Sunday, March 13, 2011

Review: Captain Britain Vol. 4: The Siege of Camelot

CAPTAIN BRITAIN VOL. 4: THE SIEGE OF CAMELOT (Marvel UK, 2010)
Collects selections from Captain Britain Summer Special, The Daredevils Nos. 1-11, Hulk Comic Weekly Nos. 41-55, 57-63 and Marvel Super Heroes Nos. 377-389 (cover dates December 12, 1979- November, 1983).
These British trade paperbacks are heavy duty, man. Super thick cardstock covers, super thick paper...like I said, heavy duty. The bulk of this book was recently issued Stateside in the Captain Britain by Alan Davis & Alan Moore Omnibus, but here we get the earlier stories in their original black and white presentation. There are color pages in this book (i.e. the covers and The Daredevils stories), but many of these stories were re-colored when they were reprinted in the US ages ago. I am glad that I have both versions.
The first chunk of this book is The Black Knight's strip, which features Captain Britain as nothing more than a member of the supporting cast. Their inclusion is necessary, though, because it leads right up to the moment that began the aforementioned Omnibus, roughly 80 pages into this book. Alan Davis' early artwork leaves a lot to be desired, but he quickly picks up steam. His action sequences are great, and the traits that made him one of my all-time favorites become more apparent as he progresses. Alan Moore writes the last chunk of this book, and he is often imitated but never duplicated. It's so easy to dismiss the importance of these '80s British comic book creators. They really set the stage for the modern era of comics. I would even go as far as to liken Alan Moore to Eddie Van Halen. Van Halen had a revolutionary guitar technique which has since been stripmined of all originality, becoming commonplace and later a cliche'. Likewise, Alan Moore's sense of pacing and arc structure has been swiped by hands less capable and rendered impotent. Why can't artists learn from other artists without swiping the thing that made their source of inspiration special? It sort of cheapens things when we have copies of copies.
The stories from The Daredevils Nos. 1-11 are the best of the bunch. Moore and Davis really fire on all cylinders here, and they play off of each other's strengths. Davis' storytelling, pace and action sequences play off of Moore's tight story structure and twists, pre-dating his work on both Watchmen and V For Vendetta. The Fury, Mad Jim Jaspers, Saturnyne and the Special Executive are characters that got their start here in the UK series, and Moore throwing in mainline Marvel Universe characters such as Arcade and the Black King (Sebastian Shaw) is a real treat.
It's great to now have the complete UK run in collected edition format. Not to be outdone, Marvel (US) has recently announced hardcover editions of these. I am going to resist the temptation of the upgrade. Besides, it likely won't even have sewn binding...will it?

2 comments:

  1. This was a great review, and really informative for someone like me who's interested in Captain Britain but doesn't know a lot about the character's history. I never realized that the stories recently reprinted in the Omnibus were originally done in black and white, for instance.

    I have to agree about the influence of British creators in the '80s on comic book history, and the Moore/Van Halen analogy is an excellent one that I had never thought of (I'm sure it helps too that I'm a HUGE fan of both!). I've recently gotten into 2000 AD, and it's opened my eyes to an era of comic books that I never paid much attention to before. And having really enjoyed Alan Davis's work on Harry 20 on the High Rock, I'm really curious to read this book since you mentioned that Davis's art isn't quite up to snuff here.

    Anyhow, I'm eagerly awaiting the recently-announced Captain Britain hardcover. Hopefully it will have sewn binding, but even if not, it seems like a reasonable price for such a large book.

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  2. Not every story from the Omnibus was originally published in black and white, just the ones that came before The Daredevils Nos. 1-11. From The Daredevils No. 1 on, they were all color. Or is it ColoUr? lol
    Alan Davis gets up to speed several issues in.

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