Did you hear that sound about a week ago? It was like a really long “Whaaaaaa-?” followed a crazy loud popping noise, almost as though someone took a gigantic balloon and had the late, great Chris Farley sit on it… But what was it? Oh, nothing… Just the collective head of fandom exploding with the news that not only was Neil freakin’ Gaiman (Geek Lord of the Portchester Geek Lords) returning to work at Marvel but also that he’d be bringing Angela (of the Spawn #9 Angelas) with him.
Yeah, that Angela. You remember her, right? Super-big deal in the early 90s. Sold copious amounts of comics and hyper-sexualized toys to budding teens, launching millions into early puberty and millions more into a locked bathroom. Good times. Good times.
How, though, you may ask, could a character that debuted in a Todd MacFarlane comic possibly make the jump to the House of Ideas? Well, back in 2002 Neil won a judgment that granted him 50% ownership of the character and it looks like he’s finally decided to give Big Todd the old Longbowman Salute by having her show up in books created by the very same company McFarlane and Co. told to eat a big fat one about 20 years ago. Neil Gaiman: A glorious man.
Just what will Gaiman be doing with Angela at Marvel? Not much is known yet, but there’s word that Neil will be co-writing an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy with Brian Michael Bendis with additional work to follow.
Neil Gaiman writing comics again is always a cause for excitement but I’m especially stoked because of how little he has produced for Marvel over the years. Consisting of only two mini-series, Gaiman’s work nonetheless introduced some of the most interesting concepts into the MU that we’ve seen in the past twenty years. The opportunity for more of that very unique magic is cause for celebration.
In honour of our pal Neil bringing his particular brand of excellence back to the Marvel fold I’d like to delve into the very first piece of writing he did for the company, 1602.
Neil Gaiman – Writer , Andy Kubert – Artist
An 8-issue mini-series first released in 2003, 1602 is the story of an alternate universe in which the world of Marvel superheroes is birthed 400 years too soon. Ill-omens blacken the sky, rainless thunderstorms crack the atmosphere, and miracles and magic seem to increase in commonality with each passing day. The world, it seems, is threatening to break itself apart.
Queen Elizabeth I sits upon the throne of England, hoping to find a way to stop the madness with the aid of her Master of Intelligence, Sir Nicholas Fury, and Master of the Queen’s Medicines, Doctor Stephen Strange. Word has reached them that an unnamed weapon of great power heads their way from Jerusalem, and it’s protection has been tasked to Fury and his agents Peter Parquagh and Matthew Murdock amongst others. Unfortunately, with the combined threats of King James of Scotland, The Spanish Inquisition, and the boundless ambitions of Count Otto Von Doom bearing down upon them, the errand is one even Fury’s network may find impossible.
Meanwhile, Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the American Colonies arrives in London, her native protecter Rojhaz in tow, to plea for aid from the crown. The Roanoke colonies are barely holding on and without assistance from the Queen the situation looks dire. In this new world of secrets, though, Virginia possesses a dangerous one of her own. One which may be the key to stopping the impending calamity spreading across the world or hasten it.
A bit of a departure for Gaiman, 1602 is as interesting for what it is as for what it isn’t. What it isn’t is a deep psychological examination of the nature of man. It isn’t an exploration of many of the grand themes and ideas that permeate the majority of Gaiman’s work. Which isn’t to say this is a shallow piece of writing by any means, but those looking for Sandman or American Gods are going to be disappointed. What it is is a layered, witty, adventurous and wonderfully lyrical piece of writing that I can still enjoy as much on the tenth reading as I did on the first. It is Neil Gaiman writing high adventure. It is Neil Gaiman having fun with himself and the larger than life characters that’s he’s enjoyed from a distance his entire life. Now he gets to play in the sandbox and you can tell he’s having a blast.
In addition to the brilliant writing from the always wonderful Gaiman, we’re also treated to absolutely stunning artwork from the WOLVERINE: ORIGIN creative team of Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove. The same “enhanced-pencils” processing technique (straight pencils to digital color) employed on ORIGIN was put to use for this series as well and as such you get to enjoy a great deal more of the subtle linework that goes into Andy’s pencils than you normally would with traditionally inked pieces. I’m a big fan of Andy Kubert in general but I’ve always felt his pairings with Isanove on ORIGIN and 1602 resulted in what is unquestionably his career best work. The fluidity of movement and insanely detailed costuming and background work is something to behold.
If you’ve never read 1602 (or even if you have) I highly recommend it. It’s unlike anything else in the Marvel catalogue while still retaining the charm of the characters and world we know and love. And, while it’s true that this mini is very different from much of Gaiman’s work, his distinct wit and wizardry with words is very much intact.
Plus, y’know, the art is sick.
A Marvel universe set in the early 1600’s starring a 12-yr old albino girl and a powerless Spider-Man?
You’re so WEIRD, Multiverse!
…and that’s why I love you.
Remember, if you’re gonna GEEK OUT, GEEK HARD!
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