Captain Britain and MI-13 #13

As I write this review, "Captain Britain" has literally just been announced as cancelled. It's sad that a book this good failed to find its audience, since it provided an excellent mix of traditional soap-opera superheroics the likes of which very few books are doing anywhere near as brilliantly.

But still, it's not over yet -- there's still going to be at least one more trade to collect, and it's going to contain this issue -- the most recent installment of "Vampire State" -- and you're going to want to buy it because it's the title's most ambitious storyline yet, a virtual roller coaster of action and characterization.

After a slow start to the arc, Cornell opens the floodgates within this issue, and by the end has already slammed them shut again -- the threat manages to feel both overwhelmingly huge and distinctly personal as the members of MI-13 make a stand against Dracula and his masses, resulting in some devastatingly realistic results, given the odds.

Although Cornell's virtual decimation of his cast would seem to be a fake-out, there's no way to be certain -- especially following the cancellation announcement. It's good, as well, to see him tackle the perennial problem of shared superhero universes by having the Mighty Avengers make a cameo. The issue ends on such a bleak final note that nobody with a heart could resist the next issue to see how they claw things back. It's rare that a situation feels as genuinely hopeless in comics as the one Cornell has crafted.

Guest pencils on the issue come from Adrian Syaf, who does well with the material he's given. It's not as detailed or restrained as regular artist Leonard Kirk's work is, but the slightly sketchier, expressive look seems appropriate for the chaotic nature of the issue. The departure from the book's established style isn't radical, but it is noticeable if you're used to Kirk's work -- still, Kirk has managed an impressively long run on the title, so it's hard to begrudge him this one break.

There's very little left to say about "Captain Britain." The critical success might not have been matched by the title's sales, but at least we can be sure that even if the book's sales have failed, the members of creative team have not. If there's any silver lining, it's that Cornell will be free to bring his finely honed writing to other, more popular books.

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