Apr 19, 2015

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 54: 1602 #8, June 2004


And so we come to the conclusion of Gaiman's early modern superhero epic. I think I have to say that it was a little underwhelming. The best bits involved Reed Richards, and those only took place in the last two issues. In this issue, Richards outlines a taxonomy of the sciences based around the metaphor the the Knights of the Round Table, each equal and each a part of a whole. A cool (actually, very cool) metaphor, and one that scholars and academics could benefit from, I think.

The climax of this tale is a letdown, frankly. There's so much that could have been done with an early modern approach to the superhero, and Gaiman teases out some of the implications with the Inquisition, with Clea's return to her realm, with Doom as a power in Europe. But the ending comes down to a fairly standard superhero trope: heroes and villains join forces to fix a problem with the spacetime continuum. How many times have we seen this? On the one hand, I suppose, that's the whole point, that we have seen these things before, and that they are all a part of the fundamental stories that Richards muses upon in the previous issue. And, in many ways, this is how we can forgive 1602 it's flaws, by considering that it is simply a superhero story (are they ever simple?) wrapped in an early modern setting. I think that the problem with this explanation is that the world Gaiman and Kubert create is so intriguing that to wrap it up in a superhero story seems somehow to quash its potential as a vehicle for stories. I've not read any of the subsequent series that spun out of 1602, but the fact that there is no ongoing series based on these concepts currently extant means that the potential of the setting was not realized.

Writers and artists cannot, of course, always be historians and scholars. But had Gaiman sat down with such people, co-wrote with them even, then this could have been an amazing alternate history piece coupled with the myths of the Marvel superheroes. We would also have needed an ongoing, or at least longer than 8 issue, run on the title. What's happening on the African continent of this reality? And South America? The title is problematically Eurocentric, even as the contemporary comics are problematically North America-centric.

Ah well. A pleasant, if flawed, deviation from the usual superhero fare, an experiment with, I would argue, inconclusive results. The characters are going to show up in "Secret Wars," so perhaps we'll see something spin out of that eventually.

The promised song will have a link here some time today, but probably not until later this evening. Recording a song is a lengthy process.

I'm not sure what to move on to tomorrow. I actually have a cool idea, but I'm also getting my exam questions this week, so my cool idea may have to wait until I have sufficient time to devote to it. Either way, see you tomorrow.

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