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EXCALIBUR: SWORD OF POWER
Leaping from retirement, Captain Britain returns in a brand-new mini-series.
By James Busbee
December 06, 2000
Here's a tip for today's retired superheroes: Don't get too comfortable in your easy chairs. Chances are, there's a writer out there just waiting to make your life miserable once again.
Case in point: Ben Raab, writer of the upcoming Excalibur: Sword of Power
limited series and, until it was cancelled in 1998, the Excalibur
regular series. Raab's always had a soft spot for Captain Britain, Excalibur's one-time leader. And now, in the four-issue series, Raab and artist Pablo Raimondi are dragging Cap kicking and screaming out of his new domestic life and dropping him right back in the middle of a crisis that threatens all of reality. So much for a quiet retirement.
'This is the kind of Captain Britain story I'd been wanting to tell,' says Raab. 'I didn't get a chance to before [Excalibur
's cancellation], so I'm glad to get the chance now.'British History
Throughout his existence, Captain Britain has consistently been one of Marvel's most underrated second-stringers. Frequently at the mercy of event-driven writers, Captain Britain's character has run the gamut from square-jawed stalwart to self-destructive alcoholic. Raab hopes the current limited series will square Captain Britain's history and remind readers exactly why this English hero deserves honor and recognition.
'He's not just a British Captain America,' says Raab. 'The legacy that Captain Britain has is that he's a modern Arthurian myth. I've tried to incorporate that in this limited series.'
For the unenlightened, Captain Britain's lengthy history predates Excalibur
, and is filled with plenty of twists and turns. As a young man, Brian Braddock was a promising scientist. But following a motorcycle accident, the godlike beings Merlin and Roma granted him amazing magical powers if he pledged to become Captain Britain, the champion of the British Isles.
Braddock agreed, though his scientific mind often couldn't reconcile the magical source of his powers. He later learned he was part of a 'Captain Britain Corps,' a reality-wide contingent of Captain Britain equivalents based in the extradimensional 'Otherworld.' He also helped form Excalibura British X-contingent composed of Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and Phoenix II, among othersand the stress of his role sometimes caused him to battle the bottle and a vicious temper.The Return of the King
closed up shop with issue #125, its members went their separate ways. Nightcrawler, Shadowcat and recent member Colossus returned stateside and rejoined their old teammates in the X-Men. Captain Britain and Excalibur teammateand his new wifeMeggan settled into a life of mundane (relatively speaking) domestic bliss. Brian returned to his former job overseeing scientific studies at the Darkmoor Research Center. Sword of Power
opens there, while Brian is in the midst of tests on the Black Knight's powers.
But for a superhero, a calm married life is a fleeting thing. As it turns out, all is not right with Captain Britain. 'He's been having nightmares, tormented by visions of the Captain Britain Corps and Otherworld in flames,' says Raab. 'Strange, ghostly things are happening to him that he doesn't want to talk about. Meggan picks up on all this, partly because she's his wife, and partly because she's an empath.'
Meggan contacts Brian's twin sister, Betsy, also known as the X-Men's Psylocke, and along with the Black Knight, stages an 'intervention' of sorts. They learn that Brian is having trouble with a lot more than just strange nightmares.
'He's questioning what his place in the universe is,' says Raab. 'Captain Britain has historically had a hard time with the fact that he became who he was by accidentor at least, that's how it seemed at first. Ultimately, he learned it's part of a greater plan. Now that he knows there's a greater plan, he's starting to wonder, 'Who am I?' 'What am I doing here?''
But things don't stay too touchy-feely for long. In the midst of all the introspection, Captain U.K.one of Captain Britain's compatriots in the Corpscomes blasting into the lab fighting a horde of otherworldly creatures. After everyone stops the threat, U.K. reveals that Britain's dreams aren't really dreams so much as premonitions.
Everything that Brian dreamed about is really happeningand U.K. tells him he must return to Otherworld to set things right. The catch? It turns out the villain appears to be Roma herself, the goddess who gave Captain Britain his powers. All he's got to do is keep her from finding the legendary sword Excalibur and using it to create serious havoc throughout the universe. Easy enough, right?The Once and Future Series
Captain Britainand, for that matter, Raabis no stranger to uphill battles. Raab carries a bit of notoriety for being Excalibur
's last writer before its cancellation, and he hopes that this mini-series will start to accomplish what he couldn't do in the regular series.
'I started the book with #106, and at that point there was already talk that #125 would be the end,' says Raab. 'Unfortunately, I had three different editors over the course of 18 issues, so there was never an agreed editorial vision. We even had plans to work with John Cassaday and make Captain Britain the focus of the book, but things never materialized, and then he got the offer to do Planetary
[at WildStorm]. So things could have been very different.'
How different? That was the challenge Raab had set for himself. 'How do you make an Excalibur
book different from the rest of the X-books?' asks Raab rhetorically. 'Because no one else could come up with an answer, they decided to send Nightcrawler, Kitty and Colossus back to the X-Men. That was our answer, too, but for different reasons. What we intended was to make Excalibur cover the one niche of the X-universe that wasn't being done, and that was humans and mutants working together. Every other book was about mutants struggling against oppression. What about a group of humans and mutants actually living Xavier's dream?'
Raab took his cues from hints dropped throughout the main X-books. 'We wanted to do it as the 'mutant underground' that was referred to during the latter days of [Scott] Lobdell and Fabian [Nicieza, who co-wrote the flagship X-books in the mid-1990s]. They kept talking about the mutant underground but we never saw it, so I thought that an international team, with Captain Britain at the helm [was the answer], but obviously it never happened.'
Even though the regular series has been cancelled for a while now, Raab hopes the team's story and second chance doesn't end with the new mini-series. 'It's way too early to talk about [in detail],' says Raab, 'but there is definitely the potential for more stories there. I'll eventually pitch for an ongoing Excalibur
with Captain Britain at its center. Basically, Captain Britain's story is a sci-fi/fantasy, two sweeping genres that allow you to do just about anything. [A new Excalibur
book] would be a part of the Marvel Universe, but lend itself to doing things that were different from the standard Marvel Universe fare.'
Until then, Captain Britain fans will have to content themselves with the current mini-series, which Raab hopes will win a few new converts with its scope and potential. 'Captain Britain is 'one with the land,'' says Raab, 'and he represents the strength, the courage, the wisdom of his nation, his planet, his continuum. As big as you want, he's the representative of that.'