EXCL. PREVIEW: "Avatar: Smoke & Shadow" TPB Threatens the Fire Nation
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. Today’s page is from Captain Britain and MI: 13 #8, which was published by Marvel and is cover dated February 2009. Enjoy!
Paul Cornell’s oddball series about superheroes fighting mystical threats to Britain was a tough sell and didn’t last very long, but it was a pretty darned good series. It guest-starred Captain Midlands, for crying out loud!
Marvel’s recap page means we can jump right into this issue, so Cornell and Leonard Kirk do just that. We’re in Birmingham, where the team has responded to a distress call from good ol’ Captain Midlands himself, and there they find Plotka, who is able to fulfill a person’s strongest desire in exchange for their soul. Captain Britain has already succumbed, but now the rest of the team is fighting Plotka’s Mindless Ones. The Black Knight realizes that he’s not fighting with his “ebony blade,” which, as you can see, kind of freaks him out. So we catch up with him just as he finds out, which causes him to drop to his knees. That young lady is Dr. Faiza Hussain, a member of the team, and then Captain Midlands takes over, leaving Dr. Hussain and Pete Wisdom (the dude who tells them that they’re going to try to barricade the stairs) to fight off the Mindless Ones. So that’s what’s going on here.
Kirk and colorist Brian Reber give us a vibrant page, full of action. It’s not the best page, layout-wise – Panel 3 dominates so much that a reader might actually miss Panel 2, in which Dane (the Black Knight) falls down. Kirk tries to mitigate this by placing Faiza at the bottom of Panel 1, leading us downward, but I’m not sure it’s that effective, mainly because both Dane and Faiza are angled toward Panel 3 as well, so it might be confusing. Kirk does a nice job capturing Dane’s look of utter shock in Panel 1, which makes his collapse a bit more realistic – he really is stunned, and simply can’t keep himself together. Panel 2, although it’s smaller, gives us a sense of what’s going on – we see the “mystical fire” burning in this estate more clearly than in Panel 1, and the Mindless Ones are much more prominent. Kirk has fun with Panel 3, as he gives us a pretty good wide shot of the Mindless Ones in the background, blasting away at Wisdom, who’s holding them off with his power, then Faiza looking worriedly at Dane (she’s a bit sweet on him), and then Captain Midlands carrying the Black Knight away. It’s a pretty good use of the space, because there’s a lot going on in this panel, yet it’s not confusing. The perspective might be skewed a bit, but not enough to throw us completely off. As this is a comic from the 21st century, the inks and colors are softer, and Kirk’s line work is less crisp than it was the last time we saw him in this series, when he was drawing Supergirl. Reber’s coloring blunts the edges, making Dane’s jacket in Panel 1 and Captain Midlands’ flak jacket in Panel 3 a bit more “realistic,” I suppose, and burnishes the gold in Dane’s helmet and shield quite nicely, too. In modern coloring, where we usually see the most difference to older coloring is in stuff like the flames, which Reber can make glow quite nicely with computer effects. The flames are more hellish, the Mindless Ones’ blasts more electric, and Wisdom’s powers more fiery, thanks to digital coloring. It makes this page very bright and dynamic, even more than it would be just with Kirk’s pencils, because it’s not like this is too action-packed a page. I have my issues with modern coloring, but it does stuff like this quite well.
It’s too bad Captain Britain and MI: 13 didn’t sell better. It was a keen little series. So sad!
Next: An early work by an artist who radically changed his style and became a superstar! No, it’s not Greg Land! Nor has he yet shown up in the archives, although the comic and the writer have!
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