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Absolutely Anything for Family in THE MAGIC ORDER #6

THE MAGIC ORDER #6, written by Mark Millar and artistically rendered by Olivier Coipel, serves as the climax in this series about the Moonstone family of magicians. But, of course, if you’ve been reading along as I have, you know that magic is only their day job.

Well — was. That’s because THE MAGIC ORDER #6 begins with Cordelia, black sheep of the family, standing alone. Leonard, her father, got puddle-fied in Issue #3 and her brother, Regan, just had his head exploded. This all becomes more tragic in lieu of the plot’s twist: that her errant brother, Gabriel, killed both of them. Willingly.

And so now, at the mercy of the wicked Madame Albany and her brother, will Cordelia survive? Will Madame Albany get her hands on the Orichalcum? Will her brother’s vendetta be justified? I won’t reveal the end, but I will take a look at the issue and the story as a whole. After all, I wouldn’t want to spoil the magic.

The Plot of THE MAGIC ORDER #6 Does Not Surprise

Besides the necessary question that THE MAGIC ORDER #6 had to answer to wrap up the story — what the fate of the Moonstone family and its treasured forbidden tome (the Orichalcum) would be — it’s important to remember the character stakes as well. The decision of who would win the day came down to the two remaining children of the Moonstone family. We learn Gabriel made up his mind to do whatever it takes to bring his daughter back to life, even if it means killing his family. Therefore, Cordelia, standing alone, has to choose how to respond.

THE MAGIC ORDER #6
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

If we think about Cordelia — who truly had the most fleshed-out backstory — she had no reason to help her family. Her father didn’t want her and she was a constant source of embarrassment for her brothers and dad. And now the fate of the family was up to her. She was the most primed character to be the hero, and I looked forward to reading that story. Even the cover has her wearing a shirt: “fight like a girl.”

But instead, we got a climax that ended with Gabriel as the hero. After an interesting twist (more on that below), the story ends up being about Gabriel, robbing Cordelia of an earned character moment. Although the decision he makes to give the Moonstone family victory is tragic, it’s not very surprising. We already know Gabriel had already resolved to sacrifice however many Moonstones it took for his daughter to come back. When it comes time to choose if he’ll sacrifice one more and end the story, I wasn’t surprised at his decision. Curtain falls. End scene. As a reader invested in some great characters and an interesting world, I was hoping for a little more.

Even still, THE MAGIC ORDER #6 grants satisfying arcs to a few of its characters — especially for Cordelia

Although the ending of the series fell flat for me, I don’t think it’s a bad story. On the contrary, on closer examination of Cordelia’s reversal, it reveals a hidden brilliance for her character. I only wished that the plot emphasized it a little more.

If we think back to Cordelia in Issue #1, she’s using her magic to escape arrest. It shows that when the going gets tough, she leaves. She could have done so in this story. She would have been justified — it’s not like her family respected her that much. But instead, at the end, she chooses to stay. And the fight she brings shows that she has embraced her family, despite everything they’ve put her through. It shows a love for her family that’s less mafia-loyalty and more community. I just wish Millar had emphasized the gravity of that choice a little bit more.

To say much more about Cordelia would reveal too much — just know it ends well. Characters who were very firm in their stances in the first issue now take a 180-degree-turn. That shows growth — transformation, even — and I don’t see that a lot in the comic book medium which often relies on archetypes to tell interesting procedural stories. In these tales, a creative team can explore how a character’s values differ from archetypal expectations over the course of twenty-or-two-hundred-so comics. That is the seed for a full series that doesn’t have to end.

The Magic Order #6
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

But that’s the beauty of a mini-series — it ends. And when the heroes vanquish the evil that disturbed the status quo, they can live, enriched by the journey they took. Pesky writers can let them be — at least for the time being. I certainly wouldn’t mind Millar returning to the Moonstone family.

Oliver Copiel’s Visual Storytelling Remains Top-Notch

It’s hard to add anything more to the argument of how spectacular Coipel’s art has been for THE MAGIC ORDER. I’ll admit when I started the series, the occasional blurriness of characters threw me off. Now, having read the series, I understand what it does. It’s about point of view and how that helps in telling the story.

When I say point of view, I don’t mean something as simple as third- versus first-person. What I mean is the subtle way that point of view informs a story. For example, when a writer writes a scene from a certain perspective, that narrator is making a choice of how to describe the action. The order in which a storyteller relays details controls tone and even the impact of a scene. If I write about a man who smiles and points a gun at me, it tells a slightly different story than if I say he pointed a gun and smiled.

For comics, then, I’m going to say that point of view involves distinguishing foreground from background. Coipel’s approach uses the weight of his lines and contrast to do this. When you have a colored panel, the only thing giving form to the color are the lines. And so, if the lines are thick and bold, the eye picks up what the art is showing first. If the lines are thin, then the color blends together with the background, creating what looks like a blur in focus. For example, look at how Coipel’s art below uses contrast to tell the story. Follow how the lightning on the wand grows and shrinks in boldness across the panels. And then see how the bodies of the girls lose their lineart definition and fade into the background at the end.

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THE MAGIC ORDER #6
Image courtesy of Image Comics.

Final Thoughts on THE MAGIC ORDER #6

While reading the end of the series, I couldn’t help but think of another magic story in media: The Prestige. There’s a quote that describes both the book series as well as what THE MAGIC ORDER #6 had to accomplish:

The Magic Order #6
Quotation from The Prestige (film), written by Jonathan and Christopher Nolan, from the novel by Christopher Priest (Priest, C. 1997. The Prestige, New York, NY: Tor Books.)

At the start of the book, Millar gave us “The Pledge.” We saw an ordinary family in the ordinary present. They were quirky, but nothing to arouse undue suspicion. And then we had the turn. The first death of the story. The cloaked Venetian and promises of a world we can’t know and wouldn’t be able to comprehend. And with that turn, the disappearance with hope in the form of Gabriel, of one Moonstone’s death after another. Finally, with this issue, we had the promise of The Prestige, how Cordelia would save the day and bring back hope.

In the end, I think THE MAGIC ORDER delivered a successful magic trick. For the time I was reading the series, I felt transported to a world that I wanted to learn more about. I forgot about myself, my day-to-day worries, and got to enjoy the show. All of it happened in the humblest ways. From Olivier Coipel’s transformation of lines and forms and Millar’s injection of humanity into characters who don’t exist outside of the paper that depicts them, I didn’t need a magical incantation or a wand — just eyes to see. It’s been a fun ride — THE MAGIC ORDER #6 presents no major deviation from that — and I hope we get to see the Moonstone family again in the future.

THE MAGIC ORDER #6 by Mark Millar (writer), Olivier Coipel (artist), Dave Stewart (colorist), and Peter Doherty (letterer)
Plot
Characterization
Art

Summary

As the capstone to a series, THE MAGIC ORDER #6 accomplishes everything it needs to. By the end of the issue, order is restored and the primary series question about the fate of the Moonstone family gets answered. Yet despite a definite conclusion, I felt that Cordelia’s story got the short end of the character stick — at least until I took a deeper look. Olivier Coipel and the entire art team were true to 100% form. All in all, the series was a fun read, and the conclusion did not overtly disappont.