|CAPTAIN BRITAIN: BEFORE EXCALIBUR TPB (1988)|
As this era begins, Cap reflects upon the Jaspers' Warp saga. Apparently the entire storyline took place over the span of only six months, which seems a very short amount of time to round up and incarcerate so many super-humans in concentration camps around the country. But Captain Britain's adventures have been chronicled in real time up to this point, and since the story was told in six monthly issues, six months it is.
Davis and Delano continue the darker mood set by Alan Moore as, in their first story, Cap fights a bat-mutant named Meggan (introduced as a throwaway character by Moore and Davis months earlier), and their conflict results in the death of a teenage bystander. Cap makes peace with the boy's family and befriends Meggan, who comes to live with him at Braddock Manor. Betsy soon follows, and Davis fills out the new supporting case with the manor's charwoman, Emma Collins, and the Mastermind computer (introduced years before but left idle ever since), which now uses a holographic avatar to serve Brian.
One more familiar face returns as well -- Dai Thomas, who has deduced Cap's secret identity as Brian Braddock, though his superiors refuse to believe him. The years have not been especially kind to Thomas -- where in the Lieber era he was depicted as a granite-jawed man of action, Davis has redesigned him to resemble a schlubby, somewhat portly fellow of middle age.
Davis uses Thomas's presentation to his superiors, running parallel to a conversation between Brian and Betsy, to again recap Captain Britain's history, with a number of flashbacks to past adventures. Particularly impressive is a montage image summing up the Lieber years -- and making them look far more exciting than they really were.
Next, the Crazy Gang returns. An artifact left over from the Jaspers' Warp, they have no purpose now that their master is dead. A man in a caterpillar costume, however, uses their "Alice in Wonderland" them to coerce the gang into battling Captain Britain. Cap is captured by the Crazy Gang, and the caterpillar reveals himself to be Slaymaster, who brings his prisoner to his employer, the Vixen.
Cap manages to escape from the villains and, in a one-issue "adventure of the month", fights a mutated man-monster before running into the Technet, a group of interdimensional bounty hunters led by the rotund Gatecrasher. It is strongly implied by their membership that this group will eventually become, through the magic of time travel, the Special Executive (and in fact they will, during Davis's run on EXCALIBUR years later).
The Technet have been hired by Sat-Yr-9, an alternate universe version of Opal Luna Saturnyne from a Nazi-controlled Earth, to capture that Earth's Brian Braddock, known as Kaptain Briton. Naturally, the Technet absconds with the wrong Braddock. On our Earth, Betsy fries Kaptain Briton's mind when he attempts to force himself on her, while on Briton's world, our Cap is rescued by the Technet, realizing their mistake, and brought home.
At this point, CAPTAIN BRITAIN feels more like a traditional comic of the era than ever before. As noted previously, during the Lieber period, it read like an antique of decades past. The Black Knight storyline was more like a Sunday newspaper strip than a comic book. Even the Dave Thorpe and Alan Moore periods felt somewhat like a maxi-series rather than an ongoing comic.
But under Alan Davis, the plotting resembles an actual, honest-to-goodness superhero series. There are recurring sub-plots, and cliffhangers that somehow -- and don't ask me to explain this -- just feel more like the last page of a monthly comic than ever before. Beyond that, it certainly doesn't hurt that Davis has really come into his own as an artist here. The Jaspers' Warp storyline saw his work evolve, and by the time he is plotting the stories alone, he has essentially become the Alan Davis we American readers were first introduced to in the 80s.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Next: Mastermind, the RCX, the Warpies, Meggan's metamorphosis, and one more go-round with Slaymaster and the Vixen, as the classic Captain Britain era comes to an end.