Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blogathon 24: The Order (Part 1)

[Discussed in this post: The Order #1-5.]

The Order was originally meant to be The Champions until Marvel realised it didn't have the rights to the name. Oops. It's the superhero team that protects California, based on the Greek pantheon only because that's what was mentioned in that issue of Civil War that showed the training camp -- Matt Fraction drops that bit pretty quickly. The only one who keeps that name/relationship is Pepper Potts (Hera), the eyes and ears and mind for the team.

The group is led by Henry Hellrung, the man who played Tony Stark on TV... and has led a very similar life to Stark, including a heavy drinking problem that nearly ruined him. Now, he's very serious and practical, and a natural leader.

The Order was a failed attempt to create new characters and lasted only 10 issues. They're ten pretty good issues, though. Matt Fraction is on here and does some great work. The issues are all structure in the same way: two facing pages with a character being interviewed about their life. On each page, we get four tiers. The first tier: four panels, interview; second tier: a shot from their life; third and fourth tiers: same as first and second. This is followed by a page with two panels: the first the final interview panel, a division between the two by the credits -- the title of the issue always the character being interviewed's name with an OR added and then the real title -- and then a big shot as the story kicks in. The page after that is always three panels, equal size, each containing a quote that ties in thematically to the issue. It's an interesting technique. The interview allows Fraction to introduce a character's entire history (mostly) in a couple of pages for us; the quotes are kind of fun and interesting.

I do think The Order suffers from Fraction's inexperience. He doesn't quite know how to balance the team dynamics yet. But, he does produce some good stories here with some of the characters. Like, in the first issue, most of the team is fired for going out and getting drunk, which is against the contracts they signed. Or, there's the absurdity at having to name the enemy they're facing the Infernal Man.

The team is based out of Los Angeles and they get problems with the building they live in, which is a historical site -- despite Tony Stark owning it and the team saving the city.

The book has a very Joe Casey influence to it. The media perception's of the team is a big issue and concern. If they can get good press, then they'll be able to succeed. It's a very LA way of thinking. You get the idea that if the media loved them, the city council would too. But, no one cares. Gee, does this mirror the comic-reading public a little do you think?

My favourite character here is Calamity, the speedster and former baseball player. Mostly because of the baseball thing. Say what you will about Matt Fraction, but the man is a baseball fan and is therefore better than anyone who is not a baseball fan. Yes, I'm prejudiced in that specific manner.

The threats the team face are decent. The name "The M.A.N. from S.H.A.D.O.W." is a case where Fraction is trying to be too clever, I think. As is the 'Zobos' (zombie hobos)... Fraction has a habit of going for what seems AWESOME! a bit too much rather than what is good. He doesn't fall prey to that habit in The Order too much, thankfully.

I do love his Tony Stark in this series. Flighty, easily excited, the way you'd expect a rich guy who runs the world to be -- always thinks he's got the only problems in the world. Good stuff.

Barry Kitson does the art for most of the series (he bails before the end in that way that artists often do, but writers just aren't allowed to). He's got a solid, realistic style that isn't flashy, but is very quite nice looking. He does great facial expressions. He really shows off in those interview scenes.

In 30 minutes, I'll talk about the plot of the final half of the series in more detail than I did the plot in the first half... because the plot in the second half is payoff from the first half.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]