The name Neil Gaiman on a book is entirely irresistible to me. I have read most of his novels, several of them more than once (Neverwhere is a particular favourite), and much of his comic book work as well (The Books of Magic is a particular favourite). But I had somehow missed this time-displaced Marvel superhero romp until a couple of years ago, when I happened up on the trade paperback at a garage sale.
That was a good day.
Collecting all eight issues of this limited series, Marvel 1602 is Gaiman at his most amusing, inventive and irreverent, as he takes us to Elizabethan England. The Queen’s spymaster is Sir Niccolo Fury; his assistant, Peter Parquagh; his compatriots, schoolmaster Carlos Javier and physician Stephen Strange. From blind balladeer Matthew Murdoch to the “Witchbreed” Scotius Somerisle to Master Jean Grey, the entire comic is as much a fun game of spot-the-superhero as it is a commentary on religion, monarchy, history, colonialism and institutional hatred.
In the midst of eerie weather patterns and predictions of the end of days, a young woman arrives from the New World, asking for aid for the Colony of Roanoke. Meanwhile, the Spanish Inquisition is hunting down everyone who is different, and Count Otto von Doom is holding a brilliant scientist prisoner — long thought lost on the good ship Fantastick — while plotting to assassinate the English Queen.
So clever, full of Marvel in-jokes but also profound insights into humanity, 1602 is a remarkable achievement of a comic book, one that tangles together science fiction and fantasy and comic lore and history to make for a wholly enjoyable experience for Marvel fans and Gaiman fans alike. (I happen to be both.)
TBR DAY 8: Marvel 1602 written by Neil Gaiman; illustrated by Andy Kubert and Scott McKowen
GENRE: Comic Book/Superheroes
PUBLISHED: Comics: 2002; Trade Paperback: 2012
TIME ON THE TBR: 2 years?
PURCHASED FROM: Garage sale. I paid $3. Amazing.