Thursday, April 30, 2009

Trade Waiting - Captain Britain and MI:13 Vol 1, Secret Invasion

Today, I'll be taking a look at Captain Britain and MI:13 by Paul Cornell. Cornell is an up and coming talent for Marvel who will also be doing the Dark Reign: Young Avengers mini.

Before I get to the review, I wanted to point out that the first Captain Britain and MI:13 trade collects Captain Britain and MI:13 #1-4 and Marvel Team-Up #65-66 and costs $16. It does not collect issues #1-6, as lists it, nor does it collect issues #1-4 and cost $17, like says.

Also, I am not going to even review the two Marvel Team-Up issues reprinted in the trade because I hate the practice Marvel has recently started with adding "relevant" back issues to their trades to justify an increase of the price. I typically refuse to buy these trades, but made an exception here because Captain Britain and MI:13 is just that good. Hit the jump for the reviews.

Written by Paul Cornell and Christ Claremont
Art by Leonard Kirk and John Byrne
Collects Captain Britain and MI:13 #1-4 and Marvel Team-Up #65-66

Captain Britain and MI:13 is book that has gotten a lot of positive buzz and rightfully so. It is a simple, yet enjoyable book. The book is one of those superhero titles that is just about heroes saving the day, yet has enough depth to it that it isn't boring or dull.

The book launched during Secret Invasion and, while probably not the best idea for the long term health of the book, Cornell uses it to his advantage in several key ways. First and foremost, it provides an easy way for the team to assemble that felt very organic. The Skrulls invade, there is no Excalibur (presumably since they disbanded after Claremont left), so all British heroes are brought under the authority of MI:13, and Pete Wisdom forms a strike team to deal with the Skrull threat. That is the main plot thread with a second subplot dealing with Faiza Hussain and the Black Knight, who both met on the battlefield. The two threads do eventually combine by the end of the story.

The reason the Skrulls are invading Britain is in order to steal the magic from Avalon, a mystic dimension connected to Britain and is also the source of Captain Britain's powers. Things don't go according to plan for Wisdom's team and that sets the later issues in motion. It's a solid read and doesn't do anything too inventive and just works really well. The story is perfectly paced for four issues and flows just fine.

Cornell also does a good job using Secret Invasion to set up the next arc for the book. He works it into the story and it plays into the resolution of the Secret Invasion aspect of the book. The only problem I had with the story is that Cornell mentions some things from his Wisdom miniseries and, while he deals with it well enough, there is also a vagueness to it that could be a problem for anyone that didn't read that miniseries. There is plenty of action here for those looking for some less cerebral endeavours,but Cornell doesn't let it overwhelm the characters either. Each get plenty of facetime and he does a good job of introducing and expanded upon the cast.

Speaking of the cast, they are one of my favourite groups of characters currently being published. There is a nice diversity to the cast and Cornell, as said above, does a good job of introducing them to the reader. Cornell also does a really good job of playing the characters off of one another, Faiza and Black Knight in particular. Pete Wisdom isn't as sarcastic and amusing as he was in Wisdom, but he's still an enjoyable characters. The rest are fine, but I have no prior experience with a couple of the characters to properly judge them by. Well, actually, I read Reginald Hudlin's first arc on Black Panther (definitely not recommended) where Black Knight was an idiot, racist Crusader, but I don't think that counts since Cornell retcons it in later arcs of this series.

One of the more interesting aspects of the book was the fact the Paul Cornell was British and you could tell that in the writing, especially the dialogue.

The art by Kirk is generally suitable. He does a good job with all of the heroes and his art is clear and readable. There is also a lot to draw in the book given the various locals shows us and just a lot of different stuff that Cornell puts into the story that you don't usually see in the standard New York Avengers slugfest. The only thing I have a problem with is the Skrull designs. Although I did not like Secret Invasion, Leinil Yu did a terrific job with the various Super Skrulls and Kirk's designs just can't compete. He did do a fantastic job with the magic-based Super Skrull though.

Verdict - Must Read. A simple yet engrossing book that is a stunning examples of what superhero stories can be when you take away all of the distractions. Cornell crafts a solid and enjoyable story with a captivating cast and creates one of the best titles that Marvel is currently putting out.

Like this review? Interesting in this book? Purchase Captain Britain and MI13 Vol 1: Secret Invasion from and help support The Weekly Crisis.

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colonel-green said...

Also, I am not going to even review the two Marvel Team-Up issues reprinted in the trade because I hate the practice Marvel has recently started with adding "relevant" back issues to their trades to justify an increase of the price.I took that as more an attempt to make the trade a bit thicker; otherwise it's just four issues (likewise, a lot of the three-issue SI tie-in miniseries get other stuff thrown in, like Beta Ray Bill's first appearance in the collected SI: Thor)

flipthepage said...

man, i feel slightly gypped that the UK release of this tpb didn't include the two team-up issues, but it only cost 7 pounds retail so i can't complain.

Klep said...

Yeah, I have to say I read the two team-up issues, but I didn't really feel I'd gotten any additional value from them. I would have preferred it if they had done something like what they did with the Black Panther: SI trade where they added a few pages of T'Challa's bio. Captain Britain is not a character that has gotten too much exposure over the years, and it would have helped newer readers to understand his place in the Marvel U better if they'd given his biography rather than two random team-up issues with Spiderman.

The comic itself is, of course, excellent.

Eric Rupe said...

colonel-green - To me, its along the lines of charging $4 for 32 pgs. The increase in the price of the trade isn't equal to the value added by the back issues. The two issues from Marvel Team-Up each have a cover price of 35 cents but the trade costs $4 dollars more than the $12 it would cost the buy the four CB & MI:13 in singles.

Not to mention the fact that other companies, like DC and Image, do release collections that have only 3 or 4 issues.

Klep - I wouldn't mind paying a dollar or two more than the cost of the single issues for stuff like pages from the Marvel Handbook or similar extras.

Sea-of-Green said...

I'm greatly enjoying this series, and not just as a longtime Captain Britain fan. I agree that Secret Invasion was a great excuse for bringing these heroes together -- probably the only good thing to come out of Secret Invasion, actually. Here's hoping Marvel maintains the positive pace on this series for at least a little while.

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