As Marvel continues its roll-out of “Secret Wars” tie-in miniseries — each set in a different realm within the mosaic mash-up of realities called Battleworld — the basic premise of many of them has been fairly well established, with people inside the sealed off areas starting to learn more about the outside and eventually starting to push their boundaries. With that in mind, “Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders” #1 seems to cut right to the chase, clocking in at just two issues and plunging the world of Yinsen City into war before the first issue has even completed. Unfortunately, it’s how that accelerated pace plays out that ultimately does Al Ewing, Alan Davis and Mark Farmer’s comic no favors.
Ewing establishes Yinsen City, one of the utopia realms of Battleworld, as a world where Professor Yinsen survives instead of Tony Stark in Iron Man’s origin story, and Yinsen goes on to create a realm of peace and technological tranquility. While Yinsen and some of the other super-powered defenders of Yinsen City are starting to have strange memories, everything comes to a head when an outsider breaks through the protective barriers and a rebellion quickly leads to an invasion from Mondo City.
The best approach to this somewhat standard “Secret Wars” setup is when the creative team gets us to care about the characters, like we saw in “A-Force.” Here, with such a compressed timeframe, Ewing doesn’t have the luxury to let us get to know these versions of Yinsen, She-Hulk, Spider-Man, White Tiger and Captain Britain. They’re all little more than names, some of them getting brief origins (ranging from two pages for Yinsen to less than half a page for the Prowler as Spider-Man or Faiza Hussein as Captain Britain) but little else. When Yinsen and She-Hulk decide to rebel against Doctor Doom, it feels like it has come entirely out of the blue; there’s so little setup available that it ends up feeling forced and awkward, servicing a plot that needs to keep moving forward. With Marvel not having the rights to a certain character that judges others in a dreadful dystopia, Mondo City also feels somewhat neutered, a second-rate version of a mega-dangerous city known to most British comic book readers.
Fortunately, Davis and Farmer’s art looks as good as ever, regardless of the breakneck and truncated pace of the script. She-Hulk’s line, “I’ve got my hammers right here,” works great because — while the line could have come across as a little cheesy — the grin and mock fighting pose drawn brings the whimsy and humor to the moment. That grin on her face is infectious, even as you don’t lose sight of the fact that she’s an incredibly powerful character. Yinsen’s dream of Earth hovering overhead is also a sharp moment for the comic; Davis and Farmer draw it deliberately a little out of focus, while Wil Quintana bathes the sky in an ominous red that works perfectly with the lighter colors down below. It’s a moment worthy of a splash, and they bring it to life.
There’s a lot of little moments in “Captain Britain and the Mighty Defenders” #1 that could have been interesting with more room, but the creative team never has time to explore them here. It’s also worth noting that the title is a real misnomer; Faiza is a minor character, the random grouping of characters isn’t the Defenders at all and, if anything, the real protagonist is Professor Yinsen. Ewing tries hard and Davis and Farmer at least provide some gorgeous art, but — in the end — it would be utterly forgettable if it wasn’t such a fine looking comic.