Editor's Note: Captain Britain and MI:13 #2 arrives in stores tomorrow, June 11.
"The Guns of Avalon: Part Two"
"When Captain America died, Americans heard it in an American way: through the media. When Captain Britain died, the British felt it in their chests." This wonderful opening page kicks off the second issue of Captain Britain and MI:13, following through on the cliffhanger of last issue to confirm that the book's hero appears to indeed be dead - for now, at any rate. Again, writer Paul Cornell reinforces the sheer Britishness of his setting and cast as the heroes of MI:13 face off against the Skrull threat, making the characters and their environment as much of a draw as the action scenes and crossover elements of the book.
Cornell spends a little more time with his new character, Faiza Hussain, this issue. I'm enjoying her bubbly, chatty characterisation and the manner in which she takes to her newly-acquired powers so readily, with her aspirations to be a superhero in the traditional mould seeming to reflect Cornell's own approach to a book that has so far carried a refreshing and unashamedly old-school vibe. It seems that Cornell may have sought assistance in bringing her character to life (the final page acknowledges a "Faiza Hussain oversight team", but doesn't give any more details than that), suggesting that he's put a fair amount of effort and thought into her creation. We still don't learn a huge amount about her background here, but I expect her to continue to be developed as a character as the story goes on. My only real criticism at the moment is that her story doesn't feel very well integrated with the main plot involving MI:13 yet, but there's plenty of time for that link to develop, as the book is still very much in its early stages.
At the same time, the writer moves his wider plot forwards, showing exactly how the Skrulls plan to cripple the British as part of their now-not-so-secret invasion. What could have been flat and cliché action sequences under a lesser writer feel punchy and fun under Cornell's pen thanks to the writer's distinctive "voice" and ability to capture the rapport between his cast members. I'm really coming to appreciate his unique dialogue and wit, and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that he could rival Joss Whedon in the quotability stakes: highlights of this issue include "Don't call me 'Sir'. It's... weirdly horny," "I am taking no more bollocks from you," and "I've got this voice in my head. It's half like Gandalf and half Mr. Kipling," a reference that is sure to delight British readers and confuse pretty much everyone else.
It's not all light-hearted banter, though: there's also enjoyable drama as the Skrull army invades Avalon, with some fairly shocking developments as a large group of tech-based Skrulls ravage the landscape of the British consciousness. We see the exaggeratedly theatrical Oberon - the fairy king - attempting to maintain a resistance against the invading forces, and some solid mythical touches such as the appearance of Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake, as well as the establishment of a new mystery involving the legendary sword-in-the-stone. We also get some hints about the voices that Pete Wisdom is hearing in his head, although at this stage it seems that Cornell could simply be providing a red herring to throw readers off the scent.
Leonard Kirk's artwork brings the story to life well, with several standout images: I loved the "exploded" shot of the Black Knight as Faiza demonstrates her new powers, and there's an impressive double-page spread of the Skrulls as they begin their invasion of Avalon. I also liked the artist's take on Oberon and Tink, sticking close to the character designs established in Wisdom by Trevor Hairsine, but adding new touches such as Tink's battle-armour. Finally, there's a well-illustrated and portentous closing sequence that establishes an even greater threat for the next issue, and makes me eager to see where Cornell will be taking the story next.
The criticisms that I have of Captain Britain and MI:13 are few: as I mentioned earlier, it'd be nice to see Faiza become a bit more involved in the core plot of the series rather than feeling like a secondary player, and some readers may be surprised that the book's titular star has disappeared so early on in the story - although whether we've really seen the last of Brian Braddock remains to be seen. However, these are criticisms that I'm sure will be answered as Cornell develops his story, and they don't detract too much from my enjoyment of this issue.
Finally, I appreciated the decision to include a web address for Marvel's encyclopedia entry on Captain Britain and the location of Paul Cornell's blog at the back of the issue. It's only a small thing, but it demonstrates that Marvel is making a concerted effort to make their books accessible for new readers who may have joined this series with no previous knowledge of Captain Britain, and that they're keen to point them towards background information that will enhance their enjoyment of the book. If the company is still trying to avoid footnotes wherever possible, this is a good substitute.
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