As readers of CBR’s LYING IN THE GUTTERS will know, issue #1 of “Captain Britain and MI-13” was unexpectedly seized upon by the British media because of the appearance of current Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It’s always good to see comics getting a bit of non-patronizing mainstream attention, whatever form that takes. It’s especially good when the series in question is as outright brilliant as this one.
Cornell chooses to take an unusual route with his main character, having Captain Britain sacrifice himself at the end of the first issue… and apparently stay dead. Undoubtedly, he’ll be back at some point, but the second issue makes much of the fact that he’s gone, which in turn helps re-establish Captain Britain as a hugely important character rather than an X-Book footnote. His absence is felt, and the point is really driven home when the cast reach Excalibur only to find that the one person among them who was worthy enough to lift it… just died.
Despite launching as a “Secret Invasion” tie-in, Cornell has crafted a story that easily stands alone — the idea of aliens attacking the mystical realms of Britain fits into MI-13’s remit surprisingly perfectly. By going after the magical elements that are associated with Britain, the “Secret Invasion” tie-in elements become genuinely unique, not just “more of the same Secret Invasion, but in Britain.”
While Cornell’s plotting is strong, his character work is just as great — the title’s new British-Muslim heroine, Faiza, gets a little page-time that makes her instantly likable, and Cornell gives Wisdom some great one-liners. The Black Knight is wearing his personality overhaul well, having been transformed from an “Avengers” C-lister into someone who might actually end up being a fan-favorite member of the cast. Combined with Captain Britain’s conceptual makeover, Cornell’s clearly not a man afraid of trying out some new ideas with old favorites. So far, it’s working out.
Leonard Kirk is also doing some of the best work of his career. With this series, his style shows hints of Brian Hitch and Alan Davis, and there’s no way that can be taken as a bad thing. Between his art and Cornell’s writing, “Captain Britain and MI-13” has stormed out of the gate as Marvel’s best and most original launch in some time. I’d call it a sleeper hit, but really it’s too good for cult status. It deserves to be massive.