of interesting characters?
I’d say Recommended.
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