This week’s recommendation is a big name, but I would like to reiterate that if at least someone hasn’t read a fantastic comic then it is worth my time to recommend it. I am also hesitant to give any plot details whatsoever, as I believe it should all be experienced first hand. The Order of the Stick is a long running, fantasy parody comic with pithy gaming humor and complex, cerebral story lines worthy of the high fantasy pulp novels that inspire it. The art, while simplistic on the surface, will surprise you with it’s range of expression and flexibility. The story begins with one shot jokes that point out the practical failings of actually living in a Role-Playing Game as the characters discuss their levels, skill points, and passing their skill checks as if they were brushing their teeth or walking the dog. Very quickly and subtly an over-arching plot develops, and then another, and then another, and then they weave together deftly into one mind-boggling overarching storyline. The characters, which at first appear to be a fairly simple collection of fantasy trope characters, slowly reveal interesting depths and motivations. One character’s lack of explicit gender at first seems to be a simple joke, but over time becomes one of the most notable challengers of traditional gender roles I know of. The romances are also one of the most realistic and human parts of the story. Despite their cartoonish fantasy world they have all too familiar ambitions of a great romance, achieving mastery over their skills, building a family or a fortune, or simply finding some stability. The villains themselves are complex and challenge the black and white notion of good and evil in a fantasy universe. Thanks to one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time, The Order of the Stick is also available in its entirety in print.
Author Richard Burlew was formerly a professional graphic designer. A long time player and GM of Dungeons and Dragons campaigns, Burlew has also contributed to the Dungeons and Dragons monster manual and other canonical publications. The comic has updated mostly consistently over the course of it’s nearly decade long publication, although a private chronic condition occasionally prevents updates. In September of 2012, a serious hand injury prevented publication for a long stretch, but after surgery and physical therapy updates are back up to full swing with Burlew reporting he has made nearly a complete recovery.