Like any other medium, comic books can cover all sorts of levels of seriousness. Even superheroes. I know that so far I’ve only written about superhero books when I talk about comics on this site, and I want to change that, because there are so many other great genres of comics out there, but for now, I want to talk about superheroes again. I definitely love comics that try for a more grounded story, things like the Brubaker/Epting run of Captain America, or the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye can take a look at superheroes from a more realistic point of view. They try to show these characters that run around in spandex beating up crazy villains, and try to give them some real depth and emotion. And I love that, it helps legitimize the medium, but I feel like in the end those books just become the “dramas” of the superhero genre. And while I often love to read these more grounded stories, I really really love when comics get zany. I once heard a comics creator (I can’t remember who) explain that unlike movies, it costs the same to have a crazy action scene as it does to have a slow character building talking scene. And while there does need to be character development, it’s certainly fun when comics dive in with the crazy side. And oh boy did I find a crazy story.
I mentioned in the post about the “Under Siege” that I was intrigued about the Black Knight, and was looking for more stories with the character. And that brought me to find an insane book that only lasted 15 issues in 2008 and 2009 called Captain Britain and MI13, written by Paul Cornell and Penciled by Leonard Kirk. Spinning out of the Secret Invasion storyline, this book was about a team of British heroes joining the British intelligence agency to fight evil. It consisted of Captain Britain, a Superman-esque character who can fly, is invulnerable, and is powered by Merlin and self-confidence. Pete Wisdom, a mutant who can create energy knives out of his fingers, and is the leader of the team. The Black Knight, a guy who wields the Ebony Blade, a magical sword. Spitfire, who is basically the Flash, but she’s secretly a vampire. There’s Faiza Hussain, who eventually becomes known as Excalibur, a young Pakistani-British woman who has the ability to heal people and also wields the mythic sword Excalibur. And then Blade, the dude who kickboxes vampires. It’s a crazy team, and they’re a lot of fun. The first couple stories of the series were pretty fun, they fought off Skrulls and a crazy being from Hell that can make people live out their heart’s desire, and it was for the most part just the team getting used to each other. I don’t know if Cornell and Kirk knew that the last storyline they made was going to be the final of the series, but man was it the best. It started off in the last issue of the storyline with the being from Hell, and on the last page cut to the moon, where there was castle, and goddamn Dracula was sitting on a balcony. That got me stoked. How could that not be awesome?
And boy was it awesome. The story kicked off with Dracula (seriously, it’s the real Dracula, he’s an established Marvel character) having a meeting with Doctor Doom on the moon to discuss the fact that Dracula is going to invade Earth. Dracula also proves to be oddly racist against Muslims, to a degree that it creeps out Doctor Doom. And you know you’re weird when Doctor Doom is uncomfortable to be around you. That’s where this story starts! Dracula has apparently been living on the moon, raising an army of vampires, and he’s getting ready to invade England, because that’s where all the magic in the world comes from apparently. So he starts his plan with a sneak attack on the MI13 by launching suicide bomber vampires at the various team members. Captain Britain and Pete Wisdom were in a car, and they end up fighting the vampire at the cost of two normal humans who were in the car with them. Faiza and Dane were flying back from Wakanda, and their vampire blows their plane up, causing them to plummet to their deaths, until Faiza heals them the second after they’re crushed into the ground. And Spitfire is kidnapped by her crazy vampire son, brought to Dracula to become a thrall and join his crazy moon cult. They also kidnap Faiza’s dad to turn him into a vampire. Captain Britain, Pete, Black Knight, and Excalibur meet up with Blade and start to plan for the invasion, as Spitfire is brought to the moon to be indoctrinated. I love that she starts bringing up questions like “shouldn’t the sun be killing us?” or “how are we breathing?” and it’s just brushed away by simply saying “Magic.” Hell yes.
It turns out that some dead vampire hunter friend of Blade had a crazy plan to enchant his skull with the ability to keep all vampires out of Britain unless they’re invited, and the team races to get their hands on the skull. But unfortunately Dracula launches more vampires…from the moon (yeah, I’m going to mention that they’re on the moon every chance I get) to steal the skull, and he ends up using a vampire witch he has at his disposal to send a hologram down to taunt the heroes, before destroying the magic skull. With the magic blockade gone, Dracula decides to finally head down to Earth on a crazy rocket shaped like a pirate ship (YES!) and things start to go swimmingly for him. He sends down the brainwashed Spitfire to confront the heroes while placing a magical barrier around Britain that makes it so no one can enter. Spitfire kills Faiza, causing Black Knight to go berserk as the vampire army overwhelms them, killing Black Knight and Pete as Captain Britain is thrown through the barrier, so that he can’t come back in and fight them, and Blade is run off to hide and lick his wounds. We then get an amazing scene of Dracula sitting in the Parliament building, crowing himself king, when he realizes that things went a bit too well, and figures out that he’s not in reality. Turns out the MI13 made a deal with the crazy Hell-Beast guy from earlier, and he trapped Dracula in a dream in order to find out his plan. Dracula is pissed, and the heroes spring into action to stop him now that they know what he’s up to.
They lead a crazy assault on the Vampires Moonship, where Captain Britain smashes into the ship to fight the witch they have, and Spitfire revels that she’s not actually a thrall, and she starts to crash the ship and lets in Black Knight and Faiza. But things don’t work out that well, because the witch/vampire turns out to be able to affect Captain Britain’s magic, and they have to bail on the plan. Doctor Doom swoops in to help Dracula, by delivering Captain Britain’s magical wife Meggan to the brig. Things look bleak again for the heroes, but it turns out to all be another trick, because Meggan has the ability to block Dracula’s mind-control powers, letting all the vampires start to rebel. Thanks Doctor Doom! Captain Britain shows back up again, pissed off Dracula has his wife, and it turns out he was faking against the witch to draw her into a sense of false-security, and he beats the hell out of her. Black Knight shows up to kill the crazy pirate/vampire who was controlling the Moonship and Faiza and he run to Dracula’s escape hatch as Blade destroys their coffins. It turns out the magical skull that Dracula destroyed earlier wasn’t the real one, and as the Vampire’s Space Pirate Ship breaks into England’s airspace, the spell takes effect and all the vampires start to blow up. Black Knight gets seriously wounded by Dracula, but Faiza ends up fighting him, finally stabbing him and killing him. We then get a happy ending where Captain Britain and his wife kiss, Faiza and Black Knight kiss, Blade and Spitfire kiss, and Pete Wisdom hooks up with a random lady we don’t know! And everyone lived happily ever after.
This story was absolutely bonkers, in the best possible way. I love when comics get silly. Because why shouldn’t they? They’re about people with superpowers dressing up in tights, punching other people in tights. And this comic was amazing. It was literally about Dracula attacking Earth from his secret moon-castle with an army of vampires on their space-faring pirate ship. If that sentence didn’t make you want to read this book, we can’t be friends anymore. The heroes were pretty fun, and I think the book as a whole worked well to establish their powers and relationships, since I really knew nothing about any of them. I loved seeing these characters banter with each other and kill as many crazy vampires as they could. It’s amazing. This comic was crazy, and amazing, and everyone should read it.
“Vampire State” was written by Paul Cornell and penciled by Leonard Kirk.
Categories: Marvel Madness