What would it be like if The Sopranos were magicians? That’s a question I never would have thought to ask, and that is why I am not Mark Millar. In The Magic Order, Millar does not directly answer that question, but he certainly does broach the subject.
As you probably know, Mark Millar’s company Millarworld was purchased by Netflix in August 2017. That means Netflix now owns titles like Kick-Ass and Wanted, and they apparently plan to develop many of Millarworld’s titles into films and/or television series. What you may not have known, however, is this deal included the proviso that Millar would continue his already prolific career by also creating new comics for Netflix. The Magic Order is the first of these titles, and if it is any indication, we’re in for a lot of good comics with the Netflix name attached to them.
So, The Magic Order is not actually The Sopranos meets Harry Potter, or whatever else you may have had in your mind, but it is definitely adjacent to that image. This first issue, of a total six issues to be released in the coming months, introduces us to the Moonstone family. So far, I don’t believe they are a mob family, so that throws out The Sopranos. And there’s no school for wizards, so goodbye, Harry. I’m so glad it’s not that simple.
I didn’t want to doubt Mark Millar, especially since I’ve loved so much of his work–Superman: Red Son is an amazing book; it’s the singular best standalone Superman story–but this Netflix deal seemed like it would have him spinning a lot of plates at once, and that could potentially affect quality, you know? Well, I need not have worried. The Magic Order is not just a mish-mash of things thrown haphazardly together; this world immediately feels lived in and has history to it. There is meat here; frankly, probably more than six issues worth, but that’s good. It’s so much better to have too much than not enough.
The premise here is simple enough to follow but intricate enough to keep your interest, if not entirely fresh. The Moonstone family is comprised of a an aging patriarch and his adult kids, and they’re dysfunctional. You’ve got old school top hat magic, new school street-level magic, old world magic with monsters and shit; they’ve got you covered on the magic. There’s trauma in the past and the present, with murders–magical murders! There’s sex–magical sex! Okay, you get the point.
From its very first page, before we even see a single panel, this book is designed extremely well by Melina Mikulic. The design quality on display here calls to mind two other books, Lazarus and Black Magick, which both happen to be designed by Eric Trautmann. Those two titles also have extensive back matter where the design carries through. There is no back matter here, sadly, so the design does not get a chance to truly stretch its legs, but Mikulic’s work definitely deserves a nod.
The rest of the visual work here is provided by artist Olivier Coipel (Legion of Super-Heroes, Thor), colorist Dave Stewart (Hellboy, The Umbrella Academy), and letterer Peter Doherty (MPH, Jupiter’s Legacy). The artwork here certainly brings a lot of depth to the lived-in feeling of the world. This is clearly meant to be a sort of grimy universe we’re stepping into, but some spots have polish. That means we’re playing in a lot of washed-out, earthy tones that can work just as well on a sunset as they do a shadowy midnight stabbing. You can watch a magician complete a trick on a shiny stage and then step behind the curtain into a smoky backroom and not lose any momentum in the flow. It all just blends together, which is nice, considering we’re likely going to find out some of our “good guys” aren’t so good and some of our “bad guys” aren’t so bad; you don’t want anything to feel black-and-white in a story like this.
I mentioned the comic design, as a whole, but the character design is also excellent. First, the Moonstones are well-done because they legitimately look related. Second, the wardrobe is terrific, as can be seen on the issue’s cover; we’ve got a full range of fashion here. Third, there is a character named Madame Albany whose design is magnificent; she’s kind of like if Catwoman wore a fancy cloak.
“This is, I think, the most beautiful comic my name’s ever been attached to.” – Mark Millar
I said there’s no back matter here, but that’s not entirely true. Mark Millar does provide an editorial note on the series and the current state of things with Millarworld and Netflix. He says, multiple times, to not expect regular editorials, though, so I’d guess we may only get one more after issue #6, if then. Other than that, there’s just ads. As fun as it is to see an ad for Luke Cage season 2 in a comic–and it is fun, to be sure–I’m someone who loves back matter. Obviously there would be no letter section here and no real reason to start one for a limited series, but Mikulic’s design work in the front of the book is begging for more pages, so I hope the other five issues will include some level of back matter that puts her work on display more instead of making it disappear so quickly.