1602: A "Marvel"-ous year

Feb. 10, 2006, midnight | By Alexis Egan | 14 years, 4 months ago

Superheroes unite in an historical fiction

When readers think of the various Marvel comic legacies, most think of Spider Man, X-Men and Fantastic Four, not of historical drama pieces. Marvel comics has done the inconceivable. They created an alternate history where Doctor Doom and Queen Elizabeth coexist, albeit not-so-peacefully.

"Marvel: 1602," released last summer, brings together the best of Marvel's characters, creating a world where mutants are "witch-breed," strange weather is the sign of the apocalypse and threats to the queen of England are, literally, inhuman. The comic begins as Virginia Dare, the first English child born in America and an unknown mutant, travels to England to meet the queen.

While her trip seems innocent, her appearance throws the magical world into turmoil. During Virginia's visit, people described as "witch-breed" are gathered by Carlos Javier (Professor Xavier of "X-Men") who seeks to protect the outcasts. Meanwhile, the Queen's advisors, Doctor Stephen Strange and Sir Nicholas Fury, are struggling to explain the strange weather, and to guard the mutants from the harm of Spanish Inquisitor (Magneto).

In addition, Matthew Murdoch (Daredevil) and traitor Natasha (Black Widow) are assigned the task of retrieving a mysterious weapon that is destined to change the fate of the humanity. Once the war is brought overseas to the new world one of the super-heroes reveals a shocking secret that could alter the fate of the Marvel universe.

The setting of "Marvel: 1602" is surprisingly apt for the comic book heroes raised in the 20th century. The persecution that occurred in the 17th century is easily translated to the characters, as the Inquisition labels all superhuman powers as sinful and unacceptable. Fans of both Marvel comics and British history will note that Jean Grey is a traditional Shakespearean character: A woman who disguises her gender to survive.

The comic not only manages to combine many historical references, but also presents a vast cast of characters from the Marvel universe for such a short comic. The typical characters, Xavier and Doctor Doom, make appearances, but other lesser-known characters emerge too. Various popular Marvel figures, such as Peter Parker (pre-spider bite), the "Fantastic Four" quartet and Angel from "X-Men" make cameos in the 250-page book.

Neil Gaimen, author of the acclaimed "Sandman" comics, wrote the storyline for "Marvel: 1602," which draws in readers with its intense atmosphere and creepy resemblance to the present. While the plot is enthralling, the illustrations of the book truly pull fans in. The art, penned by Andy Kubert, is both beautiful and dynamic, depicting the events occurring with an uncanny perfection.

Comic fans or not, any reader can easily enjoy the comic thanks to its clarity and smooth plotline. New fans that have only seen a few of the Marvel movies adaptations might be confused at first.

The only unappealing aspect of "Marvel: 1602" is its movie-like action since several images closely resemble the style of Hollywood movies. With the recent flux in movies based off of comic books, chiefly the popular "Spider Man" and "X-Men" films, comic book authors find it difficult to obtain an authentic comic feel.

While the actual events occurring in 1602 were enthralling enough, "Marvel: 1602" offers an alternative option to reading the same formulaic "X-Men" comics over and over. Even though the book is nowhere near as accurate as a textbook, not every schoolbook can create a world where superhuman powers, Shakespearean images and religious persecution coincide.

Alexis Egan. Alexis is a (very) short junior, who is very pleased to be writing for Chips Online with all her friends. Along with writing, her other hobbies are playing soccer, reading about Mount Everest and listening to any Irish music. Her favorite movie is The Princess … More »

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