1602 is Elizabethan Marvel in eight parts.
Virginia Dare, first-born daughter of colonists in America, has returned to England and the court of Queen Elizabeth. When threatened by an assassin, she assumed a huge avian form and flew to the roof. Doctor Strange is the first to reach her. He and Virginia's native American bodyguard capture her, and Strange returns her to human form before others can find her.
Meanwhile, well-laid plans are now in motion, with varying degrees of success. The Pope has sent an envoy to kill the head of the Spanish Inqusition, aka Magneto, after hearing that the Spaniard has a tentative allegiance with King James of Scotland. Needless to say, the assassin is unsuccessful.
The students of Carlos Javier are learning more about their latest addition, the strange young winged man whom they rescued from the Spanish Inquisitor, but Javier has not yet shown his hand. Matthew the blind bard and Natasha his travelling companion are on their way to Trieste to meet the man from Jerusalem, who has the weapon they hope will save their world.
Coming upon a tavern, their horses weary, Natasha offers to buy the horses from some soldiers staying at the inn. They turn down her offer, and show her and Matthew little friendliness. Matthew just smiles as Natasha kicks military butt in spectacular style! Woohoo! Action at last!
Now things are picking up. Nick Fury is still looking for an unidentified third assassin, supposedly targeting the Queen herself. Doom, meanwhile, has sent a gift to the Queen, a cunningly crafted mechanical musical toy. Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
But what of Peter Parquagh, young page to Nick Fury? He is sent with Doctor Strange, to mind Virginia, who is unconscious, and is Strange's patient. At the Doctor's artifact-laden house, Peter is nearly bitten by a strange spider, a pet of Strange's, a present from Sir Reed, who went overseas five years past, and whose fate is not clearly known to us.
Peter has shown himself to be a quiet boy, afraid of heights, and lacking in strength, though with great intelligence. Neil Gaiman is clearly teasing us here, surely Peter's transformation cannot be far off!
Commanded by his queen not to stoop to torture, Sir Nicholas Fury offers to fight one of the captured assassins in a wager of freedom against the secret of the agent's master. Victorious in a short and bloody combat, the assassin speaks the name - "Doom". But the secret comes too late, Doom's intricate construction, the musical toy, has commited it's deadly work...
Intelligent, moving, with depth and such rich and wondrous art. Gaiman, Kubert and Isanove are clearly masters in the prime of their talents. If only all comics were woven of the same stuff. The intricately woven storyline, the carefully maintained atmosphere, the measured pace which demands the reader's time and commitment to read - but which never drags and which gives back so much more in return. All of these things happen when an artistic team commit themselves to a serious endeavour.
I've heard a few people grumble at the $3.50 cover price - presumably in comparison to the $2.25 that an issue of Venom will set you back. But truly, we're not talking in the same league here. Yes, a fillet mignon at the Hilton will cost more than a burger at McDonalds. But really, there is no comparison.
Five webs. This books is everything we were promised.