The Order of the Stick, by Rich Burlew, is a relatively recent success in the world of webcomics. There have been many gaming comics before him, and there have even been numerous rpg-specific gaming comics, but few were able to corner the niche as succinctly as he has. His comic is unique due to his art – we’ll get to that in a moment – but it also completely masters the art of gaming references as few others do.
It helps that the comic takes place entirely within a universe defined by a single game – Dungeons and Dragons. That allows it to have a lot of ‘inside jokes’ that might turn off those with no knowledge of the game. What let’s Rich surpass that is that, in the midst of the constant gaming references and jokes, he’s stealthily weaving an incredibly good story.
We have a ton of characters that readers get to know and love. We have evil twins, heroes that rebel against their expectations, secret backgrounds, unrequited love, and every other cliche in the book. And the fact that they are cliches is half the fun – and makes it all the more entertaining when our expectations are subverted.
The art itself, meanwhile, gives the comic a good bit of charm. The characters are stick-figures, but they are stick-figures done well. The strip is fun to look at, and is occasionally able to do especially nice visual effects through its own special style of art.
Today’s comic is a flashback to the Dawn of Time, which leads right into what appears to be the creation mythos of the comic’s entire world.
And it’s freaking amazing.
The creation myth itself seems, at least thus far, to be one of the best crafted mythologies I’ve ever seen. Coming up not just with alternate pantheons, but recognizing all of the pantheons seperately, as well as how they interact, goes far beyond the care and attention that normally is paid to such things in fantasy gaming universes.
It again emphasizes that Order of the Stick is not just a stack of gaming jokes that uses the comic as a delivery method. The jokes might pull people in, but the story is really what traps the reader there.
So we have this elaborate mythos that is developed, and it is slightly different than the normal art of the strip. Instead of the solid colors and clear lines of the norms, the tale of the history of the world appears in crayon.
Let me say that again – in crayon. Fuzzy, loose, frenetic colors that only mostly stay within the lines.
It’s genius. We have this world of stick-men, so it seems a logical conclusion that the dawn of time was made in crayon – its more primal, more basic, more youthful in this world.
So here is a strip that wins on every count. Cleverly crafted art to backdrop a dynamic and detailed creation mythos. The fact that it does this while ostensibly being a stick-figure comic about a fantasy gaming universe? Just icing on the cake.
Edit: Oh, and Order of the Stick appears to be updating every day this week. Cheers all around!