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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

cover of Marvel 1602

I've been enjoying Joss Whedon's X-Men so much, I thought I'd like to read some more comic books. When I was looking for something to read, this book caught my eye because of Neil Gaiman's name, and the concept of the book was intriguing enough to keep me looking at it. This book is a what-if, or alternate history: what if all the great Marvel heroes appeared in the 1600s instead of in our day and age? It's delightful to see these familiar characters drawn wearing period costume that is often uncannily similar to their modern outfits. It's also a fascinating idea-- these heroes have a difficult enough time in an age like our own; how would they fare in the world of the Inquisition, when those who were different were executed? It is a telling fact that the X-Men of this time are called "witchbreed."

Gaiman eventually does provide a reason for the appearance of these "marvels and heroes" before their time-- something or someone has punched through time and disrupted its flow, causing the heroes to show up now instead of centuries later. This both gives the story depth and provides a crisis that the heroes must deal with, lest this time singularity rip a hole in the cosmos and destroy the galaxy.

It is very entertaining to meet the different heroes and hear the variations of their origin stories-- for instance, the Fantastic Four were sailing on a ship to the new world and struck by some phenomenon in the Bermuda Triangle area. Gaiman also adds another interesting character, Virginia Dare-- the first person of European descent born in the Americas, at the colony of Roanoke. In some cases, to those like me who are not intimately familiar with all the many Marvel characters, it may not immediately be obvious who the different players are-- and it is entertaining to discover them later.

I found the story very engaging, and I liked the bigger revelations about certain characters. I was slightly disappointed with the ending, but that is in part because of what it may do to future stories (and I think there is a sequel coming, although it may not be written by Gaiman)-- it seems that the ending might make any further stories about these characters feel more trivial, less real; although, perhaps that is a silly concern on my part, since it is all an alternate history of fantastic, unreal characters to begin with.

Title:Marvel 1602
Author:Neil Gaiman, artwork by Andy Kubert
Date published:2005
Genre:Graphic Novel
Number of pages:248


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