TRADE PAPERBACK REVIEW

December 1, 2003 Posted by admin

TITLE: CAPTAIN BRITAIN

REVIEW DATE: 12/02/02

REVIEWER: STU TAYLOR

WRITER: ALAN MOORE

ARTIST: ALAN DAVIS

REVIEW:
capbritOne of the first things that Joe Quesada did when he became ensconced as Marvel’s Editor-In-Chief was attempt to build bridges with comics legend Alan Moore. The writer had sworn off working with the company after the shoddy way in which he was handled during his tenure on the Captain Britain strip back in the early Eighties. So it was a genuine surprise when the announcement came a year ago that the creator was back on speaking terms with the House off Ideas, thanks to Quesada’s promise to include a copyright notice in the collected edition of the Captain Britain strips. This announcement that, almost two decades after it was first serialised, Moore’s Captain Britain would be collected in book format had wrinkly comic readers reaching for their heart tablets, whilst those who grew up on the likes of Spawn and Youngblood probably shrugged their shoulders in disinterest. So perhaps a brief British comics history lesson is in order…
At the same time that Moore was writing for Britain’s 2000 AD and Warrior during the early Eighties, he picked up the reins on one of Marvel UK’s few original comic strips: Captain Britain (at the time, the bulk of the material being published in the UK were American reprints). The series’ outgoing writer Dave Thorpe had taken the generic and instantly forgettable costumed superhero and re-invented Captain Britain, planting him in a Lewis Carroll-inspired twisted parallel Earth.

The Fast & The Fury
Whilst Thorpe’s Captain Britain strips were quirky and fun, building a foundation for Alan Moore to build upon, the series really got critics and fans talking when Moore came on board. He actually wrote the last page of Thorpe’s final episode, and remarkably managed to turn the series on its head with just that single page. But for some reason, Marvel’s book department has chopped the entire Thorpe run (including Moore’s aforementioned first Captain Britain page) from the collected edition. Yes, Moore’s writing is the main selling point of the collection, but to start the book in the middle of a storyline is downright dumb for those who have never read the series before (er… and that’ll be the vast majority, then?). But if you’re willing to be initially confused to buggery, there are some real gems to be found here. Moore’s work on Cap predates his greatest superhero triumph, Watchmen, and whilst the latter is famous for its killer dialogue and unforgettable characters, Captain Britain also handles itself quite well. Arguably, Moore’s Captain Britain features one of the most memorable villains in Mad Jim Jaspers – a kind of dandy English fop, very much in a Terry Thomas mold – who is utterly insane and has the power to warp reality. But the real scene-stealer is Jaspers’ mute, techno-organic superhero killing machine, The Fury. For the latter, Moore dispenses with the traditional wise-cracking supervillain, providing us with a far more terrifying proposition. The Fury cannot be reasoned with, it is incredibly resilient, single-minded and simply will not stop until it has eradicated its target. Which, in this case, is Captain Britain. Oh, and The Fury actually succeeds in its task by killing Cap at the end of Moore’s first full episode (but then death never seems to be permanent in the superhero genre).

Anarchy In The UK
Fans of Alan Davis’ art on the forthcoming Spider-Man: The Movie comic adaptation will relish the opportunity to check out some of his earliest work. There’s an anecdote that Davis extended the allocated strip pages per episode since he was unable to accomplish what Moore had asked him to do in his highly imaginative scripts. It’s also a double pity then that the Thorpe run is not included since Davis’ art-style was very much in its infancy during his first few episodes, and it was fascinating to see him evolve through the series’ run.
Quesada’s promise to include a notation in the book’s indicia was to essentially acknowledge the original concepts and characters created for the strip by Moore and Davis. I said ‘promised’, as this little olive branch somehow got lost during the book’s production and never made it into print. Cue: one pissed-off Moore.
So, unfortunately, this long, long-awaited collection is now currently more famous for a production cock-up than the material itself. The result of which prompted Moore to swear that he’d never have anything to do with Marvel again. Fortunately, Quesada was able to smooth things over by promising to correct the mistake in future editions. Hopefully he’ll also re-instate the Thorpe run of stories, include the missing page from one of the Moore episodes (it’s a full page shot of Cap and Wardog which has bizarrely been cut out, coming as it did mid-scene), and sort out the dreadful colouring job. Whether we’ll ever see Moore writing the likes of the Fantastic Four or Spider-Man remains to be seen, but for now, this classic collection of quirky Brit-style superheroics will do.

BULLETPROOF RATING: 9/10 (for the source material) 4/10 (for the collection)