Editor's Note: Captain Britain and MI:13 #4 arrives in stores tomorrow, August 13.
"The Guns of Avalon: Conclusion"
This issue brings us the fourth and final part of Paul Cornell's introductory arc (which I hope isn't a sign of Marvel moving towards four issues as the standard length for a trade paperback collection), and it's fair to say that it has been a success. So often U.S. comics attempt to do British-based stories and end up with an ugly mishmash of superficial set dressing and embarrassing "Cor blimey guv'nor" cliché, but Cornell has gone for something far more subtle and meaningful here. As in his previous Marvel miniseries, Wisdom, Cornell here examines British ideas and psychology, rather than just chucking Big Ben into the background in fight scenes, and the difference is profound. There's also that dry, very British, sense of humour throughout; there are plenty of funny moments, but never to the point of turning this into a comedy book or having the humour clash with the more serious moments. All that said, I did laugh out loud at the cheeky, Fourth-Wall-poking, swipe at Bendis' overblown House of M non-event.
It's also clear that Cornell is not done with his exploration of the British corner of the Marvel Universe; a newly-resurrected Captain Britain talks briefly about the flag on his costume and what it means, but the thread* is left hanging** and what little is revealed here suggests that Cornell has some interesting ideas concerning patriotism which I'm eager to see explored. Similarly, a final twist promises a fascinating cross-cultural journey for Cornell's effective entry point character, Faiza Hussein, and I can't wait to see where she goes next.
The art team have also impressed, with Leonard Kirk in particular coping well with the action sequences, no mean feat considering the two very visually distinct settings and the scale of the events. Kirk also does well to capture the characterisation and humour in Cornell's script, although I think I would still like to see a slightly more idiosyncratic approach to the visuals, as there is a very slight generic "house style" feel.
All in all, this is a strong issue in what has so far been a very successful*** series, but I do, unsurprisingly, have a complaint. I'm still not sure about the pacing; while I'm hugely pleased that we haven't once again been saddled with a series which takes six issues to do what could be done in two, there's still something slightly off about the pace of the storytelling here. It seems a bit haphazard, lurching from the lethargic (Faiza seems to have been attending to the Black Knight's wounds for months now) to the distinctly hasty (the Skrulls have invaded Britain, killed Brian Braddock, conquered and plundered Otherworld, seen Brian resurrected, and finally been sent packing, all in the space of four issues); one could argue that time in the magical realm runs faster than in "our" world, but that only fixes some of the problem, and the general impression is rather that the Skrull invasion began and ended within about an hour and a half. I keep trying to figure out why a writer with Cornell's experience makes this mistake, or even if it is a mistake, but I can't fathom it; my only guess is that he hasn't yet adjusted from his work on titles like 2000AD, where a more swift approach is an asset. Still, it's not a major issue, and probably not worth the words I've spent on it, but it does make this title read a little strangely.
This has been an impressive start to the new series, and now that we're hopefully free of interference from crossovers****, Cornell will have more of a chance to get to grips with some of the fascinating ideas he has merely hinted at so far.
* Pun not intended.
** Nor that one.
*** Creatively, at least; I hope it's sold more than Wisdom did.
**** At least until the next one inevitably lumbers into view like some microcephalic giant.
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