Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Andy Kubert
Publisher: Marvel Comics
In the year 1602, the Queen of England calls upon her trusted advisors Doctor Stephen Strange & Sir Nicholas Fury to discuss the highly unusual weather that many believe is signaling the end of the world. To this end we see a wide array of familiar heroes have come to exist in the earlier era and the new roles that they playing in this new setting are striking similar to the ones they played in the regular Marvel Universe.
The first issue of this miniseries certainly gives one the sense that Neil Gaiman isn't going to limit himself to a small corner of the Marvel Universe, but rather he's going to include characters from all over the universe. In fact my only concern regarding this first issue is that perhaps he's gone a little over board with his kid in a candy shop routine, as we're introduced to no less than a dozen characters who look to have a task placed before them, and while several of these characters are forming larger groups, this issue does have a somewhat scattered across the four winds feel to it. Now Neil Gaiman is a very talented writer, and for pure storytelling he's one of the best, so I'm not overly concerned about his ability to bring it all together. However, this opening issue is a little difficult to fully immerse one self in while the plot is busy bouncing all over the place, and at this time I'm not all that certain I could tell you who the central character of this adventure is, or even if the book is supposed to have a central character. Still, the new environment is littered with fun discoveries, as we get see the Marvel Universe coming into existence 400 years before its time, and it's quite entertaining to discover the new roles that characters like Nick Fury & the X-Men are playing in this dramatically-altered setting. Plus, as I mentioned above Neil Gaiman is quite sweeping when it comes to picking his cast of characters from this changed Marvel Universe.
As for the art, I'm still not convinced that the colors directly over the pencils is a good thing, as the art has a almost fuzzy, indistinct look about it that I'm not entirely comfortable with. Now I'm sure part of it is due to my decades of pencil & ink exposure, and I will concede that Richard Isanove is a very talented artist, as there's some wonderful lighting effects, and Adam Kubert's high energy pencils are clearly evident under the colors. However, I truly believe this book would've looked better if an inker had been brought in to add some much needed definition to the visuals.
This opening issue essentially sets up the premise that will drive this series, and presumably the dozen or so Marvel characters that have been introduced will all play an active role in the impending adventure. Now the hype surrounding this miniseries pretty much guaranteed that I would enter this series with a basic understanding of the plot, as the Marvel Universe has formed 400 years before its time, and since it's been stated numerous times that this is not an Elseworlds-style adventure, one has to assume that it's more along the lines of the "Age of Apocalypse" in that some event in the past has altered the present, and the main plot will have these characters working to bring back the regular Marvel Universe. What makes this premise so interesting though is that there doesn't appear to be a character running around with a memory of what it was like before, or even that their world has been changed, so Neil Gaiman has really given his cast an uphill battle, as they're not even aware the world they call home is flawed.
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