Apr 15, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 50: 1602 #4, January 2004

Do you ever think about Doom?

I sometimes think that Doctor Doom is easily the most versatile and well-realized character in the Marvel Universe. Yes, he's a totalitarian dictator who believes only he is fit to rule, well, the universe. But that's not all he is, and it seems to me that the various investigations of his personality have fleshed out a character with far more depth than most of the heroes who oppose him. I'm thinking here of his turn at the end of the original Secret Wars series, his inclusion in the Future Foundation in Hickman's F.F., and now here, in 1602. Yes, he's a totalitarian dictator, but he, honestly, seems to wrestle with his hubris often enough to demonstrate that he's considered all the options and still come out with himself as the best one. I've not read any of the series that have focussed on the man himself, but as a major supporting cast member for so much of the MU, he's fascinating.

The intrigues continue in this issue, and we finally are given some clue as to the fate of the four from the Fantastick. This issue also really begins to highlight the differences between the world of 1602 and our own, aside, of course, from the existence of metahumans. North America is said to be home to some particularly large "leather wings," pterodactyls that seem to have escaped from the Savage Land. And there's a strange panel at the bottom of the fourth page depicting a torch-bearing mob (because there's always a torch-bearing mob) that is being scrutinized by a black cat with extremely large fangs. Gaiman and Kubert do a rather remarkable job of making this realization of difference a very subtle process. There's little to no metahuman activity in the first issue, and even when it does happen, it's fairly mundane because we're expecting it, so the trick is to make the world strange in other ways. The surrounding fauna and weather is a nice way of doing it, as well as the subtle historical changes (i.e., the survival of the Roanoake colony, Elizabeth's death a year early, Raleigh's death long before the actual date of his death).

There is a brief telling of the origin of Virginia Dare in this issue, involving (spoiler) her touching what looks like a floating infinity symbol that sparks her powers. Two things spring to mind: first, the Infinity Gauntlet and gems, and I can't for the life of me remember if that has anything to do with this story. Second, the repetition of the infinity symbol in The Multiversity: Pax Americana, which I was discussing with a friend yesterday, and which has absolutely no bearing on 1602 whatsoever.

Okay, we're past the halfway point, and things are getting exciting. More tomorrow!

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