Written by Neil Gaiman, Art by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove, with covers by Scott McKowen
The premise of the series is simple: What if Marvel’s Silver Age superheroes had appeared in Britain of 1602, instead of the America of the mid-20th Century? The result is intricate, intriguing, and most of all, entertaining.
In this timeline, Nick Fury is Sir Nicholas Fury, Queen Elizabeth’s spymaster, and Peter Parker, sans his Spider Man super-powers, is Peter Parquagh, Sir Nicholas’ protégé. Carlos Xavier runs a haven for witchbreed (mutants) like himself whilst his nemesis The Grand Inquisitor (Magneto) has his own agenda in Spain. The Fantastic Four still gain their powers on a voyage to the remote frontier, but this time to the New World instead of outer space. Doctor Doom still rules Latveria, and is still a villain, but as a physically unscarred Count Otto Von Doom. Doctor Strange, Daredevil, Black Widow, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Captain America, Thor, Hulk and The Watcher are some of the other characters you’ll find subtly altered in these pages.
Overall all, Marvel 1602 lived up to my expectations. I liked reading about characters that were similar to my old friends, but different. I liked how Neil Gaiman entwined historical characters, like Virginia Dare, with fictional superheroes. And I loved the historically inspired covers.
Apparently it was the writer’s and artist’s creative choice, but I found the use of multiple, small panels, laid out in fairly standard patterns to be slightly disappointing. Something this epic, with all the historical details, needed larger panels and more dramatic layout. Perhaps, these small panels also dictated the simplified, slightly anachronistic, clothing choices for our heroes, so they could be as recognizable in their tight panels as if they were wearing their contemporary costumes.
While it was nice to see so familiar faces, it also meant that many of them were given short shrift -- the Hulk and Thor and the Fantastic Four particularly. Luckily, some of this may be addressed by the sequels: 1602 New World and 1602 Fantastik Four, but I don’t believe either has been collected into a graphic novel yet.
This graphic novel collects the eight book series. It includes the “script” for the first issue that Neil Gaiman delivered to Andy Kubert, a great addition for both aspiring comic book writers and artists. Scott McKowen also talks about the process behind the creation of his unique scratchboard covers in a short article. Plus there are several preliminary sketches of characters, as well as a couple of pages of the enhanced pencil art that Andy Kubert delivered to colorist Richard Isanove.