Writer: Neil Gaiman
Artist: Andy Kubert, Richard Isanove
Publisher: Marvel Comics
As the various characters begin to gather in the New World, we see the temporal portal that brought our time traveler back to this era is located, and an effort is made to open it back up, and send the time traveler back to his proper time before his presence destroys the universe. We also see that the various ships that carry characters looking to prevent these world saving efforts have to be dealt with, and to make the situation even more difficult we see the time traveler isn't exactly big on returning to his proper time.
This is the final chapter and it does pretty much everything one could expect from the big finish to a time traveling adventure, as all the players work together to get our time traveler back where he belongs, and in an interesting twist we see that while the timeline is corrected, the alternate reality that was created doesn't vanish, which leaves the door open for return visits. The issue also deserves credit for making full use of all the players that it's introduced in the previous issues, as all the various players get a moment in the spotlight, as the struggle the cleric has with the religious implications that arise when he turns into Thor is a very interesting clash of belief systems, and it marks one of the few times where a writer has actually taken the time to really take a hard look at this conflict. There's also a great little exchange where Nick Fury is confronted by Peter who has been commissioned by King James to lead a band of killers to Fury's location, and I have to say there was a moment where I actually believed Peter would use that knife. I also enjoyed the exchange between Fury and the time traveler, who becomes unwilling to return to his own time, as I loved the final moments of this exchange as Neil Gaiman makes it clear that this version of the character isn't quite as virtuous as his Marvel counterpart. I also have to say the final conversation between the watchers stands up as the single best presentation of the basic concept of this race's noninterference code that I've ever come across, as we see they are shamed by the role that Uatu played in saving the universe.
Andy Kubert and Richard Isanove's combined efforts have resulted in a visually interesting experiment, and while I'm not sure I'd want to see this look on a regular basis, I will concede that it does a wonderful job of capturing the feel of the writing. The art does nice job of capturing the big impact moments like the scene where Magneto's ship is encased inside a block of ice, or the jarring shot where Doctor Strange's head is pulled out of the barrel. There's also a wonderful shot where Peter returns to the beach to discover Fury has paid his group a visit, and I also have to applaud the surprise factor of the sequence where we see how Fury deals with the time traveler. The visual impact of the scene where the time portal is used is quite impressive as the explosion of energy is impressively captured. There's also some nice little images, like the shots of Thor switching forms, or the panel where Magneto uses his power to alter the shape of the temporal anomaly.
The book does spend a little too much time trying to explain the scientific principles of the temporal portal they have to use to return the time traveler to his proper time, as there's an entire page where the book attempts to tie aspects of the anomaly to the Knights of the Round Table, and the Grail, and I have to say I couldn't make heads of tails of this exchange, though I the Beast's biblical reference made me smile. I also found the scene where Banner seems to casually accept the idea that the dog caused him to miss his one opportunity to kill Fury, as the character shifts from demanding that the dog be killed to an unmotivated curiosity that the dog listened to Peter's commands, while he completely forgets about the idea that Fury is likely drawing further and further away with every second that he wastes questioning Peter about his ability to get a dog to listen to him. I also have to openly wonder about the scene where Magneto charges Charles with the care of his children, as the previous issues did a solid job of establishing the character was a pretty cold-blooded customer so his passive behavior in this issue felt a bit out of character. The book also never quite explains how the time traveler's voyage into the past lead to the emergence of the other characters in the past, which is a fairly important question to leave on the table. Than again since the door has been left open, a return visit to explain this mystery isn't out of the question. Still, it was the central mystery of the miniseries, and it seems strange that it was never really explained.
Neil Gaiman's first real kick at the can on the Marvel side of the fence doesn't quite measure up to the work he turned out for DC, but I will say it does stand up as a very entertaining new take on the Marvel Universe, and if nothing else it stands up as one of the best uses of Nick Fury in quite some time, and my fingers are crossed that the big secret project that he's working on involves Nick Fury. This final issue also manages to leave all the pieces in place for a possible return to Marvel 1602, and I hope that a return visit is in the cards, as the place makes for a very engaging environment and I'd love to see more Marvel characters make their debut in these new setting. The book also manages to do a fantastic job of playing with its toys, as the religious debate that stems from the claim that Thor is a god is put to good use, as is the sense of betrayal that arises in the scene where Peter closes in on Nick Fury with a knife. I also applaud the scene where our time traveler balks at the idea of return to his time period, as it's a clever reversal of the concept, as most times the story plays off the idea that the time traveler wants to return home.
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