Tuesday, 13 May 2008

BRITONS! Captain Britain & MI:13 NEEDS YOU!

Or if you're American, or anywhere else in the world either, for that matter.


Unless you've been asleep under a rock for the last couple of months (And I'm not judging you, if you have.) you'll probably have heard that Marvel Comics are giving Captain Britain an ongoing title bearing his name again, for the first time in two decades. Written by Paul Cornell (Doctor Who, Wisdom) and pencilled by Leonard Kirk (JSA, Agents of Atlas), Captain Britain & MI:13 goes on sale tomorrow, May the 14th (Or May the 15th in the UK) and it's looking pretty bloody good. I've received quite a few emails requesting more information about the series since I first mentioned it, and while time has gotten away from me a lot recently I thought I'd put this little entry together to whet a few people's appetite for the release.
To explain, many of you might remember that late last year Paul Cornell was officially announced by marvel as the new writer for 'Excalibur'. Well, it seems that the people at Marvel finally decided that Excalibur had been relaunched one too many time in recent history, and opted for a new title, with the more prominent cast members from its predecessor available.

CB&MI:13 combines the best elements of Excalibur with those of Cornell and Hairsine's Wisdom series from 2007 - It's superheroes, working with the British government to protect the Country from weird happenings. Those weird happenings might be supernatural, they might be super-human, or (As is the case of the first arc) extra-terrestrial, because as the book kicks of we are slap bang in the middle of an invasion from the race of alien shape-shifters known as The Skrulls.

(Non-Marvel readers don't be put off, though. Yes, this title does tie in with Marvel big summer Secret Invasion event, but it is very much self-contained, and a very much the start of a new title in its own right.)

And more promising, for a number of those who took issue with New Excalibur being predominately made up of American characters, this book does not only have a predominately British cast (A couple of associates, but you'll see that they make sense) but also promises to make use of some of those characters and setting which have been left in mothballs for over a decade. And anybody who read Wisdom will know just how well Cornell seems to work at re-introducing past continuity, in a reader-friendly manner.

But who is on board this team I hear you ask. Well here is your answer...

Captain Britain: Brian Braddock.

Well, it would be a bit odd a title if he wasn't actually ON it. THEY'RE not pulling a Captain America on us...

At the point we join the series Brian is in a state bit of a state of flux. He's been cut off from Otherworld, and all those infinite alternate dimensions, after the events of X-Men: Die by the Sword. Cornell described the situation in an interview for CBR a while back as:

"He's got a war to fight, so he doesn't go on about it. And he's missing his wife; longs to know where she is. But he doesn't think now would be the time to mention that. I do want to show more of Brian having a wry sense of humor, actually, one apt for his brand of heroism. We'll get to that, but in the first few issues--hey, it's war!"

It certainly seems that this series will be focusing on Brian as Britain's premier hero - as a symbol and a person to be looked up to - and how he fits into Marvel's Britain. That was always the case in all of Cap's early stories, but I think midway through the original Excalibur it kind of got a little lost. Cornell muses,


"Captain Britain can make grown men weep at the sight of him. The air around him is warm like a summer meadow. He smells of honey. If he had a theme, it'd be by Vaughan Williams. He is not an amiable buffoon. He is not an alcoholic -- he drinks normally for a European and not often to excess. He will fight them on the beaches. He will never surrender."


"Bringing Hero Back" is a phrase that both Cornell and editor Nick Lowe have been mentioning in interviews. I'm personally all for it.

You can reader a larger interview here:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12826


Pete Wisdom: Head of MI:13

He's worked with Excalibur, twice, led X-Force, faked his own death, and nowadays runs British military intelligence's division for dealing with weird happenings and the threats they may cause to great Britain.

Any Wisdom fan who has read Cornell's Wisdom series will probably feel the way that I do - that nobody has quite had such a sound handle on the guy since Warren Ellis parted company writing him. Often brash, rude and full of delightful sarcasm, Pete is the man who makes the hard decisions that others can't. He's protecting his Country, from the same point of view that anybody involved with Military Intelligence would. And that isn't always the noble and heroic way of doing things. Just the necessary way of doing things.

Cornell says of Wisdom,


"His saving grace is his sense of duty. He's just one of those guys who always seems to have to be the one to make hard choices, with no better option. He stumbles into those, and does his best.

"Of course, he also stumbled into the Queen's bed in ancient Camelot and stumbled into making a peace treaty between Avalon and Britain through applied shaggery, so not all of the stumbling is bad... And he has a wryness about his own bad luck. I think he actively takes on doing the bad stuff himself sometimes, rather than have other people suffer, that he's still trying to make up for what happened to his Mum. He's quietly a very good guy. But very bad with relationships".

Pete Wisdom is one of those very few British mutants to turn up in Marvel comics, but he is very definitely not a costumed hero. He can fire plasma blades, 'Hot-Knives' from his fingertips, but his chief strength is the brain of a spy, and he does not let his mutant status define him.

For more of the interview that came from, go here:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12837


The Black Knight: Dane Whitman

Not so long ago Dane Whitman, Black Knight and direct line descendant of Sir Percy of Scandia, was a A-List Avenger. But since the turn of the millennium he's found himself in comics’ limbo, wielding a blade of pure evil, which his ancestors recently made pretty clear was his duty to guard for the rest of his life - even though it’s begun to mess with him a bit, and will eventually drive him just as insane as his predecessors.

Bum deal, huh?

It would appear, as of the start of this series, Dane has returned to the family home (Garrett Castle) in England, and is kind of semi-retired from heroics, right now. He's still carrying the helmet and sword everywhere he goes, but the flying horse is taking some time out, and he's riding around on a motorbike, dressed in civvies, taking some time out. Wouldn't a Skrull invasion just HAVE to come and spoil that.

Cornell describes Dane as,

"He's an American living in Britain, so he has got that expatriate thing going, but more important than that, he's been feeling the Ebony Blade dragging him towards doing willful, offhand, even evil things. He does have his moments of berserker rage and questionable morality, which he'll pull back from and cover with a stiff upper lipped quip. Because he's a hero and an anglophile. So, he's taken up a wry, wisecracking, Douglas Fairbanks stance that doesn't give it any brooding seriousness to play with. So he's become more fun, but not for the best of reasons. And the noble knight is still in there, now actually more than ever, since he's battling with himself. So when we meet him, he's witty with this brittle, slightly lost quality to him. Very attractive, probably."

If you're going to have a non-British member on a British team, then Dane seems pretty much the prime example of how to get it right. His past, his heritage, his whole bloodline and mythos are based in the UK. And as far as Captain Britain is concerned Dane is probably his oldest and most trusted friend right now. Anybody who loved reading those Steve Parkhouse and Steve Dillon Black Knight and Captain Britain stories from the UK Hulk Comic will understand the logic behind this.

"Registration (The Superhero Registration Act which sparked the Marvel Comics Event, Civil War) really got on his tits, and nobody ever felt they should call him and ask for his vote," Cornell says. "The British law that approximates Registration is quite a lot different, more carrot than stick, and he's had official leave to stay for a while now."


Hopefully we'll get to see the confusion over the Black Panther also being in possession of an Ebony Blade, addressed at some point, also.

For more on Dane, click here:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12843


Spitfire: Lady Jacqueline Falsworth-Crichton

Now, anybody who hasn't seen Spitfire for a good 10 or 15 years is probably a bit confused to find her appearing not as a Lady in the golden years of her life, but apparently as a nubile young 20 something, flying around. Well, you know Jacqueline. She does come from one of those families... You know the type. The ones that are full of Nazi sympathising vampires...?

No. Really. Jacquie is a genuine blood relative of both the original Baron Bloods, and had to rely on a blood transfusion from Jim Hammond (The original WW2 Human Torch) to cure her. That's how she got her powers in the first place. She needed a second transfusion in the 90s. How long this one will last is anybody's guess, but after Hammond's death at the end of 2005's New Invaders series, she'll have to find a new way of curing herself if she ever vamps up again.

Of Jacquie, Cornell tells us that,

"She's made some hard choices in order to face the Skrull invasion, because an invasion of British soil is her worst nightmare, in a way those born in the generations after World War II can't really grasp. Those choices have put her somewhere difficult, and we'll explore that in future issues."


Jacquie has seen a hell of a lot in her time on this Earth. Related to all three Union Jacks (Two family members, one lover), fighting Nazis with Captain America and the Invaders in WW2, and as far as Duty to her Country is concerned she's probably on a similar page to Wisdom. Although I'm not sure she'd approve of his language... ;)

More on Spitfire:

http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12830


Faiza Hussain

Faiza is an entirely new character, and therefore we don't actually know too much about her. What we do know is that she is a British-Muslim, a doctor, a super-fan of British superheroes in her spare time, and at the start of the series has no special powers.

That, of course, is going to change...

No real details of what power that will be, as of yet. In an interview for CBR, Cornell said:

"She gains her superhuman abilities in the first couple of issues, a new power which she doesn't initially see much of a heroic use for, but quickly turns into something vital. She's bowled over so much at the idea she could be a hero, too, that she can't quite grab the chance with both hands, and gets all humble about it at the last minute. If only she could come up with a codename for herself. That would really make it work. But she can't! Her family are going to be freaked out by the whole thing too, until it becomes clear just how brave she was, how much she impressed a certain hero her Mum is impressed by. Then they get right behind her and cheer her on."


Read into this, what you will. Future issue solicits might suggest something though. I'll leave that to you guys to think about, though...

I'm sure that, as with any Muslim character, some people will be concerned as to how Faiza will come across in the book. That's probably natural. Cornell says,

"I have two aims here: to make her a real person and not someone who has to represent the entire British Muslim world all the time -- I think superheroes are too prone to being standard bearers for whole communities -- and to make her an everyday religious person who you won't hear anything religious from until it would naturally come up. Which is hardly ever. She's not going to be letting anyone down, though. She's the young hero who will win through. And we'll play out some of these pressures and fault lines in the comic itself. I want people to adore her, not to be pleased she's there as part of a quota system."

So I'm not too worried. In a later interview done over at Newsarama (http://forum.newsarama.com/showthread.php?t=155363) Cornell also spoke of intentionally avoiding the usual clich├ęs (Such as giving her a radical extremist brother, who would spit on Captain Britain's costume)and that he has a panel of Muslim ladies he can confer with on these matters. The spelling of her name has already been adjusted, through this.

More of the CBR interview can be found here: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12839


John the Skrull

Readers of last year's Wisdom series will already be familiar with John the Skrull, already a member of Wisdom's MI:13 squad. He's a rogue Skrull who defected to our side years ago, and wears the face of late-Beatle John Lennon.

Confused?

Well, back in the day John was part of a previous covert Skrull invasion known as 'Operation British Invasion' - an attempt to replace The Beatles at the height of their popularity. It went wrong and the Skrull Beatles got stuck on Earth, unable to return home, having failed. So they stayed, and John even joined up with British military intelligence - to whom a shape-shifter came in handy.

But having a seemingly rogue Skrull working there during this invasion throws up a good many conflicting interests, obviously.

Cornell has said,

"He's not the person he's been impersonating, and indeed, in issue #1, he's moved to say something his characterization of John probably wouldn't, but he's been playing him such a long time that the role's inhabited him. He's therefore pointed, confrontational with any kind of authority, kind to innocent bystanders, too cynical for his own good, witty and deliberately awkward. He's also, after his fellow Skrulls come after him, furious at his own people and lost in his adopted world. He's going to be our voice of hard truths, our ranting prophet."

John's in a real difficult position here. His people won't accept him if he sides with them, because of his previous failure, but because of who he naturally IS can MI:13 really trust him?

Cornell has also hinted on Marvel.com that John may be taking on some physical changes as series goes on...

For more of that interview, click here: http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=12828

Final Member

Both Cornell and Nick Lowe have dropped hints about the team's final member. They will apparently be joining the group at the end of the first arc, but their identity has been kept a secret. Many people online speculated that it would be Union Jack, due to his ties to Spitfire, and cryptic comments Nick Lowe made, some months ago, about there being a big name 'British character' coming on board, who had not been a member of Excalibur.

This has now been put in doubt, somewhat, especially after comments Paul Cornell made on a Geek Syndicate podcast, suggesting that the final member would very much be British - but not a character many readers may realise is British. This has prompted a flurry of other consideration of characters from Ka-Zar to Blade the Vampire Hunter (Yeah, sorry movie fans - he IS British).

I guess we'll have to wait and see...


Captain Britain and MI:13 #1 comes out on tomorrow (May 14th). You can find 8 preview pages now online at CBR's site, with the variant cover:


http://comicbookresources.com/?page=preview&id=234&disp=table

9 comments:

  1. I'm really looking forward to this. Shame I have to wait a fortnight to get it. Thanks for writing all that up. I'm even more hyped now. :)

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  2. Yay!
    I'm unnecessarily excited about Captain Britain & MI:13. Especially after seeing that preview. That looks niiice.

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  3. Thanks very much, Mark. I'm so enjoying writing this book, and Leonard is just incredible.

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  4. Just a note to say the issue #2 preview is out over at CBR.

    Hopefully we'll be keeping the Wikipedia entry up to date too - the next interesting thing will be to see what the final sales estimates are. It sold out its first printing and the papers suggest at least 50,000 sales, which would be great as it'd mean the ongoing series gets a big boost. Hopefully some of those people will also pick up the Wisdom trade.

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  5. Indeed. And I would certainly recommend the Wisdom trade to anyone who missed the series first time around. It's a bloody good read.

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  6. Indeed - one of the reviewers said they felt slightly like they'd been thrown in at the deep-end and I think folks might be getting distracted by Captain Britain as it is the Wisdom mini-series that'd ease them in nicely* and the bonus is that they'd also get a criminally overlooked, rip-snorter of a story into the bargain - I was singing its praises elsewhere only the other day.

    * Although it was an isolated case amongst an overwhelmingly positive response, it did remind me a bit of the poor reviews for X-Men: Die By the Sword on Amazon - they all come from Exiles fans and, as well as the series drawing more on New Excalibur, it also weaves in Roma, Merlyn and the Captain Britain Corps, so some familiarity with Alan Moore's run on Captain Britain would have been helpful - plus it is a must-read trade itself, so they'd win both ways. That said the Dave Cockrum tribute ending might have confused a lot of people not au fait with real-world comics news.

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  7. It is true to say that a lot of eXiles fans were unhappy with X-Men: Die by the Sword. Although, from my own standpoint (as a Captain Britain fan) I would have to say that I was far from pleased with it too. At face value this series should have been something very special - You've got Merlyn back, you've got Jaspers and The Fury back, and it's an all out war in Otherworld. That should be a big story. Only the way it panned out sadly didn't match.

    This was something I had planned to follow up on, with the 'Understanding Captain Britain' articles I started on. Sadly time constraints have gotten in the way of my continuing with these recently. But, in layman's terms, I think Die by the Sword created far more problems than it solved. The result has left the Captain Britain Mythos in a bit of a mess.

    I'm not going to go into any huge amount of detail here (I'll save that for a blog when return from holiday) but I think the whole problem stems from Chris Claremont not realising that Brian Braddock became Guardian of the Marvel Multiverse back in 2000's Excalibur limited series (something which then continued into the pages of Avengers, where Brian used his new God-like powers to make Kelsey Leigh into the new Captain Britain of Earth 616). Every story since then has been the extension of a continuity error which has continued to dog Captain Britain stories. I'll go into more detail another time, but Die by the Sword generally suffers in my opinion from being part of the same contradictory continuity. Hopefully this is a chapter in Cap's story which can be left behind.

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  8. I look forward to a future more detailed post, as you say there are minor niggles as well as broader problems.

    I do wonder if this was an attempt to draw a line under some of those continuity issues and split Captain Britain off to be an independent superhero again.

    It strikes me it was trying to do too many different things (draw a line under Excalibur, get Captain Britain back on track, provide a tribute to Dave Cockrum, reshuffle the personnel, thin the Corps and make them into a new tougher version with Saturnyne in full control without Roma's medling, etc.) which led to some clunky plotting - like injuring Captain Britain early on to take him out of the equation. Also some things don't make sense with what we have been led to believe - if the profiles at the end of the trade are right then Merlyn and presumably Roma are the sum of their multiversal aspects, so dying with a knife in her throat because she didn't duck seemed a little... cheap.

    It might be he was given a set of things he had to get in and this was the best way to join all the dots. Equally we haven't seen the aftermath and the fallout so it might all work out in the end and we'll look back on this as less than slick transition. It did after all have lots of Furies, Mad Jim Jaspers and a sky thick with Captain Britains, nearly all of whom got fried (you'd think after the first couple of thousand that they'd rethink the rush head-first at the enemy strategy, which didn't work in WWI).

    So we'll have to wait and see ;)

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  9. And of course, since I blogged this, we now know that the final member of the team is indeed going to Blade. I'm quite excited about this. It's been a long time since we truly saw Blade in his own Country. And of course you can bet that a vampire hunter's going to be keeping pretty close tabs on Spitfire...

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