May 15, 2009

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The Order Volume 2

Written by Matt Fraction
Illustrated by Barry Kitson and a ton of other artists
Marvel

Apparently Barry Kitson just doesn't like using the same inker or something, as the problem that mars his Legion of Superheroes work is back with a vengeance here.

I admitted in my review of volume one that this series really didn't grab me, but I wanted to finish it, and interlibrary loan helped me to do so. Unfortunately, the problems and concerns I had in volume one are present here, too.

The Order is about to get the Avengers Disassembled treatment, as a sinister opponent tries to take them apart, piece by piece. Unfortunately, he or she does it an awful lot like the ending of the first X-Men movie, where a reluctant, morally ambiguous hero is used against the human race.

As the team tries to overcome its obstacles and a rather odd appearance by Namor that's used only to make Anthem look better as a character, their odd structure as a team and powerset end up betraying them.

By the time Tony Stark arrives to pick up the pieces, the Order's pretty beat up and yet another one of Iron Man's plans for the post Civil War world are in shambles. But only sort of, just in case Marvel wants to use these characters again.

I do like that Fraction puts this team through the ringer in ways that point to the hubris of Stark and his inability to factor all the angles the way that Nick Fury used to. It allows this book to tie into the larger Marvel world without being so closely linked as to require a reader to be following along in every single Avengers or Iron Man book. The climax of the story, where we learn why someone has this obsession with destroying the Order, is the bait and switch that works, after so many that didn't.

The trouble is that I just can't bring myself to care for cannon fodder. I know DC takes shit for killing people like the Martian Manhunter, but at least the struggle of a character I have an attachment to makes me feel something when they die or are depowered--even if I know they're going to come back. I'm afraid I just never could get into the heads of Anthem, Calamity, or the rest and so their tragic ending and possible rebirth just don't grab me. Their powers are too generic, their problems too typical, and their characters just too one-dimensional for me to be upset when something bad happens to them. As a friend of mine recently noted, it's okay for a character to be unlikable as long as they're interesting. In this case, Fraction makes them too likable, and that's just as boring--if not worse.

It doesn't help that the art has all the consistency of an anthology. Kitson's pencils are so buried at times as to be unrecognizable and at one point, Pepper, who is probably early 30s in Marvel time, looks to be about 16. I can usually deal with this when I like the story, but since I wasn't all that engaged to begin with, the art just made matters worse.

Overall, this was an interesting idea that, for me at least, never panned out. It's a part of the Initiative story that I don't think is required reading unless you're a completist.

The Order Volume One