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 showcases Spider-Man's adventures after returning to Europe following the events related in 1602: The New World.
We start our story somewhere in Venice, Italy. (Finally, some captions!) Baron Octavius is throwing his usual fit at Henri Pym and still threatening his tiny lady love Janette. We also get a peek of Norman Osborne in a tub full of green liquid (for his inevitable Green Goblin transformation, natch). Henri tells his irate patron that he is close to a cure but needs more blood from Peter.
Peter, meanwhile, is also in Venice. He commissions a gondolier to take him to the baron's villa. He arrives just in time for a gala that the nobleman is holding. Peter puts on his mask, climbs the outer wall, and peers through a window to scope out the situation. He sees the baron himself sitting on a throne, covered in a purple cloak from top to bottom with his face completely concealed by a white mask. The Lizard is sitting on the floor beside him. Peter also spots Marian Jane Watsonne, performing on a nearby stage.
Somehow, Peter manages to sneak behind the curtain and switches costumes with one of the actors. He strides on stage in his new disguise and surreptitiously reveals to MJ that he is there to rescue her. The Lizard, however, quickly sniffs him out and attacks. Peter shoots some webbing at the Lizard's snout, snatches MJ, and leaps up to the rafters.
And who comes crashing through a conveniently placed window but Norman Osborne in his new Green Goblin guise! (This version looks more like a gargoyle than a goblin, and when you add in the fact that he is wearing purple pants there is a strong Hulk vibe going on as well.) He is, of course, mad with power. After recognizing him Peter remarks, “At last your body matches your soul.” Peter shoots webbing in his face too, then delivers a double kick to his chest. While GG is stunned, our hero hops on his back and forces him to crash into the ground.
Osborne is disoriented from the attack, but the Lizard leaps at Peter again. He kicks the Lizard in the jaw, but GG uses the opening to smack Peter in the back of hi head, knocking him out (again, no Spider-Sense). Then, Osborne starts waxing poetic, declaring to the unconscious hero, “It is a new world and we are its new lords.”
Sometime later, Peter wakes up once again in Henri's lab. And he has been bled, again. Talk about deja vu! Henri explains to Peter that he is being forced to do all this to save his beloved and says Peter would do the same thing if the roles were reversed. Additionally, the scientist reveals his cure is finally finished and he plans on setting Peter free once Octavius is restored. Then, he gives Peter a restorative potion and exits the dungeon.
Peter easily snaps his bonds and starts searching for MJ and her family in the lower dungeons. Along the way, he happens upon Henri's and Otto's cast off experiments – misshapen freaks chained up like animals. He finally finds MJ and her family and is in the process of leading everyone up and out when the Green Goblin and the Lizard finally catch up to him!
Meanwhile, Henri visits Octavius' study to give him the much anticipated cure to his diseased condition. But instead of drinking it, Octavius flicks it away! Henri cries out in despair, wondering why Otto would do such a thing. Octavius explains, “I see the truth now. The form that was intended for me from on high... I am a new being for a new age...” He finally reveals his transformed body – he has gray, waxy skin, a smooth, featureless head with small tentacles covering his mouth, and four extra arms (well, actually tentacles) with suckers on them.
I don't like the role that Osborne is cast in here. He is used as a muscle-bound goon when he was formerly portrayed as a conniving schemer. It just doesn't fit his character. I don't like Doc Ock's about face either. All series long he has been harassing Henri for a cure to his condition and now decides he doesn't need it? What happened there?
I said last issue that having too many villains muddles things. I think this series could use some more character development and less fight scenes. Nothing happens here except for reveals the readers already knew were coming (Green Goblin and Dr. Ock). Quite a letdown.
The progression from alchemy to natural philosophy to science was a long, slow process that had many interesting twists and turns along the way. It all started during the Middle Ages when Crusaders recovered ancient Greek manuscripts from the Holy Land and brought them home. With the opening of new trade routes cross-cultural pollination between European cultures and the Byzantine and Arabian empires of the Mideast accelerated learning everywhere. Monks and scholars of the day began to branch out into new fields of thought that eventually lead to our modern day physics (Isaac Newton), astronomy (Copernicus), chemistry (Roger Bacon), genetics (Gregor Mendel) and so on. This centuries long pursuit of knowledge lead first to the Renaissance and then directly on into the Enlightenment.