Monday, May 12, 2008

Captain Britain and MI:13 #1

What, you thought Secret Invasion was limited to the shores of the United States? No, the Skrulls haven't forgotten about life overseas, as evidenced by Captain Britain and MI:13's activities in this mini-series. It seems that one particularly inventive Skrull has been a member of the British intelligence agency for years, usually taking the form of John Lennon, of all people. I guess I'd be a lot less inclined to distrust the guy who sang "Imagine" than, say, one of the Spice Girls, so the disguise makes sense. This Skrull, though, is one of the good guys. He's been open about his origins since day one, and is working from within to help reveal additional, less-forthcoming shape shifters operating inside of the agency.

Writer Paul Cornell uses this series as a sort of roll call for British superheroes, of which there admittedly aren't many. As one on-scene paramedic even quips, "I thought they'd go after the States! They've got all the bloody super heroes!" Sure, the primary focus may be on the U.S. and the glut of costumed heroes active on those shores, but if this Skrull invasion is to be truly taken as a legitimate pass at world domination, the story needs an overseas perspective. I can't think of a better focal point for the struggles in Europe than MI:13, the latest secret British agency to try and unite every local superhuman under a single, unified flag.

Cornell's writing is impressive - intelligent but concise, with a healthy dose of good humor. While they may be impaling Skrulls or staggering through the ruptured streets of London, the heroes can still break the ice with a snide remark that doesn't feel forced or in bad taste. There's a lot of gore in this issue, which may be my sole complaint, but even that is kept to a few specific, important moments. Cornell doesn't want you to take these little victories lightly, but he also doesn't want his heroes coming across as bloodthirsty savages. Somehow, he manages to accomplish both goals.

Leonard Kirk provides this issue with some fantastic artwork, finely detailed without getting overly complicated. While he does show a tendency to lose interest during the conversational scenes, the majority of the issue provides him with enough action to keep that from becoming a real problem. As each British hero is introduced to readers, they're granted a big, impressive splash page, and Kirk takes full advantage. I've never really cared much for Captain Britain or Spitfire, but their appearances here are so visually impressive that I can't help but take an interest in their activities throughout the story. He gives every character a large helping of personality, no matter how small their part in the story, (the expression on the Wasp / Thor / Iron Man Skrull's face after the death of his partner in crime is priceless) and displays a great knack for personally driving the reader's emotions. When I was supposed to be impressed, shocked or horrified, I was. And I haven't even mentioned his exquisite backgrounds… if he can work on delivering a touch more consistency, Leonard Kirk stands to be a huge name in the industry.

Captain Britain and MI:13 was a very nice surprise, and actually proved to be a more interesting, character-driven read than the primary Secret Invasion mini-series. Prior to this issue, I had very little interest in these characters, their situation or how it tied into the larger story. Now, having finished the first issue, I'm checking my calendar to see when I can expect the follow-up. Despite a few very minor qualms, I found both the writing and the artwork top notch. Buy it and I'm sure you'll find the same. This is sure to be a great, albeit overlooked, counterpart to the Invasion.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 9

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