REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA MOVIE COMIC SERIES CAPTAIN BRITAIN
One of the cooler aspects of the Captain America line of movie-based figures is that, like Iron Man 2 before it, the action figures have been divided into three distinct segments. There is the Movie Series, which represents characters from the movie in their in their movie likenesses, of course; there is the Concept Series, which really could be just about anything, but to date, as one might expect, has produced a number of mission or environment specific takes on the movie-based Captain America; and there is the Comic Series, which features characters from the Marvel Comics themselves, most of them, at least, from the general world of Captain America.
However, that hasn't stopped at least one other character from working his way into the Comic Series line that doesn't really have all that much to do with Captain America. His only real connection to Cap is a somewhat superficial one, in that he was intended to be his nation's version of Captain America. His name is CAPTAIN BRITAIN.
Now, admittedly, England has been a longtime ally of the United States -- once we got that Revolution taken care of and some unfortunate subsequent business a couple hundred years ago. But to the best of my knowledge, Captain America and Captain Britain, in the comics, haven't ever really had all that much to do with each other, nor are their origins the least bit intertwined.
The irony, if it can be called that, is that the Captain Britain figure in the Captain America line, a character originally intended exclusively for publishing in Marvel UK books, is sufficiently popular that I actually had a little trouble tracking him down.
Captain Britain's backstory is almost as convoluted as his publishing history, especially since the latter is split between two countries. I'll do my best to present reasonable summaries of both.
Captain Britain first appeared in Captain Britain Weekly #1, in October 1976, and was created by Chris Claremont and Herb Trimpe. Up until 1978, the character appeared exclusively in Marvel's UK comics, although some established Marvel characters such as the Black Knight, and -- okay, I was wrong -- Captain America did appear. However, Marvel's American comics didn't reference these stories or acknowledge that Captain Britain was part of the mainstream Marvel Universe.
In 1978, however, Chris Claremont, who had been away from the title since issue #10, fully integrated him into the Marvel universe via a story that starred Spider-Man, and showcased Captain Britain's first visit to the United States. Originally published as a black and white story in the UK's "Super Spider-Man and Captain Britain" title, the story was subsequently colored and presented in the United States in two issues of the Marvel Team-Up title which starred Spider-Man. The two heroes went up against the maniacal assassin Arcade.
Captain Britain subsequently appeared in a minor role in another Marvel limited series, 1982's Contest of Champions, which introduced a number of international heroes. The character was later relaunched, in a redesigned costume, in the Marvel Superheroes title in England. Cap would move around to a number of different titles, finally gaining his own monthly Captain Britain title in the UK.
Once this was canceled, Marvel launched the American comic Excalibur, featuring a team of mostly mutant superheroes operating out of Europe. Captain Britain was one of the core members of this group. He has since been part of a revised Excalibur team, and a new series was launched in 2008, using the Secret Invasion storyline as a launchpad, titled "Captain Britain and MI:13". He has also since reappeared in European titles by Panini Comics, which bought Marvel UK and in 2006 broadened their license with Marvel Comics to produce original stories.
As to the character's origin and story, Brian Braddock was born and raised in the small town of Maldon, Essex, and educated at Fettes College in Edinburgh. He was a shy and studious youth, living a relatively quiet life and spending most of his time with his parents and siblings. The family were an aristocratic one who were no longer wealthy enough to fraternize with their former peers, leaving Brian a lonely child who immersed himself in the study of physics.
After the death of his parents in what seemed to be a laboratory accident, Brian took a fellowship at Darkmoor Nuclear Research Centre. When the facility was attacked by the technological criminal Joshua Stragg, Brian tried to find help by escaping on his motorcycle. He crashed his bike in a nearly fatal accident, whereupon the ancient wizard Merlyn and his daughter Roma appeared to him. They gave him the chance to be the superhero Captain Britain. He is offered a choice - the Amulet of Right or the Sword of Might. Considering himself to be no warrior and unsuited for the challenge, he rejects the sword and chooses the amulet. This choice transforms Brian Braddock into Captain Britain.
It was later revealed the Braddock is only one member of a much larger, inter-dimensional corps of protectors. Every Earth in the Marvel Multiverse has its own Captain Britain, although some go by different names, who are expected to defend Britain and the world, and uphold British law.
Braddock would begin his career as a super-hero, garnering something of a "rogue's gallery" of villains, although due no doubt to the mystical nature of his origins, he would begin fighting more and more supernatural enemies than conventional super-villains.
Following his adventures in America, he came under a mental attack by the demonic Necromon. He spend two years as a hermit on the Cornish coast, repairing his psyche. He was eventually called to Merlyn's service again, fighting alongside the Black Knight. His memories were partially restored, and Cap and the Knight would go on to fight several battles together, subsequent to which was Cap's appearance in the Contest of Champions.
Eventually, after some further bizarre and largely interdimensional adventures, Captain Britain was returned to Earth, but this was actually an alternate Earth that had been conquered by a British dictatorship. It was around this time that Braddock's uniform was modified by Merlyn, who merged the powers of the Amulet of Right with another object called the Star Sceptre.
Eventually, Captain Britain was returned to the correct Earth, and after some further adventures, following the apparent death of the X-Men, which at that point had also included Braddock's sister, Psylocke, a group of heroes including former X-Men Nightcrawler and Shadowcat, as well as Phoenix III and Meggan, join Braddock to form Excalibur, Great Britain's premier super-team, in an effort to continue the work of the X-Men.
His adventures would continue with Excalibur, and on his own, for years. Currently, Captain Britain is part of MI:13 a British intelligence agency. This storyline spun out of events of the Secret Invasion. After fighting Skrull forces in London, Brian was dispatched to secure Avalon and this the world's magic from Skrull forces. Brian is left uncomfortable having to kill Skrulls as part of the battle. Attempting to divert a missile fired by the Skrulls, Braddock was killed in a vicious explosion.
But, nobody ever stays dead for long in the comics. He was resurrected by Merlyn, and after taking possession of the legendary sword Excalibur, was told by Merlyn that his revived form will no longer be plagued by doubts, and he represents a unified symbol of the United Kingdom. He has increased powers and theoretically no limits, but this is reliant on his own personal level of confidence. While he has chosen to continue to work with MI:13 and their super-hero team, he has stated that the super-heroes will no longer kill. Recently, during an international meeting between Steve Rogers and MI:13, Captain Britain was offered a job with the Avengers, which he accepted.
As to his powers and abilities -- well, those have sort of been all over the place, as well. Originally, Captain Britain's powers were linked to the mystical Amulet of Right. He also possessed a mace-like Star Sceptre, which he could use like a quarterstaff and which also gave him the power of flight. Later, Merlyn changed his costume, fusing the powers of the Amulet and the Scepter into the new uniform, and then integrating these powers into Braddock himself.
Brian Braddock possesses superhuman strength, speed, stamina, durability, reflexes, senses, and the ability to fly at supersonic speeds. He also possesses enhanced perceptions that allow him to be aware of things others may miss, especially in the realm of the supernatural. However, the level of his powers are tied into his emotional state. If he's feeling determined and confident, then he's very powerful, but if he begins to doubt himself, then his powers wane.
So, how's the figure? Really very nicely done.
It's worth mentioning that Captain Britain has had a number of costumes over the years, I believe one of the problems in outfitting the character to be as distinctively British as his name applies, indeed to be as British in appearance as Captain America is American in appearance, using the colors and symbology of the flag, was the presence of another British super-hero known as Union Jack, whose costume was definitely very reflective of the British flag -- right down to the character's name, really.
Captain Britain's original costume was predominantly red, with a gold lion-like emblem on the front of it. Subsequent uniforms, including the one used on this figure, have been somewhat more apparently British, without stepping on Union Jack's toes too much.
Arguably, Captain Britain's uniform, as represented by this particular figure, is as close to the British flag as Captain America's uniform is to the American flag. If you think about it, Captain America's uniform is not precisely a take on the American flag. It has a far greater percentage of blue on it, only two stars -- one on the front and one on the back, and the red and white stripes are reserved to the mid torso on the front and back. Certainly Captain America's uniform is inspired by the American flag, but it doesn't duplicate it.
Likewise, Captain Britain's uniform, while clearly inspired by the colors and configuration of the British flag, does not duplicate it. Captain Britain is wearing a red helmet, which leaves his lower face exposed, and which has some blue and red striping on the sides, outlined in white. The upper torso of his costume, extending over his shoulders, is mostly red with some interspersed blue, again all outlined in white.
His lower arms, somewhat oddly, are black, with white gauntlets. His legs are mostly white, with some tapered blue at the top, which looks like overflow from the torso design, and he is wearing black boots with buckled straps holding them in place. He also has a black belt, a separately molded piece, around his waist, with a series of small equipment pouches.
Honestly, given the number of super-heroes these days that wear something like that, Batman should be making a fortune in royalties off his utility belt alone.
This edition of Captain Britain is, at the very least, strongly based on one of his best known and longest-lived costume designs. There are a few unusual particulars. Most illustrated versions of Captain Britain I have seen with this costume, and I'll readily admit I haven't followed the character's career all that closely, give him very high, dark blue boots. According to one online reference I encountered, this was a design aspect carried out by artist Alan Davis, who based the white leggings and high boots on the mounted guards outside Buckingham Palace.
Now, somewhere along the way, apparently Cap decided to get some different footwear. I also consider the black details on his sleeves to be unusual. However, it wouldn't surprise me at all to learn that at some point, the character did look like this in the comics. The gauntlets and the boots that the figure has are distinctive enough in their own right that I can't imagine them being created just for the toy on some sort of whim.
The sculpting is excellent. The eyes on the helmet have a surprisingly deepset look to them. It's entirely appropriate given that this is supposed to be a helmet and not just a straight mask or cowl, but I'm very impressed with how well it's been carried off, especially on a relatively small-scale figure. As to the character's actual face, only the mouth is really visible, but it's nicely done and seems to convey an expression of determination.
The musculature on the rest of the figure is very well-detailed, and the costume pattern -- which can't have been easy -- is very neatly painted. The red and blue aspects have also been given a metallic finish to them, which I have to say looks exceptionally cool and impressive. I'm not entirely sure it's accurate to the character, but given how well it works, it's also not something I'm going to quibble about.
Captain Britain looks a little heavy around the waist, but this is purely the utility belt. It is removable - there's a snap hidden under one of the pouches -- and the figure actually doesn't look bad without it, although there is a white stripe across the waist where the belt is supposed to be, that causes a break in the metallic blue trim. However, if you're inclined to leave the belt off permanently and have some measure of artistic talent, you can get a nice metallic blue acrylic paint at most craft stores. On a positive note with regard to the belt, the painted details, including the buckle and little snaps on the pouches, is very well done.
The white gauntlets have a slight metallic finish to them, but in fairness, "metallic white" isn't the easiest color in the world to pull off. If it wasn't for the sculpted ridges on the gauntlets, it would be a little hard to detect.
The figure is extremely well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.
The leg articulation is interesting. It's not the straight ball-and-socket, G.I. Joe-like leg articulation found on most Marvel Universe figures these days, but neither is it the more complex, and sometimes quirky design that was most recently used by the Iron Man 2 line. It's sort of a compromise between the two, and it actually works surprisingly well. Of course in the case of Captain Britain, it helps to have some diagonal blue trim running from waist down the tops of the legs so you know how best to align all the parts.
I'd like to add this, as well. The Captain America comic figures, and I also have Captain America and USAgent as of this writing, seem a little more muscular than the average Marvel Universe figure. There's a number of figures in that line that, no insult intended towards it since they have turned out some very cool character, but some of them just look a little -- skinnier than they should. The figures in the Captain America line have just a little more meat on their bones, and have certainly been given appropriately heroic physiques.
Captain Britain comes with several accessories. Most notably, he comes with a very fancy, ornate sword that I am sure is supposed to represent the legendary Excalibur sword of Arthurian legend. It's very nicely done and, at nearly 3" in height, for a figure that stands not quite 4-1/4", isn't something I'd want to be on the wrong end of, legendary or not.
Captain Britain also comes with an arm-mounted spring-loaded missile launcher, mostly gold with metallic blue trim, and a translucent blue missile. It's officially called a "Clip-On Rocket Blaster". Something for the kids to play with I assume.
So, what's my final word? Maybe Captain America didn't sell that well in Great Britain, but this Captain Britain figure seems to be doing just fine in America in 2011, and with good reason -- it's a very cool rendition of the figure. He's well-designed, well-articulated, and well-painted. He may not be as well known as Captain America, certainly, and he's not even in the movie, but he's still a cool figure, and has had plenty of time in and around the Marvel Universe. If you're any sort of fan of the character, then you'll be extremely pleased with this figure.
The CAPTAIN AMERICA MOVIE COMIC SERIES figure of CAPTAIN BRITAIN definitely has my most enthusiastic recommendation!