zarzal: (watership)
This must be my month to read about the 17th century. Today, in an effort to reduce some of the clutter that clogs our house, I sat down to go through a box of comics that had been sitting in a corner for a long, long time. It was my last pickup from the local comics store before I cancelled my subscription with them, and I had never actually read any of the giant stack...I think a lot of my free time then was given to watching anime, so the comics lost out.

One of the titles in there was Neil Gaiman's 1602. Normally I jump on anything Gaiman, but it was jumbled in with so many other titles I just ignored the stack and forgot about it. There's about 75-100 comics in there, which I will have to read sometime. At any rate, when they were all nicely sorted, I sat down for a little while to read a few. But which would be first? There was 1602, and Bone, and League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and Astro City...all so tempting, but 1602 appealed the most, perhaps owing to my Baroque delvings earlier.

Neil Gaiman is famous for Sandman, an incredible comic (or 'graphic novel'), sophisticated, mythic, and occasionally mindblowing, that was published through the 90's by DC Comics; he is also famous for other comics and prose works. He had not worked for DC's competitor, Marvel, so the 1602 project was announced with a lot of hoo-hah and fanfare. Where Sandman had very little connection to the greater universe of DC superheroes (Superman, Batman, etc.), 1602 was to be a rethinking, an AU if you will, of Marvel's pantheon in an 8-issue miniseries. What if, says the premise, there were superheroes in 1602? Elizabeth I is the Queen of England, something strange is happening across the world. What roles would the likes of Spiderman, the Fantastic Four, and the X-men have to play?

It's been difficult for Gaiman to top Sandman. I don't think he was trying to, in this case; I suspect he took on the project for amusement and a paycheck. It's not that it's not good; it is. It's probably the best Marvel product I've read in years (though that's not saying much), and I really enjoyed it. However, like many AU's, you spend a lot of time playing 'spot the characters' and determining how this version is different from canon, and the plot is just not as original as it could be. In the end, it's another 'save the multiverse' story, just like most of the crossovers that Marvel's been doing for much of its recent history. Not that those are bad...

Altogether a fluffy but fun read. There should be a trade paperback available (try your library), so if you are familiar with Gaiman or Marvel or both, I recommend it.

April 2017



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