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.
A storm rages in the Atlantic Ocean, tossing a ship, The King's Will, to and fro. Lord Iron is below decks, in his red and gold armor. His aide, whose name we do not learn but is no doubt some variation of James Rhodes (perhaps Sir Rhodes?), is checking the “lightning bottles” that energize the armor. He notes that the power is running low, and Antonio's heart is weakening fast. They decide to try one last, desperate gambit, strapping Lord Iron up on the ship's mast and hoping lightning strikes him. Surprise... it works!
Cut to the colony of Roanoke. Governor Dare interviews the children from last issue about their “kidnapping” by the Indians. They are at another town meeting. Jonah wants to outlaw any and all Witchbreed, saying Banner and his ilk are too great a threat to normal people. Osborn wants to outlaw the Indians, saying they are the greater danger to the colonists. He says, “They are not men, nay, they are not human.” Some things never change, eh? Peter Parquagh watches it all from the rafters. The assembly decides to split the difference and outlaw BOTH groups. Again, some things never change.
Governor Dare instructs Dougan and his men to find Banner and bring him back alive to face justice. Also, they are to inform the Indians they have to leave the island. Osborn offers to go with them. Jonah, not fully trusting Osborn's motives, tells Peter to trail the militia. He does so in his own way, spying on them from the tree tops. Mariaoc, the Indian chieftess, is also in the woods spying on the English. She finds Peter and tells him that her grandchildren told her about his powers. He tries to deny it, but she warns him, “They'll find out someday. And no matter how much you've done for them, they will have no mercy.”
Meanwhile, Dougan's men are hunting down Banner, who is still wandering the woods in rags. He is spotted running away and comes upon the edge of a cliff. Filled with guilt over being the very thing he has spent his life fighting against he contemplates suicide. He jumps, just as the posse comes upon the scene. He is saved, however, by Peter. They have a parlay on a small outcropping. Banner thinks they have been cursed and turned into Witchbreed by God. Peter objects, saying he is innocent, but Banner reminds Peter that he was going to betray and kill Fury on orders from the king. So, both of them are impure for different reasons. Peter still thinks he can use his powers for good. He says, “All men are sinners, but all men are saved by God's grace.”
As the men-at-arms continue on their mission, Osborn tries to convince Dougan that the Indians are to blame for everything that has gone wrong lately. Dougan still thinks the Indians are the least of their worries. But, while he is distracted, Osborn makes his move. He knocks the captain out from behind, then runs screaming about an Indian attack. Dougan wakes up on a blanket and sees smoke. Peter also sees the smoke from the woods and runs towards its source. Banner calls after him. Norman and the men are burning the Indian village in retaliation for “ambushing” Dougan. The men find no Indians, however. And, Osborn is unusually interested in any precious materials they may have left behind.
Peter wants to stop the guards from pillaging, but is held back by Mariaoc (who is still lurking in the woods). She takes him down near the island shore where the entire tribe is preparing for war. They get in their canoes and start to depart. They are carrying an unconscious Banner with them. The Indian chieftess says, “He has no place here. He comes with us. You should too.” She said Rojhaz told her war would come. She said Rojhaz tried to prevent it, but failed and is gone now. So she is declaring war first. “But this time the right side will win.” Peter tries to dissuade her from such a foolish course of action, saying “There's always a way.”
Peter returns to the English village and watches the smoke rise along the horizon with Virginia Dare. He tries to recruit her to help him prevent a full out war between the English and the Indians. Before they can discuss more Jonah yells at him to come along. An English ship has arrived in port, with Lord Iron standing at the bow. He launches himself onto the land before the ship sets anchor down. (Clearly, he's a fan of the ol' Shock and Awe technique.) He immediately lands on the pier (without breaking it, neat trick that is) in front of Peter, whom he recognizes as Banner's aide. “Where's your master?” he asks, as he lifts him by the throat.
The Indians decide to make the first move. The colonists now have to fight a war on two fronts. Peter is still trying to decide what the right thing to do is. I like how Peter and Banner frame their dilemma in religious terms. It makes sense for the time this story is set in and presents interesting insights into their character.
This is basically a bridge issue, a break in the action to check in with all our characters before the big confrontation begins. But, seeing as it is the third out of five issues, it comes at the right time.
Usually, with these footnotes I like to give a short history primer in order to provide context to the characters and situations that are presented in the story. This seems like the right spot to highlight the conflicts between Europeans colonists and the Native Americans. But, honestly, that topic is way too big for me to cover in a few paragraphs. I'm of the opinion that the way we treated (and still treat) the Native American tribes is one of the biggest sins of our nation (the other is slavery). If you want more context start by reading Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Lies My Teacher Told Me. You don't necessarily have to buy into the whole ideology they promote but it is certainly an eye-opening experience.