What's Actually Good (In Comics)

What's Actually Good (In Comics)
What's Actually Good (In Comics) #4

Dominic Davies | 14 Feb 2008 21:00
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Welcome to What’s Actually Good (In Comics), the column that asks the question: Is it true that Alan Moore’s beard ghost writes half his scripts? This week I look at Matt Fraction’s The Order and jump up and down in a rabid nerd frenzy for Bendis’ upcoming Secret Invasion. All this along with a liberal splattering of news and other junk. Check it out!

There is nothing worse than a brilliant book ending prematurely. Sadly, this happens more often than I would like to admit, and given the general quality of most books that do very well, it really frustrates me when one that is obviously outstanding has to end. I like to think of these events as our very own call to arms, our bat signal in the sky or buzzing super watch, and I like to do as much as possible to help promote the comic and give it a second chance.

Such a terrible thing has happened with Matt Fraction’s The Order, a unique team book published by Marvel, now up to its seventh issue. To arms, my friends!

The Order tells of the superhero group set up to protect California after the Civil War saw government sponsored superhero teams being assigned to each separate state. The teammates themselves each have unique backgrounds, from teenage pop idols and ex-alcoholic TV personalities to soldiers, orphans and sports stars. It’s these different characters and personalities alongside the pressures of being government-funded that make this book so appealing. In each issue, we not only get the ongoing story but also an interview with a specific character, helping us understand their motives for joining the team.

It reminds me of Milligan’s excellent X-Static. Not only are the characters trying to save the world (well, California), they're also trying to juggle a newfound celebrity with their own skeletons in the costume closet. This leads to the inclusion of a team PR agent, which seems only prudent in today’s modern world. It’s a superhero book through the lens of celebrity culture.

Barry Kitson has pencil duties and does a great job with these new characters. I have always been a fan of his run on DC’s Legion of Superheroes, and it’s good to see him on a new book, and with an exclusive contract with Marvel to boot. It’s sad that his work with these characters has to end, but I hear he’s moving to do some Amazing Spider-Man shortly, which should be great.

The book is being cancelled on the 10th issue, although Matt himself insists in a recent interview that “it wasn't cancelled. I killed it.” He goes on to say he was given the chance to end it how he wanted to, and that’s what he chose. Fair enough.

It’s clear the great stories found within this series couldn’t have been done with heroes we were already familiar with. While it’s unquestionable that both Marvel and DC make the most money from their iconic and popular characters, I wish we did see more new characters introduced into the universe. Ideally, a book would sell purely on its storytelling and artwork. Sadly, this really is not the case. And although there are examples of good books with new characters, such as Runaways and The Initiative, taking off these seem like the exceptions rather than the norm.

Matt Faction is a great writer; his books deserve to sell more. Try and also keep an eye out for his writing in Punisher: War Journal, Casanova and Invincible Ironman, as well as his work alongside Ed Brubaker on The Immortal Iron Fist and a new Thor mini, too. Phew!

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