Black Order #1 Review

by Charles Martin on November 14, 2018

Black Order #1 Review
Writer: Derek Landy
Penciller: Philip Tan
Inkers: Marc Deering, Guillermo Ortega & Le Beau Underwood
Colourist: Jay David Ramos
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

When we last saw the Black Order, they were recovering from an unimpressive showing as second-tier baddies in the No Surrender event and getting a vague job offer from their quondam opponent, the Grandmaster.

This miniseries finds them firmly launched into their new gig, visiting terror and devastation on a random space empire in the Grandmaster's name. They have no idea why the Grandmaster wants this done, but a brief glimpse of the emperor suggests they're wading into a much more dangerous conflict than they initially thought. He dispatches a formidable crop of his own baddies to hunt down the Order, turning this issue's last act into an impressive psychopath-on-psychopath battle royale.

The team is short of details on their mission and Corvus Glaive, taking the point-of-view reins, is similarly unclear about his own character. He spends the issue having an identity crisis. Is he the team's funnyman? No, that's (allegedly) Black Dwarf. Is he the stoic one? No, that's Black Swan. 

He also delivers simple takes on his other teammates, the insightful Proxima Midnight and the tricksy Ebony Maw. By the end, he decides that being the Order's leader-with-a-capital-L is identity enough for him. It might satisfy Corvus but it did not do the same for me.

I have some respect for a book that's so upfront about its anxieties. Who are these Black Order folks, really, and why should anybody care about them? Those are, sure enough, the key questions for this miniseries to address.

The problem I have with #1 is, every reader is already asking those questions when they pick this comic up. Raising them within the story wastes precious time and space; much more progress could have been made toward answering them.

This sense of aimless wondering is a big strategic-level scripting problem, but it impacts the visuals as well. This issue isn't short of action and it's laid out impressively. The characters are turned out in deliciously grotesque detail and their poses convey powerful motion. 

But as long as the story is stuck trying to identify its protagonists, there's no attention left for their opponents or the world around them. This saps a lot of the fights' potential impact and makes them more forgettable than their art deserves.

The way the settings are shortchanged is especially disappointing. I firmly believe that this book would far more engaging if it spent even a little time establishing its cosmic surroundings. Placing the Black Order in front of endless smoke and flame might bring them into sharper focus, but it misses the opportunity to cultivate real interest in the world around them and their place in it.

After reading Black Order #1, my stock of knowledge about these villains is just a tiny bit bigger. The book portrays their heinous status quo with serviceable storytelling skill. It doesn't help me answer the bigger question: Why should anybody care about the Black Order? So far, this book will satisfy existing Order fans - if there are any out there - but it doesn't do nearly enough to create new ones.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
I do love that Corvus Glaive is the sort of guy who will ask his wife asinine questions in the middle of combat and Proxima Midnight is the sort of gal who will take them totally in stride.