The Magic Order
This ain't no Harry Potter...
I've been wanting to get my hands on The Magic Order for some time now. I had heard raving reviews of this book and how it's being made into a TV show by Netflix. Before the lockdown in my area took place, I was able to visit my local comic book shop one last time until who knows when and picked this bad boy up. I knew I had a limited supply of new comic book material to read so I told myself I would take my time reading this book. Yeah... that didn't happen. I couldn't help myself and after reading it, I knew I had to share my favorite things about this book.
Before I get started, let me lay out the creative team behind it and what it's about. This is also where I state my spoiler warning. If you plan on reading this book and you want to read it with a clean slate, stop reading now!
The Magic Order consists of five families of magicians that have sworn to protect the world from their own world of the supernatural. Specifically, the book follows the Moonstones. Successful magicians, as their cover, by day, they wage war on an evil that's slowly eliminating them one-by-one.
The creative team behind the book are writer Mark Millar and Oliver Coipel. If you read comics, you probably already know who Mark Millar is, but if not, I'll share some of the highlights. Mark Millar is arguably one the most well-known comic book writers that have success outside the comic book medium. In 2004, he launched his own company, Millarworld, that publishes independent and creator-owned titles. The first book published under Millarworld was Wanted, which ended up being turned into a movie. Kick-Ass and The Secret Service: Kingsman were a couple books that were turned into feature films as well. He's also written books for the big two (Marvel and DC) like Wolverine: Old Man Logan (the inspiration for the movie Logan), Civil War (which is what Captain America: Civil War is loosely based on), and The Ultimates; The Authority and Red Sun, are perhaps his most well known DC writing credits.
Next up is the artist on The Magic Order, Oliver Coipel, who is a French-based artist with an impressive animation background having worked on Balto, The Prince of Egypt, and The Road to El Dorado. Beyond his career in animation is even more impressive in the comic book realm. He's most well-known for his work on Thor and Spiderverse comics. I'll share some pages and specifics on why I find his illustrations for The Magic Order are awesome.
Alright so let's see some pages from the book. The character design for the villains in the book are one of my favorite things. Below is a page showing The Venetian and Madame Albany. Madame Albany is the main villain where she's trying to disrupt the Magic Order by sending The Venetian to kill them one-by-one but her main goal is to release all the monsters that the Magic Order are sworn to protect the rest of the world from.
When I think of an assassin, I don't typically think of a guy dressed from the Venetian Period. However, it works so well here given the world of the supernatural. The Venetian is mysterious and unsettling. Is he some dude that just likes to dress this way or is he really from the Venetian Period and has time traveled to the present day? It's magic so who knows?! Well... technically I do, but these were all questions I had thought about before I got to the end of the story arc. Madame Albany's costume design is just as cool, in my opinion. She's got an evil dominatrix vibe but boujee. When you look at either one of them, you can instantly know that they're up to no good and that, to me, is such wonderful character design.
Another favorite thing of mine I want to share is how exquisite the visual storytelling is in this book. Let's use the page below as an example. Ignore the word balloons for a second and think about what knowledge you've gained about where you're taken to as a reader on that page.
Panel 1: It's an outside shot of a building. The colors tell us it's in the evening.
Panel 2: We can assume this is the inside of the building from Panel 1. We see our two Moonstone siblings in the mid ground. If we look closer, we see they're in a room full of people who are either at a costume party or are all from different time periods.
Page 3: The Moonstone siblings are speaking to Madame Albany. They're the focus of this panel. Based on Regan Moonstone's body language and facial expression, he's really pissed off.
What's striking to me is, as the comic's illustrator, Olivier Coipel had an opportunity to go as detailed as he wanted in Panel 2 with the background, but we don't really see much detail drawn. A good portion of the background is mostly filled in by the extremely talented colorist, Dave Stewart. I love this collaboration between Olivier Coipel and Dave Stewart to drive the story. The art is still exquisite, but here we see art in this collaborative format to support the story rather than spend time on overly rendering a panel. In fact, the parts of the page that are rendered are where Olivier Coipel wants the focus to be on and Dave Stewart uses color to guide the eye and help the panels seem cohesive. And to add icing on the cake, all this is done in just 3 panels.
Another favorite thing of mine besides the artwork is the story itself. The Moonstone siblings Regan, Cordelia, and Gabriel, with the help of their father and the Magic Order, fight to stop an outlier group of magicians that want nothing more than to see monsters run rampant. The Magic Order suspects this group to be led by Madame Albany. In order for her and her posse to succeed, they need the Orichalcum; a tome that contains the spells necessary for them accomplish their goals and is forbidden for any magician to read.
Throughout the book, we're led to believe that The Magic Order is outmatched and Madame Albany is one step ahead with the assistance of The Venetian. Each member of the Magic Order is eliminated, one-by-one, until the Moonstone siblings are left to confront Madame Albany. It's here we learn that Gabriel Moonstone is The Venetian and kills his brother Regan Moonstone. Earlier in the book we learn that Gabriel's daughter was killed in a magic accident and he has lived in guilt ever since. He reluctantly joins his siblings after some "convincing" since he's kept himself away from the magic world. We learn his true reason for his betrayal is that Madame Albany is willing to resurrect Gabriel's daughter from the dead using the Orichalcum -- something his father would never do because it's forbidden. So we're left thinking Cordelia is screwed and that her brother is about to kill her. But she reveals a little twist that had me reeling while I was reading the book. You see, Cordelia is an escape artist and an even better rebel. She's defiant and disobedient so when her father told her she was forbidden to read the Orichalcum, she immediately read it. Cordelia brings back her family and the Magic Order with a spell from the Orichalcum and they unite to defeat Madame Albany. At this point, Gabriel Moonstone goes absolutely batshit crazy. He starts to tear apart the city and it doesn't seem like anything is working to calm him down. Cordelia steps in and makes him an offer he can't refuse. She promises to bring back his daughter with his death as a sacrifice. Gabriel accepts and his daughter is brought back.
The ending of the book absolutely blew my mind while I was reading it. This book was a huge success and the second arc was announced to be in the works. What's exciting is in August of 2017, Millarworld was purchased by Netflix so currently The Magic Order is being developed into a TV series with James Wan and Lindsay Beer as executive producers. Knowing that this book is being turned into a Netflix series, I can't freaking wait to see this in a TV format. The world for this book is so interesting I feel like it's something a TV series could really explore.
Anyway, I hope I've intrigued you to check out The Magic Order. It's not often I come across a creator-owned comic series that has me floored like this one did. If you've read The Magic Order I'd love to know your thoughts about it!