Reviews – 1602 (Collected)

From the December 19, 2004 San Francisco Chronicle

…Neil Gaiman, author of “The Sandman,” transplants the Silver Age superheroes of Stan Lee, Steve Ditko and Jack Kirby to Elizabethan England in “Marvel 1602” (Marvel Comics; 248 pages; $24.99), illustrated by Andy Kubert with digital coloring by Richard Isanove.
…In Gaiman’s “Marvel 1602,” an elderly Queen Elizabeth lies near death. Her court physician, Stephen Strange, and Nicholas Fury, the head of her intelligence operation, work to keep a secret weapon from falling into the hands of her enemies. Aiding their cause are a giant blond American Indian, a blind Irish balladeer who can perform amazing gymnastics, and the members of a school for “witchbreed” with uncanny mental talents. Arrayed against them are the Spanish Grand Inquisitor, scientific genius Count Otto Von Doom and the armies of King James of Scotland.

It’s possible to follow “Marvel 1602” without any knowledge of Spider-Man, the X-Men, Daredevil or the Fantastic Four, but most of the book’s appeal lies in how Gaiman reimagines these iconic characters as their 17th century counterparts. Kubert and Isanove illustrate the action with skill and verve. “Marvel 1602” doesn’t strive for any kind of profundity, but it’s an extremely well executed and entertaining piece of speculative storytelling.
–Michael Berry

***

From the October 25th Publishers Weekly:

1602, Neil Gaiman & Andy Kubert, Marvel, $24.99 (248p) ISBN 0-7851-1070-4

The always inventive Gaiman has concocted an unlikely – but fantastically successful-superhero comic that transfers Marvel’s classic characters to the Elizabethan period. Nick Fury is still a lethal government operative, but now he’s an adviser to Queen Elizabeth. Her Majesty is equally reliant on magician and doctor Stephen Strange. X-Men mentor Charles Xavier still shepherds a band of mutant teens, only now he’s called Carlos Javier, and the mutants are known, and mistrusted, as “witchbreed.” Carlos’s mysterious nemesis has taken on a new job: grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. Peter Parker (here “Parquah”) is still a confused but wellmeaning teenager who has yet to be bitten by a radioactive spider. Placed in a period landscape (rendered in rich, painterly panels by illustrator Kubert and digital painter Richard Isanove), these familiar characters must grapple with the issues of the day, chief among them the machinations of the evil King James of Scotland. And, in classic superhero style, they must save the world. The improbable combination works remarkably well, as the superheroes’ strange abilities adapt to Elizabethan culture. This glorious adventure is peppered with Scott McKowen’s gorgeous, moody cover-art woodcuts. (Oct.)

Forecast: Gaiman’s dedicated following will flack to this; script pages and detailed notes and sketches in the hack make it an even more attractive package.
— Jeff Zaleski

***

From the October 6, 2004 New York Times:

Marvel 1602
By Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert
248 pages. Marvel. $24.99

The heroes of the Marvel Universe — icons like Captain America, Doctor Strange and Daredevil — are reimagined in 17th-century roles in this hardcover collection. The swashbuckling setting suits the heroes — the intelligence agent Nick Fury serves as the Queen of England’s most trusted spy and the outcast X-Men are thought to be a demon-possessed ”witchbreed.” Character designs and the detailed script to the first chapter are also included.
–George Gene Gustines

***

From the October 15, 2004 Essex Chronicle:

HE’S back! Neil Gaiman, the genius wordsmith responsible for the acclaimed Sandman series, has returned to comics with an extraordinary reimagining of the Marvel Universe.

Neither a dream or an imaginary story, 1602 (Panini paperback, £ 12.99) reveals a world where the superheroes and villains of the modern Marvel reality actually came into existence more than 300 years earlier, in the midst of the first Elizabethan age. Strange storms boil across the atmosphere, mysterious mutant Witchbreed are born in ever-increasing numbers, the Scottish king James is plotting to seize the English throne, and an emissary from Her Majesty’s colony in the New World has returned to the mother country in search of help…

A hotbed of political intrigue and period drama, infused with insider references to the present Marvel universe, caught up in a web of mystery which gradually unfolds to reveal how this strange twist on reality actually came about.

Although less accessible to non-comics readers than his previous work, this fascinating series remains a brilliant new take on long-established characters and scenarios. Gaiman’s muse shows no signs of releasing her hold over him, and we can only await his next foray into the comics medium with baited breath.

***

The October 18th Publishers Weekly noted that 1602 was 25th on their list of best selling graphic novels for 2004.