Everyone knows about Marvel 1602, right? Written by Neil Gaiman and set in the Elizabethan Era – pretty much a match made in heaven! It was a big seller for Marvel, so, of course, several spin-offs (NOT written by Neil Gaiman) were launched to capitalize on its popularity. This particular book showcases Spider-Man's adventures after returning to Europe following the events related in 1602: The New World.
Governor Dare and Norman Osborne are talking on the docks. It has been three years since the events of 1602: The New World #5 and it seems Norman has turned over a new leaf. He is now the dock master, tasked with keeping the colonists safe from pirates and other dangers of the sea.
Meanwhile, Peter and Virginia Dare are walking in the woods. He reveals that his powers seem to be growing. He can now shoot webs from his wrists and is developing a sixth sense that warns him of danger. He is concerned that he is becoming more spider than man. Before long, Jonah interrupts them and announces that a ship is coming into port and it is flying a flag that indicates it has the plague.
Peter rushes off to the scene and manages to hide behind some barrels while Osborne is talking to an emissary from the plague ship. At first, Osborne refuses to provide any aid, but then the two start whispering. Peter is determined to find out what new plot the dock master is hatching, as he still doesn't trust Osborne (would you?).
Then, we move across the Atlantic Ocean to Carcassone, France. A man is sitting in a lab, mixing potions and speaking to someone in a cell. Through their banter, it is revealed the man in the lab is Henri Pym (Ant-Man/Giant-Man/Goliath) and the man in the cell is Henry McCoy (Beast). It seems Pym needs McCoy's blood to conduct his experiments. Presently, another man enters. He is wearing a green hat and gloves and a crimson cloak. He is revealed to be Baron Otto Octavius (do I even have to tell you?), Pym's wealthy, but evil, patron. Otto explains that he needs Pym's potions to keep him alive after contracting the Black Death. Why has Pym agreed to help him? Because the baron has Henri's lady love, Janette (Wasp), shrunken down and imprisoned in a glass jar. (Whew, that's a whole lot of new characters and backstory dumped on the reader all at once!)
Meanwhile, Peter continues his watch of the dock, this time as The Spider. He sees some people unloading stuff and asks them what Osborne wanted from them. They tell him it is just bedding and covers. Peter instantly knows what this means – Osborne is trying to kill off the Indians using plague-infected blankets! He rushes to the Indian village but is almost too late. Osborne is there with the Indian chieftess Mariaoc and has already given away the contaminated blankets.
Peter snags the blankets with his webbing and flings them away from the Indians. Suddenly, Virginia Dare is on the scene (was she following Osborne?) and asks Peter what he is doing. He explains Osborne's scheme to everyone. Osborne is so upset that he grabs Peter and pulls off his mask, exposing his identity to all (but since everyone there already knows who he is that isn't much of revelation). Peter tells Virginia to go and fetch the Governor and his men. She changes into a deer and quickly runs off. Osborne's men holds Peter as Osborne chases Virginia down and shoots her.
Yes, Virginia dies on the forest floor and turns back into her human form! Peter is shocked. He doesn't even hide his identity for the trial of Osborne. Jameson shows his sympathy for Peter's loss. Governor Dare sentences Osborne to return to Europe where he will be given the death penalty (our progressive colonists having already banned capital punishment). The governor asks Peter to go with him to ensure Osborne receives the justice he deserves.
You mean to tell me that Peter and Virginia have been “courting” for three years now and still aren't married? I call foul on that. Also, how does all these 17th century Europeans already know about germ warfare when germ theory wasn't even established until the late 19th century? Where is Peter's spider-strength and agility when he needs them during his confrontation Osborne and his men? And why is the Indian chieftess Mariaoc so trusting of Osborne given their antagonistic history?
I understand the writer wanting to “clear the table” in order to kick off this new storyline, but in his rush to move the plot forward he commits several missteps right off the bat. Unfortunately, these start to add up as this series progresses...
The well-known trope of giving smallpox-infected blankets to Indians is derived from an incident during the French and Indian War. The British forces under the command of Sir Jeffery Amherst and stationed at Fort Pitt (what eventually became known as Pittsburgh) were in the middle of a siege by the Delaware tribe. The commanding officers discussed the matter as one of several tactics to defeat the Indians. It was one of the first recorded instances of biological warfare and is considered particularly callous and brutal. Unfortunately, it was pretty much par for the course in the ongoing battles between colonists and natives.