Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Andy Kubert
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As Nicholas Fury struggles with his feelings of guilt regarding his failure to protect his Queen from a murderous attack, we see he's also a bit disturbed by the orders he's been given by the new King, as the man has decided to blame the Witchbreeds for all the evils in the world. However, Stephen Strange is able to gain the ear of the conflicted Nicholas Fury, and a small group of heroes begin to plot against the evil that they believe is consuming their world.
The book does look to be slowly moving toward addressing the mystery of why the Marvel Universe is coming into existence 400 years before it is supposed to, but at the same time the book is starting to feel a bit disjointed as there's roughly four stories vying for attention, and there doesn't really to be much pulling them together. Now I trust Neil Gaiman's ability to pull it all together, and it's likely that I'm going to end up looking a bit foolish when he pulls it off, but I have to say that with over a dozen characters running around with their revised histories, several evil villains lurking about in the background with their sinister plans, and the simple fact that there doesn't look to be a single character that we're supposed to look upon as the main protagonist, I have to say I'm a bit concerned by the chaotic feel of this miniseries. I also have to say I'm a bit concerned by the fact that the heroic characters aren't really doing anything all that heroic, as Nicholas Fury does little more than issue loud, but ultimately empty, declarations of anger at the success of the various villainous plans he runs up against, and in the end his inaction is acting to make the character look a bit ineffectual. Still there are moments where I'm glad I'm on board for this journey, as Stephen Strange is being used very effectively, and the material involving the Fantastic Four really grabbed my attention, with the shot of Reed on the other side of the looking glass being particularly interesting.
As for the art, I can't say that I've fully embraced the look of this project, as there are moments where the backgrounds look a bit washed out, and while the figure work does have a nice sense of energy to it there are moments the characters look a bit loosely put together. Still I rather like the diffused lighting appearance that this book is able to offer up, as the book truly looks like it's being lit largely by torches. I also enjoyed the way the art is able to deliver the big impact moments, with the final page where the boat takes to the air being the highlight of the issue. I also enjoyed the way the art captured the cliffhanger moment as we see Stephen Strange is pulled out of his body and is brought before a character who will likely be able to provide the answer to the big question regarding this book's temporal mystery.
Neil Gaiman is one of the best storytellers working in comics, and given the level of excitement that he's expressed in the interviews leading up to this miniseries release I have to imagine that he has a very definite plan in the works. However five issues into what I believe is an eight issue miniseries I find myself still a bit hesitant to embrace this project as anything beyond a somewhat engaging look at the Marvel Universe set in medieval times. Now I'm curious to see how he plans on explaining the how and why of why the Marvel Universe and a good number of its characters that Neil Gaiman has inserted into this new time period benefit tremendously from this new setting. However, the simple fact of the matter is that we don't really have a central plot tying this all together beyond the temporal displacement, and the lack of a central character to drive the action forward leaves me a bit concerned. Still, I remain confident that I'll be singing this miniseries’ praises before it's all over. I also have to say that I love the fantasy like moment that we receive in the final pages as the characters use their powers to make a sailing ship take flight.
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