Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Neil Gaiman, Andy Kubert & Richard Isanove
Marvel, 2011

I have been looking forward to reading this for months, so when I found myself with a quiet weekend, I indulged in a bit of Marvel gone historic.

It's 1602 and Queen Elizabeth is close to death. In her court, Doctor Stephen Strange and Sir Nicholas Fury conspire with the Queen to protect her, concerned that her death might bring forth the rule of King James, who has no love for magical arts. Witch-like activitiesn will be supressed and a reign of Catholicism will rule over England.

This gripping Gothic graphic takes all our favourite Marvel heroes back in time. From the X-Men to Fantastic Four to Captain America, they are all hidden under historical guises, unaware that they are about four hundred years too early. Something unexplained has disturbed the chronology of history, and somehow these characters have langed in Elizabethan England, unaware that they are destined for another time.

It is incredible how easily the Marvel characters slip into the seventeenth century - you might think that there would be profound differences in their situation, but actually it turned out to be rather easy to surplant them in another time. As in the twenty-first century, they are at risk of prosecution for their abilities, forced into hiding and always in conflict. Scientific explanations for their powers are replaced by magical and supersticious explanations, but the core 'otherness' remains.

There are many layers to this story, but the brilliant and detailed illustrations keep you abreast of the flow, and so it is able to jump around from each characters' storyline until they all come together to overcome the darkness that hangs over the world. For some of the characters, it is clear who their modern alter-ego is, but some are more subtle, revealing themselves to you as you read on and learn more.

I found myself completely engrossed in this story. If anyone has any doubts over the educational potential of graphic novels, surely this overcomes any argument against, as it teaches seventeenth century history through the medium of the superhero story.

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