Wednesday, November 2, 2005
Image courtesy of Marvel Comics
Comics are not typically known for having stellar sequels. The follow-up series to the critically acclaimed "Kingdom Come," titled "The Kingdom," is one shining—it might be more appropriate to say dull—example of this. For this reason, I was reluctant to pick up the latest Marvel miniseries "1602: New World," which is a sequel of the highly successful 2004 miniseries "1602." However, curiosity got the better of me—particularly because of the historical setting of the comic—and I decided to give it a try.
Neil Gaiman, acclaimed for his Sandman series in the late '90s, wrote the original "1602" miniseries, and Andy Kubert, son of the golden-age artist Joe Kubert, drew the series. The premise of the series was a "what if" plot: the idea of the Marvel Universe occurring at the beginning of the 17th century and the end of the Elizabethan era. In the original series, Sir Nicholas Fury is the chief intelligencer to the aging Queen Elizabeth. Carlos Javier trains a group of persecuted mutants known as Witchbreed. And after gaining amazing abilities, the villainous Count Otto Von Doom holds four of the Fantastik captive.
With Elizabeth's demise imminent, numerous plots develop to end her reign prematurely and put an end to the super-powered "devilish" witchbreed. Continuing the story as left off at the end of the original miniseries, up-and-coming writer Greg Pak and illustrator Greg Tocchini bring "1602: New World" to life. The plot picks up by exploring David Banner and Peter Parquagh's adventures in the New World as they explore their new powers, acquired at the end of "1602." Many of the characters from the original series pop up, but Pak and Tocchini also introduce new characters, including a 17th century Iron Man.
While not as stunning in terms of reflecting the depth of story, Tocchini proves himself to be nearly able to hold his own with Kubert in the artwork. Even though it is rough around the edges at times, Tocchini's work holds much promise. It retains the surreal, yet somewhat defined, style that Kubert utilized in the original series. Likewise, though starting out rather abruptly, by issue three, Pak's writing talent starts to shine, and the reason he was chosen to follow in Gaiman's huge footsteps grows clearer. He touches the surface of the religious fervor and factionalism of the 17th century while reflecting on modern concerns like social and religious acceptance of those who do not fit completely into prescribed social norms. Characterization might not be as pronounced as it was in the original series, but "1602: New World" does a fair job of keeping the reader's interest as the plot unfolds.
Will this continuation result in more exploration of the 1602 world in the future? More than likely, this is the last hurrah for this series, short of occasional surprise stints into this world. However, the journey was most certainly good while it lasted. "1602: New World," (Shakespearean in setting though not necessarily in artistic and literary value), still proves that there are occasionally sequels that surprise the audience by not being quite as bad as one might think. Issue 3 of the five-issue miniseries just came out, but back issues are often available at our area comic book stores.
Also, the original "1602" miniseries is now available in trade paperback form for those who'd like to read the first series before delving into "New World."