Paul Cornell makes writing a team book look easy. In this, the second part of the "Hell Comes to Birmingham" story, the eponymous group is split up into three teams, but Cornell handles it all deftly, giving each its due, packing in action, twists and, even, the odd character moment. And he does it seemingly effortlessly as nothing seems rushed or compressed to make room... how does he do it?
Leonard Kirk also deserves his fair share of the credit as his visuals also never seem rushed or cramped. Even as swarms of Mindless Ones attack, Kirk's pages are clear, crisp, and the action is perfectly choreographed. He also shifts between frantic action sequences and quiet moments featuring two characters just talking with little effort. Added to that is colorists Brian Reber and John Rauch's contrast of the red/pink-heavy sequences inside the "haunted" Cloverleaf Estate and the more normal looking scenes elsewhere. While the heavy use of red/pink ties directly into the story, it also allows the wish fulfillment scenes to stand out even more, highlighting their disconnect from reality.
The use of wish fulfillment in this story as Plokta offers all within the building their heart's desire is a useful tool to examine what exactly makes some of these characters tick. Captain Britain wants his wife Meggan back, while Pete Wisdom wants to have not failed those he cared about, and the Black Knight wants free of the curse of the Ebony Blade. While these may not be surprises to longtime readers, these wishes are quick and easy ways for Cornell to define these characters. Where Cornell falters, though, is not showing the wishes of the newer or less-known characters like Faiza or Captain Midlands. It would have been more effective to show their inner desires, especially since the desires of Captain Britain, Wisdom and the Black Knight are rather well known.
That said, Cornell does follow-up on the desires of Captain Britain and the Black Knight well in this issue. Last issue ended with the revelation of Britain's chance to get Meggan back and he does just that, but not by accepting Plokta's offer -- he simply dives in and saves her like any other hero would. Except, that lands him in a fantasy world that seems perfect until his brother Black Tom pops up and causes problems. Meanwhile, the Black Knight also rejects Plokta's offer and then struggles to maintain his control over the Ebony Blade, nearly losing his mind entirely in a violent frenzy.
Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk are producing one of the best straight-forward superhero books on the shelves these days in "Captain Britain and MI: 13" as this issue demonstrates well. If the fantastic work throughout the issue doesn't bring you back next month, the final page twist certainly will.
(To see some of the great writing and art in this issue, check out CBR's preview.)