by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk.
This is the collected edition of the first four issues of Paul Cornell’s Captain Britain comic. For some reason it’s also got two issues of an old Marvel Team Up with Spider-Man and the Captain Britain of the red suit, gold lion and super-mace. Granted, they’re two good issues with Arcade as the villain but I have no idea why they’re included here.
I’m a huge Captain Britain fan. Have been ever since I picked up the comic that I reckon got me hooked on comics for life: Marvel Superheroes #388. It was the issue where Alan Moore introduced the murdering machine The Fury and ended the 6 pager with Captain Britain dead and lying in someone else’s grave. I could go on and on. But I’ve already done that. The article’s here.
Anyway, I wrote about the first issue of Paul Cornell’s take on Captain Britain a while back and thought it was rather good:
The one thing that could have killed it stone dead – the inclusion of the whole Marvel Secret Invasion thingy crossover – has been done in a simple and effective way that includes it in a matter of fact and elegant solution. At the start of this first issue we’re plunged into an all out Skrull vs Britain war with the members of the MI13 team being quietly introduced.
Currently MI-13 consists of Captain Britain, Pete Wisdom (which Paul worked on with Wisdom: Rudiments of Wisdom), a casually attired Black Knight and Dr Faiza Hussain whom the Black Knight comes across treating casualties. There’s the John Lennon Skrull, a John Lennon impersonating double agent working for MI13. And Spitfire, the old British superheroine, who, thanks to a bit of vampirism in the family and the rejuvenating powers of a blood transfusion from the original Human Torch is looking spritely here. Although she does seem to be displaying some unwelcome family traits when she tackles those Skrulls. (And for a little more background on the various characters I’d point you in the direction of It Came From Dartmoor again).
The art is by Leonard Kirk (longtime Supergirl artist at DC). It’s good but by no means great. The earliest pages reminded me of Hitch’s Ultimates in style and tone somewhat, but after that it just became generic superhero stuff. Not my cup of tea. But something I can put up with easily enough if the writing holds up.
And the writing does indeed hold up. It’s well written, tight and doesn’t spend the entire issue doing the traditional gathering together of the team. That happens, naturally enough, off camera and in the quiet moments. The whole thing shapes up to be interesting and entertaining.
(Lots of fighty fighty in Captain Britain: Secret Invasion. And the new look. I have to say; I miss the helmet.)
So where does this conclusion of the Secret Invasion take us? Sadly, not as far as I’d hoped it would. We get to see the big battle for Britain with the invading Super-Skrulls trying to get their hands on all that magic lying in the Faerie realms. We get to see the team coming together as all of Britain’s heroes are marshalled for war. It all rather careers along for the remaining three issues with the Skrulls and the assembled forces of Blighty knocking the crap out of each other all the way through.
As much as I really liked the first issue, I can’t help thinking that the rest of the Secret Invasion storyline here doesn’t quite live up to the promise it seemed to hold. It feels very much like a book searching for the right way to go. And that compliment I paid about not feeling the need to spend time gathering the team together in the first issue – that’s because that happens over the next three. I can’t help feeling a little let down after being so positive about that first issue.
However, when it works, it promises that the next series of issues should be better. Paul Cornell’s got a nice deftness of touch with the dialogue in places, throwing in some good one-liners here and there. It’s a rocky start to what I was hoping might be a great series, but overall it’s got more going for it than holding it back. It’s still an enjoyable enough superhero romp, especially for those of us with a huge nostalgic attachment to Brian Braddock and Captain Britain. Later issues after this have Blade joining the gang and there’s a great promo shot of Doctor Doom and Dracula on the moon that makes me really hope that Paul’s managing to get better and better as he navigates his way around the idea of a team book. Because it’s easy to forget that this is only the third comic he’s ever written, and the first team book. So maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on him.
I’ll certainly be hanging around long enough to pick up Book 2: Hell Comes To Birmingham, out in June.
(A taste of troubles to come and a great promo image. The ad for CB & MI-13 #10)
Of course, if you’ve never read the classic Alan Moore / Alan Davis Captain Britain issues that I love so much, there’s a great (if expensive) opportunity to get them all in one huge Captain Britain omnibus edition and see why I blame that series for a lifetime loving comics.
Richard Bruton likes to walk the moors of Yorkshire wearing his old style Captain Britain helmet; he tells people its for safety.