As stated in other reviews I've posted on Amazon, I am a big fan of Marvel's WHAT IF concept, as well as other alternate reality stories, provided that events are presented in a logical fashion. More often than not, however, they aren't, leaving the reader to deal with too many assumptions and unanswered questions. When 1602 was first announced by Marvel, I was under the impression that Neil Gaiman was simply going to take the easy way out: "re-imagining" the heroes and villains of the Silver Age Marvel Universe as existing in England during the reign of Queen Elizabeth. After reading the recently-released hardcover collection, however, I can say that this is definitely not a re-imagining, nor even a "what if" story, but more of a very original mystery with an excellent twist that makes sense. Surprisingly, 1602 can comfortably exist within normal Marvel continuity. As a result, I enjoyed it immensely.
In order to not spoil the plot, I'll be as basic as possible: the Marvel Universe has arisen 360 years early, triggering the possible destruction of the universe. Of course, it's up to the heroes, and a few villains, to try to set things right. You'll see many familiar faces here, especially if you're moderately familiar with Marvel's Silver Age characters. Even if not, it's not too difficult to determine who is who. Gaiman writes a very tight story that moves quickly, and Adam Kubert's art is exceptional, especially when paired with the skilled coloring of Richard Isanove. Scott McKowen provides beautiful woodcut covers for the series and the collection. All contributors to this story complement each other quite well, making 1602 an essential part of any comic library.