Drawing upon the stories and legends of the founding fathers of the United States, The Order of The Forge looks to add some fantasy to George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Paul Revere. Is it good?
The Order of the Forge #1 (Dark Horse Comics)
The story starts off with a young George Washington in the year 1753, a little over two decades before the Revolutionary War and a year before the French and Indian War. Writer Victor Gischler attempts to break down the mythic figure of Washington on the first page and he does so effectively. He humanizes Washington through a disagreement with his father over a young lady who frequents Black’s Tavern. The disagreement leads to a new, twisted version of Washington chopping down his father’s beloved cherry tree in anger. Washington’s truth is not held as a virtue — instead he is depicted as rash and vindictive, two traits that are not normally associated with Washington. The sequence wraps up with a strange mystical encounter involving a Native American totem pole that appears out of nowhere. The encounter inflicts pain upon Washington and applies a brand to his ax. Unfortunately, Gischler does not touch on the mystical aspect of the ax the rest of the issue and the plotline remains mysterious.
Much like Washington, Gischler breaks down the mythos surrounding Franklin but doesn’t touch on Revere, I’m guessing that will show up in a later issue. He breaks Franklin’s mythos down in a different way than Washington. While Washington’s mystic figure is broken down through dialogue, Franklin’s is done through shock factor. Artist Tazio Bettin depicts Franklin spending his days lounging around a brothel surrounded by naked women. Don’t worry the key on the kite is still looped into the story!
Outside of our three heroes, Gischler introduces us to the Lady Kate, who is all too apparent as a love interest and damsel in distress. The only thing she has going for her is her curiosity which happens to be the main catalyst for her being put in a distress. Otherwise she is a nonfactor and appears to be a static character. There is some hope with the villain, Lord Hammond. He is devious and resourceful. He has big plans and moves to put them into action, but he is only used sparingly.
The pace of the book starts off well and captures your interest, but bogs down in dialogue. The most interesting parts occurred when Hammond was on the page and we were getting hints at something larger happening. Otherwise, we are stuck with a ho-hum pace involving collecting Franklin and then being set upon by ruffians. However, there was a nice humorous moment involving Franklin and a chamber pot. It seemed Gischler had an idea where he wanted to go, but he had to add some filler pages in order to fill out the issue.
Tazio Bettin’s artwork is less than appealing. Washington looks like a bland version of Connor from Assassin’s Creed 3 and in some panels he has random squiggles appearing on his face. It is difficult to tell what they are supposed to represent. There are some bright spots. One panel depicting Lord Hammond’s private study is a nice treat. Bettin adds a number of details depicting ancient artifacts from the sigils on an ancient war helm to the wax of a candle melting. The detail is refreshing since most of his backgrounds are very rigid using sharp geometry that lack the intricate detail of this panel.
The one real action sequence is inspiring but leaves quite a bit to one’s imagination as Washington displays his handiwork with his ax. While this action sequence is happening, he depicts Franklin standing in the background still holding on to his kite. It’s a little bit of a stretch for the ruffians to target Lady Kate and then engage Washington without attempting to engage Franklin. It is also unclear where Revere gets to during the melee. Despite these setbacks I enjoyed the way he incorporated the lightning storm into the action and displayed Washington’s tenacity in battle.
Is It Good?
The Order of the Forge does a good job of breaking down the mythos surrounding Washington and Franklin, but it fails to create another one. Instead, the characters are left languishing without a real identity. The artwork had sparks of inspiration, but overall felt flat with little detail to character expressions and when the characters were expressing themselves it was almost overdone and didn’t feel natural. The plot hints at mystery but fails to deliver anything concrete.