Comics : 1602 #4
This review was first published on: 2004.
Marvel in Elizabethan times, written by Neil Gaiman, art by Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove.
Jan 2004 : SM Guest
Summary: Peter Parquagh Appears
Dr. Strange queries Virginia Dare as to her history. It seems that the strange weather which is now traumatising Europe began in her American colony, shortly before its establishment.
Doom's assassination of Queen Elizabeth has succeeded. It seems that Doom himself was not the originator of the deadly device, but instead the mechanism was inspired by the creative genius of one of the several super-powered creatures which Doom keep's captive in his extensive dungeons.
With Elizabeth gone, the witch-hating James is heading south from Scotland into England. He meets Sir Nicholas Fury, former servant of Elizabeth, and commands him to attack and capture Javier's students. Fury sents Peter Parquagh to warn Javier.
Near Trieste, Natasha is revealed as a secret agent of Doctor Doom. She turns on the blind bard, Matthew, and instead makes the contact with the old man from Jerusalem. The "weapon" he brings appears to be a chest of gold. Matthew escapes death, only to be captured along with the old man, now both prisoners of Doom.
This story feels a little funny... and I think I know what it is. There's no fighting. It's strange, but comics seem to have long acquired the stigma that "If there's no violent conflict, then nothing is happening".
In fact, much does happen in this issue. It's important to remember that art is a journey, not a destination, and that we are here to see a tale told, not blood shed. The pace of the story is firmly under Gaiman's control, and he varies it at his whim.
Gaiman leverages our familiarity with these characters in both directions. Firstly, he quickly develops the large cast by working alongside with what we know about the Marvel universe versions. We known Javier is wise, psychic, crippled, well-meaning. Hence the 1602 characters can be quickly sketched, with few extra details required.
But alternatively, we know Natasha as a hero. Her deception and treachery is all the more surprising for that. This manipulation of our existing experiences is the proper way to utilise the "presque-vu" world which has been created. More than just a gimmick, a sales trick, the relationships between Marvel canon and the universe of 1602 is an integral part of the story.
At last, an alterverse which is worthy of the title. Half way through, I'm eager to see what happens next.