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on 26 April 2017
Fantastic period version of Marvel & X-Men characters. Very impressed, worth buying.
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on 24 May 2017
Interesting cross-genre take on the theme...
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on 25 April 2017
Loved the artwork, loved the story - kept its twists well hidden and kept a good level of intrigue and excitement
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on 17 May 2017
Extremely good value and the book arrived very quickly. I would definitely recommend the book as my son loves it.
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on 4 March 2017
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on 26 August 2012
After watching the latest X-Men movie, "Marvel 1602" seemed like a good follow-up to read - it's an Elizabethan re-imagining of the Marvel universe, with a lot of focus on the X-Men.

I picked up the trade paperback, collecting all 8 issues of the comic written by the legendary Neil Gaiman - usually a DC comics writing, so it's nice to see him taking a spin at Marvel.

The plot is exactly what it sounds like - as many Marvel heroes reimagined in Elizabethan style as possible. Sometimes the plot, a nice mystery with political intrigue and spy elements, gets pushed ahead in favour of cameos. This does weaken the story, but as long as you're a Marvel fan you'll still enjoy it - for the re-imaginings, the references and in-jokes, and the plot lines.

The dialogue is strong for a comic book and it fits the period. The period setting is well done, if confusing at points (there are dinosaurs. I have no idea why. Google eventually told me this was a reference to the Marvel 'Savage Lands'). The time period could have been used more blatantly, but it has lots of brilliantly rendered old-fashioned ships so I'll forgive it. It also uses some unexpected plot twists - a few famous Marvel characters appear towards the end that I didn't expect to show up.

The art style is relatively unique - pencils taken immediately into digital colouring, with a lot of the pencil lines still visible to give it a 'scratchboard look'. Skipping the inking stage definitely makes it stand out. But the penciller isn't always that great with faces - characters pull some really jarring, unnatural expressions. It gets less noticeable towards the end, maybe because I was more 'into' the story.

One thing I wish the collection had would be character bios, so that relatively new Marvel fans like myself could keep up. Sly references to their modern superhero names help clear this up, and if you're already familiar with the Marvel universe, you'll be fine - and you should really enjoy this.
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on 9 October 2006
The skies are in upheaval; there are whispers of a growing storm ferocious enough to end the world. Strange creatures (the witchbreed) are stalking the woods and hillsides, and a young girl and her burly native protector are undertaking the long and dangerous voyage from the american colonies back to england, bringing strange, awesome powers and warnings of a terrible fate back to the dying Queen Elizabeth. Against this background, the brilliant, twisted Count Otto Von Doom and the puritanical, mysterious Inquisition pursue their own terrible agendas...

Sound exciting? It is. I really love this book. It's a huge, wonderful "What if..?" story, but one like i'd never read before. The transposition of Marvel Comics' colourful cast of superheroes to Elizabethan england is a crazy, inpired notion that could only have come from Gaiman. The art is beautiful, though Andy Kubert (despite his daddy) is very much of the Jim Lee school of superhero drawing, so it is as limited and gorgeous as that heritage implies.

Why only three stars? It's undeniably flawed. There's far too much in it, so there's a panicky rush to resolution in the last half of the book that leaves several significant characters quite short changed in story terms. It reads magnificently for three-quarters of the page count, and just when you begin to think "there's no way he can resolve this in the space he has left..." certain important plot threads fall away, major characters abruptly take their leave or worse, just disappear into the background not to retake the spotlight again. In a time when comics find themselves stretching stories out beyond their natural or advised lengths, this is one story, at least, that could have stood to be half as long again as it turned out to be.

Anyway, i forgive it those cons on the basis of its wonderful list of pros. The conversation between Dr Strange and The Watcher is wonderful and bizzarre and beautiful; Peter Parker's place is surprising but fulfilling; The Invisible Woman's measured, rational debate with Donal over the merits of his summoning of a pagan god, is funny, heartbreaking and masterfully written. That's just a handful of the many things that make me love this book... It's flawed, but wonderfully readable.
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Admittedly expectations were going to be high when Neil Gaiman was signed to do a Marvel Comic. Gaiman's decision to create a unique vision of the Marvel universe set four hundred years in the past during the last days of the reign of Elizabeth Tudor, which certainly whetted my appetite to read this trade paperback collection of the mini-series. When you see Scott McKowen's scratchboard covers that ups the ante even more, and while there is certainly nothing wrong with Andy Kubert's art it is hard to look at those covers and not imagine the entire series done that way, even if it would take McKowen the rest of this decade to get it done.
So "Marvel 1602" begins in the throne room of Elizabeth, by the Grace of God Queen of England, where Sir Nicholas Fury, the head of her intelligence organization and Stephen Strange, the court physician, are meeting with her Majesty on a stormy night. Something powerful being kept in the city of Jerusalem, a weapon perhaps, has been offered to Strange and he has arranged for it to be transported to England. Something is in the air and while the trio talk lightly about how it might be the end of the world it just might. Meanwhile, in the High Tower of the Palace of the Inquisition in Spain, a familiar mutant awaits execution and on a ship bound for England from colony of Roanoke with the young Virginia Dare and her large bodyguard Rojhaz. These are just the first of the many pieces that Gaiman puts into play.
My initial thought while reading "Marvel 1602" was that he was overplaying his hand with his conceit of putting most of the original roster of Marvel superheroes into the time of Elizabethan England because he was working in a couple of dozen characters (including a couple of extremely familiar first line villains). I was thinking that he was simply juggling too many characters and that the best stories I have read putting familiar Marvel and DC superheroes in another place and another time have been fairly specific (e.g., Batman appearing in the London of Jack the Ripper). You might put an entire super group like the Fantastic Four into such a story, but in "Marvel 1602" Gaiman works in just about everybody and it would be easier to try and count on one hand the number of original Marvel characters who do not appear in these pages.
But then we learn that Gaiman is going for something more than an alternative history version of the Marvel Universe. There are forces at work that explain why Matthew Murdoch, Carlos Javier, and Peter Parquagh are running around in Merry Olde England and parts of the Continent. This is important because how much you like "Marvel 1602" probably depends on how much you think of the prime cause. Ultimately I think it is an okay idea, especially since it forces Gaiman to skirt the origin issues (so to speak) for most of these characters, and what there is often smacks of necessary convenience. However, if there is one thing we know about Neil Gaiman it is that the best way to appreciate his work is usually to look at it from a mythological perspective.
That perspective is important because ultimately what matters about the time period that Gaiman has picked is not the existence of the Inquisition and the strong parallels that immediately exists between religious persecution back then and the persecution of mutants that has always been a strong undercurrent (if not tsunami) in the world of the X-Men, but rather that this was the beginning of the epoch in human history where the Old World gave way to the new one that was being created in the Americas. That makes Virginia Dare the pivotal character in "Marvel 1602," and the second time through reading it pay attention to the character more as a symbol.
The final irony is that the more I appreciate the symbolism of Virginia Dare, the more I think it undermines the grand conceit of dressing up so many Marvel superheroes in Elizabethan garb. Instead I found myself wanting Gaiman to start over and basically begin with Virginia Dare and Rojhaz sailing on the ship to visit Queen Bess and not involve the other characters. Or, conversely, to leave the pair from Roanoke out of the picture and keep the focus on the Euorpean stage. Granted, each time we read "Marvel 1602" there will be more to unpack from Gaiman's storyline, but while it is quite interesting it does not rise to the heights of "Watchman" (insert your own classic graphic novel standard if you want) and I certainly do not overly interesting in seeing what Greg Pak and Greg Tocchini come up with following in the shoes of Gaiman and Kubert in "1602: New World."
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on 16 September 2006
Neil Gaiman is an excellent writer. Anyone who's read Neverwhere, American Gods or Anansi Boys should pretty much agree. He doesn't make things easy, his premises for writing are pretty off the wall, but he's worth the effort.

My girlfriend, god love her, bought me this as I was reading his books, and I love comics. I was unsure whether he could tranlate the suspense of his novels into comic-book format, but I have to say he's done it.

The artwork is of a high quality, not always as varied as I would like, but it is visually enticing, and compliments the story very well.

It is a good story too. The characters are almost seamlessly inter-woven with history, and readers of his novels will totally appreciate where his ideas are set. The marvelverse characters depicted are stereotyped into a legitimate role in the story, cleverly using the facets of characters like Dr Strange, Nick Fury, and the X-Men to full effect. There's plenty more people to read of here, and they are manipulated to fit in with an enticing plot and clever storyline.

My one very slight criticism, which doesn't apply to me but may to others, is that you aren't familiar with history, Gaiman, or marvel, is that it may seem confusing, even trite. It is only when you appreciate the writer, the setting and the characters that this graphic novel is shown for the excellent piece of work that it is. Well worth a read if not, but background knowledge is what transforms this book from another story into a fascinating concept.
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on 4 February 2010
Marvel 1602 has, as I have read from other reviews, seems to have been approached as a "What If...?" story.
Those unfamiliar with the "What If...?" tales, these are worlds in which something occurred differently; one example of a tale was a tale in which peter parkers aunt may died, instead of uncle Ben, then the issue would recount the resulting effects.
This book is not one of those tales. "Marvel 1602" is a fantastic world unto it's own, much like Marvels "Ultimate" universe.
The characters have depth, and the story is not about the novelty of marvel heroes being in existence 400 years early, the story is well thought out, and well executed, with multiple layers.
The story opens to 17th century England, where strange storms are becoming quite frequent, and are believed to signal the end of the world.
From this we (without wanting to give any spoilers away) follow Stephen Strange, the queens physician, who is trying to find the cause of these storms, and is also having a special weapon, brought to England for safe keeping. Charged with the weapons safety in transport to England is Sir Nicholas Fury, who arranges for an agent of his (Blind Bard, Mathew Murdoch) to meet the guard and secure the weapon.
We also meet Virginia Dare, and her native American body guard Rohjaz, who, in meeting the queen, Virginia is attacked, but saved by Rohjaz.
From here the story gets going, I am not going to go through it all (there is a lot to this story!) but rest assured it is a highly enjoyable read, perhaps one of the best marvel comics I have read to date.
The story is complex, it is not action orientated, so if you are looking for big face offs between heroes and villains, you may be disappointed.
If you're looking for an interesting read, and wanting to read an intelligent self contained story, then look no further, I highly recommend this book.
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