Books: Marvel 1602: New World

>> Saturday, February 25, 2006

Marvel 1602: The New World is the second collection of stories in a world developed by master Neil Gaiman. I can't really say "created," because what Gaiman did was take a bunch of Marvel Comics heroes and re-cast them in England, circa 1602, as pilgrims and adventurers were just beginning to explore the New World. (And yes, there are dinosaurs, like on the cover there. It would take too long to explain, but it makes a kind of sense in the story.) The first volume, by Gaiman and penciler Andy Kubert, was fantastic. This new collection of comics, from writer Greg Pak and penciler Greg Tocchini, is also very good, but where the Gaiman/Kubert book felt like a scrumptious four-course meal, this one felt more like a tasty candy desert.

But it's unfair to compare other writers to Gaiman, and doesn't do justice to the efforts of this creative team, who do a nice job taking over the reins. The story moves at a brisk, action-oriented pace, and involves new characters like the reimagined Iron Man (now Lord Iron, a sort of behemoth Conquistador in a suit of iron armor) and old friends who played minor roles in collection the first but come into their own here like The Hulk and The Spider (young lad Peter Parquagh.) Occasionally the action was a little hard to follow, but this was forgivable. And the storytellers really had a nice flair for surprise and suspense, which is always welcome in any genre.

I should also say, for the sake of journalistic integrity, that I'm a much greater fan of DC Comics than I am Marvel. For some reason, the Marvel universe has never appealed to me as much as the DC universe - perhaps because I came on board with comics fairly late, in college. (My parents did not think comics were suitable reading material when I was a boy, and it wasn't until college that my new comics-loving college friends got me hooked.) Marvel has always had its eye on the youth of America - after all, what is The Uncanny X-Men but the ultimate fantasy of disaffected, disenfranchised kids who dream of blossoming into something special and powerful? But that's not to say that I'm wholly unfamiliar with the Marvel universe - I'm too much of a geek wannabe to deliberately stay in the dark, and I pick up the odd collection here and there to stay somewhat current.

In some ways, this collection felt like a Greg Keyes novel, with many players coming together for a monumental fracas at the end. And when you're dealing with the likes of the Hulk and Iron Man, a monumental fracas is always a good thing. This book is a keeper, and I'll look for more collections if Marvel publishes more.


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