Defense of the Realms: Cornell on “Captain Britain and MI:13”

SPOILER WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for "Captain Britain and MI:13" #1.

A new Battle of Battle of Britain has begun in the Marvel Universe. The invading Skrull Empire has launched an all out attack on England, and the country’s only hope is for their super powered champions to band together and fight back. In “Captain Britain and MI:13” #1, on sale now, writer Paul Cornell and artist Leonard Kirk chronicle the emergence of this alliance. CBR News spoke with Cornell about the issue and the remaining chapters of the ongoing series’ introductory “Secret Invasion” tie-in arc.

“Captain Britain and MI: 13” #1 opens with an enigmatic narrator prophesizing, “The hero will return. The sword will be drawn again. The land will be healed.” Cornell plans for the narrator’s identity to be one of the book’s initial mysteries.

After the first scene, in which Pete Wisdom and John the Skrull confront a Skrull infiltrator in the British government, the action takes to the skies where Captain Britain engages two Super Skrulls in an aerial dogfight, one with the combined powers of the Legion of Monsters and another with the abilities of the Champions of Los Angeles. Subsequent scenes see the cast go toe-to-toe with other equally impressive Super Skrulls, some with the powers of heroes including the original Avengers, the Defenders, and Squadron Supreme.

“These are mostly teams from my growing-up years with comics,” Paul Cornell told CBR News. “I loved the Legion of Monsters issue of 'Marvel Premiere’ (mainly because Man Thing was one of my favorite characters as a kid, I kind of identified with him--yeah, I know, for most kids it's Wood God.). I first encountered the Champions in a spinner rack when I was on holiday in Bognor Regis (alongside Kirby's '2001’, with Machine Man's first appearance), because the newsagent comics choices on the south coast were out of step with what we got at home. And then had to have every issue, because I'd been there early on and they were thus just for me. And the dynamic Defenders have always been my favorite thing.”

Captain Britain’s aerial battle with the Super Skrulls was witnessed by Dr. Faiza Hussain, a new character who made her debut in issue #1. “She's our 'you're starting just where she is' person,” Cornell said. “And she's a big fan of British superheroes, so I can mention Lord Hawk and the Pendragons and Digitek. You know, like when Kitty Pryde joined the X-Men and swiftly became beloved? I'm aiming for that. She's very brave, she talks too much, and she and the Black Knight swiftly start looking after each other.”

When readers first meet Faiza in “Captain Britain and MI:13” #1, she’s just an ordinary human doctor, but in her final scene in the issue, she’s blasted by a Skrull device that will turn her into something extraordinary. “That's a full on superhero origin, as Faiza herself would want it, True Believer!” Cornell remarked. “All is revealed next issue.”

During World War II, young Jacqueline Falsworth was bitten by her uncle, the Nazi vampire, Baron Blood. The attack left Falsworth in need of a blood transfusion, which was provided by the original Human Torch. The transfusion endowed her with super speed and she became the hero known as Spitfire. Since than, Spitfire has used her powers to fight for her country, but in “Captain Britain and MI:13” #1, she exhibits new vampiric abilities which seem to indicate her uncle’s bite had a greater effect on her than readers previously thought.

“This is a new development in that she's decided to let it out a little since the Skrulls invaded,” Cornell explained. “It hasn't been a struggle before, just something she could do, but didn't. Now it's going to get a bit more complicated, because she's taken her first step along that path.”

If England is to survive the Skrull onslaught, its superheroes need to work together. Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom know this and in issue #1 they have a conversation which helps them reconcile some of their differences. “I'm just fed up with superheroes bitching at each other,” Cornell remarked. “In this situation, it makes sense for two such dutiful characters to work on the same side. And they're going to continue seeing the good sides of each other. Pete's grown up a lot lately, tragedy will gradually do that to you. He's a very good leader, and Cap knows one when he sees one. Pete's the leader, Cap's the inspiration.”

If the ending of “Captain Britain and MI:13” #1 is any indication, Wisdom and Captain Britain’s new found camaraderie may be short lived. In a literally explosive cliffhanger, Captain Britain is caught in the blast of a missile the Skrulls fired at the Siege Perilous, a gateway to the mystical realm of Avalon. Cornell could only comment cryptically on Captain Britain’s condition in issue #2. “His condition is--extraordinary,” the writer said.

The Skrulls’ attack on the Siege Perilous is the opening salvo in their assault on Avalon, where they hope to take control of one of Britain’s most powerful natural resources, magic. Upcoming issues of “Captain Britain and MI:13” will take the team to the frontlines in Avalon. It’s here where Pete Wisdom and John the Skrull run into, Tink, their teammate from the incarnation of MI:13, which appeared in Cornell’s “Wisdom” mini-series. Cornell hinted that Tink won’t be entirely happy to see her former comrades.

Avalon, also known as Otherworld, is where Captain Britain received his powers but the Black Knight also has connections to the realm, specifically the Island of Avalon. In the past, Black Knight wielded weapons bestowed upon him by the fabled Lady of the Lake, who calls the island home. It’s ties like these that have many fans wondering if the Black Knight will be leaving his current location of London and joining his team mates when they travel to Avalon.

“We're going to keep several different battlefronts in mind, and the characters will be moving back and forth between them,” Cornell explained. “We'll be taking a look at Dane's past as the series continues. My view on character continuity is: it all happened. I don't start at tabula rasa. But I'll only go there if there's story to be had.”

In “Captain Britain and MI: 13” #2, the legendary sword Excalibur reemerges. “That is indeed the sword Excalibur on the cover (I like to refer to this as an 'Excalibur crossover'.),” Cornell stated. “It's there standing in for the Sword in the Stone, there to achieve something important in terms of this team and destiny and things.”

The destiny of Cornell’s team also includes encounters with fellow British heroes Captain Midlands aka Sid Ridley and Union Jack aka Joe Chapman. “One of the great things about this title is that, because all British superheroes are de facto part of MI-13, we can visit disparate parts of the Marvel UK scene without it being a big deal,” Cornell said. “Joe (not 'Joey', who's called Joey? Okay, kangaroos in Aussie, but apart from that...) is going to want to check in with [his former girlfriend Spitfire] soon. Because they parted amicably, and that's still fine with him. Right?”

If readers thought “Captain Britain and MI:13” #1 was a wild ride, Cornell cautions them to fasten their seatbelts because they haven’t seen anything yet. “We are the rollercoaster of the big dumb fight/intelligent character conversation interface. You just wait until you've seen all of Leonard's pages colored. Woo!”

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