Review: The Magic Order #1

After all the marketing pizzazz, including the fact that this comic will only have one printing, Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel, and Dave Stewart‘s The Magic Order #1 is here, and it’s the first Millarworld comic book under the imprint’s new deal with Netflix. The book could be described as Harry Potter with the intrigue of Kingsman and the family dynamic of Jupiter’s Legacy. Basically, sub out spy gadgets and superheroes for wands and magic, and you’ve got The Magic Order. Millar and Coipel also play off King Lear a little bit in the names of the main cast: stage magician Leonard Moonstone and his children Regan, Cordelia, and Gabriel, who all have varying attitudes to their destiny as magical guardians of the universe

Narrative-wise, Millar and Coipel do a lot of things right in The Magic Order #1, including a gripping and violent five page opener that twists the famous scene in Harry Potter where Lord Voldemort kills Harry’s parents in front of him by having the evil wizards use a man’s son to kill him in front of his wife after having sex one last time. So, yeah, it’s the typical Millarworld sex and violence spiel. However, it shows that this story isn’t going to be about the wonder, but its horror. This is reflected on later when Regan recruits his reluctant brother Gabriel to fight against the Bellatrix Lestrange-esque Madame Albany, and Gabriel refuses while having a flashback about his daughter dying because of magic. Stewart juxtaposes a golden, angelic color palette of her wanting to be a member of the Magic Order like her father with grey shadow as he weeps at her grave. Millar and Coipel wisely restrain their more ultraviolent impulses and nail his feelings of loss in one stark image.

Gabriel is definitely the most emotionally resonant character in The Magic Order #1. He’s very much a normal dude, who wants to get away from the trappings of magic and war because of the cost it’s taken on him, his family, and friends. In his introductory, Coipel zooms on paper towels to emphasize the regular nature of his life compared to his showier brother Regan, who talks to him while levitating in some kind of invisible cloud bubble instead of walking the aisles and chatting like a human. We also get to see the threats that the Magic Order protects humanity from through young Gabriel’s eyes, and he’s total frightened as his dad and other members of the Order fight these gigantic beings of cosmic horror, and Coipel shows that he can do action, day to day conversation, and throw in some Mignola monsters for good measure.

If Gabriel goes straight to the heart, Mark Millar and Olivier Coipel make Cordelia  the thrill seeker of the bunch. Her grand introduction is in the back of police car with plenty of snarky and foul mouthed anecdotes about why she’s in trouble, and then she just flat out vanishes. Coipel gets to do a little physical humor through the cops’ reaction and the car skidding down the road while a single pair of handcuffs just chills for a second. Cordelia is all id and decadence, and Coipel and Stewart wreathe her shadow just like Madame Albany. But, her dad wears a black tuxedo and top hat so this might just be conjecture.

Sadly, in contrast with his more interesting siblings, Regan doesn’t get much to do other than be a conversation partner and into magic. But Millar nails the personalities of three of the four leads and establishes a quite powerful threat in the first issue so it’s not so bad. He and Coipel are creative with some the dark magical spells beginning with the child hitmen and ending with a riff on shapeshifting and mind wiping that lets Coipel go a little Dadaist and take a break from clean lines for a bit. It’s a real treat seeing Millar cut Coipel loose and draw a variety of scenes instead of the standard talking heads and splash pages of superhero fare with Dave Stewart setting the mood through his color palettes.

With a blockbuster opening sequence, a couple interesting lead characters, and masterful visuals from Olivier Coipel and Dave Stewart, The Magic Order #1 is the start of a beautiful partnership between Mark Millar and Netflix and a nice sop to those who have grown a bit cynical towards adults whose only reading is the adventures of a boy wizard…

Story: Mark Millar Art: Olivier Coipel
Colors: Dave Stewart Letters: Peter Doherty

Story: 7.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 8.5 Recommendation: Buy 

Image Comics/Millarworld/Netflix provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review

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