Happy holiday season, one and all! I love this time of year, as I share in Hanukkah and Christmas festivities with friends and family alike. So, with you (my reading audience) I would like to share my much-belated contributions to the Tudor Reading Challenge, issued at the beginning of January 2012 by The Musings of ALMYBNENR.
Yes, yes, I know my reviews are falling terribly late in the year. But I have been reading! Scout’s honor! (Don’t anyone check up on me on the Scout bit…my mother never wanted to be involved in selling the cookies). The beginning of the year began with me reading well over fifty Tudor-related books. Midway throughout the year, however, my intention of writing reviews gave way to my next writing project, and I’ve been buried in Abraham Lincoln books ever since. I’ve kept a list, however, and now I’m checking it twice to write my reviews for you. The first on my list is one of my favorites: the graphic novel, 1602, written by Neil Gaiman, penciled by Andy Kubert, and digitally painted by Richard Isanove.
Imagine a world where the Marvel Universe (think Spiderman and Co.) is not set in the present time, but in the year 1602. Now, if you are familiar with either of these two subjects (and you probably are at least familiar with the history angle if you are reading this blog), you can immediately understand the potential for creating inventive story lines. After all, it is an era of religious turmoil! Sustained contact is being made with the Americas! The devil (be he man or demon or Spanish) surely walks amongst the English populace! Elizabeth I is aged, and she needs the assistance of her spymaster, Sir Nicholas Fury (yes, Nick Fury in the modern Marvel world). Sir Fury is busy protecting the Queen’s life, and rumors are swirling about England of the “witchbreed” – people (or demons?) with fantastical, magical abilities.
I’ll give away no more of the plot than these few line – I really hope that it inspires some who read this review to check a copy out of the local library. As a literary and artistic piece, 1602 excels. The panels flow effortlessly, and the colors are superb. It may be a bit of a jolt for those who are not used to graphic novels to see how Elizabeth I is depicted, but in my opinion, the chosen representation (and especially color palette) was a nice touch.
Speaking of which, to those reading this review who are primarily history lovers, a few warnings. DO NOT begin reading this graphic novel in the belief that historical accuracy is the main goal – it is not. There is a deeper meaning to be taken away from this work (as there is with pretty much every graphic novel out there), but it is not a history lesson. Elizabeth I, Virginia Dare, James I & VI, witchcraft, and the Inquisition all feature in this story. But they also share the stage with Peter Parker, Matthew Murdoch, Stephen Strange, a blonde Native American, and angels/demons. My advice: enjoy it for what it is.
As a side note, 1602 has been featured as an answer on Jeopardy (I know, because I was the only person in the room who could answer the question). That answer dealt with the connection between Count Otto von Doom and Elizabeth I. Do tell me in the comment section what you think about that particular bit if you read this riveting graphic novel!