Or – “Somewhat Of A Mixed Bag…”


In the wake of Civil War, a lot of hero teams have cropped up, most of which have a “hook” that makes them unconventional (and sometimes questionably heroic.) With fifty states needing super-teams, you’re eventually going to run a bit short on experienced super-types. After all, even Squirrel Girl has a steady gig now… But I can’t believe that anyone thought it was a good idea to protect the most populous state in the union with untrained celebutantes in the superhero version of American Idol. Sure, it’s an interesting hook, but the results aren’t exactly The Avengers. Based on the results of this issue, they may not even be the Great Lakes Avengers…

Previously, on The Order: The Superhuman Registration Act and the resulting 50-State O1.jpgInitiative have created a whole new Marvel Universe. Each state now has it’s own federally supported protectors, and the centerpiece of that program is The Champions. Or, at least, it was during issue #7 of Civil War when they made their twelve second guest appearance. Since that time, Marvel discovered that they no longer hold the trademark for that team name (it’s owned by Heroic Comics’ Dennis Mallonee now) and decided to instead resurrect The Order (whose original likeup consisted of a man that Tony Stark has forced underground as a fugitive, another that he rocketed into space with no return mechanism, and a third whom he has recently declared war on. Oh, and The Silver Surfer. No word on what horrific fate SHIELD has in store for him should he return to Earth.) Now known as The Order, California’s superteam is led by a familiar face (at least to soap fans in the Marvel Universe.)


Henry was apparently fired from his lucrative TV gig playing Tony Stark, which raises another question. Since Tony was drinking at the time this show aired, by official canon, his secret identity was still a secret at the time, so the show couldn’t have been about his adventures as Iron Man. Makes you wonder what sort of plots the show had (Tony has a date with Heather Locklear the same night that he’s supposed to meet the Queen… wackiness ensues!) Since then, Henry’s life hasn’t been exactly easy, but he fought back, becoming known for his tee-totalling ways, even helping others stay sober. Now he’s Anthem, the leader of the Order, and his abilities include “all the powers of a supercell thunderstorm.” Huh? Whatever that means, he leads his team into action against an unknown pyrokinetic burning down a suburb of Los Angeles. Their first order of business: giving the villain a name so that they can tell the press who they’ve just beaten… The team members jump into action, ready to score some media attention (and maybe also save lives.)


Heavy. Calamity. Pierce. Avona. Maul. Corona. I don’t want to be rude, but those aren’t exactly dynamic names, are they? The last team member is telepathically coordinating things from headquarters, and she at least, has some face time in the Marvel Universe… as Tony Stark’s executive assistant. Pepper Potts is Hera, and she’s the comptroller and information storehouse for the team. Red-haired woman who keeps tabs on a team of superheroes in the field? Barbara Gordon just called her lawyer. As the Calamity-dubbed “Infernal Man” flares up, Corona leaps into action, grabbing the 2000 degree creature and trying to use his powers to channel it’s heat away. The resulting blast incapacitates Infernal Man, and Avona leaps in, ready to chop off it’s head. Anthem orders her to stand down, but she’s an edgy loner (a necessity in any superteam) and won’t listen.


Suddenly, as the team prepares to take the villain into custody (without finding out a single whit of information about him, his powers, or from whence he came) a strange black craft falls out of the air. Team strongman Maul asks Anthem, “You want me to hit them?” Anthem replies “No. I mean, YES, but NO.” Heh. As the ships open, a horde of government stooges in body armor swarm out. A mysterious suit sets them into motion to capture Inferny, and laughingly remarks, “our boy sure did make a mess, didn’t he?” Anthem wants answers, but none are forthcoming.


“Agent Kay” disappears, leaving Anthem to handle cleanup. Iron Man and Pepper arrive to help with the press, explaining why 3000 acres of homes and wildlife had to die before The Order could stop him. (I know I’m not SUPPOSED to wonder this, but if Iron Man was close enough to join in the Press Conference, why couldn’t he have helped them out?) A reporter asks if the whole “reality show” aspect of the group is wise, given this kind of destruction, but Pepper points out that they’ve been in training for over a year, and Tony explains that other superheroes are always available for backup. That must be a wonderful feeling for Anthem, right there. “Well, sure, they’re amateurs, but the real superheroes can always backstop them!” Ouch. Another asks about the use of the symbolic names of the Olympian deities, wondering what the real Ares might think about it all.


Well, they have established on a number of occasions that Ares can be bought… It’s how he joined the Mighty Avengers, after all. As for Henry, his qualifications are, essentially, the fact that Tony Stark trusts him and that he sponsored Tony in A.A. While the leaders finish up the press conference, the rest of The Order pitches in on cleanup, and the various members enthuse about how well the mission went. Maul is especially hyped, reminding Corona that he just single-handedly save the city, and suggests that it’s Miller Time, inviting Pierce but calling her “Pam” by mistake.


Oh, Maul. You’re just as dumb as a bag of your chosen weapon, aren’t you? Hasn’t anybody told you that the “Youngblood-superhero-as-hard-partying-celebrity” thing is so five years ago? The next morning, Henry wakes up to hear the morning news reporters talking about his teammates night of clubbing and drinking, with one reporter even worrying that the members of The Order used tax money to pay for their revelry. Consulting Pepper and Tony, Henry is mortified by the accusations, but Stark asks him point blank if the assertions are true. “Was it your tax dollars?” Stark asks, and Henry angrily tells him no…


“…tons of interchangable heroes who kowtow to me because I have absolute control and the ability to depower them if I feel a bit gassy.” Well, that’s not what he says, but he’s unaccountably cocky about just throwing aside half his team over a bad decision. Remember when he drunkenly engaged Magma and nearly destroyed Stark International? Or the time he leveled an entire warehouse district to prove he could take the Hulk? Or how about the time his armor went sentient and killed a man? Or the other time his armor went sentient and killed a man? Or… I’m sure you get my point. If anyone in the early Marvel Universe had Stark’s point of view, every single venerated hero veteran would be depowered and sent home, from Captain America to The Thing. Nontheless, Avona, Maul, Corona and Pierce are canned, and four new people brought into to take their places. Anthem points out to Pepper the horrifying truth that really frightens me about The Order. “You realize that you and me, Heavy and the fast kid are pretty much the only active super-powers in California right now?” That’s terrifying. After a long day of spin control, Henry and Pepper return to their hotel suite…


Do I detect a high level of flirtation there? It’s a surprisingly cute and human moment, and reminds me what I like about Pepper Potts, as well as what I like about Matt Fraction’s writing. If only the rest of the team was this charming. The four new recruits are taken by van to the induction center for their final power treatment, trying to get to know each other as they go…


They’re all told how the process works (they’ve already been infected with a viral entity that will allow them to have super-powers, but they’ll only be active for a single year of active duty.) The foursome is transformed, becoming Veda, (with the power to create homunculi under her control) Supernaut, (a giant robot) and Mulholland Black (the little white-haired punky looking girl, using her real name) taking over Maul’s role with the giant hammer. She apparently has “a psycho-kinetic connection with L.A. itself.” What does that mean as a superpower, overcharging for iced coffee as the speed of Mercury? Before Anthem can introduce the last member (who can apparently grow wings) they’re under attack by what seem to be the Soviet Super-Soldiers! The issue ends with Anthem explaining to his unseen interviewer his thoughts on the superhero mystique. “Am I afraid to die? I suppose. I don’t know, I mean, no more than anybody ELSE is afraid of dying, I guess. Should I be?” Wow… that’s… that’s just totally clueless. Of course, there’s nobody in the Marvel Universe who’s currently dead, except Jean Grey, so it’s a believable (if near-sighted) attitude to have.

I am totally in the dark on this issue. I love Barry Kitson’s art, and the costume designs are interesting, but the chest symbols (originally a stylized ‘C’ for Champions) don’t work for me as an ‘O’. They look like targets, and given the characters’ seeming unpreparedness for the realities of superhero life, that’s probably what they’ll end up being. The script borrows liberally from The Authority, Strikeforce: Morituri, the T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, and Mission: Impossible, with a hunk of Men In Black thrown in for good measure. Once again, Tony Stark’s power as head of SHIELD is remarkably limited, as he either can’t or doesn’t do anything to stop the dark-suited secret agents from walking off with a killer pyrokinetic. Anthem is a relatively likable character (Matt Fraction imbues him with life and a realistic personality) but I just can’t buy him as the leader of so much as a Christmas parade in Fargo. He seems too laconic and media-aware to me, and the new team members, while attractively drawn, don’t do anything for me yet. I’ve already made my snotty remarks about the naming conventions, but none of the characters aliases do much for me (Avona and Veda come close, but I don’t really know what they mean) and I’m annoyed by the fact that the primary motive forces behind this team were chosen because Tony Stark liked them. It seems like nepotism, especially given that neither of them has any experience with superheroics. The issue aims very high, trying to give us something we’ve never seen before, but doesn’t quite hit the mark, scoring a disappointing 1.5 stars out of 5. Still, I like Fraction and Kitson’s work, and it’s a mostly likeable book. I’m willing to come back and give this series my usual 6 issue window to get on it’s feet and start firing on all cylinders. After all, there’s no shame in falling short when you’re aiming high…


The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. July 23, 2007 at 4:49 pm — Reply

    Urgh. It’s like Big Brother crossed with the JLA.

    I pass. This is officialy the first title which, from hereonwith, I will not look at the reviews of, nor comment on them.

    But, since I’m gone for sixe weeks tomorrow, the point is kind of moot…

  2. Maximus Rift
    July 23, 2007 at 6:23 pm — Reply

    Well, I didn’t hate it. Though my expectations were really low.

    Anthem might not be the Leader type now but the book is just beginning and characters can grow.
    What doesn’t swing with me is the whole “powers last for a year” hook. Sounds more like a lie told to “recruits” to keep them from getting any ideas. Anyways, I’ll stick around for a few issues to see where this goes.

  3. Brent F.
    July 23, 2007 at 7:43 pm — Reply

    Those are horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible, horrible codenames. The writer really pulled every generic name out of the hat for this book. Some of the costume are terrible too. Really this team just looks like a time displaced generic 90’s superhero team.

  4. July 24, 2007 at 8:30 am — Reply

    I pass. This is officialy the first title which, from hereonwith, I will not look at the reviews of, nor comment on them.

    Well, to be honest, there probably won’t be more reviews of The Order… Unless there’s a huge event, I think I’ll keep that recap slot open for whatever strikes my fancy.

  5. Sanlear
    July 24, 2007 at 8:54 am — Reply

    Celebrities playing Superheroes. Can you imagine Super-Paris Hilton? “I’m so totally going to melt your face after I’ve had my pedicure.”

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