I’m reminded of Grant Morrison’s “JLA” and Warren Ellis’s “The Authority” with this issue. Paul Cornell’s take on the MI:13 group has that same level of intelligence and professionalism come through its characters. They’re attacked by Dracula in an obviously planned manner, so they don’t make some hollow speeches, they don’t let rage get the better of them, they don’t pose awkwardly and swear vengeance: they stop, they assess the situation, and they begin to plan a response. Yes, yes, there will be lots of kicksplode later no doubt, but, before that, why not have these characters act like the adults they’re supposed to be?
Last issue, Dracula unleashed an attempt to take out the members of MI:13 by firing vampires out of cannons on the moon. He also attacked Faiza’s parents, leaving a note written in blood for Blade, and began the first steps in attempting to recruit Spitfire into his army as she is a vampire. As the gathered intelligence and military forces of England note, he’s declared war on England, and how they respond makes a big difference.
Faiza gets a lot of focus here since the attacks are most personal for her, but even before that, Cornell delivers an amazingly written page of prose detailing her confrontation with her impending death. As she’s the newest character in the cast, he is really working hard to flesh her out and integrate her with the other established characters. As promised, she finally gets a codename and it’s an obvious one, but the reason Pete Wisdom assigns it to her is quite good.
Cornell also does a lot to, again, emphasize that Wisdom is the leader of this group and is damn good at his job. He is strong, confident and seemingly knows exactly what to do. After Wisdom’s mistakes in the first arc, his path to redemption has been subtle, but he really shines in this issue.
As does Leonard Kirk, who doesn’t actually illustrate the entire issue, sadly. His work on the pages where Faiza and the Black Knight deal with Dracula’s attack is phenomenal, as he uses symmetrical layouts on facing pages to great effect, and provides images that match Cornell’s prose. This issue requires more blatant emotion and he rises to the challenge, never crossing the line into parody or melodrama, which is quite difficult. Mike Collins handles the last third of the issue ably, but does stumble at times, particularly with drawing full bodies; in numerous panels, Pete Wisdom looks like a teenager. But, at other times, he renders wonderfully detailed characters. The inconsistency of his work is, by far, his biggest problem and hurts the end of the issue.
Cornell’s work here is some of the best superhero writing I’ve seen in the last few years. He exhibits confidence, intelligence, and great emotional depth in this issue, managing to outdo his work in previous issues somehow. If you like smart, engaging reads, you would be a fool not to pick up “Captain Britain and MI:13.”
(Or, at least read CBR’s preview pages!)