Everyone knows about Marvel 1602, right? Written by Neil Gaiman and set in the Elizabethan Era – pretty much a match made in heaven! It was a big seller for Marvel, so, of course, several spin-offs (NOT written by Neil Gaiman) were launched to capitalize on its popularity. This particular book follows the contingent of heroes left in America after the events of the original miniseries - mainly focusing on the Hulk and Spider-Man.
We start out in London in 1602. Three Witchbreed (better known as mutants to you and me) are being burned at the stake while King James dictates a letter to his scribe, Bruce Banner. Their cries of mercy drive him to distraction. “Next time, cut out their tongues,” says the king (he was pretty much this jerky in our reality, as well). Bruce Banner agrees with his lord, and then there is a loud boom. Suddenly, a huge, gray monster (better known as the Hulk to you and me) brings down the entire room around the him. “Smash,” is all he says. But, then we see that this is all actually just a dream! Bruce Banner wakes up in a field in the rain.
You see, in the original miniseries, Bruce Banner was sent to America by King James to kill Nicholas Fury, the spymaster for the king's predecessor, Queen Elizabeth. Banner is already piecing together that The Anomaly has changed him into some sort of monster. He takes a walk in a field of dinosaurs. He still wants to complete his mission of killing Fury (too late for that) and decides to follow his tracks back to the colony of Roanoke. The tracks he follows are not man-sized, however, but Hulk-sized. He fears he is a Witchbreed now, and thus cursed by god. He sees no escape from his situation but death.
Then, he spies a baby dinosaur caught in a small tar pit; it's mother watches from the sideline. Bruce commiserates with the animal's predicament and helps it out of the muck. After that little escapade Bruce decides he will carry on with his life, as well. The tender moment is broken up, however, when some carnivorous dinosaurs enter the scene looking for a meal. And we all know what happens when Bruce Banner is threatened (in any reality)... the Hulk busts out once again and trashes them!
Meanwhile, Virginia Dare (the protagonist from the first series) visits Peter Parquagh at the Daily Trumpet printing house. He is exhibiting his strange, new powers to her - handling the large press all by himself. The headline announces Rojaz's and Nick Fury's (the other protagonists from the first series) disappearance into The Anomaly. Virginia is worried about her identity being exposed (she has the power to change into various animal forms) but Peter says he left that part out (in this reality he is a reporter, not a photographer). Jameson busts in and breaks up the two lovebirds.
While Peter sells papers in the town square, Jonah talks to Governor Dare (Virginia's father). Jonah is worried that Bruce Banner, the King's henchman, is still at large. Governor Dare doesn't think one man can cause much trouble (oh how wrong he is). Suddenly, dinosaurs burst through the colony's palisades! Peter snatches Virginia out of the dinosaurs' path, and deposits her in the boughs of a tree. Then, he leaps back down to save Jameson, who is trying to pick up all the papers Peter left behind. He has enough time to push Jonah out of harm's way, but he can't defend himself from another dinosaur that rises up behind his back. Suddenly a giant, white T-Rex appears and knocks the smaller dinosaur away!
That's Virginia Dare's big move. She quickly turns back into her own form, but then the dinosaur she smacked recovers and heads straight for a group of kids. Then, she turns back into a T-Rex to distract the same dinosaur while Peter rescues the kids. Her mind is overcome by her bestial nature, however, and she loses all control of her actions. She starts attacking all the other dinosaurs – including the baby one that Bruce Banner had saved earlier. Just before she chomps down on it the Hulk appears to save the baby dinosaur once again!
This is a good starting point for fans of the previous series. Virginia Dare remains a cypher, but Bruce Banner's and Peter Parkaugh's personalities are explored in depth. Having their origins tied to The Anomoly (from the aforementioned Marvel 1602) was a no-brainer.
The only thing that doesn't fit right is the anachronism of the Daily Trumpet. In a town of just over a hundred people there really is no need for a newspaper. I've been to small towns before; everyone knows everyone else's business already. How could anyone make any money off of such a venture?
We have our heroes introduced (well, Banner's alignment is still a question at this time), so what about the villains? Wait until next issue.
According to Wikipedia, in our own reality, the colony of Roanoke was the first attempt to establish a permanent English settlement on the North American continent. Founded on Roanoke Island in 1585 (in what is now known as North Carolina), the expedition consisted of approximately 107 English settlers. It only survived for five years. Besides the mystery of its disappearance and the antagonistic relationship between the colonists and Indians (a pattern which unfortunately repeated itself for hundreds of years afterwards), its most notable occurrence was the birth of Virginia Dare – the first person of English descent to be born in the New World.