Captain Britain
by Alan Davis, Jamie Delano,
(Marvel, 1988; collecting
The Mighty World of Marvel
14-16, July-Sept. 1984,
and Captain Britain
1-14, Jan. 1985-Feb. 1986)

Captain Britain was created to be a flagship character for a British line of Marvel Comics in the UK. Brian Braddock's mythos began after he was injured in a motorcycle accident and was offered power by Merlin and his daughter Roma. "Dipped in magic and clothed in science," Captain Britain's adventures took him across the globe. (Brian even shared an apartment with a certain webslinger while attending university in New York.) The Captain is probably best known as the leader of the British mutant superhero team Excalibur, which had a 125-issue run.

Captain Britain collects the title character's final seventeen installments under the Marvel UK line in the mid-1980s, before Excalibur started. Alan Davis and Jamie Delano are the writers and Alan Davis supplies the art. This run begins immediately after Alan Moore had finished a long run on the character, so some of the references are a little confusing. (A more in-depth explanation of events leading up to this collection is included in the introduction by Chris Claremont.)

While the art by Davis is quite remarkable, he had yet to reach the level of skill he currently demonstrates. If you're used to his clean-line style in books like JLA: The Nail or The Avengers, his drawing style is much grittier in the earlier issues. As you read through the book, you can see his craft evolving to a better level. Another remarkable aspect of Davis' art is that each character has individual traits (facial shape, hairstyle, eyes, etc.) Unlike a lot of artists in the field (especially Rob Liefeld), a costume is not necessary to distinguish each character.

For the most part, the stories rate as adequate as the art. Some are rushed and do not achieve their potential. Other tales are not very original and make for bland reading. The opening story, "Bad Moon Rising," has the Captain concerned about not being a hero to his people, but being too involved on a more cosmic scale. This self-inflicted guilt seems a rehash of the famous Green Lantern tale by O'Neal and Adams.

There is one tale, "Sid's Story," which is quite remarkable. It involves a homeless man that is infected by one of Captain Britain's former enemies and becomes a grotesque contagion in extreme pain. He is mistaken as a menace and is beaten to death by Captain Britain. Right as the Captain delivers the final blow, Sid psychically screams out "PLEASE STOP HURTING ME!" While the police are elated to see the threat ended, the Captain is left with the guilt that he instinctively used violence in lieu of helping the creature.

The rest of the stories have their ups and down. The ups include the introduction and evolution of Meggan from a furry were-creature to the beautiful faerie as we know her today. Two pluses include two of the most original criminal groups ever: the Crazy Gang and Gatecrasher's Technet. If you enjoyed their appearances in Excalibur, then you will definitely enjoy them here.

One of the down sides is the awkward pace of the storytelling. It not only happens where a month's issue ended, it also happens within issues. If it was the intention to disorient the reader at times, then Davis and Delano succeeded. The action sequences, however, are quite intense, especially the injuring of Elisabeth Braddock by and the Captain's final battle with Slaymaster. The other glaring downside is the attempted "romance" between Meggan and Brian. Instead of realizing her inner beauty, Brian is revealed as a shallow man only interested in her appearance.

As a whole, the collection is somewhat entertaining, with some of the individual stories remaining predictable. Davis attempts to give Captain Britain some depth, but it comes off as unoriginal character traits that border on boring. The two rising stars are Meggan and Elisabeth Braddock, who would become Psylocke in the pages of X-Men. If you enjoyed Excalibur, then this collection is definitely worth a try.

[ by C. Nathan Coyle ]

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