9 Rated Books Neil Gaiman Week

Gaiman Week – Graphic Novel Review: Marvel 1602

Title: Marvel 1602

Author: Written by Nel Gaiman, penciled by Andy Kubert, painted by Richard Isanove; covers illustrated by Scott McKowen

Genre: Comic Book/ Fantasy

Stand Alone/Series: Originally a series of 8 comic magazines. I am reviewing all issues, combined in one volume as per the cover above.
Summary: In Marvel 1602, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman and artist Andy Kubert present a unique vision of the Marvel universe set four hundred years in the past. Classic Marvel icons such as the X-Men, Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four and Daredevil appear in this intriguing world of 17th-century science and sorcery, instantly familiar to readers, yet subtly different in this new time. Marvel 1602 combines classic Marvel action and adventure with the historically accurate setting of Queen Elizabeth’s reign to create a unique series unlike any other published by Marvel Comics.
Review:
Marvel 1602 is a series of comic books published by Marvel in 2003 in 8 single issues which were later combined into one single volume. The premise of the story is that a bunch of Superheroes and Villains from the Marvel Universe (The X Men, Nicholas Fury, Spider Man, Dr Doom, etc) have been adapted to the 17th Century, Elizabethan times.
I bought the Graphic Novel not only because it is written by Neil Gaiman but also because it sounded too cool not to. The prospect of having Marvel characters mingled with historical figures such as Queen Elizabeth and King James in a different time period, was exciting and sounded like pure fun. And so there was I: thinking I was going to play a game of “Let’s Pretend the Marvel Superheroes were born in Elizabethan times” and nothing else.
Oh Ana. You fool. You really should know better by now.
The whole thing caught me completely unawares and I went from “Hey, this is fun” to “Hey, this is genius”.
It all begins in 1602 and Sir Nicholas Fury is Queen Elizabeth’s chief intelligence officer, responsible for Shielding (hee) her from any menace. He is aware that something perilous is brewing in the horizon and is worried.

Sir Nicholas Fury
The Queen’s Physician, Doctor Strange (an alchemist and magician ) also feels that something is approaching but can not quite tell what – but he knows that it has something to do with a treasure that the last of the Knights Templars is bringing to England.

Doctor Strange
Elizabeth then orders Sir Nicholas and his apprentice Peter Parquagh (yes, the Elizabethan counterpart of Peter Parker, aka spider-man – in this version he is nothing but a boy and has no powers) to get the Templars’ treasure, which is believed to be a weapon.
Sir Fury then sends one his associates to meet the Templar’s envoy en route and secure the weapon ahead of him. This associate of his is no other than the blind Matthew Murdoch (which we know as the Daredevil in the modern world), musician and undercover agent who departs to the continent to meet the Old Man – the one that is carrying the weapon.

Matthew Murdoch – Musician and Acrobat and special agent of Sir Fury
But he is betrayed by Natasha the woman that had been accompanying him in his mission and who is working for Count Otto Von Doom, ruler of Latveria. Von Doom has mysterious dealings with unseen prisoners in his castle and is concocting a master plan to rule the world. Muwahahaha.

Count Von Doom – “The Handsome”
Meanwhile all over the world strange things are happening, the freaky weather worries people and rumors of the end of the world are spreading.
In other parts of the world, real historical figure Virginia Dare, first person to have ever been born in the Americas in the Roanoke Colony is on her way to England with her Indian companion Rojahz,

Virginia Dare on her way to meet Elizabeth
whilst in Spain, the Holy Inquisition growns strong with High Spanish Inquisidor Enrique capturing and killing the witchbreed – the name that mutants go by in this alternate universe

An Angel in the clutches of Inquisition
But one Carlos Javier has created a boarding school to keep the witchbreed safe and where his students learn to fight and protect themselves:

Roberto Trefusis, Scotius Summerisle, Hal McCoy and “John” Grey, who is in fact, a woman. And a rescued Angel.
All of these seemly unrelated plotlines at first appear to concur with my first impression on how this would only be a “what if the Marvel heroes…” but soon it becomes clear to us and to the characters that the world they live in is in danger, something is causing the freaky weather and the strange happenings, the universe is about to be destroyed and all of these heroes have been somehow misplaced in time and were born 400 years earlier that they were supposed to!

And so they must come together to try to figure out what exactly is going on. Who is enemy and who is friend? And as the plot unfolds, I was so engrossed in the story, trying to figure out who is who as some of the characters are not what they seem. A couple of the superheroes or supervillains are not easily recognizable at first sight and one particular revelation had me screaming at the pages and Dear Partner rushing into the room thinking the house was on fire. (I tried to explain what was going on but only managed to get “The Look” . But I digress).

I realize that this review is rather choppy and cryptic – but if I said more or explained the plot better I would be robbing you of the pleasure of seeing things come into place before your eyes.

Marvel 1602 was extremely fun to read and I enjoyed myself immensely. My one peeve? That Wolverine was not included in the fun too. So not fair.

Notable quotes/ Parts: HA! The explanation to WHY and HOW these things are happening in 1602 is brilliant!

Verdict: a perfect mixture of the coolness of the Marvel Universe with historical facts and with the usual brilliance of Neil Gaiman’s imaginative tales and fantastic artwork. A must read. A word of caution : your enjoyment level will certainly be higher if you know your Marvel superheroes.

Rating: 9, Damn Near Perfection. It may not have the depth that we have come to expect from Gaiman – as for example in the Sandman books, but the fun factor totally makes up for it.

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3 Comments

  • Thea
    July 1, 2008 at 7:38 am

    Ok, I am completely sold on 1602 now! I can’t get over Peter Parquagh, haha!

    Really, great review, this sounds much more interesting than the initial impression I had of the book–which was more along the lines of what you say here, “let’s see what Marvel superheroes would be like in the 17th century, wearing funny hats and saying thou and thine and such”.

    I love the artwork too–it manages to convey the era but still look smooth and eye-catching.

    **Oh one question, why does Doctor Doom look exactly the same? Hahahaha! I suppose the traditional hooded cape and heavy metal blends pretty seamlessly in the Elizabethan era 😉

  • Ana
    July 1, 2008 at 7:46 am

    Oh Thea you MUST. The whole thing is freaking brilliant! I didn’t even mention OTHER characters that appear so that I wouldn’t spoil the surprise factor *ninja*

  • Kate
    July 1, 2008 at 8:26 am

    Ok, this sounds seriously cool – from a gal who’s read exactly one graphic novel in her life.

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