It wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that The Magic Order was one of the few 2018 pop culture events that I’ve been looking forward to the most. Sure, 2018 was to be the year that would also bring us Avengers: Infinity War, Deadpool 2, and Solo: A Star Wars Story, but the more hyped anything gets in the film and TV arena, the more that I tend to tune it out, just by nature. I’ll still see those films and shows, but I tend to not engage or pay attention to all the feverish Internet discussion about them leading up to their respective releases.
The thing with comics, though, is that no matter how big the hype it’s still mild in comparison to what you see in movies and TV. This allows my hype-phobic self to quietly nurse my own, uniquely subdued form of getting excited. With The Magic Order, there was indeed a fair amount of publicity given that it was to be the first Netflix comic resulting from last year’s deal in which Mark Millar’s company, Millarworld, was bought by the streaming giant. But it was manageable hype, and it didn’t encroach on my preferred (and admittedly weird) manner of quietly being excited.
In the weeks and months following the Netflix deal, there were murmurs and whispers of this or that project being developed, but the one thing we knew for certain was that we’d be getting a new comic in the spring of 2018. For months we were treated to tantalizing previews and sneak peeks of the first pages, and this week at last, on Wednesday, The Magic Order #1 will be hitting shelves of comic book stores everywhere. So now this necessitates the question: was it worth the hype and the wait?
For my money, yes. Hell yes.
At this year’s C2E2 in Chicago, series creator and writer Mark Millar made the rare con appearance where he discussed The Magic Order. And I think I recall, in one of his panels, that he said something about the book being a cross between magical fantasy and horror, but that the horror wouldn’t really be the scary kind. While it might not be The Exorcist or The Shining-level scary, make no mistake: issue #1 has some genuinely creepy and unsettling moments, particularly in the richly cinematic opening sequence. This is thanks in large part due to Olivier Coipel’s genuinely stunning art and Dave Stewart’s muted and dreamy colors which effectively evoke a dreamlike/nightmarish atmosphere. While the temptation with a new comic you’ve been looking forward to is to rush through it, I urge readers to take their time with the first four pages of The Magic Order, lingering over and savoring each panel which is like something out of classic horror cinema.
After a visceral prelude, we are introduced to the members of the Moonstone family, the book’s titular magic order—a somewhat dysfunctional family entrusted with the honor and burden of concealing the supernatural horrors of the world from ordinary people, as well as protecting them from said horrors. It sounds like an occult conspiracy except that a certain full-page panel makes it very obvious that, in this case, concealing these occult realities from people is genuinely for the sake of their own mental health. Unfortunately, someone or someones seem intent on offing the magicians of this beneficent order.
Fans will enjoy the smargasbord of pop culture influences ranging from Houdini-esque escapology and stage magic, Lovecraftian cosmic horror, and of course Harry Potter, albeit a more NSFW version. And, yes, there are wands (of more than one kind). There even seemed to be a Fantastic Four-like dynamic going on with the dutiful family member, the reckless family member, and the reluctant and tortured family member, all of whom will surely band together to banish evil. As families do.
For various reasons I don’t typically review single issue comics here on Pop Mythology. I normally entrust that task to my friend and fellow Pop Mythology colleague “Captain” John K. Kirk. But with The Magic Order #1, upon reading it I just had to. While I’m constantly impressed by the sheer volume of terrific work that hits comic shelves each week, it’s been a while since any single issue comic has, in just twenty-seven or so pages, provided me with as sumptuous a viewing experience. One can see why Mark Millar, who has worked with some of the biggest names in comics, has self-reportedly been “chasing [Olivier Coipel] for years.” And while master colorist Dave Stewart has used this kind of color palette and style for occult subject matter before in works like Hellblazer: City of Demons (Si Spencer / Sean Murphy), somehow its full potential seems to have been unlocked by Coipel’s art. The two are really just a perfect match for each other here.
Mark Millar, discussing the Netflix deal in a recent interview, called himself a “comic guy above everything” and stated that “[t]he idea of not doing comics for even a year would be horrible to me.” For this, we comics fans have much to be thankful for if it brings us works as entertaining and as visually beautiful as The Magic Order #1. And in an era when everyone want to seemingly work in film and television (not that there’s anything wrong with that), you’ve got to respect such devoted commitment to a medium, especially given that a close reading of Millar’s work makes it quite evident that this guy could, if he wanted to, write for film and TV exclusively.
So to Mark Millar, Olivier Coipel, Dave Stewart, and the entire creative team behind The Magic Order, I say: thank you for loving comics as much as you do. And keep bringing us that good s**t.
Writer: Mark Millar
Artist: Olivier Coipel
Colorist: Dave Stewart
Letterer: Peter Doherty
Design & Production: Melia Mikulic
Editor: Rachael Fulton