There’s a reason I won’t be including any panel images from the first few pages of The Magic Order #2 in this review. That is because the first six pages (and the very first page in particular) are as shocking, in their own different way, as the horror film-esque dread of the first four pages of issue #1 which I raved about in my last review. Only it isn’t horror that’s being evoked this time so much as a strange mixture of audacity and awe tinged with a touch of anger and…well, okay, maybe a little bit of horror.
If you haven’t yet seen any preview images of the first few pages I suggest you skip all reviews (except this one, of course) before picking up your copy of The Magic Order #2 because you really don’t want to spoil the surprise. The boldness, the sheer gleeful ingenuinty of the first page in particular, is one of those rare moments in comics that make you mutter “Holy s**t” and feel like a kid discovering comics again for the first time. If you read enough books and comics, and see enough movies, after a while nothing really seems new—it’s more about whether creators are able to come up with fresh ways of mixing familiar elements together and contextualizing them in interesting ways. The very premise behind The Magic Order, in fact, is just that—an interesting contextualization of old, familiar elements (magic, secret histories, family lineages, light side vs. dark side, etc.). But this first page in issue #2 is simply something that I’ve never seen in any story, ever. What a moment, bravo.
The rest of issue #2 is more or less straightforward exposition, with Madame Albany and her mysterious assassin continuing their systematic assault against magicians that, apparently, are allied with the Moonstone family and the use of magic for good. We still don’t know much about this assassin other than that he’s called The Venetian, he’s working for Albany, and he’s very good at using magic to kill people in all kinds of creatively gruesome ways. We do learn a bit more about what Albany is after, and why she might be a little pissed that she doesn’t have it.
But speaking of being pissed, make no mistake: the spotlight on issue #2 is all on Cordelia Moonstone, escape artist—the rebellious but precocious and, as we see, studious-in-her-own-way daughter of Leonard Moonstone, whose “origin story” makes up the amazing sequence I describe in the beginning of this review.
As part of Mark Millar and Olivier Coipel’s worldbuilding, issue #2 also firmly (and proudly, for me) establishes Chicago as the Moonstone family’s base of operations. Or, rather, Chicago is… entry way to that base of operations. I had read in a preview article months before the release of issue #1 that The Magic Order would be set in Chicago, but there was no actual mention of the city in #1 and it was hard to confirm this through the art alone. But now there’s no mistaking the fact, and I am tickled that one of the year’s comics takes place in my adopted city. Given the clever way an iconic Chicago point of interest is used as a plot device here, I’m hoping Millar and Coiple will be able to take advantage, in future issues, of the many wonders of Chicago architecture and history. This city has quite a lot that’s hidden from everyday eyes that would go perfectly with the occult subject matter of this comic.
Much like the enchanted painting in the panel shown above, The Magic Order #2 pulls us deeper into its mesmerizing world and reveals deeper layers and depths of its characters, story, and locale. The team of Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel, Dave Stewart, Peter Doherty, Melina Mikulic, and Rachael Fulton together are creating what is already, hands down, my single favorite comic of the year so far. But if they’re not careful I’m going to get spoiled and expect a mind-blowing opening sequence in every issue.