“Captain Britain and MI:13” has been not just one of Marvel’s best titles, but one of the best monthly comics period, and the news of its cancellation is saddening (though not surprising). The current arc, “Vampire State” is the book’s best and this annual ties into it by examining what has happened to Meggan since her husband, Captain Britain, abandoned her in another dimension, thinking her a construct created by a demon in the previous arc. What could be a touching story, though, never really gets off the ground.
In the lead story, Meggan finds herself in Hell, not really sure why she’s there or where she’s supposed to go. She hasn’t done anything to warrant a residence there, nor does she herself really think she belongs there. She actually doesn’t know where she belongs. Paul Cornell interposes scenes from Meggan’s past throughout her stay in Hell, showing how, as a child on through adulthood, she was called a freak, and how it wasn’t until meeting Brian Braddock that she ever felt truly at peace.
For some reason, though, the story just skims along the surface, never really hitting an emotional core that justifies it. Maybe it’s Mike Collins’s art, which, while ably done, can’t really express anything but the most basic of expressions and body positions. Despite depicting a character who can change at anyone’s whim, Collins’ Meggan is only capable of two or three different looks. The lack of visual variety certainly hurts the story. She spends most of the book with the same distressed look on her face as she has in the opening pages.
However, even in the back-up story, with better art from Adrian Alphona, the writing never really gets going. The back-up story gives Braddock’s impressions of his relationship with Meggan while he plays cricket with the team. The idea of this British team playing cricket is a nice twist on the usual baseball game that American superhero teams love to engage in, and it’s great to see the team at ease, relaxing together.
Braddock’s memories of his relationship with Meggan suffer from the same problem that her memories do: they never really make the reader invest themselves emotionally in these characters. Both talk around their relationship without ever really providing any sort of explanation. At one point, Meggan talks about how Braddock saw the real her and, because he saw that, she was able to become that -- but we never see that. While no relationship can ever be fully explained, the surface is barely scratched on this one.
Cornell does succeed in one key area and that’s his depiction of Meggan’s powers and the amount of choice she has over who she is since she’s so affected by the opinions and thoughts of others. He approaches those powers from several different directions and those scenes work nicely.
“Captain Britain and MI:13” Annual #1 doesn’t match up to the brilliance of the main book, but it does shed some light on some important events, including leading into the next chapter of “Vampire State.”