Title: Marvel 1602.
Writer(s): Neil Gaiman.
Illustrator(s): Andy Kubert.
Digital Painter(s): Richard Isanove.
Letterer(s): Todd Klein.
Release Date: August 2nd 2006 (first published October 29th 2003).
Genre(s): Comics, Science-Fiction.
My Overall Rating:
Retellings offer writers the chance to explore the core personality of heroes and villains as they pursue their lives in never-before-seen settings. Often, this allows readers to ponder questions that reshape their own understanding of life, faith, hope, and beliefs. What does destiny have in store for us? Will our decision-making process remain intact, favouring good or evil based on who we once were? Rediscovering the characters under different lights remains nonetheless revealing in ways that no one can see coming and this is the case with the beloved 2005 Quill Award winning graphic novel. Teamed up with illustrator Andy Kubert and digital painter Richard Isanove, award-winning writer Neil Gaiman presents fans with a stunning, thoroughly-researched, and historically-accurate origin story reimagining the faiths of beloved heroes and villains with the universe threatened to collapse.
What is Marvel 1602 about? Set during Queen Elizabeth I’s reign, the story presents classic Marvel icons in the midst of an apocalyptic event. The Queen’s court magician, Doctor Stephen Strange, speculates that powerful beings might be responsible for the environmental turmoil, forcing the Queen to ask Sir Nicholas Fury, her head of intelligence, to safely bring a secret treasure of the Knights Templar to Europe while it remains overseen by Stephen Strange. As they partake on their respective duties, they find themselves pulled into a web of conspiracy and treachery that will require them to find help where they least expect it. As the story unfolds, renown heroes and villains surge from the shadows to fight for their most profound causes while avoiding death from those who see them as anomalies.
“Omnia mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis. All things change, and we change with them.”— Neil Gaiman
Drawing upon his passion for mythology, writer Neil Gaiman explores the foundation of Marvel’s iconic superheroes as he establishes them in a Elizabethan historical era with a supernatural narrative twist where magic and mayhem go hand in hand. The story evolves in a gracious and folkloric pace that evokes prophecies and dreams, while continuously introducing beloved heroes and villains in unexpected roles and disguises. The clever twists in their respective personas make for an addictive and compelling adventure as each piece fits into the larger, more mysterious puzzle as readers hold onto the promise of a breathtaking climax. Whilst juggling many classic heroes at the same time, writer Neil Gaiman does accomplish a surreal job in delving into each of their most troubling existential dilemmas, whether it be moral responsibility or absolute justice. While well-versed readers will draw immense pleasure in identifying iconic events retold in this story, new readers will just as well appreciate the complexity of each subplot introduced and explored here.
Accompanied by Andy Kubert’s rough and archaic artistic style, the story takes on a life of its own, one that alludes to legends and fables. Traditional white gutters (the space between and around panels) is substituted for an absorbing black to take over, easily allowing the story to embrace its darker and dreadful atmosphere. Richard Isanove’s digital paint also magically fills the pages with a unique tone that conveys a time where sorcery and mysticism where commonplace. While fluidity in movement is not the priority in terms of panel transition, the artwork rather focuses on capturing the gravitas of key events in the narrative, evolving and steering the plot towards its resolution. Leave it to writer Neil Gaiman to also surprise readers with the reveal of beloved characters with unique designs, whether it may be the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, or Daredevil. It’s safe to say that he succeeded in establishing this graphic novel among the best Marvel stories out there for new and old fans to discover.
Marvel 1602 is a compelling and telltale reimagining of the Marvel Universe as heroes and villains engage in a historical battle bound to shape their lives forever.