Neil Gaiman's Marvel 1602
review (focusing on issue 2) by Mike Baron
Lemme just take a guess here. Sixteen oh two is entirely Neil Gaiman's idea. I'm guessing Marvel said to him, "Neil, what do you want to do? Anything's good." And Gaiman, being a Master Planner as well as a consummate story-teller, elected to junk five hundred years of continuity and start at the beginning. It's more clever than that. By placing the Marvel universe in 1602 and fitting them into preexisting historical conditions and attitudes, he's revitalized the entire Marvel universe. Never has the dictum that strict discipline imparts the greatest freedom been more apt.
1602 #2, © 2003 Marvel Comics
Sixteen oh two number one was sold out locally within days. It's always been my contention that you should be able to pick up any issue of any comic and be entertained. If the entertainment pay-off depends on slogging through nine issues of joyless sludge, the creators have not succeeded. Needless to say, this succeeds, and succeeds well. However, it is not Watchmen, nor even American Gods. These comics won't change your life. A brilliant concept plus competent writing-voila! The story concerns Sir Nichols Fury in the new world, paying a visit on the crippled Carlos Xavier who runs a school for gifted children. Or are they witches and warlocks? The Inquisition stands in for today's mutant intolerance. That idea just smacks you in the face with aptitude.
Gaiman also gets the language right, including an hilarious opening monologue by the Beast. Daredevil, Spiderman, and many others troll through these twenty-two pages which seem far from crowded. The art is a wonderful blend of Kubert's fine drawing ability and painterly coloring by Richard Isanove. The covers, by theater poster designer Scott McKowen, are unlike anything you've seen on a comic before, but extremely appropriate and attractive. I will be doing a feature on McKowen for James (Starchild) Owen's International Studio. For those wondering what happened to Mr. Owen, go to Coppervale.com and take a look.
In the meantime, 1602 stands head and shoulders above most of the superhero fare these days.
I lived most of my life in Madison, Wisconsin. Frank Lloyd Wright territory. My father managed the men's department in a large department store called Baron Brothers, owned by my uncles. Frank Lloyd Wright was a regular customer. He always wore a snappy hat and carried a cane. Sometimes he wore a cape. When my father was planning his first house, Mr. Wright approached him.
"Lee, I understand you're planning on building. I'd be pleased to be your architect."
My father was a wise man, and familiar with Mr. Wright's building history. "I appreciate that very much, Mr. Wright, but I'm afraid we can't afford you."
Wright was prepared to argue the subject. He was always hungry for commissions. I'm fascinated by his life and philosophy. For years, I struggled to write a mammoth horror tale out of Wright's life. (His life does indeed contain elements of horror. I urge readers to see out a biography and see what inspired me.)
AIT/PlanetLar will publish The Architect sometime in 2004. My artist, Andie Tong, lives in Western Australia and can only work on the project in his spare time. Nevertheless, Andie has managed to bring my vision to startling life. Herewith, one of Andie's pages.
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