We open with… an INFO PAGE! Okay, okay… I’m kidding. But, not really. Ya see, I’m using X-Men Archives #1 (July, 1995) to get this story, which is a strange and almost anachronistic book indeed. We’ll talk more about that later… but, for now – this INFO PAGE gets us caught up on what’s been going on in Brian’s story to this point. Basically, Captain Britain and his elf pal Jackdaw just helped the Black Knight and Merlin thwart a threat in Otherworld (Brian also appeared and competed in the Marvel Super Heroes Contest of Champions event miniseries), and now – he’s been sent back to Earth. Along the way, Brian’s costume changes from its original design, to it’s more familiar one… also, his power sceptre vanishes – more on that in a bit.
Our hero (and his pal) plop down in the UK, where they find themselves faced off with… The Crazy Gang! This is the first appearance of a character who will loom quite large during this endeavor… and is still relevant now: Mad Jim Jaspers! He is flanked by… well, the Crazy Gang: Jack of Hearts, Queen of Hearts, Coco, Executioner, Tweedledope, Dormouse, and the Conjurors. They immediately enter into battle.
Brian is unsure as to how he’ll be able to defend himself and battle these baddies without his magic sceptre… but, he manages to knock the Executioner for a loop with a punch. He then hops out a window… freaks out for a moment about his inability to fly without that, ya know, magic sceptre — only to realize that he doesn’t appear to need it anymore. He assumes that Merlin simply transferred the sceptre’s power to his new costume.
Mad Jim then throws an exploding teapot at the Captain… which, sounds like something I’m making up – but, it’s not!
Jackdaw slides in to swipe the Conjurors’ magic wands… Brian bumrushes them (along with Jack of Hearts) from behind… causing a whole lot of coin to go flying… much to a pair of hoboes delight.
The Crazy Gang then make their daring exit. After tossing a smoke bomb, they load onto their… teapot-shaped helicopter, and make like a tree. This leaves Brian and Jackdaw pondering exactly what just happened… and, well – they’re both at a loss. Our hero then picks up some of the coins… which he doesn’t recognize at all. On the wall is a political poster… which, doesn’t mean a whole heckuva lot to me – but tells Captain Britain that… this isn’t the UK (or England… or Great Britain) he remembers.
Our second chapter opens with Captain Britain and Jackdaw being spotted by some policemen… now, why Brian would immediately be concerned by this is a bit iffy, but it turns out he’s got every right to be. Ya see, these coppers have guns… which, I suppose isn’t/wasn’t a thing in the UK… England… or Great Britain (if you’re familiar with any of my Excalibur discussions, you’ll know I don’t know the difference between the three – if any!). Anyhoo, the officers fire on our heroes… which causes them to flee – right into a hobo community.
There, Brian attempts to deduce just where (or when) in the heck he and his companion are. Unfortunately for him, these hoboes are so out to lunch, they haven’t the foggiest idea what he’s going on about. Instead, they just offer him a swig outta their bottle.
This irks the Captain, as they really ought to be focusing on the task at hand, rather than getting wafted on some hobo swill. He sends his assistant dimension-hopping to locate Merlin and find out just what in the multiverse is going on here.
Then… a random junkpile (or, junk heap as the next chapter will call it) animates and rises from the ground. It appears to have a mad-on for humanity… and blasts our good Captain straightaway. We wrap up this chapter with Brian getting a good view of this weird version of London… while in hot pursuit of the “Junkheap that Walked Like a Man”!
We open with the Junkheap and Captain Britain fighting their way through the city of whichever London this is. Initially, the military assumes them to both be enemies. Ya see, they don’t recognize Captain Britain at all. More on that in a bit. Now, Brian is able to sorta-kinda hold his own… he even goes all cover of Action Comics #1 on the bot for a bit. Unfortunately for him, however, the British M.P.s (I’m guessing they’re military police… but could be mistaken) decided to fire a rocket launcher at him!
Brian’s all “what the hell, guys!” and suggests they should know who he is. To this, they reply that they used to have a Captain UK… but, never met a Captain Britain. Amid this confusion and distraction – Betsy’s Beautiful Blonde Brother gets Blasted by the Bot.
Brian fights his way though the blast… and manages to push the Junkheap into… uh, the Thames? That’s the one from the beginning of Danger Mouse and Bananaman, right? Whatever the case, this causes the Heap’s energy to zeep… er, seep away. As it crackles in the drink, it comments that it needs “more juice”.
Captain Britain convinces the M.P.s to allow the Heap to reform… so they might follow it to this source of this “juice”.
Brian and the M.P.s follow the shambling wreckage to a nearby sewer pipe… which looks like it’s oozing with Tang. Our Captain prevents the Heap from rejuicing… and, it goes inert.
Just then… a strange street person appears. Captain Britain sure seems to be chummy with these interdimensional hoboes, don’t he? Anyhoo, this character convinces Brian to enter the sewer pipe… we wrap up with him face-to-face with… an over-sized Rat Thing called Algernon. I hope Brian brought him some flowers!
|From Excalibur #43 (November, 1991)|
Looks like she’ll start popping into our Captain Britain strips before long (and to say much more would be spoiling the story)… so, look forward to that! Worth noting, the British M.P.s in this chapter refer to Captain UK as a “he”… so, looks like we’ll be hitting the ground running with some already established lore!
Picking up right where we left off, Captain Britain has met Algernon… the over-sized definitely not a rat-thing. Al pours the Cap a cuppa, the contents of which Brian recognizes as the same “juice” that the Junkheap was after last chapter. Now, this entire exchange is being viewed by… a weirdo named Dimples. He reports this to… wait for it… Her Royal Whyness. Here it is, gang… the first appearance of the Interdimensional Witch Queen, Opal Luna Saturnyne. He asks what he ought to do about this… to which, she suggests that he already knows. And so, he summons the, ahem, Avant Guard. Once this is settled, Saturnyne resumes her meeting – talking about “The Push”… whatever that is.
Back at the Rat House, Captain Britain tries to break away from Algernon… when, suddenly — Jackdaw blips back in, looking quite… uh, radical. Turns out he was unable to locate Merlin to get to the bottom of exactly what and where they’d been sent. Also, he appears to recognize Algernon as someone called Seamus. Beautiful Brian assumes that Jack’s still drunk.
Then… the, ahem, Avant Guard show up. They’re your generic dudes in suits. They also wear bowler hats and carry umbrellas, because of course they do. They take aim and blast at Brian… who is initially able to withstand the beam via his forcefield — however, that is short-lived. Brian and Jackdaw are sent into another dimension… for like a panel or two. It’s neat the way this is all depicted on-panel, but feels like it’s rushed due to the constraints of being a chapter in an anthology. Brian and Jack peel back through to this Crooked London… and beat up the baddies.
We wrap up with one of the Avant Guard firing a devolver blast… which narrowly misses Brian, and instead hits Algernon. Poor ol’ Al is devolved into just an ordinary rat. This is enough to distract our hero long enough for him to get blasted. We close out this chapter with Brian himself being devolved into a monkey.
It’s funny, the chapter that comes next is actually the first chapter Marvel included in a semi-recent TRUE BELIEVERS reprint, whose purpose it was to examine the first appearance of Saturnyne. I own that, but haven’t actually sat down with it… but, it’s odd that it would open with Captain Britain already being devolved. Seems a weird way to start the story without the preceding context. Oh well… I suppose that’s all for me to say – if you wanna follow along with me from this point on, Marvel’s made it quite easy to do so with that recent reprint.
We open with Jackdaw cradling the devolved Captain Britain. The Avant Guard inform our Elf pal that he’s coming with them. He doesn’t wanna… but, has very little choice in the matter. They decide to leave Betsy’s Beautiful Monkey Brother behind, as they are sure he poses them absolutely no threat. Hmm… these Avant Guards are kinda dumb, no? From here, we pop in on Whitehall’s Corridors of Power, where a Secretary is flapping his gums about this new colorful costumed character who just appeared – referring, of course, to Captain Britain. Now, Whitehall – is apparently a road in Westminster which runs toward Parliament Square. I had no idea, but I suppose it’s good to know! Anyhoo, this Secretary orders that the “Status Crew” (oof) are sent out to deal with Cap.
Speaking of which, at that very moment – Captain Monkey is bathed in that same Junkheap Juice… which causes him to re-volve into his human form. As this plays out, Saturnine informs Jackdaw about her plan. Ya see, she’s here at the behest of the DDC (Dimensional Development Court). Her job is to bring the most primitive of Alternate Earths up to a certain level so that the DDC’s “50,000 Year Programme” can usher the Earth Series into a new era. I’m explaining this rather poorly… but, it is a bit abstract.
Saturnine has been tasked with “leveling up” this Crooked Earth… which takes us back to “The Push” that we heard about last chapter. This “Push” has to do with the evolutionary Junkheap Juice – this liquid evolves things upon contact, which would accomplish the Lady’s current mission. As she’s spilling these beans, Captain Britain bursts through a wall to confront her.
Jackdaw attempts to convince Brian that Saturnine is one of the good guys here… which, I mean – knowing what we know about her now, is kind of a hard pill to swallow, innit? I suppose she’s more a force of chaos than evil… but, still. Anyhoo, this discussion is interrupted by the arrival of… oy… the Status Crew.
We open on a kind of clunky exchange between Captain Britain and the Status Crew. Brian informs them that they’re under arrest… then immediately asks what authority they have. I think maybe a word balloon was attributed to the wrong fella in one of those panels.
Whatever the case, the Crew start blasting at our hero who grabs Ms. Opal Luna to protect within his forcefield. While this fracas continues, other Crew Members pull up a scanning monitor to get all the deets on Beautiful Brian… which seems pretty weird, but turns out to be effective enough in learning what they need to know. I guess?
By now, the Avant Guard are back in the brouhaha, and they use their umbrella guns to blast open some rips in the space-time continuum to suck in a pair of Status Crewsters. The remaining Crew-dudes don’t take kindly to that… and make swiss cheese out of the umbrellamen.
They then attempt to put hands on the Interdimensional Witch Queen… which, doesn’t go well for them.
Elsewhere, Captain Britain is being dogpiled by the bad guys… who just keep on coming. It’s almost as though they’re multiplying. Brian is zapped by a vibration ray, and beaten down with the Crewsters’ billy clubs…
… until he digs deep and powers his way out! Unfortunately, by now, he’s completely drained of his power. One of the Status Crew takes this opportunity to get the Captain in his sights… however, before he can pull the trigger, Brian’s loyal friend Jackdaw dives into the line of fire — and is rendered into ash!
Captain Britain slumps to the ground defeated… while Saturnine nags him for being an idiot. Way to show some sensitivity for a fella who just lost his drunken elf friend, ya jerk!
We open with the Captain still rattled from that shot he took last issue… ya see, the Status Crew hit him where it hurt. If you recall, they first ran that weird scan on him, which revealed that he is “fueled” by the power of concentration – and so, the blast was calibrated to shake that concentration, rendering him powerless. In light of this, Saturnine decides to take matters into her own hands… and, well – makes laughably short work out of the oncoming Crewsters… which almost makes you wonder why she didn’t just do that in the first place. I guess maybe she just wanted Beautiful Brian to rescue her? Then again, she hasn’t seen him without his helmet yet… so, she might not know just how beautiful Betsy’s Blonde British Brother is!
Cap is back on his feet… but doesn’t get long to rest — the Crewsters keep a’comin’! Opal Luna rushes off to access a nearby storage closet with her faithful companion, Dimples. Inside it, is a whole distillery of the “Junkheap Juice”… or, the evolutionary sauce… or whatever we’re going to decide to call it. She claims that there’s enough here to give “The (evolutionary) Push” to the entire city of Crooked London!
Captain Britain thinks on his feet, and asks her Royal Whyness to toss him a barrel of the stuff. He decides to slosh it all over the incoming Crewsters… which instantly evolves them into rational thinking folks. They ask what they’re doing here… and, upon reflecting on their misdeeds, apologize for their actions. They also wonder how they could ever try and harm someone as beautiful as Opal Luna Saturnine… which, I’m sure is music to her petite ears.
We jump to later, and join an out-of-costume Brian Braddock walking the streets of this Other London. He has quite a head of hair, this Braddock. He is approached by a little urchin who asks is he’s got any money to spare… but alas, he does not.
Instead, he asks her if she believes in magic… and, asamattafact, she does! So, kids… here’s a tip from your ol’ pal Chris – if a strange man you meet in the street at night asks if you believe in magic – the correct answer is “No”. If there’s anything we’ve learned from the X-Books… it’s how to Be X-Tra Safe. Anyhoo, we wrap up with Brian picking the tot up, and flying with her through the skies of this wacked out London. The story closes with the revelation that this is being observed by Merlin and… Jackdaw???