Sunday, 20 April 2014

Review - Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

This is a surprisingly enjoyable "What if?" storyline in the Marvel universe. Set at the end of Queen Elizabeth's reign in the year 1602, we discover a version of Europe where familiar characters from the Marvel universe have born our of their own time and place. Nicholas Fury is the Queen's eyes and ears. Certain Mr Murdock is an accomplished blind spy and Peter Parquagh is but a servant boy for Nick Fury. The members of the fantastic four are explorers.

Unlike many other "What if?" stories of similar nature, Neil Gaiman's version manages to be different enough from the core comics to offer a genuinely fresh look at some of the characters. They are not carbon copies of the mainline characters like in so many other similar What if? stories. They are products of their own time (the early 17th century, that is). Mr Murdock, for example, is not Daredevil, nor could one imagine him donning that costume. He's merely a blind man with similar capabilities who has found a role that fits him in this different era.

Unfortunately, Gaiman does not explore the early 17th century world very much and it mainly acts as a backdrop for his story. There would certainly have been opportunities to bind the superheroes' struggles more tightly with the era. Also, as is usual with superhero stories, the story becomes more and more fantastic towards the end, thereby losing even more of the sense of the historical period.

However, despite its weaknesses, I enjoyed this graphic novel far more than I have enjoyed many other Marvel comics in many, many years. Definitely recommended.