Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602 is his return to writing comics after a five-year absence. It’s a welcome return. The eight issue series isn’t some of his most intellectual material, but it’s a fun read. Gaiman is a master of storytelling and he brings lots of characters from the Marvel Universe and real people from history together in a comprehensive and cohesive way. Superheroes have appeared about 400 years too early, because of a rift that threatens the universe. Dr. Stephen Strange and Sir Nicholas Fury must find a way to prevent the end of the world.
A bunch of Marvel characters show up as old-timey versions of themselves. They have different but older versions of their names, like Peter Parker is Peter Parquah, and Charles Xavier is Carlos Javier, etc. Instead of mutants, they are referred to as “witchbreed”. Subtle twists like this add to the flavor of the story. Real historical figures play imports roles in the plot. Queen Elizabeth dies and is replaced by the crazy and powerful King James. Virginia Dare plays a central role. She was the first English baby born in America. She was part of the Roanoke Colony, which disappeared in real life, but was saved in this alternate universe by a huge white Indian named Rojhaz.
So there’s the main story about noticing the world is in trouble, finding out what’s wrong and how to fix it, and some people are good and some people are evil, and some people change loyalties, and eventually good defeats evil, and the world is saved. What’s cool about this story is that it celebrates history. Both Marvel history and world history. It’s a big “What If?” storyline, and it’s fun to explore all the different incarnations of well-known Marvel characters. The artwork is impressive, and the cover art also stands out.
Neil Gaiman is a great writer. This is him having fun writing. There are a lot of Marvel in-jokes and references. It spawned a few sequels, but this one is the best. He crams in a lot of characters, but keeps the storyline pretty easy to follow. There’s a good twist with Rojhaz and it makes you kick yourself for not realizing who he was earlier. Neil Gaiman is legit. Shitty last name though.
Critically Rated at 13/17