Science fiction and fantasy                                            


by Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove


It's the dying years of Elizabeth I's reign, but the Queen of England isn't the only one concerned about endings. The weather is acting strangely, and people are muttering about the Day of Judgement. That may not seem ominous from our modern perspective, until we realise that this isn't quite the Elizabethan era we know from history books.

In Hampton Court Dr Stephen Strange cares for the ailing queen, whilst Sir Nicholas Fury is her "intelligencer", and Peter Parquagh is Fury's assistant. The story kicks off with a game of spot the Marvel character, as heroes and villains turn up left, right and centre. And when it comes to bad guys the main suspects turn up around the world as well, with their nefarious plans for the "witchbreed", as the mutants and superheroes are known in these pre-scientific times. It's a time of witch-burnings, fervent religious divisions, and Inquisition torture chambers. But intolerance and persecution aren't their only problems. As the weather anomalies mount up and one of their number starts to have increasingly strange dreams they realise they have to act because the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

This is a simple story, and it's relatively unsophisticated compared with some of Neil Gaiman's other work. I thought the ending was a little disappointing because it's a bit of a cop out, harking back to really old-school school, hackneyed science fiction.

The artwork is clear and colourful, without the gaudiness of the original Marvel characters' costumes. They look better for their historical makeover. The level of detail is enough to make the images easy to understand and enjoy, without slowing down the story too much.

This is a graphic novel that does everything that's expected of it, and no more. The artwork and storytelling conform to Marvel norms, but they don't break new ground. 1602 is enjoyable while it lasts, and the characters play off each other charmingly, but it's not a genre-shaking work by any means.

16th February 2011

Book Details

Year: 2004

Categories: Books

  YA     Steampunk

If you like this, try:

The Merchant of Dreams cover    

The Merchant of Dreams by Anne Lyle
Mal is sent to spy in Venice, a city where everyone wears a mask. But what is hidden in the dream world could be worse than any threat he has yet faced. The second in the Night's Masque series.

The Alchemist of Souls cover    

The Alchemist of Souls by Anne Lyle
In an alternative Elizabethan England magic and treachery abound, and the theatrical players are not the only ones putting on an act.

Triumff: Her Majesty    

Triumff: Her Majesty's Hero by Dan Abnett
Sir Rupert Triumff fights for queen, country, and sobriety in this humorous alternate history.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson
Read more about Neil Gaiman