The year was 2011. The challenge was epic: Over 800 updates of possibly the wordiest webcomic to have ever graced the stage of the Digital Strips “book” club. Steve and Jason tackled them all, and came out on the other side changed men – with strong opinions on what makes a good webcomic great and a great webcomic… something that might want to consider prose.
It was Rich Burlew’s The Order of the Stick and it’s time, fellow adventurer, to return to the bookmark we left in this comic all those years ago.
It’s almost funny that, although nearly six years have passed since the Digital Strips Book Club last looked at this comic, only 274 new strips have been uploaded – just a shade over the number Steve and Jason looked at for the last few episodes of their review. I reckon this makes it a perfect time to follow up and see what’s been happening in the comic over these last few years (obviously, spoilers below if you’re not caught up – although a great place to get back up to speed can be found right here).
When we left the comic, at Strip #831, Head Henchman Redcloak, leader of the evil Lich Xykon’s goblin forces, had just revealed his master plan to the unfortunate necromancer Tsukiko in Azure city (which went about as well for her as you can expect). Meanwhile, in another part of the continent, the Order itself was gearing up to uncover Girard’s gate and – finally – get the drop on Xykon.
And… wow. Has some dramatic stuff happened in the comic since then.
The Linear Guild has been destroyed, with Durkon dispatching Zz’dtri the Drow and Elan’s evil twin Nale being killed by his own father about a hundred strips after the Book Club finished. And that drastic action was taken only after Nale himself brutally murdered Malack; vampire and member of Tarquin’s “Vector Legion,” which has also effectively dissolved after Tarquin’s defeat by the Order. Also, did we mention that the second gate was destroyed? Meaning we’re only one gate away from the Snarl devouring the entire universe? Also, that.
But the most shocking, and certainly most impactful scene of death and destruction was the exsanguination of our favourite dwarven cleric, Durkon, in strip #877. Durkon’s subsequent vampirism became the driving force behind much of the story between then and now. True to the words of the oracle all the way back in strip #331, Durkon’s death has, in recent strips, resulted in his return to dwarven lands. However, in a cruel twist the audience could see coming even if the Order’s leader Roy couldn’t, VampDurkon first betrayed the Order, revealing himself as the new high priest of Hel and finally cluing the Order in to the fact that he’s not actually the Durkon they once knew.
Durkon’s return to his homeland and the fulfilling of the Oracle’s prophecy, in conjunction with the impending discovery of the final gate, and the tying up of loose ends such as Nale and Tarquin point to something greater than mere story drama, though: the campaign is winding towards its close. Given Rich’s infamously irregular update schedule, that end may still be years off yet, but it’s definitely in sight. Rich himself has stated he doesn’t expect to get to Strip #2000 – which seems a long way off until you remember that according to his count (which includes all the strips he’s created for the books, multi-page updates and ‘supplementary material’) that number is nearly into the 1700’s, leaving us only a few hundred updates away.
So what can we expect to see in those final couple of hundred strips? Three things come to mind: we’re still waiting on the Oracle’s final prophecy to come true, the epic confrontation with Xykon (and Redcloak) at the final gate, and the revelation of just what the Snarl is (or at least what’s lying through the rifts). Oh, and of course the resolution of the vote to save the world and either the saving, or destruction, of VampDurkon. Personally, my prediction is that the dwarf will find a way to break free of his demon puppeteer just in time to be one of the few characters in fiction who gets to nobly sacrifice their life for their friends twice. Though if you have another theory, we’d love to hear it in the comments below!
And so, looking to the future and the final stretch of one of the longest-running webcomics on the net, we place our bookmark back in The Order of the Stick. Have you kept up with the comic since Steve and Jason delved into it five years ago? What are your thoughts on the way the plot has developed – do you see it wrapping up soon, or do you think Rich has a few more surprises in store for us? Let us know in the comments below or over on Twitter and until next time, remember: don’t eat the clickbait!