Review – 1602 – #2

Title: 1602
Issue No. 2 (of 8 issues)
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover price: $3.50 (USD)
Release Date: Sept. 10, 2003
Creative Team: Neil Gaiman, writer; Andy Kubert, illustrator; Richard Isanove, digital painting; Todd Klein, lettering

Despite the promising start 1602‘s first issue, the flaws of the concept begin to show themselves in #2. Part of the fun #1 was figuring out who everyone was supposed to be and delighting in how Marvel’s classic characters were interjected into the 17th century. By issue #2, however, that novelty is gone — readers know who everyone is, and all that’s left is the story as it quickly leaves behind the pretense of the historical setting and begins to dive deeper into the Marvel Universe.

As superhero comics go, this is about as smart as they come. As Neil Gaiman comics go, this seems to be a concession to mainstream audiences. It’s still entertaining, but scenes like the shot of the X-Men in costume and origin of Matthew Murdock’s blindness are just plain dumb (as is Carlos Javier’s little anti-smoking message). Gaiman has done much better.

Still, the dialogue, overall, is competent and clean, and the characters act like themselves, even as 17th century transplants. Gaiman’s creative re-imagining of the Marvel Universe is still bright and witty while still remaining accessible.

Kubert’s art is effervescent and expressive without moving too far away from traditional comic book art. Isanove’s lush palette of colors lends mood and atmosphere to the artwork and the distinctive technique used here sets the title apart from the rest of the Marvel’s overtly computer-colored titles. Looking at 1602 is a joy, and the art keeps the story intriguing and makes the minor quibbles forgivable.

It’s still too early to see which way 1602 will go — but #2 does leave questions that need to be answers. The frustrations aside, there’s still fun to be had.