Reviews: The Order Of The Stick
OotS, Arc 2: No Cure for the Paladin Blues (121-300)
The second story arc of Order Of The Stick is where everything really begins. It is here that Burlew formally introduces the overarching plotlines that drive the rest of the strip, including the political intrigue of Azure City and the significance of the Gates all over the land. Even with the expanded storyline, though, Order of the Stick retains the characteristic humor that made it so enjoyable in the first place. The comic begins similarly to the first arc in the beginning, with the story acting more as a frame for the various gag-a-day strips seen so far. However, once Miko Miyazaki shows up, the underlying story begins to take front and center. The transition is fairly gentle, though - even if one can tell that a more involved plot is coming, the story meanders around a while before finally reaching full speed towards the end. This works well for the style of the comic - Burlew understands that while a story may be needed to generate long-term interest, it was and still is the humor of the irreverent and self-referential OotS world that brought readers there to begin with. "No Cure for the Paladin Blues" also establishes that the members of the Order aren't entirely flat characters. Multiple cast members end up interacting with each other and enduring trials that leave them with a new outlook - sometimes for better, some times for worse. The cumulative changes are mostly subtle, and the casual reader may not notice it, but a long time fan might return to this arc and see it as the point where Roy or even Vaarsuvius begin to shift into the characters they are now. Burlew had the idea of Order Of The Stick's storyline for a long time running now, and it shows. Fans of Chekhov's Gun might find this arc to be a veritable armory. Foreshadowing spotters, take note. In summary: many readers will come for the no-holds-barred jab at fantasy conventions, and stay for the epic story worthy of its own fantasy novel. Whichever you're looking for, Order Of The Stick will not disappoint.
OOTS - THE Webcomic
As one of the many readers who learned about it on this site, I was skeptical at first, reading through all the references on many trope pages, but at some point I found myself following the links to OOTS pages, and I eventually read it all in a one-night Archive Binge (IIRC it was 791 pages long at the time), and I check for new pages almost on a daily basis, while re-reading scenes and arcs often enough as well. Yes, it's really that good, though, like everything else, it's not going to please everybody. Within the first two story arcs, you see the comic evolve from gag-a-day shenanigans, through a conventional RPG-derived comic and into what is essentially a Heroic Fantasy graphic novel (seriously, it's in print, including some prequels and other goodies), and a good one, despite bits of intentional Schizo Tech and lots of very intentional Lampshade Hanging, Affectionate Parody and even downright Deconstruction of basically every genre and work it references. The infrastructure of the webcomic fits its tone and story to a tee - tons and tons of pop culture references, a generally irreverent tone that goes from taking itself serious to Self Deprecating Humor seamlessly, and often instantly and without warning, as the story demands, and a simple-looking, highly utilitarian art style that is clearly designed to make it easier to maintain consistency and depict closeups and panoramas of large stretches of space with equal ease. Its other important advantage is the ease with which it conveys information: from a few simple lines and established conventions, you can tell whether a character is young, adult, old or ancient, what species, what gender (except when it's intentionally kept in doubt), and what mood they're in. There are technical artifices as well, especially in the later strips, but they tend to be understated in favour of the story and gags. Definitely worth a read, by the time it's finished, the Order of the Stick saga will probably be comparable to the works of the great masters of fantasy and story-telling in general, though it's still very much its own thing, set apart from them by its generally irreverent tone.
Three years ago, I got bored and decided to search "Stick Figure" on Wikipedia. On the page for Stick Figure, there was a link to the Order of the Stick's Wikipedia page. I clicked on the link and after finding out what the Order of the Stick was, when to it's website. I started reading the first few strips, but ultimately got bored and exited out. I forgot all about Rich Burlew's webcomic for another year. After rediscovering what the Order of the Stick was, I started reading the comic. Within two hours, I read all of the first story arc and a few strips of the next. Over the course of several more days, I read the entire strip up to 672: A Familiar Conclusion (mainly because that was the current strip and I can't see into the future). Since then, I've followed this comic devoutly. Ratings: Story: 4/5 The story is great. The early strips are somewhat lacking in plot, but later on, the story becomes very well-told. There are several annoying plotholes, which detract from the story, but the rest is (for the most part) good. Art: 5/5 The art, despite appearing to be simplistic, is very expressive and unique (though this is subjective.)
OotS, Arc 1: Dungeon Crawlin' Fools (1-120)
If you are reading this review, you undoubtedly found your way here after many, many references to it elsewhere on the site. If you simply want to ask, "Is the story worth my time?" then the succinct answer is "Yes." The Order Of The Stick starts off inauspiciously enough, with the misadventures of a Ragtag Bunch Of Misfits as they quest through a dungeon for XP and loot. Fortunately enough, this 120-strip block serves as the perfect hook into the series - it has all the genre-spoofing humor fans have come to expect from it, but without the burden that plot often lays on the newcomer. No fantasy storytelling or D&D convention is safe from Burlew's lampooning. The first 120 strips also lay the groundwork for what to expect when the main storyline kicks in - the reader meets the titular Order (from the ever-greedy Haley to the astoundingly violent Belkar), the Big Bad Xykon, and other important recurring characters and concepts (such as the story behind the Dungeon of Dorukan and the Gate he kept in his basement). Indeed, from as early as the first 20 strips, one can find evidence of Burlew's planning for the long run. One of Burlew's greatest strengths is the use of Chekhovs Gun and Schrodingers Gun; even the smallest detail may find itself in a future strip - or not. In short, "Dungeon Crawlin' Fools" (as the corresponding trade paperback is named) is the gateway drug into the Order of the Stick universe. The first few strips are great to pick up and laugh at, and once you're done, you can't help but keep on reading to see where the story will go next.