Comic Book Review: The Order #1

The Order is one of the new titles spinning out of Marvel’s The Initiative storyline. I’m really only giving this title a chance because I’m a big fan of Barry Kitson. I have my reservations about how well written The Order will be. Matt Fraction impressed me over on Iron Fist, however, I’m beginning to think that it is more Ed Brubaker’s talents than Fraction’s that makes that title such a good read.

The reason I believe that is because Fraction’s work over on Punisher War Journal is truly horrid. Fraction is turning out one of the worst story arcs I have ever read outside of a Daniel Way written comic book. So, I fully expect to enjoy Kitson’s artwork and I’ll remain cautiously optomisitic about Fraction’s writing. Let’s go ahead and do this review for The Order #1.

Creative Team
Writer: Matt Fraction
Penciler: Barry Kitson
Inker: Mark Morales

Art Rating: 8 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 5 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 6.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with being introduced to Henry Hellrung who is an out of work actor who used to play Tony Stark on the old Iron Man TV show. Henry partied it up with Stark back when Tony was rolling like a true pimp. Henry then lost his career after the Iron Man show and entered rehab for alcohol abuse. Henry then joined AA. Henry ended up getting Tony involved in AA many years later.

We then cut to Henry as his new role as field commander of The Order. Henry’s codename is Anthem. Evidently he occupies the Apollo position of the Pantheon. Anthem leads his team up against an incredibly powerful unknown meta human with massive fire abilities.

We meet the other members of The Order. Heavy, who has super strength and is the Poseidon of the Pantheon. Calamity who has super speed and is the Hermes of the Pantheon, Pierce, the archer who is the Artemis of the Pantheon. Avona and her sword, Bluetooth, who is the Athena of the Pantheon, Maul who is the Hephaestus of the Pantheon and Corona who has sun powers and is the Helios of the Pantheon.

We then see Pepper Potts back at The Order’s base who now has cybernetic implants and is the Oracle of this group. Pepper is the Hera of the Pantheon and is the team leader keeping an eye on everything.

Corona sacrifices himself and uses his sun powers to absorb the fire from the “Infernal Man.” This defeats the villain but also wipes out Corona who now needs medical attention. Avona wants to slice and dice the villain, but Anthem tells her to stand down.

Suddenly, Project 717 appears on the scene to collect the “Infernal Man.” Evidently, this metahuman is one of their boys. Anthem tells the commanding officer of Project 717 that Infernal Man is under their Jurisdiction according to Federal Law. That SHIELD is in control here. The commanding officer for Project 717 says that the company he keeps isn’t impressed with Stark or SHIELD these days. Project 717 cleans up the area and then leave.

We cut to a press conference with Tony Stark lauding the efforts of The Order. Tony says that The Order uses the names of the Greek Gods as metaphors for what roles they play on the team. That this Pantheon structure gives The Order innate power and psychic gravity from the symbolism of each role. (I have no idea where Fraction’s babbling is going.) Tony says his Avengers teammate Ares doesn’t mind the use of the names. (What? Does Ares own the naming rights to all of his relatives?)

We shift to several members of The Order deciding to go out and party in order to celebrate saving the day. Calamity reminds the other members that they all signed contracts with morals clauses that prevent them from getting drunk in public. The other members ignore Calamity’s words of warning.

We hop to the next day where all the Los Angeles news stations are reporting about members of The Order partying up and getting drunk and rowdy at several L.A. night clubs. One news report question if the members used taxpayer money to get drunk.

We see Tony meeting with Pepper and Henry. Tony tells Henry that he has to fire the members that blatantly violated their morals clauses. Tony says that the Civil War was fought for accountability for the super-powered and the responsibility to the people those metahumans are sworn to protect. That Tony will not create walking A-bombs who cannot hold their liquor. (Oh, is that what the Civil War was about? Cracking down on heroes that like to party?) That they have a whole building of candidates who have been training to be on The Order. That is why they built the team this way so that the Pantheon never has to be empty.

We cut to Anthem and Pepper informing Pierce, Avona, Maul and Corona that they are all off the team. That they betrayed every philosophical underpinning this team is built on. We then see Anthem and Pepper welcoming the four new members to The Order that consist of one guy and three girls.

Pepper and Henry then leave the room and Pepper tells Henry that he handled the situation well. Pepper mentions how she hasn’t slept much at all in the past three weeks sue to the job of running The Order. Henry says he knows the feeling and says right now he just wants to go take a very hot shower. Pepper says that sounds like a good idea and may join Henry. Pepper then gets embarrassed and says that she can’t believe she just said that. That she is still a widow. Pepper then says she is going to just go now. Henry is a bit nervous and tells Pepper it is okay.

We cut to the four new recruits driving to the Stark facility to get their super powers. You have Mulholland Black, the annoying alterna-teen white grrl with plenty of attitude. You have the ditzy blonde girl in Rebecca Ryan. You have the crippled black guy in Milo Fields. And Magdalena Marie, a sultry looking brunette woman.

The new members arrive at the facility to get their viral genomech payload that artificially replicates a biological superhuman condition inside of normal human bodies. A normal human body isn’t made to run at such a high level for a very long time so the powers only last for a year.

We shift to The Order training grounds where the new members are training with the rest of The Order. Magdalena can summon humanoid soldiers made from organics materials around her. Her codename is Veda. Milo Fields is now Supernaut and is in some heavy artillery armor. Mulholland Black forgoes a codename cause she is too kewl for one. Rebecca Ryan has giant bird wings.

Suddenly, Pepper alerts Anthem that six unknown combatants are headed for Los Angeles. We see it is six Soviet themed villains. End of issue.

The Good: The Order #1 was a thoroughly average read. I can’t say I disliked it, but I certainly can’t say I enjoyed it. Fraction did do a solid job developing the Henry’s character in this debut issue. And since Henry is the field leader of The Order it made perfect sense to start with Henry’s character first.

Fraction gives the reader a great feel for Henry’s personality. I dig that Fraction takes the time and effort to reference Tony Stark’s wild party lifestyle that he had back in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Man, people don’t remember, but in the 70’s and 80’s Stark was the pimp master! Tony kept it rolling 24/7 and was the ultimate player. I didn’t grow up with that Tony Stark, but reading tons of back issues really made me appreciate that version of Tony. It is certainly a far cry from the Iron Dick Cheney role that Tony is currently shoehorned into. It was cool to see Fraction giving us a glimpse of that party lifestyle that Tony use to have.

I will give credit to Fraction for making an attempt to deliver a relatively novel concept for a super hero team. The concept of having a team comprised of members who only have super powers for one year is certainly different. Also, the idea of having the characters constantly replaced at the end of the year tour of duty or being fired due to indiscretions off the team is something you don’t see to often on a team title.

Barry Kitson provides plenty of his usual fantastic artwork. I really miss Barry Kiton’s artwork over on the Legion of Super Heroes. It is too bad that Barry has been stuck on The Order instead of some other Marvel title that I enjoy collecting.

The Bad: Honestly, I found that The Order #1 was a rather boring issue. I actually started nodding off in the middle of reading this issue and that is never a good sign. The Order was simply a decidedly average issue. My reaction at the end of this issue was “Meh.” And that is most definitely not the reaction you want with the debut issue of a new title. I didn’t dislike it, but this issue did nothing to hook me into purchasing the next issue much less having The Order added to my regular pull list.

Fraction serves up plenty of standard issue comic book dialogue. The dialogue ranges from middling to rather generic. None of the characters outside of Henry are even remotely interesting. Fraction trots out nothing but one-dimensional characters to fill out the roster of The Order.

The concept for The Order is different. But, it just doesn’t work for me. Sometimes less is more. Fraction gets way to unnecessarily convoluted with how this team is set up. The entire Pantheon concept is unnecessary and serves no purpose. It just seems like Fraction is trying to hard to come up with something cool and unique but in the end, the Pantheon part of this team’s structure is just useless window dressing that doesn’t really serve a purpose.

Fraction also gives us the unusual idea of cycling out characters every year creates constant turnover. Unfortunately, capping membership to just one year seriously decreases my interest in the characters. Such a short membership time frame prevents readers from forming a strong bond with any of the characters. A short membership time frame also doesn’t allow the writer enough time to pull off quality character work and development. It will certainly hamper the evolution of the characters.

I fear that the personalities will remain flat and one-dimensional. Fraction already has shown us that he is creating characters that rely on stereotypes and caricatures. If we continually cycle through members at a high rate then that trend of giving us just caricatures will continue.

I can barely stomach Fraction’s version of Pepper Potts. This version of Pepper is so totally unlike any version of Pepper that we have ever seen on Iron Man. I don’t think that Fraction has a good sense of Pepper’s character. And there is no way Pepper would ever be hitting on another guy so soon after Happy Hogan’s death. I’ll give Fraction for taking a long time Iron Man supporting character and trying to do something different with that character. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work for me.

And just how many government groups are there running around now in the post-Civil War 616 Universe? It is getting ridiculous. You need a scorecard to keep up with all of them. You have Tony with SHIELD, Normon Osborn with the Thunderbolts, Gyrich as the Secretary of the Superhuman Armed Forces, Project 717, etc. There seems to be no end to them. Again, sometimes less is more. There are far too many competing groups running around all operating under the banner of the Federal Government.

The ending of six Soviet themed villains does nothing to grab my interest enough to get me to shell out money for the next issue. This ending just continues the general feeling that I get that this issue reads like a cheesy 1980’s action movie.

Overall: The Order #1 was a pedestrian read. It was solidly average and failed to hook my interest. Kitson’s artwork was very well done. Fraction gives us a storyline that will definitely appeal to readers who like military style government run super teams. I’m sure that this title will have plenty of fighting each and every issue. Personally, I’ll be giving this title a pass. There are too many other well done comic books out on the market and I only have but so much cash.