CAPTAIN BRITAIN PART FIVE - ALONGSIDE MERLIN'S CHAMPION, THE BLACK KNIGHT
Art by Staz Johnson
Following his appearance in MARVEL TEAM-UP, Captain Britain disappeared for about two years, as Marvel U.K. quit its practice of producing original content. Previously, it was unlikely that Cap's adventures had proceeded in real time, as most chapters led directly into the next. However, around this time, when Marvel U.K. began to craft new stories once more, the new creators behind the captain eschewed "Marvel Time" and declared that our hero had been missing in action for the same two years his series had been on hiatus.
In the pages of Marvel U.K.'s HULK comic, Cap returned to fight alongside the Black Knight, a once and future member of the Avengers, headlining his own weekly 1-page strip. The stories were written by Steve Parkhouse and illustrated by John Stokes. Stokes's pencil art was inked by Paul Neary, who would soon become the editor-in-chief of Marvel U.K. Neary's career has spanned decades since, with a stint drawing CAPTAIN AMERICA for Marvel in the U.S., a long stretch as the regular inker of superstar artist Alan Davis, a second term as the EiC of Marvel U.K., and currently, another long stretch as the regular inker of superstar artist Bryan Hitch.
Please forgive me as I attempt to describe the Black Knight strip. These stories just didn't stick with me like most of the other stuff did.
Per an afterword in one of the CAPTAIN BRITAIN volumes, editor Dez Skinn came up with the idea to populate the Black Knight's world with characters and creatures from British folklore. As the Black Knight travels on some epic quest for his master, Merlin, we meet Vortigen the Walker, Moondog the Elf, the evil wizard Mordred (who I think is the same Mordred that has appeared in a few Marvel U.S. comics over the decades), and eventually Captain Britain returns to action.
It seems Cap has been missing for two years following an incident aboard his flight home from New York after the Spider-Man/Arcade adventure. He went nuts and jumped out of the plane, lost his memory, and lived as a hermit. After coming to the Black Knight's aid, Cap eventually regains his memory. He is killed and resurrected by Merlin, and travels to the mystical realm of Otherworld, a place which will eventually become one of the most important aspects of the Captain Britain mythos. At this point, however, Otherworld -- ruled by King Arthur -- is simply a stand-in for any generic fantasy realm.
I have to confess, as noted above, that the Black Knight epic did not grab me. I get the impression it's pretty well received, but I found it a difficult read. Partly it's the fact that it's narrated in past tense, which just feels wrong in a comic -- but beyond that, the artwork by Parkhouse was uninspired, the lettering was small and not very comic-booky, and the Black Knight's helmet had those stupid wings on the sides, a look I've never liked.
Beyond that, the story simply had this feeling of "first this happened, then this happened, then this happened," repeat ad nauseum. There was no urgency to the narrative -- again, most likely due to the past-tense writing style -- and the whole thing felt essentially like a series of events just for the sake of events.
Anyway... by the end of the story, Captain Britain has met an elf named Jackdaw, who becomes his sidekick. Merlin sends the two home, or so he claims -- but they don't return to our Earth right away...
Next: Alan Davis arrives, and Cap's adventures suddenly become worth reading!