Stephen's Reviews > Marvel 1602

Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman
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Feb 24, 12

really liked it
bookshelves: 2000-2005, comics-graphic-novels, alternative-history, retellings-reimaginings-and-mashes
Read from February 17 to 23, 2012 — I own a copy

Dear Mr. Gaiman and Nameless Marvel Suits:

I’d like to start this mostly favorable review by first dropkicking in the baby maker the marketing wizard who approved the decision NOT to include Wolverine in the story-line.
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Remember him…the surly, long-lived, fast-healing anti-hero who’s been your most popular character since “Hey bubbing” the Hulk for the Canadian government back in the 1980’s**. Yes, that guy. Not only was his absence noticed, but his persona would have been PERFECT for the tale. A big, smelly, hairy miss in my opinion.

** As a complete non-sequitur, I came across this gorgeously gory Hulk/Wolverine shot while I was image shopping for this review and could not pass up sharing…
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I don’t know where that image came from, but that is a memory. Consider it a bonus and small token of my appreciation for your willingness to read my drivel.
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Okay, now we can continue with the flattering fanboy filling portion of this review sandwich before I have to end with a final slice of gripe.

PLOT SUMMARY:

It’s the final months of Queen Elizabeth’s reign in England

The year is…duh….

Neil Gaiman uses this famous historical period as the canvas to create an alternative history that includes most of Marvel’s major players (*ahem* except Wolverine *ahem*) and a number of well placed minor ones. They included Toad for crying out loud...and yet no Wolvie. Stunning!!

Conspiracies are afoot involving rival factions and complicated politics and the search for a powerful relic (rumored to be magic) that is guarded by the remnants of the Knights Templar. Gaiman skillfully unveils and discourses on the necessary back story without losing any plot momentum.

One competing group is led by James of Scotland, whose hatred and prejudice against the “witchbreed” (aka mutants) becomes a central point of tension. Meanwhile, from his technologically advanced nation of Latveria, the powerful and mysterious Otto von Doom is moving various pieces around the board...and permanently removing others.

Who will obtain the relic and assume control of the ultimate power in this Game of Thrones...

Well don’t look at me…read it for yourself.

Ably assisting the Queen are the duo of Sir Nicholas Fury, the Queen’s Intelligencer:
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and Dr. Stephen Strange, the Queen’s Physician. Both characters are well drawn and it was nice to see them play such a major role in the tale...

...if only Wolverine could have joined them.

One of the interesting accessories that Gaiman uses to dress his story is the incorporation of the historical Spanish Inquisition but modified to fit the needs of the story. Led by the mysterious Grand Inquisitor, the Inquisition of 1602 is engaged, not just in religious-based slaughter, but all in a massive extermination of all witchkind, whose inhuman abilities clearly were granted by Satan in exchange for nefarious shenanigans.
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Of course, a certain non-walking, bald headed telepath named Xavier Javier has created a form of refuge, a school if you will, for these persecuted witchkind…I think you can see where this is going.

THOUGHTS:

Definitely an above-average Marvel story and Gaiman does his usual stellar job of prosing. Politically, Gaiman does an excellent job of marrying history with the changes required to make the narrative work and I really like the way he transported the basic persona of the characters into their 1602 counterpart. They are recognizable, but still unique.

Andy Kubert’s art works extremely well with the story and I thought his medieval take on characters hit the mark almost every time. Two of my favorites were the blind balladeer (secretly Fury’s top agent) Matthew Murdoch and the garrulous Beast:
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There are also a few characters that you will need to work at a bit to figure out and I won’t spoil the fun here. Plus a few surprise appearances that are nicely incorporated.

Overall, a very good story that could have been one of the best if not for my final gripe.

I was seriously disappointed with the tie-in to the Marvel Universe. It’s not that it wasn’t well done or interesting in its own right, it was. However, I would have much preferred if the book would have remained an alternative history “what if” as opposed to a “let’s tie this in to the continuum." I don’t want to give the specifics away but I was left thinking of this as more or less a typical Marvel story-line.

I still enjoyed it and the quality is there, but I can’t deny that I was bummed by how the story played out. It could have been so much more.

Oh well…

4.0 stars. Highly Recommended (despite my gripes).
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Comments (showing 1-50 of 50) (50 new)

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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways It could have been so much more.

So...status quo for Gaimanite scripture, then.

*flees thunderbolts*


Stephen BLASPHEMER.....
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Abhishek We could have a quiz on how many times you mentioned the absence of Wolverine in your review! :) Who does not love Wolverine, though, and presumably he is too big a character for Gaiman to mix up with the others (just a thot). Looking forward to reading this book....


message 4: by Wesley (last edited Feb 23, 2012 01:31PM) (new)

Wesley Wonderful review.


Stephen Wesley wrote: "Wonderful review."

Thanks, Wesley.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways >2 What a beautiful pic! Funny thing, I'm not afra*zzzapooowww*


Stephen And thus another of the unGaimanites is smote.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Fortunately, I have a few good Cylon friends and access to a resurrection ship. Nyah.


Stephen I bestow kudos for the BG reference.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways I'm still mad at "SyFy" for ending that show too soon. It was so good, and so much better than the 1970s version, and there was a lot more to go!

Explain to me again why I'm not Emperor of the Universe with the power to make people do what I want them to do.


Stephen Richard wrote: "Explain to me again why I'm not Emperor of the Universe with the power to make people do what I want them to do."

I've told you before...you must surrender to the will of Cthulhu.


message 12: by Megan (new)

Megan Excellent review I will add this to my stack of Neil Gaiman to read


Stephen Megan wrote: "Excellent review I will add this to my stack of Neil Gaiman to read"

Thanks, Megan. I'm glad you liked it.


message 14: by Lisa (new)

Lisa What?! Wolverine is missing from the story?! EPIC FAIL!


Stephen Ir certainly was, Lisa. I guess it is a credit to Mr. Gaiman that the story turned out to still be very good. But what a miss on Wolvie.


message 16: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat Wolverine is a pussy. *dons rubber-soled shoes, ducks and covers*


Stephen Kat wrote: "Wolverine is a pussy. *dons rubber-soled shoes, ducks and covers*"

Oh, Kat...see my response to Richard in post #2 and repent.;


message 18: by Kat Kennedy (new) - added it

Kat Kennedy Sometimes I so desperately wished I liked Gaiman's writing. This storyline is too interesting to pass up! And yet, I am loathe to give another Gaiman novel a bad rating.

Excellent review - and I concur. The absence of Wolverine seems like a very strange decision.


Stephen I love Gaiman, but I certainly understand the feeling, Kat. I hope the graphic novel format makes this more appealing for you.


Jonathan They have Wolverine in the Marvel Noir range perhaps you'd like that I certainly found it interesting...


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Kat wrote: "Sometimes I so desperately wished I liked Gaiman's writing. This storyline is too interesting to pass up! And yet, I am loathe to give another Gaiman novel a bad rating."

Never be afraid to call bad writing by its proper name. If that's what it looks like to you, then say so! That's what reviews are for.

And be sure to let Stephen know about your most negative reviews of Gaiman. It's fun to watch his hair ignite.


message 22: by Kat Kennedy (new) - added it

Kat Kennedy Ha! Thanks, Richard! I believe he's read most of them.

I don't hate him, but I also don't really get the love fans hold for him. To me, he is somewhat mediocre. However, I did enjoy Sandman more than the three of his novels I've read - so I might give this one a go.


message 23: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Wow. Awesome. Gaiman. Perfect.


Stephen Richard wrote: "And be sure to let Stephen know about your most negative reviews of Gaiman. It's fun to watch his hair ignite..."

Apparently the initial shock has worn off, I will give you a moment to prepare for round two...but it won't help.


Stephen s.penkevich wrote: "Wow. Awesome. Gaiman. Perfect."

Thank you, good sir. Nice to have another voice on Team Gaiman. Oh Richard, do you hear us calling?


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Stephen wrote: "s.penkevich wrote: "Wow. Awesome. Gaiman. Perfect."

Thank you, good sir. Nice to have another voice on Team Gaiman. Oh Richard, do you hear us calling?"


*snort* You and Sven are a good team, but no match for 46 years of novel-reading. Sorry lads, the man has superb ideas and can write terrific sentences and cannot make a plot come right to save his immortal soul. In a novel, I hasten to add, since I've never read one of his comics.

Wow. Something about writing it down makes forty-six years of novel-reading, starting with Professor Diggins' Dragons, really depressingly real. Longer than you've been alive! Longer than Sven's parents have been alive! Wow.


Stephen Man did you ever ask for this...INCOMING
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways To quote from my favorite film of the 1970s, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, "Be Just and Fear Not."

*brushes soot and singed hairs off lapels*

I fear nothing...my words are just.

*runs for cover*


message 29: by s.penkevich (new)

s.penkevich Stephen wrote: "Man did you ever ask for this...INCOMING
"


Devestating haha.

Gaiman is just so fun, I've only recently got into him, aside from Sandman, but I'm glad I did. It's nothing too complex but his words flow like sweet honey.


Stephen s.penkevich wrote: "Gaiman is just so fun, I've only recently got into him, aside from Sandman, but I'm glad I did. It's nothing too complex but his words flow like sweet honey."

Preach on, good Sir Penkevich. You are speaking pearls.


Stephen Richard wrote: "To quote from my favorite film of the 1970s, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, "Be Just and Fear Not."

No fair preaching from the sacred texts.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Stephen wrote: "Richard wrote: "To quote from my favorite film of the 1970s, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, "Be Just and Fear Not."

No fair preaching from the sacred texts."


Hmmm...so *I* can't but *YOU* can...hmmm


Stephen Richard wrote: "Hmmm...so *I* can't but *YOU* can...hmmm."

Exactly. I am glad we were able to agree on that blatant double standard debate criteria.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Oh dear...as I suspected...Stephen is a Republican.

*ignites torch, sharpens pitchfork, summons lynch mob*


Stephen You will retract that hate speech or I shall be forced to taunt you a second time. I am a proud Cthulhucan and we HATE both political parties and work for the day that they are lined up and fed to Tsathoggua
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways LOL That's priceless O Cthulhucan!


message 37: by Kat (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kat Cthulhu for President in 2012! Why vote for the lesser evil?

On a side note- Gaiman's work in graphic novels/comics is awesome, I find. His short prose is excellent-if you've never read one of his short story collections, you'll find that they have a very different flavor from his novels. I love his novels, but his short stories are carefully cut and polished gems of writing.

By the way, Wolverine still sucks! Maybe being on team Gaiman saves me from the lightning bolt?


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways Kat wrote: "Cthulhu for President in 2012! Why vote for the lesser evil?

I've been wondering about that. Draft Cthulhu 2012!

By the way, Wolverine still sucks! Maybe being on team Gaiman saves me from the lightning bolt? "

I wouldn't count on that. *hands Kat rubber-soled shoes*


Stephen Kat wrote: "By the way, Wolverine still sucks! Maybe being on team Gaiman saves me from the lightning bolt?..."

I will show leniency because of your brilliant, insightful comments about Neil Gaiman.

Kat wrote: "his short stories are carefully cut and polished gems of writing..."

I couldn't have said it better.


Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways In order to avoid another shellacking via electrical discharge, I offer as a peace pipe to the Gaimanite community this piece of news: "{The Anti-Novelist} has started his own audiobook line called Neil Gaiman Presents. Using Audible’s platform, he’s working with authors and narrators to produce audiobooks of some of his favorite novels that have not yet been produced in audio. I listened to two of his first offerings this week: Light by M. John Harrison and Pavane by Keith Roberts. Light was too dark (that sounds weird) but I enjoyed Pavane. I also read the graphic novel Agatha Awakens, which is the first hardback omnibus of the first three volumes of Phil & Kaja Foglio’s GIRL GENIUS comic. It is absolutely gorgeous and the best way to experience this comic."


Jonathan Oh only summoning lightning bolts are we? Why not go for something bigger!

description


Stephen Now THAT is epic...very nice, Jonathan.


message 43: by mark (new) - rated it 3 stars

mark monday fun review! i'm halfway through this one myself. excellent so far.

Richard only says he scorns Neil Gaiman because he actually is Gaiman. Gaiman is very modest! but Richard is fooling no one. wait, or is he Alan Moore? i just know he is one of them.


Anthony Chavez s.penkevich wrote: "Stephen wrote: "Man did you ever ask for this...INCOMING
"

Devestating haha.

Gaiman is just so fun, I've only recently got into him, aside from Sandman, but I'm glad I did. It's nothing too ..."


This is funny because I have only read a good chunk of Sandman and 1602 so far by him.


message 45: by Mark (new)

Mark Great review as always.

Wondrously nightmare inducing pictures, especially the poor bloke impaled by his own ripped off arm and that I think is my prob with these books and why I shall just experience them vicariously. Have picked up one or two of them at different times in the bookshop intending to 'have a go' but they chill me to the core so they shall remain an unknown for me I think but as i said, Great review.


Stephen Anthony wrote: "This is funny because I have only read a good chunk of Sandman and 1602 so far by him."

I need to read the next couple Sandman volumes. I've been away from that world too long.


Stephen Mark wrote: "Great review as always.

Great review as always.

Wondrously nightmare inducing pictures, especially the poor bloke impaled by his own ripped off arm and that I think is my prob with these books and why I shall just experience them vicariously. Have picked up one or two of them at different times in the bookshop intending to 'have a go' but they chill me to the core so they shall remain an unknown for me I think but as i said, Great review."


Thanks, Mark. There is certainly some dark material out there and I know that turns a lot of people away. If you are a fan of Gaiman, I think you might find this a nice place to crack the ice. Well written and without any nightmare imagery. Just a good solid story.


Abhishek Many people might have already argued about Wolverine's absence. And so with the fear of repetition if such is the case, I say that I found his absence refreshing for he would have occupied too much of my mind. There are already some strongly carved out personalities in this tale, that adding Wolverine would have been a burden to carry. Heck, another story line would have been needed for when has Wolverine ever followed anyone's path!? Loved Matt as the 'lone ranger' though!


message 49: by Eric (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric Funny, I just finished reading this (late to the party, I know) and I was kind of relieved that Wolverine wasn't the focus, and other characters like Doctor Strange and Dare Devil got some quality time. I think it also has to do with this, and since it is almost three years since you wrote the review, maybe you are feeling the strain of this by now also: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php...


message 50: by Dawn (new) - rated it 3 stars

Dawn Frankly, I was just as glad not to see Wolvie in it. He's horribly over-exposed IMHO as it is. And I truly cannot think of a role in this he could have taken that would not have been superfluous. On the other hand, I agree about this being connected to the 616 universe; it should have simply been one of the many alternates gone horribly wrong (and who didn't need the Exiles to fix it, either).


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