Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Captain Britain and MI13 Annual #1 Review

Written by Paul Cornell
Art by Michael Collins

To say Captain Britain and MI13 is one of my favourite books currently being published would be an understatement. Paul Cornell has managed to make me care about characters I had always known to see, but never had enough interest to bother picking up their titles over the years.

I think the reason Cornell's been so successful in that regard is that he didn't get bogged down by the baggage of the characters' pasts. It was obvious they were established heroes and had lots of storied adventures, but, like any good story, it was not required for the reader to know the inner details of those stories to understand them.

Take the star of this issue, Meggan, for example. She briefly appeared in a dream sequence back during an earlier arc in the series. I knew she and Captain Britain were married and she had died, but, outside of that, had no idea who she was, how she died, what her personality was or even her powers. That issue made it clear they shared a deep bond and that Britain loved her deeply and worked on the strength of the writing - not on the need for a Wikipedia-level knowledge of the characters.

Sadly, this issue is nothing like that. It focused completely on Meggan in Hell, yet never tells me why she's in Hell, what she did to deserve to go there or even how she died. Even the character seems confused over the fact she is in Hell and it is never actually explained. In contrast, another character that was thrown into the book recently was Blade. I didn't need to know who he was, what he was up to in his book or anything of the sort due to the fact we're told he's a vampire hunter and a British citizen that was brought in to help MI13. It's simple and effective and flowed naturally. With Meggan, we're thrown into Hell with her, a new character (to me) that I have no vested interest in, am given nothing to work with and no context with which to judge the character's actions or reasons for doing what she's doing.

It also doesn't help that this story is just a trip around Hell that sort of meanders about with no real purpose other than trying to fill in some origin and back story for Meggan that doesn't really go all the way towards explaining just who the heck she is. I still don't know what her powers are after this issue. I think she's a shapeshifter of some sort, but the hell if I could tell you if she even has control over it or not. Also, still don't know how she died or even if she died. Maybe she's just visiting for all I know.

The backup story was a lot better as it focused on an 'X-Men baseball game'-like bit of downtime between the MI13 members. The difference between the X-Men and MI13 is that the MI13 team is playing cricket instead of baseball, which I thought was a nice touch. I really enjoyed Faiza's passion for the game and how Blade had no clue, whatsoever, about how to play cricket or what anyone was talking about when they were mentioning rules or talking about the game in general. Was a good vantage point for someone like me, who has no knowledge of cricket and its rules.

Verdict - Check It. Tempted to say Avoid It for this based on how disappointing the Meggan half of the story was, but the backup story does go a long way to redeeming it and was much more in line with how the series typically reads. I do feel that this is probably something only current readers of the series or longtime fans of Meggan will enjoy, so I wouldn't go rushing out to pick it up as an introduction to the much talked about series. For that, go back and start with the first trade or this Vampire State storyarc.

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