Adora and the Distance

The Goggler Pull List #12: Adora and the Distance and Marvel 1602

Dept. of Comic Book Compulsions

On this week’s edition of The Goggler Pull List we review and recommend two remarkable reads – one classic and one new – Marvel 1602 by Neil Gaiman, and Adora and the Distance, by Marc Bernardin.

Let’s get into it.

Adora and the Distance (Marc Bernardin, Ariela Kristantina, and Bryan Valenza)

Adora and the Distance

I wasn’t ready for this.

There is a reveal at the end of this graphic novel that will make you want to immediately go back to the beginning and read it again. It is a rare thing. A beautiful moment of understanding that allows you to experience the entire narrative with a fresh perspective. It will fill your heart and break it at the same time. It does what all great fiction should, it allows you to step outside your own life and gives you the tools to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

On the face of it, Adora and the Distance looks and feels like something you might have read before. The adventures of a young girl who leaves everything she knows and loves, who sets out on an epic journey in order to save everything she knows and loves, sounds like it might be just another YA fantasy.

It isn’t.

Adora and the Distance

In fact, this is unlike any hero’s journey you’ve ever come across. Adora may be young, but she is also wonderfully complete. From the moment we meet her, it is clear that Adora possesses all the characteristics of a hero. She isn’t looking for her heart. She isn’t seeking courage. She is already all of those things. She is wise, and loving, and brave. She is altruistic. She is pure. Her confidence is infectious. This isn’t a story of discovery for Adora. She is special and she knows it. This is a story of discovery for us.

At first, I wasn’t sure what I was reading. I kept trying to figure out Adora’s world. I felt like I needed to place it within some familiar context. Who are these pirates she encounters on her journey? What inspired this underground city? What about that lava monster? From which fantasy do these fantasies come from? It was only after I reached the end of this book did I realize what was going on. That this was a world that had sprung forth from the best parts of our collective imaginations.

Adora’s world was the same as the one we used to construct in our minds as children. It was built from all the different toys in our toy box. It was influenced by comic books, and movies, and Saturday morning cartoons. Because those were the best adventures we ever had. They were us living our best lives.

Adora and the Distance

Ariela Kristantina’s art is gorgeous. Bryan Valenza’s colors are rich and luxurious. This is a book that deftly balances the magical realism of Hayao Miyazaki with the sense of adventure and childlike wonder of Steven Spielberg.

Marc Bernardin wastes no time in pretending that this is the first fantasy of its kind. Instead, he builds on everything that has come before, cleverly exploiting our familiarity with the genre, in order to spin a tale that seeks to reinforce the notion that we are, all of us, the heroes of our own story.

Marvel 1602 (Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert)

Being given free rein to do a comic book must be hard. Not so much the idea of staring at an empty blank page, with nowhere to start and nowhere to go, but being given the proverbial keys to a kingdom. It might provide you a place to start, but when you can do whatever you want, how do you start?

Which isn’t to say that was the position Neil Gaiman found himself when he was invited to work on a comic series for Marvel, but at the same time, when you have the mind of someone like Gaiman, you really aren’t going to just approach the characters in the same way that has been done for the last 70 years. So when Marvel Comics editor Joe Quesada approached Gaiman, what came of it was Marvel 1602, a fresh retelling of Marvel’s heroes set in the Elizabethan era. 

Gaiman’s creative brain gives Marvel 1602 more than just a fresh coat of Elizabethan paint over established characters. Sure, a lot of the recognisable character traits remain. (Sir) Nicholas Fury is still a high ranking intelligence officer working for the establishment. Doctor Stephen Strange is still a doctor who communes with the mystic world. 

But Gaiman also reinterprets other members of the cast. Daredevil, still blind, is no longer a lawyer, but a troubadour, and a spy. Peter Parquah is a young squire to Sir Nicholas Fury. The X-Men, a secret order of monks and nuns. Magneto is now the Spanish Grand Inquisitor. In his reinterpretation of the Marvel cast, Gaiman also keeps the horrors of humanity intact. Fury and Strange, working on behalf of Queen Elizabeth, are told of a magical, powerful “thing” that may come to threaten the world, and to save it from itself, must be kept safe by almighty England, even if it means starting a world war to do so.

Despite being published in 2003, Neil Gaiman’s book still feels fresh almost 20 years later. And in that lies the genius of Marvel 1602 (and its subsequent sequels). The Marvel characters are familiar, but not the ones we know. They are fresh, but not entirely a reimagining. 

This isn’t Marvel’s What If… series, where characters powers are swapped and subjunctive scenarios are explored. It’s not that kind of mental exercise. This is something wholly different, while also being almost exactly the same.

We get our comics either from our local comic book store, The Last Comic Shop, or on Comixology. Are you interested in checking out either Adora and the Distance or Marvel 1602? Or have you read them already? Let us know by getting in touch with us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Check out our previous installments of The Goggler Pull List here.

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