March 22, 2009

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The Order Volume 1

Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Barry Kitson, Mark Morales, and Jon Sibal
Marvel

[And we're back, after a short vacation.]

I think The Order suffered from my "I expected more" problem that I run into from time to time. I figured a series that treated superheroes like they were basically television actors under contract would have some sort of biting commentary, either on the idea of television reality or how flawed Tony Stark's Civil War thinking is (was?) or perhaps both.

Unfortunately, while it tries here and there, I think the whole idea falls a bit flat. The first problem is none of the characters are very likable, and the only established character is Pepper Potts, who's asked to be Oracle instead of Pepper Potts.

Our leader, Anthem is a man trying too hard, and therefore provides a moral center that seems too forced. It doesn't help that he is, quite literally, a stand in for Tony Stark.

The other characters are rather bland mishmashes of characters we've seen before. One is a Flash/Quicksilver clone, one makes earthen constructs, another uses psychic energy--badly, of course--to hammer foes, and we have a guy in armour, too, because this is a team founded by Iron Man and therefore has to have a guy in a metal suit.

It all ends up leaving me a bit cold, as I just can't get behind the characters and the most interesting thing that could happen to them--the Speedster going ape on the man who ruined his career or the young singer's life turned upside down by a past scandal--never happens. Instead, it's like Fraction tried hard to surprise the reader with something different from what was expected. Normally, that works for me, but here, I think the obvious would have made for more compelling reading. Occasionally, the banana needs to just be a banana.

There's also a problem with the villains faced. Rejects from Iron Man and Hulk's rogues gallery? Zombie Dethloks that pop like grapes? (And no one seems to notice that they look like Dethloks?) Again, it just doesn't feel inspired to me, and since there's no meta commentary going on--I don't count the morally challenged press agent as meta, maybe others would--it feels rather blah. I'd honestly think of this more as an Image book from when they were very clone-heavy vis a vis Marvel and DC. Something that's okay for what it is, but not my cup of tea.

Fraction himself ended the book after 10 issues, so perhaps he didn't like where things were going, either. I'm really not sure.

The Order really isn't bad, but it's like getting an off-brand tea bag for brewing. It's servicable enough, but I think there's better reading out there. I will read volume two, if I can get it, to see how things wrap up.