|Art by George Perez|
I like Silver Age silliness as much as the next guy, and I'm sure Lieber's stories appealed to young children -- but from Stan Lee on, Marvel comics usually had something for everybody. Even Stan's Silver Age stylings could appeal to teens. And by the 70s, you had folks like Jim Starlin and Steve Englehart writing comics which, while understandable and enjoyable for kids, could also be read and appreciated by an older crowd. Lieber's stories, on the other hand, seemed to be written strictly for children only -- which is certainly not a bad thing, but it is counter to the direction Marvel was headed at the time.
Beyond that, my last criticism of the Lieber years is that the hero was a cipher in his own series. What did we learn about Brian Braddock after Claremont left the title? We were given the truth behind Captain Britain's origin, but that's about it. Braddock himself remained a generic hero, devoid of any sort of personality.
Now, with that said, let's move on. Marvel U.S. stopped producing original material for the U.K. branch in the late 70s, and Captain Britain was a casualty of that decision. Cap's creator, however, managed to bring our hero stateside for the first time for a quick two-part story in MARVEL TEAM-UP.
Around the time they were starting their definitive, groundbreaking run on UNCANNY X-MEN, Chris Claremont and John Byrne were also the creative team behind MARVEL TEAM-UP, the series which paired Spider-Man with a different Marvel super-star each and every month. In MTU issues 65 and 66, Brian Braddock comes to Peter Parker's alma mater, Empire State University, as an exchange student. Due to limited dorm space, Braddock is forced to stay with Parker for the duration of his time in the U.S.
Meanwhile, some European criminals hire Claremont's pet assassin, Arcade (here in his very first appearance), to murder a number of men who they have determined could be Captain Britain. Arcade kidnaps Courtney Ross and uses her as bait for Cap. Thanks to Brian's living with Peter, everybody's favorite friendly neighborthood wall-crawler gets mixed up in the action as well. The heroes wind up in Arcade's amusement park of death, Murderworld, where, after surviving a number of traps, they rescue the girl and make their escape.
I'm well aware that I just spent three full posts ragging on Larry Lieber and his Silver Age sensibilities, and that this story is rife with coincidences and a few leaps in logic that would fit right into the Lieber canon, but somehow I can't judge it as harshly. Claremont's scripting certainly helps -- this vintage of Claremont, before he adopted his trademark of overwriting everything he got his hands on, could make a readable story from the most pedestrian plot. And of course, young John Byrne's artwork is outstanding. Inked here by Dave Hunt, the artwork is clean and straightforward and a breath of fresh air after the stiffness of the later Captain Britain stories.
No resolution is given for the sub-plot of Brian living with Peter. As of the next issue of MTU, Braddock is out of the picture. Presumably he found housing elsewhere, because he had literally just started his term at ESU at the start of this story, which seems to take place over only a day or so. A fill-in issue of EXCALIBUR by Scott Lobdell, some years later, revisits this status quo however, and if memory serves, implies that Cap and Spidey learned each other's secret identities around this time.
Something I find notable about this story is that when the Euro-criminals hire Arcade, their meeting is spied upon by a mysterious woman, apparently with the police, who thinks to herself that she can thwart the hits Arcade will attempt in Europe, but that Braddock will be on his own in the U.S. Claremont's narration states that we haven't seen the last of this woman, but I'm pretty sure she never shows up again. I wondered if she might be Kate Fraser, the detective Claremont introduced early in his Captain Britain run, but nothing in the story indicates such.
At the time he wrote this story, it had only been a couple years since Claremont left the Captain Britain series. But now, he drops the character entirely for close to a decade, devoting all his energies to the X-Men franchise.
Next: Captain Britain plays second fiddle to former Avenger the Black Knight!