Sunday, August 23, 2009

Blogathon 41: Captain Britain and MI:13: Vampire State

[Discussed in this post: Captain Britain and MI:13 #10-15 and annual #1.]

It is an absolute shame that Captain Britain and MI:13 had to end -- but it's fantastic that it got to end on a high note like Vampire State. This is about as perfect a storyarc as you're going to find in superhero comics and Paul Cornell takes it a step further by using vampires -- and then takes that a step further by using Dracula. It could have failed on so many levels with those decisions, but Cornell doesn't just get by, he nails it, pulls it off, and leaves us all wondering how the hell he did that.

Cornell's Dracula isn't unfamiliar but he isn't quite like any Dracula you've seen before. He's smart, confident, refined, racist, and knows he's going to win. The racism against Muslims is a nice touch -- and works with the idea of invading Britain because of its large immigrant population. He plans out a careful strategy and executes it with great skill. Only a stragist his equal could match him -- and thank got MI:13 has Pete Wisdom, because he pulls off some masterful swerves against Dracula. When it appears that Dracula has won, it was really his greatest desire as fulfilled by Plokta. When he thought he destroyed a skull that would protect Britain from vampires, it was a fake skull that they put on a show to protect. When he thought he controlled Lady J, he didn't. When he thought he had a treaty with Doom, he didn't. The first half of the arc is about building Dracula up, showing him as unbeatable, while the second half is about tearing him down, showing him as beatable.

Cornell lays on some heavy cliffhangers in this arc. The entire team is killed style of cliffhangers. And while he always follows up on them, unafraid to undo them, it never feels forced or like we got a fake-out before. It only ever feels like something bad happened and the trained professionals reacted, solving the problem. To Cornell's credit, he makes us believe that these characters are as good at what they do as is necessary for a lot of these issues to work. But, we believe it. They are the professionals.

It seems, in restrospect, obvious that vampires would pose a threat with two on the team -- one who's devoted his life to hunting them down. Except it still felt like a surprise for Dracula and company to invade Britain somehow...

The budding relationship between Blade and Lady J is one of my favourite things about this arc. Blade in a pub in issue ten is a great scene. Or, Blade staking J's son to make sure the vampire bugger is put out of his misery... they're a good couple.

Pete Wisdom's strategy is a constant effort to delay Dracula until they can think of something better and it winds up working out.

The annual, which focuses on Meggan, is rather weak. I didn't care for it when I reviewed it for CBR and don't care for it now. The tone isn't quite right, Cornell never really hits his stride in it like he does the rest of the series.

The final issue of the series is a pretty good ending. It's not the strongest end, but you need to remember that it was just meant to be the end of the arc, not the book -- and I doubt Cornell altered it a lot to suit that purpose. It does end with various couples -- Blade and J, Brian and Meggan, Dane and Faiza, Pete and Tara -- although that one is so fucking cool. Pete driving the car, looking like Bond, Tara admiring him. Leonard Kirk nails that pic.

Kirk is an essential part of the book. He has a distinctive style, using thin lines, a little sketchy, but very clean, very easy to read and understand. It's a shame he didn't do every issue.

Oh god, we're running out of comics! In 30 minutes, we'll do Secret Warriors: Nick Fury: Agent of Nothing.

[Don't forget to donate what you can to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund! After you do, let me know via comment or e-mail (found at the righthand side) so I can keep track of donations -- and who to thank.]