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Author Topic: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order  (Read 1180 times)

TordelBack

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Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« on: 02 August, 2020, 01:22:35 PM »
Quote from: - Benjamin Franklin, 1794
“Realms! Worlds without end, separated not by space, but by vibration ... History has unravelled, time taken the wrong path...”

This thread aims to serve as a personal guide to Kek-W & John Burns' sprawling century-spanning multi-generation inter-dimensional opera The Order.

With Land of the Free we're on Series 5 of The Order, the first run going all the way back to 2015 (Prog 1912), running alongside Dark Justice, Orlok and Ulysses Sweet. Yes, that long ago. So a respectable-by-today's-standards pace of over a dozen episodes a year, and a lot has happened in those 400-odd pages.  After a highpoint in Series 3 Wyrm War, momentum seemed to flag a wee bit in the rather transitional Series 4 Brave New World, but the current run is just fantastic with Burns doing his best work since Nikolai Dante, even if it does ask for a level of inter-series recall that our ageing thrill-worn brains may not always be up to.

I'll try to summarise the current setup in this post, for now ignoring the bits that aren't centre-stage at the moment, and then later I'll cover the current characters and their motivations and relationships, and then maybe even a chronological breakdown of the overall story so far.

At the start of Land of the Free, there are four main factions in play:

Faction no. 1 is the titular Order of Ouroboros, a cross-time organisation dedicated to preserving the structure of history. Led since 1210 AD by the now-600-year-old Anna Kohl, the Order was apparently founded in a far future of conflict ('the Black Epoch') and propagated back through time with the help of a series of technological 'seeds' and genetic 'seedlines' which create exceptional long-lived individuals, and an artificial intelligence generally known as Ritterstahl, housed in various retro-robot and biological forms.

One iteration of the Ritterstahl A.I. is Anna's great love, but was lost and presumed destroyed in another dimension in 1641: Anna is still searching for him 150 years later, despite there being at least 3 other incarnations currently on the go. Initially the Order's task consisted of opposing...

Faction no. 2, the Wyrms, an extra-dimensional collective lifeform with multiple configurations based around groups of wormlike creatures at different scales, which can function like sub-elements of an organic computer capable of learning and mimicking other lifeforms. In impersonating humans, some wyrms have discovered the joys of individuality and other people-virtues. Luckily this was before Twitter, so they turned out okay.

Wyrms cross over into 'our' reality at certain points when the dimensions are in harmony. Initially these crossover locii were known to the Order and could be opposed, thus preserving our dimension's timeline. However, at some point the wyrms constructed an organic superstring whose harmonics could control where dimensional conjunctions took place, fracturing the structure of time and space in unpredictable ways, and worse, unleashing...

Faction no. 3, the Shadowthings.  A formless liquid-goo intelligence existing in a timeless lightless dimension, until exposed to the conventional four-dimensional multiverse by the wyrms' meddling, whereupon the Shadowthings set about infiltrating and conquering the Wyrmrealm. Wyrm refugees fleeing this invasion escaped to our dimension (it's unclear (to me) whether this has been the driving force of the wyrm invasions since the start, or whether this is a recent development), where they live in relative harmony with humans in enclaves across the north American continent. 

By at least 1777 AD the Shadowthings had entered 'our' dimension and seized control of the nascent United States by infecting its main players, which in 1794 are represented by President George Washington and General Benedict Arnold, and creating what its opponents call the Shadow Republic. The Order and its wyrm allies now work to oppose the Shadowthings, who have disrupted history with their takeover of the US.  Their Shadow Republic is aided and supported technologically by...

Faction no. 4, La Société aka the Franco-Prussian Republic. Led by scientific savant Francis Bacon, a former leading member of the 1580 incarnation of the Order, now driven mad by a regime of life-extending treatments and self-designed cyborg parts which he employed to keep pace with the long-lived Atlantean (a fifth faction, don't ask, not so-far relevant to the current series) Queen Iztaccihuatl, with whom he has an entirely one-sided obsession.

La Société was formed in an acrimonious split from the 1641 incarnation of the Order, which had been based in Versailles. Its members have included Clarick 'Milady' de Winter (currently Bacon's right-hand woman) and her lover Athos (now dead), both of Three Musketeers fame, and the aeronaut Mongolfier. Disguising himself as 'Citizen Tussaud', Bacon has used the salvaged head of one incarnation of Ritterstahl to assist his creation of a precipitous industrial revolution in France, and now controls an army of automatons and anachronistic war machines with which he has conquered most of Europe. Apparently driven by hatred of the Order and jealousy of Daniel Calhoun in particular (Queen Izta's former husband and father of her children), Bacon supplies the Shadow Republic with mechanised legions.

Recent events...
As Land of the Free began, the current members of the Order and their human and wyrm allies (including the Edgewalker himself, Armoured Gideon), have based their resistance in the extra-dimensional refuge of Philae, a sort of fortified ghost-city based on an amalgam of the Ptolemaic temple complex flooded by the building of the Aswan dam, and the US city of Philadelphia circa 1777 as it was remembered by the first wyrm member of the 1641 version of the Order, Donna Catalina, late mother of current half-wyrm member Antoine Berg.

The series kicked off in 1794 with a scheme to rescue a de-aged version of Benjamin Franklin from the Shadow Republic, and bring him into the Order to provide a scientific counter to Francis Bacon, but things quickly fall apart as Bacon tracks Berg to the Edge and Philae and his blitzkrieg overwhelms the city. The Order are forced to flee onboard the ironclad La Victoire, which may be more than it seems...
« Last Edit: 02 August, 2020, 01:29:56 PM by TordelBack »

broodblik

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #1 on: 02 August, 2020, 01:47:26 PM »
Cool stuff  :thumbsup:
Old age is the Lord’s way of telling us to step aside for something new. Death’s in case we didn’t take the hint.

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paddykafka

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #2 on: 02 August, 2020, 09:31:36 PM »
Thanks for that, Tordelback.

As your man in the Houses of Parliament would say:"Order! Order!"

Colin YNWA

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #3 on: 02 August, 2020, 10:16:09 PM »
Good work. I'm looking forward to catching up with this one as part of my re-read. Week to week I seem to work with it okay and love, love LOVE the ride. The latest series I think has done a good job working it own content but its great to be reminded of some of the wider contexts.

I, Cosh

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #4 on: 02 August, 2020, 11:20:16 PM »
Nice one.

I remember looking it up and the old bridge across the Vltava really was destroyed in 1342.
We never really die.

sheridan

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #5 on: 04 August, 2020, 12:50:34 PM »
Thanks for this.  I enjoy the Order alright, but feel that if I knew what was going on it'd be better (so I'll have to read your guide once I get my next batch of progs).

Magnetica

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #6 on: 04 August, 2020, 02:30:46 PM »
I have read every episode of The Order. A lot of your synopsis has completely passed me by e.g. The Order are now allied to the Wryms.

Seems like a pretty fundamental point to me.

The question is, is it worth digging out the back Progs and doing a re-read, or shall I just carry on not really understanding it? Although this thread helps.

SmallBlueThing(Reborn)

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #7 on: 04 August, 2020, 03:21:42 PM »
Yes, that was fantastic and thanks very much. However, also most of it was describing a series I haven't read- in that although I have read it every week (mostly, I admit to having given up and skipping it during one series) absolutely none of it has stuck. If asked what The Order was about (as my son has asked on a couple of occasions) my reply has always been "Um, evil worm things invading Earth throughout history while various historical characters try to stop them. And Armoured Gideon is in there somewhere, and his mate. Dont know what side they are on though. And theres another robot."

Which is a simplification at once showing my ignorance and so wide of the mark to render it just "hopeful bullshitting".

What's the problem, then? I'm reasonably intelligent, I love this kind of stuff, John Burns can certainly tell a story and Kek-W wrote Second City Blues; a strip that I not only understood, but which holds a particularly dear place in my affections. What is it about The Order that makes it so abstruse?

Mind you, I dont fully follow Deadworld either, but I'd always put that down to the art.

SBT
 

Magnetica

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #8 on: 04 August, 2020, 03:33:19 PM »
The art is definitely not the problem with The Order - I had no problem with Burns’ art on Dante, the Bendatti Vendetta or Judge Dredd.

I can’t follow Deadworld either.

With both I find there are too many characters and I’m often not sure who they are or what their motivations are.

Southstreeter

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #9 on: 04 August, 2020, 04:17:47 PM »
This is brilliant - more please! I’ve always loved The Order, but series 3 and 4 were a struggle to comprehend. I really really hope we get some collected editions - hopefully the UC will gather most of it together.
I also struggle with Deadworld. I think you have to commit to Kek-W’s stuff from the start. If you find yourself skimming the first couple of series because it doesn’t immediately grab you, it’s really hard to catch up later on.

Daveycandlish

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #10 on: 04 August, 2020, 04:56:16 PM »
I’m glad it’s not just me who is reading it and not following it! I don’t recall what the hell happened in last weeks episode never mind four years ago  :o :-\
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redsquirrel

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #11 on: 05 August, 2020, 08:15:37 AM »
Thanks TordelBack this is really great. I'll echo the above and admit that I'm another who's got somewhat lost with the plot of The Order so this summary is really helpful

TordelBack

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #12 on: 05 August, 2020, 12:37:30 PM »
Only the second entry in this series, and already a correction: The Order actually started in Prog 2015 (Christmas Version), not Prog 1912 as stated above (and on Barney!).  Luckily the last of the year-named progs. I'm still struggling to finish my account of the many lives of Ritterstahl, which I'd hoped to post last night, so instead I thought I'd just do a quick explainer for the context of this week's episode. SPOILERS are extensive, total even.

Land of the Free Part 10 (Prog 2193)
Francis Bacon's mechanised forces have tracked Antoine Berg to the Edge, the extradimensional realm of almost-was at the boundaries of time itself, and overwhelmed the ghost-city of Philae-Delphia, refuge of the Order and its allies. 

Berg is half-wyrm, his mother the first wyrm to ally with the Order back in 1641, and his peculiar senses allow him to locate wyrm portals, supposedly including one to the Wyrmrealm. This is represented by his bendy finger pointing the way, although in this instance it is reacting to the presence of a severed part of him that Bacon's remote-controlled automata hold.

Bacon is using this tendril that Berg left behind in Paris in 1793 to track the rest of him. Orignally it seemed Bacon's purpose here was to find the Wyrmrealm and locate the remains of the Ritterstahl version who was lost there in 1641, so that he can learn how to transfer his consciousness out of his failing 233-year old cyborg body. Gaining a 'perfect, indestructible' body is a pressing matter for Bacon, as he is romantically obsessed with the long-lived Atlantean Queen Izta, who he now appears to be controlling.  However Bacon recently took possession of the head of one version of Ritterstahl from the 12th Century (Inbetween Days, Prog 2182), but I'm speculating that this one may be of limited use to him because Ritterstahl didn't learn how to transfer his mind to wyrmflesh golems until the 13th C (Series 1 of The Order). But it could be that he already has what he needs, and his motivations are something else...

Bacon and Izta were key members of the Order in late 16th C London (Series 2: In the Court of the Wyrmqueen), when he was a teenage genius secretly love with the leatherclad motorbike-riding gunne-totting queen, coming up with ever-more precocious inventions to impress her.

When Irish servant Daniel Calhoun showed up carrying the consciousness of Ritterstahl in his noggin, Izta fell for him instead, eventually marrying and having two chldren with him. 60 years later they fell out over a plan to save Anna Kohl that put Atlantis and their family at risk, and Izta threw Daniel out. Bacon remained with her in Atlantis, by then an old man and already repairing himself with bionic parts, and it seems that he never did win her heart.

Berg needles Bacon about this as he's trying to distract him from his pursuit of La Victoire, but it's not clear to what extent petty hatred of Daniel is a big motivation for him, as opposed to gaining immortality, conquering the world and finally winning Izta's heart.

Bacon's giant automaton has defeated Armoured Gideon (and conveniently removed the one-eyed head that he conspicuously lacked in his own series), and as he tries to squish the flexible Berg, Cassiopeia Jones leaps to the rescue in the interdimensional train the Cannonball Express. 

broodblik

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #13 on: 05 August, 2020, 12:47:29 PM »
Barney deems Prog 2015 xmas special as a special and not as part of the regular line-up. I am sure it will give a reference to the xmas prog somewhere
Old age is the Lord’s way of telling us to step aside for something new. Death’s in case we didn’t take the hint.

The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short, and the pen is very sharp.

TordelBack

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Re: Unravelling History: a guide to The Order
« Reply #14 on: 05 August, 2020, 01:12:37 PM »
Barney deems Prog 2015 xmas special as a special and not as part of the regular line-up. I am sure it will give a reference to the xmas prog somewhere

It does indeed (never doubt Barney!), I just didn't see it, only the bit that said "The Order, 12 Episodes, Progs 1912-1922". I'm just thankful we've ditched that annual-naming scheme...