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.
Jonah Jameson speaks with Govenor Dare through the bars of his jail cell at midnight. Captain Ross is still planning on beheading him in the morning (Governor Dare, not Jonah). Suddenly, a couple of English soldiers arrive and take Governor Dare away. Dare is nonplussed, but Jonah thinks Ross is betraying his word and executing the governor early. He raises the alarm, just to discover that it was Dougan and his men-at-arms in disguise who were actually rescuing the governor!
The real English soldiers surround the lot of them, but just then the Indians warrior (with Spider-Man) attack! All the ruckus alerts Captain Ross who enters the fray and shoots at Spider-Man. Our hero easily dodges this attack, of course.
Enter the Hulk, the Indian chieftess, and their war elephants! (Don't ask me where they got those.) Mariaoc demands that the English surrender, but Ross was ready for something like this. He tells his cannoneers to fire. The Hulk jumps in front of as many of the cannon balls as possible (five by my count) and doesn't even seem fazed.
Meanwhile, Sir Iron and Virginia Dare hear the cannon shots and fly back towards the village. Ross notes that while the Hulk may be bullet proof but his friends are not. The cannoneers ready their next volley but the Hulk responds by simply clapping his hands! The resultant soundwave sends most of the English soldiers sprawling and the rest run away. It seems the battle is over before it hardly began!
“Let's talk,” says Mariaoc. Her demands are that the English leave their shores immediately - all of them, including the colonists. Spider-Man tries to argue but she reminds him that the colonists outlawed the Indians on their own land and sent soldiers to turn them out (see previous issues for the details). You see, she has had visions of her people's future suffering under the rule of the English and is set on preventing it from happening.
And, it looks like she is on the verge of succeeding when Sir Iron arrives on a flying machine! His pilot, Sir Rhodes, drops him like a bomb right on top of the Hulk. At first, Sir Iron electrocutes the Hulk with his hands but the Hulk just rips his gloves off. Sir Iron tries again after getting a safe distance away, and manages to get the Hulk down on his knees this time. But he doesn't have enough juice to finish the behemoth, who manages one last lunge and begins to grapple with him. The Hulk (in a nice reversal of his usual personality) tries to reason with him. This fight is personal for Sir Iron, however, and he is too focused on attaining his revenge to see that he is ruining things. In the meantime, Sir Rhodes has ejected himself from the flying machine and is floating down to the ground on a parachute. This parachute serves a double purpose, however, because it also acts as a lightning rod. It is struck by lightning and recharges iron man via a connecting wire. (Don't ask me where that came from either).
Osborn rallies the English, telling Ross that this is his chance to fight. The soldiers attack the Indians. Spider-Man is occupied with saving Virginia Dare (who just arrived on the scene) from getting injured. The Hulk continues to try and talk Iron Man out of fighting, but it looks like that last batch of lightning overloaded his system and he has lost control of his armor.
Away from the danger, Spider-Man and Virginia Dare talk. Peter is convinced that they will need Virginia's help to win the day, even if she can't control her power yet. Before we learn her answer, however, Peter is hit on the back of the head by Osborn (what no Spider-Sense for this version?) and taken hostage by him at swordpoint. Osborn demands that Mariaoc reveal the hiding place of The Source which he has been seeking for all this time. She tells him it disappeared when Nick Fury and Rojhaz entered it. Stunned by this news, Osborn gapes while she leaps at him with a knife. Spider-Man looks on helplessly. Everyone else is too preoccupied to be of much help – Captain Ross and Governor Dare are parrying each other while Hulk and Iron Man are still wrestling.
Everything hinges on this moment. Who will rule this new world – the English, the Indians, or the colonists? Then, there is a loud boom that separates everyone! Virginia Dare has transformed into a giant white sphinx and stops everyone in their tracks, literally.
Then we cut to I don't know how much time later. Everyone is throwing their weapons into a pile at Virginia's request. Hulk urges Governor Dare and the Indian chieftess Mariaoc to add theirs as well. They nod in agreement and do so. Then, the Hulk collapses a very big rock on top of them all (the weapons, not the people). Sir Iron then walks up to the Hulk and apologizes for attacking him. Hulk says that if he wants to kill Banner he can have him and changes back to his human form. Seeing the face of the man who tortured him drives Antonio over the edge, however, and he begins to throttle Banner. But then, surprisingly, he releases his grip, saying “If this world can start anew, then so can we.” Virginia, still in her spinx form, flies off.
Now it's time for the wrap-up. Peter Parquagh and David Banner walk along the island shore. The English are loading a ship to return to England. Banner insists on going with them while Peter tries to convince him to stay. He says that King James will execute him. Banner replies by saying that someone as powerful as the Hulk is too unstable to remain in the New World. Meanwhile, the Roanoke colonists and Indians are having a legislative council to hash out some new laws. Everyone is already squabbling, but Governor Dare and Mariaocn says it will take time to adjust to the new status quo of peaceful coexistence. The one thing they do agree on, however, is having Osborn sentenced to 24 hours in the stocks for siding with the English during the battle and inciting violence against the Indians in the first place (that seems like a pretty light sentence to me).
Sir Rhodes and Sir Iron manufacture make a new, metal printing press for Jonah and his paper. Peter and Virginia display the newly made flag for their infant nation – red and white striped with a blue field and one star on it. Now that there are no enemies to attack, Jonah starts ranting about a killer spider-monster on the loose. Virginia and Peter walk away and pass by the stocks that Osborn is shackled to. He reveals in a whisper that he knows Peter's secret. (That does not bode well.)
And finally, we look to England four months later, where David Banner is tied to a stake in a courtyard before King James. Is this the end of the Hulk? I think not. As the flames start to rise, a flash of green lights up Banner's eyes...
I'm giving this series such a high rating because the characters and setting created by Neil Gaiman are treated with great respect by Greg Pak. Usually, writers take a lot of shortcuts with these alternate universe characters. They tend to focus on the novelty and disregard any character development. This is not the case here – all the characters get a chance to grow into being the heroes we know them as instead of automatically starting there.
Also, unlike some sequels (mostly seen in the movies), the writer didn't throw in too many new characters. Here we just have Sir Iron (Iron Man), Captain Ross (General Ross), and Sir Rhodes (Rhodey). Sir Iron's design was great and he was such a natural fit in the setting that I was surprised to find out he wasn't included in the original miniseries!
No historical footnotes this time around. But I do want to share this tidbit: The only reason I reviewed this series at all is because it serves as a prequel to Spider-Man 1602. I wanted to do things in the right order, so this is where I started. I should be providing a review of that series in the near future.