Please ignore the hideousness of the picture. I couldn't find one on Wikipedia and was recently scared into having to take all of my own photos by a post on somebody's blog about how you can get sued for using images from other places on the internet. Also I'm crap at photography and 33 weeks pregnant so don't do getting up once I've sat down so well anymore! Anyway, moving on!
It's not a secret that I seriously love Neil Gaiman. All my family do, and between him and Terry Pratchett I managed to get my husband reading again. The Sandman series is also the first graphic novel series that I ever read, and I love it hugely for its' awesomeness, but also for its heavy reliance on mythology and suchlike. Lots of you will know about my obsession with that. So anyway, somehow we've had 1602 for around... a year? And I hadn't read it until I decided that it really should go on my pile for the Bout of Books readathon last week.
Here is the blurb from the back of my copy:
As twilight descends on the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, all is not well. England is in the grip of terror as strange, violent storms lash the countryside and the Witchbreed, beings with amazing powers, stalk the land - all the while persecuted by the Holy Inquisition!
A host of Marvel heroes and villains including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Captain America, Daredevil, Doctor Doom, Magneto and more emerge during the dark days of 1602 and are drawn into a plot of treason and treachery - whilst the end of the world seems nigh!So, on the one hand, yes it is one of those incredibly geeky graphic novels - probably part of the stereotype of graphic novels that I've heard so often, but then it's also an awesome story. You could read it without knowing who any of the characters are, although I doubt there are many people who wouldn't know who any of them were as so many of them have been made into movies recently! I have to be honest, my brother has always been the comic book nerd in our house; I never really thought of myself as being that geeky until I read this and realised that I could identify most of the characters even without the help of the blurb. But anyway, my original point was that you could read it without knowing the back stories of any of the characters, it's just one of those things that if you do know, you have a little giggle to yourself whenever you recognise somebody. If I'd read this back when we first got it I don't think I would have giggled quite as much; with the recent Avengers film (awesome, awesome film, go see it!) I've been somewhat immersing myself in watching all the films I hadn't already seen and so I'm fairly recently familiar with Captain America, Nick Fury and others. And then there's the X-Men, always my guilty pleasure, have been for years. Who doesn't love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine?!
I know that Mr. Gaiman doesn't do the artwork for the graphic novels he writes, but they are always so beautiful and 1602 is no exception. It's also a very cleverly put together story, which was nice and refreshing after reading the second novel in the Umbrella Academy series earlier this week - great, but incredibly violent and not too subtle, review coming soon! I do like some variation in my graphic novels, and as a genre I find it really exciting to read because there's such awesome diversity and it's so expressive, and as previously mentioned, because of the links to mythology etc that I'm obsessed with! The balance between action and dialogue in 1602 was just right as well, considering its' cast of superheroes I'd expected there to be much more rushing about, and while there was a fair amount of that, there were also enough clever twists to keep me more than happy.
Also a couple of other things that made me happy about this; firstly, it's really long for a graphic novel - usually I can finish them in an hour or two but this one kept me going for a couple of days, and secondly it's a standalone. Don't get me wrong, I really love series, but graphic novels aren't cheap, and sometimes it can be infuriating to finish something you've really enjoyed and then have to wait ages until either you can afford the next one, or in the case of the Fables series I'm currently in the midst of, any bookshop near you actually has the next one you need. That was also the problem my sister and I had when we were jointly trying to collect the Sandman series. Yes, you can just shop online, but it's nowhere near as fun. Online doesn't smell like books.
If you're not at all into superheroes please don't let that put you off reading this. The major characters may have superpowers, but it's really not about that at all. It's great from a historical viewpoint and fits ridiculously well into its' appointed time frame as well as just being a great story.