17 March 2009

Captain Britain and MI13, Vol. 1: Secret Invasion (Marvel, 2009)

Okay, you know what I really like about this book? There is a Muslim character in it who doesn't spout off stereotypical gems like "By the beard of the Prophet!" that comic writers used to do whenever they have to give lines to a Muslim character. Okay the last time I picked up a floppy was in the mid-90s so maybe I'm out of touch but not by much, I don't think. Her name is Dr. Faiza Hussain and writer Paul Cornell has given her superpowers and she seems to be part of the MI13 team by the end of this 4-issue collection so she'll probably be featured regularly and not just a throwaway character. So, YAY!

Other members of MI13 along with Captain Britain and Dr. Faiza are the Black Knight, super speedster Spitfire, Pete Wisdom who is a mutant who can fire bolts of energy from his fingers and John the Skrull who looks like John Lennon (but he dies in this book. Booo.) Since this collection is called "Secret Invasion" it's obvious what it's all about: it's a tie-in to the Secret Invasion mega event (which I have no interest in following so you probably know better about it than I). In Captain Britain and MI13, the Skrulls attempt to conquer Britain by controlling the very essence of magic itself. They have a Super Skrull with magical powers who looks like a four armed hybrid of Dormammu and Dr. Strange. He doesn't last long anyway because this creep gets his head chopped off by Captain Britain and all's well that ends well.

And that brings me to the thing that bothered me when I was reading this book: the decapitation of Skrulls. Is this a new thing with Marvel? I know DC is all blood and gore ever since they gave Geoff Johns a free rein with their books but Marvel has been pretty conservative with depictions of gore in their mainstream comics (Marvel Zombies notwithstanding, but when you're reading a comic about zombies you expect gore). Yet in CBnMI13, Skrull heads are being separated like it was going out of fashion and it doesn't happen far in the background either. No, the reader gets a ringside seat. Except for when Spitfire does it. She bites off the heads of two Skrulls although one is only implied while the other is in silhouette. Wait, she's a biter now? When did this happen??

Maybe it's okay with Marvel since they're Skrulls and therefore not real. Two British mystical characters also meet a painful end. Lady in the Lake: vaporised. Green Knight: decapitated. Still, I'm not comfortable enough to hand this book to a young reader. I'm prudish like that (yeah, I know this book is rated T+ but I'm an old fogey). Also, Cornell uses the ampersand-dollar sign-exclamation point-hash sign-percentage sign to substitute for actual swear words which also bothers me a bit. C'mon Marvel, either you make your heroes and villains swear or you don't. This - @$%#!& - reminds me of the censors bleeping out swear words on TV...and just as annoying. You allow decapitations but you draw a line on actual swearing?

Those complaints aside, CBnMI13 is actually a fun book to read. Pencils by Leonard Kirk is pretty (I enjoyed his work on the Agents of Atlas mini series last year) and it's obvious Paul Cornell has big plans for these characters. He may have been stifled plot-wise because he has to tie in to the Secret Invasion event but I have heard that in subsequent issues he has Captain Britain fighting Dracula on the Moon or something. Now that is the kind of stupid awesome that I look forward to in my superhero comics. Can't wait to read that in the next Captain Britain trade.


Maxo said...

I just started reading Captain Britain, and it's pretty great. Not only does the current storyline kick off with Dracula on the moon, it starts with Dracula launching vampires from the moon!

I really need to pick up the first trade.

I'm glad to hear you're happy with the portrayal of a Muslim character in this book; I don't mind so much when a writer gets some tiny detail about my culture wrong, but it really, really bugs me when it's obvious the writer is just going off of some idiotic stereotype.

Khairul H. said...

So it's true about Dracula on the moon? Yay! And yeah, stereotypes bug me too which is why it was such a serendipity to see a strong, female Muslim character playing an active role in this book.