To you and I, "Dracula" is a classic tale of horror, but to the people of the Marvel Universe, Bram Stoker's creation is much more frightening. You see, in the Marvel Universe, "Dracula" isn't a work of fiction, and its title character still stalks the night; hungry for both blood and conquest.
In February's "Captain Britain and MI13" #10, writer Paul Cornell and artist Leonard Kirk kick off "Vampire State," a new story arc in which their cast must protect England (as well as their own necks) from Count Dracula and his army of vampiric minions. CBR News spoke with Cornell about the arc, as well as the fallout from the series' previous storyline, "Hell Comes to Birmingham."
In the inaugural storyline of "Captain Britain and MI13," team member John the Skrull perished in the line of duty. Later, "Hell Comes to Birmingham" ended with leader Pete Wisdom losing another agent under his command when Captain Midlands betrayed his comrades to Plotka, a Duke of Hell. When the team eventually defeated Plotka, Midlands was taken into custody. Later, Wisdom visited the former agent and gave him the option of committing suicide instead of standing trial, an option that Midlands availed himself of.
When "Vampire State" begins, about a week has passed since the events of "Hell Comes to Birminghan," and Pete Wisdom is coping with his losses in the best way he knows how. "He's keeps ploughing along, throwing himself into beer and lechery -- and I'm pleased to see we've got back to some good old fashioned Pete Wisdom sharking after the ladies in this issue," Paul Cornell told CBR News. "This is the shape of his life at the moment, really. At some point, he may jack it in and head off to lie in a darkened room, or something. The difference between now and when we first met the character is that now he's working for something he believes in. Duty is keeping him going. And he's kind of glad of that."
While Wisdom is coping with his sense of loss and betrayal, the beginning of "Vampire State" finds Blade and Spitfire dealing with their newfound attraction to each other. At the end of "Hell Comes to Birmingham," the vampiric Spitfire kissed Blade, which came as a shock to the vampire hunter, considering he began the arc by trying to kill her. "We'll explore a lot of that in this issue," Cornell revealed. "Jac is really just having a good time, having vaguely been thinking she'd like to get back together with Joe Chapman, now someone different has come along. And someone with whom she's got loads in common, including the stiff upper lip. We really get under Blade's surface in this issue. He's kind of surprised, but is up for this. He's started to realize he likes Jac. He likes the way she goes head on into life, likes the experience of long life she has, an experience which, uniquely, matches his own. He's decided to start opening himself up to new experiences, to finally relaxing his calling, for maybe the first time in ages."
The Black Knight also received a surprise of his own in "Hell Comes to Birmingham" -- he learned the sword he currently wields is not the real ebony blade. When "Vampire State" begins, the Knight and his friend and fellow teammate Faiza Hussain are planning a trip to the African nation of Wakanda. They believe the real Ebony Blade is in the possession of Wakanda's king, The Black Panther, who obtained it after it was used against him in a failed assassination attempt.
Faiza Hussain is excited for her coming trip to Wakanda with the Black Knight. So excited that she's made a few changes. "Faiza gets a costume, of sorts, for the visit to Wakanda, and from then on," Cornell confirmed. "It's got the Essex coat of arms on it, and it looks great."
The changes to MI13 science advisor Alistair Stuart are also of a superficial nature, but occur more frequently. The conclusion of "Hell Comes to Birmingham" revealed that in an off panel confrontation, the sorceress Morgan Le Fay cursed Stuart, leaving his physical appearance in a constant state of flux. Thankfully, it was a curse that came with some useful side effects. "Basically he's very mutable now," Cornell stated. "His appearance changes randomly, and with that he's developed an intuition about magical changes in general, because he feels them happening within him."
"Hell Comes to Birmingham" also saw Dracula order his Master-At-Arms to ready his forces for phase one of their planned assault on the United Kingdom. In "Vampire State," Dracula's attack finally begins. "It's a six-chapter arc, with maybe an Annual also playing into it," Cornell confirmed. "It's a spy game, a clash of intellects, as Dracula tries to strategize and trick his way into a full on takeover of the British Isles. Pete doesn't quite feel he's up to taking on someone he describes as 'the greatest military thinker of modern times', with centuries of experience, but who else is there? It's about plot and counterplot, and sudden bursts of action, until all hell breaks loose at the end."
Cornell feels that Dracula's military expertise makes him the perfect foil for the cast of "Captain Britain and MI13." "I've always thought that not enough was made of Dracula's intellect," the writer said. "In the fantastic 'Tomb of Dracula' run, writer Marv Wolfman always has him on the back foot, on the run, being hunted, because that gets him some sympathy as a lead character. But give him time to organize, to get an army and a base together, and here's an awesome antagonist, who's about to take advantage of the state of Marvel Britain."
As was revealed in the epilogue of "Hell Comes to Birmingham," Dracula has chosen a very remote but strategically important location as his base of operations: Earth's moon. "It's an excellent location politically, and strategically, because it makes use of vampiric abilities to go where it's exceedingly difficult for their enemies to go," Cornell explained. "There's a lot of hours of sunlight, but they've dealt with that in a particular way. And they're using the base to make serious plans and ordinance."
As he was ordering his Master-At-Arms to ready his assault on England, Dracula also asked him to contact Doctor Doom. If able to forge an alliance with Doom, Dracula would suddenly become very well connected, especially since Doom joined Norma Osborn's powerful criminal Cabal in the recent "Secret Invasion: Dark Reign" one-shot. "I'd like to see Dracula recognized as one of the major Marvel villains, but the trouble is, Osborn's people are very reluctant to accept him as such," Cornell hinted. "But he's trying to strike a deal with Doom, under very specific terms. Despite the fact that Doom despises him."
"Vampire State" is similar to previous arcs in "Captain Britain and MI13" in terms of tone, but in terms of scale, it's Cornell's biggest story yet. "It's that spy thriller/occult blend that's at the center of this title," the writer said. "And, because the last arc was all in one building, this goes all over Britain, all over the world, and off it."
Series artist Leonard Kirk provides the interior art for "Vampire State", but the covers will be handled by artist Stuart Immonen, who took over the cover duties for "Captain Britain and MI13" with issue #9. "He's a great choice, I'm really pleased that our covers continue to rock," Cornell stated. "And that [editor[ Nick [Lowe] keeps picking people who suit the artistic style Leonard's established."
Paul Cornell has been writing "Captain Britain and MI13" for almost a year, and he's having a fantastic time. But the writer knows that the wait in between issues can often be a long one for fans of the book. The wait is about to become a little easier, though, thanks to the wonders of social networking. "Captain Britain is now Twittering," Cornell announced. "Yes, the real him! He's on: http://twitter.com/Captain_Britain"
Captain Britain and MI13 #10 arrives in stores February 11 from Marvel Comics.