Netflix bought Mark Millar’s Millarworld line of comics not that long ago. The first original series, complete with the Netflix logo and published by Image, is The Magic Order. I got the first book because Jenny was kind enough to send me some trades. I got to this one first.
So, did Netflix get its money’s worth?
I’d say Netflix probably got its money’s worth. I’ll explain in a bit.
The Magic Order tells the story of the magicians of the title organization. They protect the world from magical threats, all without exposing themselves to the general public. Of course, many of them actually seem to work as stage magicians. I’m sure it’s all plausible deniability.
This story focuses on the Moonstone family. Father Leonard is the current head of the Order. His son Regan is a hothead who runs a nightclub. His daughter Cordelia is an irresponsible drunk with an expertise in escapology. And his other son Gabriel gave up magic after a tragic accident rocked his family. Years earlier, Leonard inherited a magical tome that perhaps should have gone to one Lady Albany. She, in turn, left the Order. And now, some powerful magician in Venetian robes is wiping out the Order’s inner circle. These are powerful magicians in their own right. And Albany targets the entire Moonstone family in her quest.
So, here’s the thing: a book like this works to Millar’s strengths and Netflix’s advantage. Millar can engage in his usual extreme use of massive superpowers (or here magic) and the characters are rather shallow. Additionally, the high visual spectacle would probably work well for television. There’s a lot of creative use of magic here that would work well as a movie or TV show.
On the other hand, this book is very much a Millar-written book with all that implies. As I stated, the characters are rather shallow. They aren’t particularly deep people though Millar does give his villains interesting motivation. Lady Albany’s ultimate goals aren’t what they might appear to be at first blush. And her super-assassin is also not doing what he is doing out of some desire for world domination. Ultimately, the book may be more about an internal struggle that may not change all that much for most people. It just would leave our ostensible heroes dead.
But if we don’t really care about these folks, why should we care who wins? Millar tried here, but he didn’t quite get there. It’s still a fun book, but it isn’t for the characters. It’s for the spectacle, and the spectacle is good. 8.5 out of 10 people getting lost in a good book.