Sunday, 27 January 2013

ICFD Cover of the Week - 27th January 2013

This week's Cover of the week is from Captain Britain (Vol. 2) #10, from October of 1985. Art by Alan Davis.

I apologise for the somewhat grainy quality of the image. I have had to go searching online for this one, as sadly this is a comic which went 'missing' from my collection at some point during the 1990s, most probably having ended up junked of jumble saled by well-meaning parents. By that point I wasn't too upset, as I had the coloured version of the story inside collected in the 'Before Excalibur...' paperback. Although on reflection I might have to go about tracking down a copy at some point.

I've actually returned to this cover after having recently been revisiting Warren Ellis' Astonishing X-Men: Xenogenesis series from a couple of years back, which despite being an X-Men series very much goes back to the concepts laid out in this Captain Britain story.

The cover shows the Captain in this weird face paint version of his costume, fighting a Crocodile, which is part of a pretty messed up hallucinogenic dream sequence. Behind them we see the scarred and scaled face of Joshua N'Dingi - 'Doctor Crocodile' - former member of the RCX and also the man responsible for said sequence. On the left hand side his more human face, on the right the cybernetics which saved his life.

I remember this issue for one quite specific reason.

It was a bit messed up. :)

Granted, probably not by today's standards. But when I first read this story, as a much younger kid, it bothered me. I really wasn't old enough to fully understand some of the themes in play, but I was certainly able to grasp that there was something dark and vaguely adult here which made me uncomfortable. Something I'd also experienced with odd issues of Eagle or 2000 AD, at that time. Rereading it in my teens of course that was exactly the same thing which interested me, but you know how that goes...

Basically, in this issue, Brian has received a phone call telling him that his older brother, Jamie, is being held captive by a local Warlord in the African nation of Mbangawi. But all is not what it seems. Upon arrival the Captain is gassed, and sent hurtling into a greatly disturbing hallucinatory vision quest, led by a disturbing Dr Seuss style ape creature. Seemingly naked, with a likeness of his costume painted on, he runs from giant elephants, wrestles crocodiles and chases this ape creature, whose narration reveals details of Jamie Braddock's involvement with all manner of unsavoury pursuits from sex trafficking to the slave trade...

It's pretty dark, all in all. 

And then, faced with the facts and being a Superhero, Captain Britain beats down his Brother's captor and chooses to turn Jamie over to the authorities, right?

Well, actually, no. He's so disgusted with Jamie that he sides with the guy whose supposed to be the 'bad guy' and leaves his own brother to a life of hallucinatory torment.

The end.

Pretty unsettling stuff, no? It certainly blew my young mind at the time. It definitely was not the kind of thing which I had come to expect from Marvel's American stories. It was all pretty heavy, and for years I actually found myself trying to rewrite my own 'headcanon' of events, it had bothered me so much. But it also guaranteed that I have returned to this issue a number of times.

The fallout of this issue was later explored during Claremont and Davis' run on Excalibur. For me it's an incredibly important issue, both in terms of understanding Brian and also understanding the Braddock Family dynamic. Much as though a number of writers have tried to portray Brian as a 'perfect superhero' with impeccable, faultless moral values, it's honestly not true. Sometimes he does make harsh decisions. Sometimes he sides with the guy you are supposed to think of as the 'bad guy'. There's always very definite and strong sense of logic behind it, and his decision is ultimately justifiable in the grand scheme of thing. That doesn't mean that it always has to be 'nice,' however... :)

Either way, this is a cover which will always evoke a strong memory for me. Long after I actually still possessed a physical copy of the issue itself.


  1. Excellent review, I remember being knocked out by the unusual ending.

    More importantly, am I in the lettercol? :)

  2. Like I say, if I still had a physical copy of this issue I'd check for you, Mart. Sadly, the Panini Collections and Marvel Hardcovers don't have those :)

    Oh, well. This issue remains immense.

  3. Definitely. I have it at home somewhere.