Fanboy Planet Preview Spotlight 07/18/07
brought to you by Illusive
Comics and Games of Santa Clara
writer: Matt Fraction
artists: Barry Kitson and Mark Morales
To get into
The Order, you have to suspend your disbelief a bit.
Okay, get past the superheroes thing. Then find out that
suddenly for years the Avengers have licensed a television
network to create a fictionalized Avengers series, led by
a roguish actor (think Bruce Campbell) named Henry Hellrung
as Tony Stark. So close were Hellrung and Stark that one
lost his job because of all the excessive partying they
devoted his life to helping others get clean and sober.
In the aftermath of the Civil War, however, he got the call
from Stark to lead a new team of heroes on the West Coast.
New York gets established heroes; California gets faded
celebrities looking for a second chance.
That in itself
makes a good starting point for The Order, but writer
Matt Fraction takes it further. As part of "The Initiative,"
all members of the Order are volunteers that have had their
powers grafted on, for which they'll do one year of service
before the abilities fade. Keeping with the faith that Tony
Stark has allegedly created with the public, they've also
got to follow a morals clause, which comes into play almost
It seems to
be borrowing a page from Marvel's cult classic Strikeforce:
Morituri, making it a book more about an organization
than the people in it. Every member of the Order fills a
role based on the Greek Pantheon, which for some reason
requires the government to pay Ares royalties. (Thankfully,
Fraction can't help but inject cynical touches of reality
into his fantasy.) Lest you think this is all unfamiliar
faces, the role of Hera gets filled by Pepper Potts.
And that's one
of the problems with The Order. Not only is it filled
with characters we don't know, which in itself shouldn't
be a problem, it makes it clear that we shouldn't get too
close to any of the characters we meet. The ones we know
are either supporting characters from other books like Potts
(and possibly Hellrung - I don't know enough about Iron
Man continuity to know if he has appeared before), or the
guy that Marvel has made into an out and out ass - Tony
If The Order
were a book coming out of any independent company, I'd hail
it as an interesting commentary on superhero tropes, like
The New Statesmen, The Authority or even Watchmen.
Not that it's Watchmen. But it could be The Authority.
Those books all took place in self-contained universes -
this one comments on superheroes while being firmly set
in a superhero universe we already know.
a problem for Marvel. Inexplicably bereft of the ability
to tell straightforward superhero stories, everything they're
doing now is post-modern, reflexively making a statement
about what superhero stories have become. Marvel Pop Art
will eat itself, because The Order looks to be heading
the same direction as Nextwave, and it should be
followed by Thunderbolts and The Initiative.
They're potentially decent graphic novels about concepts,
not about characters.
Kitson's art is some of the best of an already pretty good
career. Morales' inks complement him well, and this is one
lush book. Heck, it's a good read; it's just annoying me
in the larger scheme of things.
Also on the
#1: This is my actual spotlight book of the week.
Of everything I read ahead of time, this is the one that
pleased me the most.
Conquest: Quasar #1: Here's another thing going on with
Marvel - all of its books divided up into subsets like this.
Where it fits in the larger scheme of the crossover is unclear,
and no matter how much happens here, the question in the
back of your mind has to be: when is Captain Marvel's daughter
going to learn he's back from the dead?
The Initiative #4: Technically, this is World War
Hulk: Avengers: The Initiative, but I'm growing very
tired of the colons. Dan Slott does a fine job keeping his
plotline rolling even though this fledgling book is already
getting derailed into a company-wide crossover. His cast,
too, remains the same, and we've got some time to learn
these characters and if not care, at least understand their
#28: …and the evil daughter of the Red Skull, Jailbait,
continues her reign of terror in the absence of Captain
America. Okay, if her code name isn't Jailbait, it really
should be. Ed Brubaker and Steve Epting continue telling
a story so good, you'll forget that they actually killed
off the title character three issues back.
#13: Holy Blue Blazes, this book has grown on me. Johnny
Blaze makes an abortive attempt to reassert himself as a
superhero and take on the Hulk. For reasons that become
devastatingly and extremely logically clear, it can't work.
Though completely unnecessary in the greater scheme of World
War Hulk, it makes a worthy detour from Ghost Rider's
#40: Sorry, Skottie Young, but your art is so chaotic
that it's hard to focus on the perils Kyle and Yost have
put these young mutants into. I think I recognize Magik.
Then I have to read this "Endangered Species" plotline that
we know will go nowhere. Either the Scarlet Witch will have
a change of heart, or she won't.
#1: Wildstorm launches another "real world" look at
the uberman mythos. Jumping back and forth in time, Peter
Milligan tells the story of the last days of World War II,
a Nazi experiment, and the modern-day super-soldiers it
may have spawned. And yet, it isn't exactly what it seems
to be, which means that it's worth picking this up and looking
forward to the second issue.
Origins Annual #1: Kaare Andrews has an interesting
style that dips into Howard Chaykin territory with this
issue. That doesn't save Daniel Way's story from being just
confusing. This one's for hardcore Wolverine fans only,
because I'm utterly utterly flummoxed by it.
Hulk Frontline #2: Really, Marvel should just keep this
an ongoing title. Here's where the commentary on superheroes
works, because it's about ordinary joes trying to make sense
of what's going on out there. Just like us, only with actual
consequences more dire than "damn, that's another twelve
bucks I could have spent on food this week."
Hulk X-Men #2: Hey, it's just an excuse for fight scene
after fight scene. In two issues, the plot boils down to
Hulk asking Xavier which way he'd have voted if he'd been
with the Illuminati when they sent Hulk into space, and
Xavier answering. That's two sentences. But two sentences
don't sell trade paperbacks later, do they?
write to us and let us know what you think, or talk about
it on the forums!