Friday, July 05, 2013

Books in 2013: #12 Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Next up on my quest to read 25 books this year, I read the heady and fascinating Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman with various artists. This was another pick by the graphic novel book club I'm in (if you're interested in checking out this club, by the way, it's put on every second Saturday in the basement of a very cool London, Ontario, downtown comic book store called L.A. Mood, from 11am-noon. You can find the complete schedule of books we'll be reading this year here). 

I was a little daunted by this selection, but excited to try it out. Basically, Neil Gaiman has taken many of the Marvel heroes we know (mostly from the 1960s) — Spider-Man, Captain America, the Fantastic Four, Nick Fury, some X-Men, and more — and transported them to 1602, imagining what would have happened if they'd shown up 400 years ago instead of in the 20th century.  They've been altered so fans will pick up on certain things and figure out who they are, and marvel (pun intended) at how Gaiman has given them just enough to make them recognizable to us, but made them work in Elizabethan England, switching between the courts of Elizabeth I and James VI of Scotland, the Tower of London, and other famous spots of the era. 

While Gaiman plays a little loose with actual history, he's really nailed the era as a whole, and even without the Marvel aspect this would have been a great story. But when you throw in the characters — with the great question of, 'how were they born 400 years early?' (a question that is, indeed, answered) — it's even more exciting. And what I loved most about this book is I got it!! I knew the characters, I recognized most of the villains, I knew how he'd changed things from the Marvel origin stories, and I'd figured out most of it. So there was a sense of accomplishment, and realizing that when my 5-year-old son got this poster when he was 3...

...and then asked Mommy to identify them, and I had to jump online and try to help him figure them out, that I was actually doing valuable research that would help me later. ;) 

If you like Neil Gaiman (yes I do!) and you want to try a superhero graphic novel that's out of the ordinary, this is a great one to check out. 


Batcabbage said...

I knew you'd love this one, Nik, because, as you say, even if you don't know the Marvel characters, it's still a great story (and how could it not be? It's NEIL EFFING GAIMAN!). I'm reading Stephen King's Joyland at the moment (after a brief annual re-read of James Ellroy's American Tabloid and The Cold Six-Thousand), and up next is Neil's latest, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. Can't wait!

Dusk said...

I'm in a bit of Marvel swing myself. If you want a good entry point into how things are currently in Marvel NOW! I'd suggest All-New X-Men.

The original 5 teenagers (Cyclops, Jean Grey, Iceman, Angel, Beast) are brought from the past to this time to see how far off track things have gotten from Prof X's dream and to try and get a certain adult version of someone to get their head on straight!

The art is great and the story provides a good balance to die hard fans, and n00bs, as well a moderate people like me, and gives a decent picture as to how things stand between the two biggest groups of heroes after the big Avengers vs X-men incident. (If you want the scoop on that look up CBG19's video on Youtube).

Mike_D said...


I love 1602. For your Superman book, you should read Kingdom Come, one of my favorite graphic novels of all time!!!

Kavalier and Clay is also a great great book!!!!!

Nikki Stafford said...

Batty: I've got Neil's Ocean at the End of the Lane forthcoming on my list, too! WE SHALL DISCUSS.

Dusk: I'll have to check that one out.

Mike_D: My Superman graphic novels are coming up soon! Tune in to books #20 and #21 for those reviews. :) (I won't reveal which ones they were...) ;)

Teebore said...

I thought 1602 was a lot of fun, though the ending didn't quite work for me (and, of course, Marvel had to later run the concept into the ground, but that's not this story's fault). It's been awhile since I read it though; I should really give it another look.

@Batcabbage: How is Joyland? I'm eager to check it out. Also, I finished American Tabloid for the first time a couple months ago, and really had to resist the urge to dive right into Cold Six Thousand (I had other things I needed to get to first, and I was worried I might end up talking like a grizzled cynic if I kept at it :) ).

Nikki Stafford said...

Since I see my comic experts are all over here now... have any of you read BKV's Saga? I just read something about it on a friend's FB page and I'd never heard of it, but it sounds fantastic. I think volume 1 is out and volume 2 is out soon (is that right?) Just wondering if anyone else has checked it out yet.

Teebore said...

I have been reading Saga. I'm a bit behind at the moment (I've been reading it as single issues), but I've really enjoyed what I've read so far.

It's not "zomg the greatest thing evar!!!" (as I've seen some people profess), but it's a wildly entertaining hodgepodge of different sci-fi elements with some truly unique yet still archetypal characters.

And since I know you enjoy much of BKV's other work, I imagine you'll like this as well. Definitely worth checking out.

I know the first volume is out, and I think you're right that the second one should be coming soon.

Nikki Stafford said...

Awesome, thanks Teebore! It's at my beloved library, so I'll go put a hold on it. I'm going to check out Fables, which I've heard a lot of people rave about... and I've also heard people refer to it as "graphic novel lite" in the same way they would Scott Pilgrim, but I'm interested anyway. :)

Teebore said...

I love Fables. I don't want to oversell it anymore than it's already been done to you, so I'll leave it at that. :)

Dusk said...

I've heard Saga is supposed to be super popular right now but their was some backlash over "adult content" but BKV wouldn't back down.

I've heard good things about Fables but the thing has been going on for so long and it has a spin-off that's getting up there too, Fairest, I don't know if I have enough budget for that.

Besides All New X-Men I'm trying Avengers by Johnathan Hickman- Global and intergalactic threats featuring a huge cast.

Cable and the X-Force by Dennis Hopeless-mutant fugitives that are actually trying to save the mutants and humans from disasters Cable sees in visions of the future.

Uncanny X-Men by Brian Michael Bendis-well known mutants who believe they have to start a revolution to protect and train new mutants from humanity.

Uncanny Avengers by Rick Remender-team of well known Avengers and X-men trying to get along after AvX in a world that is scared as new mutants gain powers every day. There purpose as a team is to show humans and mutants can work together like Prof X dreamed, bit complicated for me because it brings in elements of other stories.

Trying to link here on a great video recapping AvX:

Nikki Stafford said...

Speaking of BKV, did anyone read Ex Machina? I got five volumes in and had to give it up. The story was fine, but I HATED the illustrations. Just hated them. And they were so distracting and unrealistic (they took polaroids of people standing in stiff poses with mouths wide open looking surprised, and then DREW them that way so they don't look like they're moving at all, just standing there like stupid wax figures) and I found it was overpowering the story completely. I wish I could read the rest in straight text format, but unfortunately, I'm not someone who can ignore the pictures in a graphic novel and just read the words.

Batcabbage said...

Sorry folks, my gmail seems to have unsubscribed me from this thread. Stupid thing. There's much discussion here that I'm seeing for the first time.

@Teebore: How is Joyland?

It was good. Short, but quite fun. Not quite as creepy as Stephen's usual fare, but fun nonetheless. It did get me into an SK mood, though, and after that I re-read Under The Dome (loved it again, and while I'm giving the tv show a good chance - it's BKV, after all! - I like the book better), then I re-read The Green Mile, and I'm now into Duma Keys, which is a new one for me.

@Nik: have any of you read BKV's Saga?

Oh, my yes. Been on it since the first issue, and I love it. Teebore says it rightly with it's a wildly entertaining hodgepodge of different sci-fi elements with some truly unique yet still archetypal characters.

@Nik again: I'm going to check out Fables...

Excellent! It's a very fun read. Plenty to enjoy there.

@Nik once more, for luck: did anyone read Ex Machina?

Yep! And while JH Williams isn't my favourite artist, I didn't really mind that much. Although, I have to say, of all of BKV's work that I've read, Ex Machina would have to be my least favourite. Which is weird, because I love me some political fiction (Bartlett for America!), but Ex Machina didn't really do it for me in the usual BKV way.