Saturday, October 26, 2013

Graphic Novels - Marvel: 1602

So, Neil Gaiman… I've got nothing. To tell you the truth, I don’t know much about him. All I know about him is that he worked on some comic book series  called Sandman, he’s written some Doctor Who episodes, and he’s an author of weird stuff. I’ve found out that he’s apparently pretty good at that writing thing. Today’s trade is called Marvel: 1602. This 8-part miniseries was released in 2003. I ran over this trade at McKay’s and it piqued my interest. It’s basically an extended “What-If” comic book. “What-If” books are Marvel’s equivalent of DC’s Elseworlds or Imaginary Stories. The main idea for this book is this: What if the Marvel Universe started in 17th century Europe instead of 20th century New York?

Gaiman is the writer of this adventure. The artist providing the pencils is Andy Kubert. I’ve talked about him a little bit before. He’s worked on books like Batman, X-Men, Wolverine, and the mini-series Flashpoint. The colors are done by Richard Isanove. He’s mostly known for his work on Wolverine: Origin and The Dark Tower series from Marvel. The covers to the miniseries (they also appear at the beginning of each issue in the trade) were done by Scott McKowen. Since this mini-series is pretty dense and somewhat confusing, I’ll just be giving you a really basic plot and my opinion.

The basic plot revolves is this: Marvel characters popping up in 17th century England. For some reason, they are being born and bred in this era. A lot of them also have the same positions they have in the current Marvel Universe. For example, Sir Nicholas Fury is head of the Queen’s secret intelligence group, Carlos Javier heads a school for gifted youths, and Otto von Doom’s a dictator. In the story, Europe is being plagued by unnatural weather and this is a sign for the end of the world. Our Marvel characters have to find out the cause of the weirdness and deal with 17th century Europe. This is the time of the Spanish Inquisition, the death of Queen Elizabeth I, and the rise of King James of Scotland.

Man, Spider-Man fans might be peeved since Peter does nothing that awesome. I like that!

The Marvel characters that are involved are pretty much the one that appeared up to 1969. So, if you’re wondering if Sir James Howlett aka “Wolverine” is in the book, keep wondering because he ain’t here… or he’s one of the random drunks. We see versions of Nick Fury, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange, Peter Parker, the original X-Men, The Brotherhood of Mutants, and a ton of other characters from that decade. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see some characters like Iron Man or the villainous “ZANTE!” (Trademark Steven Lacey) here. Also, some characters in the story get passed over for other characters. Still, there’s a lot to chew on and it’s cool to see who shows up.

You'd think people in Europe would be fawning over a man with angelic wings. That's not the case here!

I thought the story itself was pretty interesting. We have these characters popping up for some reason and living in this era. The way Strange tries to figure it all out is was pretty cool.  Through his magickry(?), He ends up running into Uatu the Watcher. Through ‘ole Baldy, Strange finds out that something came from the future that will potentially destroy the universe. The universe, in turn, counters this by making the Marvel characters show up 400 years earlier in Europe. There is a little twist when it comes to the cause. It’s believed that Virginia Dare, the first born child of the Roanoke colony, is the cause for it all. It actually ends up being someone really familiar. I won’t say who, but I will say that he has a movie coming out next April… by the way, that trailer was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!

I thought Gaiman melded the Marvel characters into the era pretty well. The characters I thought were pulled off pretty well were the mutant characters. I don’t know much about this era of Europe, but I do know that there was a lot of hate going on… just like now… Lord, help us. Anyway, this may be the only era that Doctor Doom would probably like. There was a couple characters whose role was pretty different from the norm. Peter Parquagh (Peter Parker) just spends the whole mini-series as a normal kid and as Fury’s assistant. Matt Murdoch (Daredevil) is a blind minstrel/secret butt-kicker who was funny and awesome. His favorite song was this tune about the Fantastick Four, a group of lost sailors.

Now this is one blind guy I would be wary of.

I also liked these characters. Most of them are in the normal roles they have in the regular universe. I did think this version of Jean Grey was different. I wish there was more elaboration on her reasons for cross-dressing… Yes, that happens. Read the book. Fury’s a BMS (Bad Motha-Sucka) in this book and it’s the white version by the way. He’s probably my favorite character in the whole series. He’s just awesome. My second favorite would be Matt Murdoch since he was also awesome and pretty funny. Other characters I really liked in this were Rojhaz, Grand Inquisitor Enrique (Magneto), Stephen Strange, Henry McCoy, and Sir Richard Reed.

This was probably the most awesome scene for Fury in the whole miniseries.

The artwork is really good and it’s definitely a highlight of the issue. Kubert does his best to make the entire cast of Marvel characters look like they belong in this period. He succeeds pretty well in that. I also thought the colors were pretty awesome. It gave the whole book a real artistic feel. It’s like going to an art museum and looking at art from this era. I read that they used a different technique for both the pencils and colors and that was pretty nice.
And here we have Sir Richard Reed contemplating the universe... nice.

I don’t have many complaints about the trade. I do wish that some things were better explained and some characters got fleshed out a little better. Some of the X-Men like Iceman get shafted a little bit. I also wished there was more elaboration on why Jean (or John) was a cross-dresser. I did think that King James of Scotland/England was just a stereotypical, power-hungry villain and not interesting. I guess since he was a real-life figure, Gaiman couldn’t do too much with him. Plus, the story isn't about him. One last thing is that I wish it was a little longer that it was. Other than those small complaints, this was a real good read.

If you’re a fan of the Marvel Universe or a Gaiman fan, check this out. If you’re looking for something different to read, I recommend it. It was definitely something different to read. I didn’t know what to expect when I got it. I also didn’t know that I would like it like I do. Well, I’m outta here. I’ve got to go prepare some stuff for next month. Peace, God Bless, and watch out for blind minstrels.


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