I raved about the first issue of this series, and rightly so. It was a smart, energetic opening that was filled with Skrulls from "Secret Invasion" but wasn't bound by them. I'm glad to see that, after four issues, "Captain Britain and MI: 13" remains a superior Marvel comic.
This issue wraps up the opening story arc, and even with its giant panels of battle and mayhem, Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk manage to pack a lot into this comic. Over the last three isssues, Skrulls have attacked, Captain Britain has died and come back to life, the Black Knight has fallen, Pete Wisdom has made a deal with the Devil, and. . .
Well, I could go on, but you get the point. Stuff happens here.
And in this issue, we see the climax and the aftermath. And yet Cornell doesn't pack his story with captions or hyper-compressed dialogue. Everything unfolds at the appropriate speed, lingering over the small details -- like John the Skrull's defiance -- when necessary, but opening up the floodgates with violence when needed. Cornell's pacing has certainly improved since his "Wisdom" series, and I liked that one a lot. But it jumped from incident to incident a bit too jarringly, and didn't develop a clear arc throughout its six issues. Here, though, Cornell harnesses his ideas into the service of the story, and he's easily become one of the top five writers at Marvel. I know he's an experienced writer in other media, but he's made the leap to comics quickly, and with style.
This issue opens with a magic-enhanced Super-Skrull battling an Excalibur-wielding Captain Britain (who, if you haven't been keeping up, has not only been reborn, but reborn with a sleek, less militaristic costume). And the issue builds from there, with several climactic moments and a scene on the final page that -- while telegraphed a bit -- was certainly a treat.
What makes this comic work, I think, isn't so much the art, which is fine. It's better than fine. Leonard Kirk does a nice job with everything here -- let's call the style he uses in this series a mix of Alan Davis and Barry Kitson. That sounds good, right? So the art does what it's supposed to, although I wouldn't buy it just to look at the nice panels. It's really the relationships between the characters that makes it all work so well. Cornell had "Wisdom" as a lead-in (although as a MAX series, I'm not sure how that works), but even without those six prequel issues, he clearly distinguishes between the rather large cast almost immediately. Four issues in, we know who's who and what they're all about. We get the relationship between Tink and Pete Wisdom. We see what John the Skrull is made of. We even learn what makes the Black Knight tick, and what kind of person Faiza is. (And, not to spoil anything, but Faiza is a very important addition to the series, as you'll see.) Cornell is good at portraying these characters within a plot that is relatively traditional.
If I have one complaint about this comic, it's that resolution seems a bit too easily achieved. A bit too pat. But Cornell does give us a wink and a nod to "House of M," which shows that he knows what he's doing and he does it playfully. And I trust Cornell to take what seems to be a conventional, "hey, let's form a team" origin story and turn it on its head in the next few issues. So I'll give him the benefit of the doubt, and there's not much to criticize otherwise, because Cornell and Kirk have created a nice series here.
"Captain Britain and MI: 13" may have an unwieldy title, but it's a book I'll be reading as long as Paul Cornell sticks around. This was a solid conclusion to an excellent opening arc.