“Part Seven: In Which Patterns May Be Discerned, By Those With Eyes To See Them”
Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove
Constrained by his inability to reveal in life what the Watcher has told him, Dr. Strange nevertheless attempts to influence the outcome of the strange events which surround the 1602 Mervel Universe. Meanwhile, the Grand Inquisitor initiates an escape as King James tightens his grip on England. Lives are lost, and our heroes begin to converge on the New World…
Whilst 1602 has prided itself on intrigue, secrecy and a sense of the familiar in an unfamiliar world, this issue begins to tie up a lot of the mystery. The information given to Dr. Strange last issue plays a pivotal role as we begin to unravel what is happening to the world. There is a neat sense that the various groups of characters are all being guided to their final destination by forces outside of their control – and the idea that their destiny is being influenced by the one “Forerunner” among them almost brings the feel of a whodunnit to the tale. Granted, this issue we finally find out who this time-traveller is, but the reasoning behind it is tantalizingly left until next issue. Like the best mysteries, the answer may be simple – the fun is in asking the right questions.
Writing is again top-notch, Gaiman showing a fine command of language and a good knowledge of character, as well as pacing the plot twists and turns masterfully, counterbalancing them with enough action and visual elements to satisfy the art-loving comic audience. Indeed, this artwork has to be strong enough to match up to the premise and scope of the story as well as the strong emotional punch that many of the moments in this issue contain. Happily Kubert is more than a match for the material with which he has been provided, the stylised artwork improving with each issue and gradually becoming closer and closer in overall tone to the Marvel Universe we know and love. Sequential action scenes, such as Magneto’s thrilling escape, are carried out as skillfully as more emotional moments of real beauty such as Jean Grey’s phoenix sequence or chilling panels such as the conversation between Dr. Strange and his wife.
In addition to the regular comic elements, Gaiman also manages to slip in some clever hypertextual multi-level discussion of the nature of comics and their characters: The significance of Reed Richards’ musings on a universe which favours continuances instead of endings and the effect of the laws of story on Ben Grimm’s tragic nature will not be lost on the observant reader. Indeed, 1602 can be enjoyed on many levels: a “What if?” style adventure, a historical super-heroic tale or a comment on the nature of the Marvel Universe and comics more generally. It is a pleasure that, on all levels, the comic excels.
Thankfully for an issue which is all about the set-up of a finale, there is real advancement of the story, where losses are felt strongly and as many questions are posed as are answered. A surprising final reveal leads us into a conclusion that will hopefully satisfy many questions that have been nagging ever since this series was announced – but will hopefully leave the audience with enough mental work to do to make this a satisfying piece all round.
An excellent set-up for the final part of this tale, which throws some unexpected plot developments into the mix and begins to tie up a lot of the loose plot threads dangling in this title. Much will depend on how the final issue plays out, but there is a sense that the climax of 1602 is going to be spectacular - and will likely make or break the series.
What did you think of this book?
Have your say at the Line of Fire Forum!