Betsy Braddock: Captain Britain #! by writer Tini Howard (X-Corp, Catwoman) and Vasco Georgiev (Aquaman & the Flash: Voidsong) continues the story Howard began in Excalibur and Knights of X. In Betsy Braddock: Captain Britain, Betsy Braddock is facing off against familiar villains and her most evil foe yet, the British press, as she continues on her quest to protect Otherworld and serve a nation that hates and fears her as she continues to settle into her role as the new Captain Britain.
Despite picking up a lot of plot threads from Howard’s previous work as well as other past Captain Britain stories such as Alan Moore and Alan Davies’ early 80s run, this issue does a good job at catching new readers up on the important details while not getting bogged down in continuity details. Captain Britain, Rachel Summers and Betsy Braddock are easily some of Marvel’s more complicated characters, full of stories involving Nazi duplicates, ill-conceived decades-long body-swaps and time travelling to raise your baby brother from an alternate dimension, but they’re all presented here in a way that you can grasp the basics while not having to worry about the finer details. New readers should be able to follow along just fine, but an understanding and appreciation of past lore will certainly help.
While I’ve been a fan of Tini Howard’s other work in the Krakoan era of X-Men, both Excalibur and Knights of X suffered from having ensemble casts that often played second fiddle to Betsy as the clear lead. With Betsy Braddock: Captain Britain, it’s nice to finally have that be a feature rather than a bug. After decades of less than stellar characterization for Betsy while trapped in the body of Kwannon, a Japanese assassin known as Psylocke that many readers may be more familiar with than Betsy, Howard has done a great job of returning Betsy to her roots, with a voice more in line with Claremont’s foundational work on the character, but with more of an edge after her many years as an assassin. While Betsy herself is a real strength in this issue, it’s mostly because of and in contrast to everything Howard has done with the character previously; this is Betsy at the culmination of her character arc in Excalibur and Knights of X, and while that growth is nice, this first issue is lacking in a clear direction of what’s next for the character. While the issue plays around with the idea of Betsy not being accepted as Captain Britain by the British public, it’s not something that Betsy herself seems to care about so it’s difficult to feel any investment in that arc.
There’s a clear appreciation for Betsy’s larger supporting cast too, especially her family members, with some nice callbacks to their roots and a great handling of the sibling dynamic between Betsy and Brian. The most interesting dynamic in this issue is probably Betsy’s relationship with the other Captains Britain; which really shows the growth 616 Betsy has gone through when contrasted with her multiversal counterparts. From her posture, expression and tone 616 Betsy just feels so much more confident that the others we see, which shows how good Georgiev’s work is, especially considering some of the others are dinosaurs.
One of the key features of the Krakoan era, data pages have been both a blessing and curse to recent X-books. Far too often I’m left wondering why the page couldn’t have just been a regular page full of art, so it is refreshing to see some of the most creative uses of the medium in this issue. The “newspaper front page” styled one especially was great, providing a great recap for new readers while also being a far too familiar depiction of the British press and their not-at-all-subtle bias. The “body language expert” bit especially feels plucked right from the headlines and brings to mind the tabloid treatment of figures like Meghan Markle or Amber Heard where they very quickly run out of facts to criticize and turn to pseudoscience for any excuse at a catchy, rage-inducing headline. It’s exactly how I’d expect the British tabloids to react to a queer, mutant superhero supposedly representing them.
After falling further and further out of the spotlight since the last time Chris Claremont wrote her, it’s great to see Rachel Summers finally getting a spotlight again in this era, and now being practically a co-lead in this book. Sporting her Otherworld costume from Knights of X and her new Askani codename, it feels like there’s a direction to the character that’s been missing for a long time and Howard sets up some interesting developments that I can’t wait to see play out. There’s been a push recently to give psychics more unique power signatures when using their powers, like Betsy with her butterfly effect, and Georgiev does Rachels fiery eyes and hair really well. It’s very reminiscent of her Phoenix look from Alan Davis Excalibur. And after decades of subtext and a few years of not-so-subtle teases, Rachel just openly having a girlfriend is so satisfying. The Betsy/Rachel pairing is great, and Howard and Georgiev work together to create a great chemistry between the pair.
Although there are many great singular elements in this issue, the issue as a whole feels like a lot of setting up the pieces for the future, while it doesn’t build a lot of excitement for what that future actually is. Between the constant relaunches and a general lack of momentum within this issue, even the stronger setup moments don’t stop the issue itself feeling somewhat lacklustre. It’s a recurring problem in a lot of Howard’s work where it can take a few issues for a book to really grab you, and in a world where comics aren’t exactly cheap and a book can be cancelled after only 1 or 2 issues, that’s not great.
Making his Marvel debut, Vasco Georgiev fits in well with the style of the previous Otherworld works. His expressive character work fits the more intimate moments well and the dynamic panelling brings the action to life and really conveys the chaos of the fights while still being easy to follow. The designs for the Everforge are a real highlight and the cold, industrial factory style mixed with the magic of Otherworld and the regality of a palace works brilliantly. Colourist Erick Arciniega provides some real artistic continuity having provided colours for the 2 other chapters in Howard’s Captain Britain saga so far, and delivers stellar work as usual. The colour palettes for each section of Otherworld are distinct and effective, and separate them well.
Overall, while full of strong individual elements, Betsy Braddock: Captain Britain #1 is a mixed start that will prove satisfying to fans of Howard’s other work with the character but may struggle to fully connect with newer readers. While it throws out some interesting ideas that I hope to see developed as the series go on it didn’t quite grab me in the way I’d hope a first issue would. New readers won’t need any background reading or knowledge coming in, but without a prior attachment to the characters you may find it lacklustre. Altogether a must-read for fans of Betsy and Rachel, but others may be better off waiting for the trade.
Besty Braddock: Captain Britain #1 is available now at your local comic shop, as well as anywhere else comics are sold.