Alright, forget the cautious optimism of my last review. Let’s have our cards right out on the table – Captain Britain and MI:13 is the successor to Ultimates 2 as Marvel’s best current ongoing superhero comic, Paul Cornell is absolutely brilliant, and in a world where All-Star Batman and Ultimates 3 top sales charts, it’s incredibly heartening to see comics readers with common sense making this thing a smash hit, sell-out success.
Cornell’s main achievement, really, has been in giving British readers, finally, a hero – in fact, a set of heroes – of which they can be proud, instead of faintly embarrassed. It’s only taken him three issues, but already the reestablishment of Captain Britain – of all people – as a genuine superheroic force to be reckoned with is firmly in place courtesy of an air-punchingly brilliant closing few pages that doesn’t want for bombast yet stops short of outright arrogance (“We just don’t like to make a fuss”).
Those disappointed by the lack of actual story in the last issue or so of Secret Invasion, meanwhile, might find rather more to engage with here in MI:13. Rather than being hamped by launching in the midst of a crossover, the series has made excellent use of the overarching plot, and has shown one of the front lines of the Skrull invasion in a far more immediate and tangible sense than its “parent” title.
It’s also been a showcase for Cornell’s entirely sure-footed knack for dialogue – and while this issue is lacking slightly on the wisecrack front compared to last month, there are choice speeches throughout, whether it’s Skrull John defiantly taking a stand against his own people, or the magical (er, quite literally) sequence that reveals the source of the voice in Pete Wisdom’s head. Strong character development has been a cornerstone not just of the early issues of this run, but going back to Wisdom as well – and even at this early stage the book’s a candidate for one of the best supporting casts out there (the disappointment at the non-appearance of Captain Midlands so far is surely tempered by the promise of the next arc’s title, “Hell Comes to Birmingham”).
Leonard Kirk’s vibrant and clear artwork is the icing on the cake, really – kudos to his Canadian pen for its grasp of UK-style backgrounds, streets and landmarks, though; are you watching, Greg Land? His triumph comes with the genuinely iconic imagery of the closing splash page, complete with a fantastic bit of new costume design. And if there’s a criticism, really, it’s simply that the cover is completely unrepresentative of the issue’s contents. A minor quibble, though, when you consider that the attention to detail present in the series is such that each issue has had a page at the end devoted to helping readers find out more about the character – here, yes, it’s true that it’s basically an advert for some trades, but it’s evidence of an inclusive approach to the series, and it’s pushing Alan Moore books, so who can complain?
If I’m honest, my opinion of the series is probably coloured slightly by the fact that it’s a British writer, writing proper British characters – upholding a longstanding Marvel tradition and kicking the arse of the likes of Secret Invasion in the process. But even if I were American, I can’t see myself not enjoying this – it’s entertaining, swift-paced, action-packed comics with a sharp edge, driven by great ideas. Aside from its use of mythology, it may not be the weightiest comic out there – but damned if it isn’t up among the most enjoyable.