COMICS: John Reviews “Secret Invasion: Captain Britain and MI 13” by Paul Cornell and Leonard Kirk

Image from Captain Britain and MI 13 #1

Image from Captain Britain and MI 13 #1

Marvel seems to be falling into a recurring pattern these days.  With every major crossover they do (starting with Civil War,) the main series and most of the tie-ins turn out to be rather disappointing.  Each time, however, there is at least one tie-in (usually only tangentially related to the main event) that stands out head and shoulders above the rest as a truly great book.  Civil War had The Initiative and The Order, World War Hulk had Incredible Hercules and Damage Control, and Secret Invasion has Captain Britain and MI-13.  What’s that you’re saying? “Why should I pick up a book about obscure British heroes I know nothing about?”  I’ll tell you exactly why: It’s a true-blue action superhero comic, and the first worthy Marvel rival to anything put out by Geoff Johns at DC.  I’m not one to throw around the word “epic” lightly (the only time I would use the phrase “epic fail” would be if there were armies or dragons involved, and preferably both,) so know that I mean it when I call this story an epic battle of good versus evil.  It’s a story of larger-than-life heroes battling against impossible odds and winning, because they have to.  It’s so powerfully patriotic that it kind of makes me wish I were British, but I do that often enough anyway.

For those who missed the big Secret Invasion event, here’s what you need to know:  A bunch of green-skinned shape-shifting aliens known as the Skrulls pull a Battlestar Galactica and infiltrate every major organization and super-team on the planet.  In addition to being able to look like anyone, some of the Skrulls can copy superheroes’ powers (often using an entire team’s worth of powers at once!)  They incapacitate the heroes they couldn’t secretly replace, and the world is basically theirs for the taking (until the heroes inevitably rally and punch the hell out of them.)  The story of Captain Britain and MI-13 follows the heroes’ attempt to repel the Skrulls’ invasion of Britain, the magic capitol of the world.  If the Skrulls can cross over to the dimension where magic lives and quash it, no one on earth will be able to use magic against them (which would suck.)  It’s up to Captain Britain, Pete Wisdom, Spitfire, Black Knight and human-sympathetic John the Skrull (who affects his appearance to match John Lennon) to keep the Skrulls at bay and save Britain, magic and the world.  Just another day in the life of a British superhero…

Paul Cornell and Geoff Johns seem to be on the same inspirational wavelength, as Captain Britain and MI-13 hits all the same notes of epic heroism that Johns’ Flash, Green Lantern, and Superman books do.  Neither of these creators believe in bringing characters down to the real world to deconstruct them, reducing them to quivering masses of neuroses and indecision.  When someone asked Geoff Johns how he as a writer can come up with anything to challenge a character as powerful as Superman, he simply said “[I] throw everything [I] have at him.”  That’s essentially what Cornell does in this book, putting a small band of heroes up against completely impossible odds and making their eventual victory not only believable, but completely awe-inspiring.  In an interview with, Cornell described the book thusly:

It’s in your face super-heroics, with hopefully a lot of passion and character and intelligence, but basically just bringing hero back, just trying to make you cry with the sheer heroics of it. Or cheer, if you want to be manly about it. Or womanly. I’m trying not to censor myself in terms of being all restrained and cynical and aloof and just writing to my emotions, writing big adventure comics you can cheer for. That’s what I’m after.

I don’t think I can put it any better than that.

Leonard Kirk was given the task to draw this monster epic of a story, and he performs admirably.  Panels are packed to the gills with all manner of characters, from the mundane scenes of Brits attempting evacuation and medical assistance to the invading super-skrulls (each sporting a different Marvel super-team’s power set and visual cues) to the fairytale denizens of Avalon.  Yet the most powerful images are the splash pages (like the double-splash image above,) particularly the ones where Captain Britain is kicking serious butt and being entirely British about it.  Kirk’s visuals perfectly compliment Cornell’s story, and that’s really all one could ask for.

If you were dissatisfied with Secret Invasion, or gave it a pass because you knew you would be, don’t let that stop you from picking up this fantastic comic. Captain Britain and MI-13 has action, dramatic tension, and heroes being really damned heroic.  ‘Nuff said.

Captain Britain, wielding Excalibur.  !@#$ Yeah.

Captain Britain, wielding Excalibur. !@#$ Yeah.


2 Responses

  1. I just read the first issue a few days ago on Marvel’s digital comics site. It was one of the free selections! Based solely on that one issue I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s really perfect. I was skeptical and fairly uninterested going into it. I have no love for any of the characters in it, and I downright dislike Pete Wisdom. I generally don’t like things that are centered around Skrulls, and other than the Hercules ‘God Squad’ stuff which I loved, I tried to avoid as much of Secret Invasion as I could.

    This book, this single issue that I read, blew me away. It is absolutely stuffed with… awesome. I’ll defer to your details here, but I was more than impressed with it.

  2. It only gets better from there, Rob!

    I’m not too familiar with Pete Wisdom yet (having only been exposed to his ultimate version in Ultimate Human) but I’m looking forward to reading his early appearances in Counter X. He was created by Warren Ellis, so how bad can he possibly be?

    I’ll be doing a review of Incredible Herc’s “Sacred Invasion” arc soon, as part of my Fred Van Lente series of reviews (supervillain team-up, wolverine: first class, power pack, incredible herc, MA: Iron Man) so stay tuned!

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