Where were you on February 26 th, 1979? If you’re in the dark about that, you’re not alone. A large chunk of the world was in the dark as well because a total solar eclipse was arcing its way above the northern USA, southeastern Canada and Greenland. It was also partly visible over almost all of North and Central America and western UK.Needless to say, I’ve no memory of any of this. No doubt it was cloudy in Britain, as it always is whenever anything interesting’s running off in the sky. This is, of course, when I attain my habitual complaint about the Northern Lights having been theoretically visible over my home city at least four times in my life and it having been cloudy on every single occasion.What’s that you say? “That’s like totally tragic, Steve.”? Too right it is. And you know what else is tragic? The Bee Gees.Or at least the issue is back then – because reaching the Number One slot on the UK singles chart that week was their unstoppable hit Tragedy. It may have had a negative title but so powerful was it that few singles have had more of an air of inevitability about their climb to the top.Still, even the Bee Gees didn’t know the full meaning of the word, “Tragedy, ” because, even as that release was hitting its apex, there was misfortune of a far grander scale being played out in the newsagents of Britain.And that was that, yet again, there were no Marvel UK mags anywhere to be found. The remainder of the nation might have gone back to work after the most recent national industrial unrest but, clearly, Marvel UK had loved the Winter of Discontent so much they were refusing to give up on it.All of which poses an obvious question. Just what am I going to write about this week? Am I going to fake it and waffle on about any old rubbish, in the hopes that no one’ll notice, like I did last week? No, I’m not. Ever generous to a fault, I’m going to give you my review of the first ever issue of Captain Britain I ever read. It may have come out in 1976, and not in 1979, but it is at least relevant to a post about Marvel UK.So, here goes.Brian Braddock’s in his local bank when a bunch of distinctly over-armed thugs burst in to rob the place. Needless to say, it’s not long before his altered ego Captain Britain is in action and dedicating them a good bashing while the police hang around outside, arbitrarily shooting at the building in a way that never genuinely happens in real life because it’s likely to kill all the customers they’re trying to save.Cap attains quick work of the villains but if he supposes his difficulties for the working day are over, he has other guess coming. Handing them over to the police entails he has to encounter Chief Inspector Dai Thomas, portion Jack Regan from The Sweeney and component J Jonah Jameson from The Daily Bugle. At once, the CID man attains it clear he doesn’t like costumed vigilantes on his patch and the flag-wearing adventurer had better watch his step. Can our hero’s day get any worse? Yes it can because he then has to go to the Coffee Bean Flying Finish and endure the tauntings of fellow student Flash Thompson Jacko Tanner who’s trying to make time with Gwen Stacy Courtney Ross. For the first time in human history, a super-hero’s professional career conflicts with his love life. There’s also an appearance by Brian’s friend Sandy York who, erm, seems to be Roy Thomas.At the climax of it all, a homeless man reveals himself to be Britain’s first super-villain the Hurricane. Granted, that’s not much of a revelation, as we’ve never heard of the Hurricane before but it results us into the To Are still in progress caption.It’s an action-packed outing for the captain and introduces us to his not at all Spideyesque supporting cast. With its obvious absence of originality, and shortage of pages in which to develop its plot, it’s not going to win any awards but it is efficient in the way it runs about its business and Herb Trimpe’s artwork is simple and uncluttered, the colouring being perceptibly better aligned than in US volumes of the same vintage. The newspaper stock’s also better than in Marvel’s American monthlies, meaning the colour’s a lot stronger.The higher production values do suggest person at US Marvel was taking this volume quite seriously, which is intriguing, as Marvel UK was originally simply a style of making money by churning out low quality reprinting books.Surprisingly for a Chris Claremont written tale, the adventure’s not loaded with people speaking like they’ve escaped from Mary Poppins, although I do feel that, in 1976, you would have struggled to find one girl in Britain who was called Courtney.There is one annoyance though. The last page of the narrative is in black and white. A message at the top of it tries to convince us this is a special bonus feature included to give us the pleasure of colouring it in ourselves but it’s obvious to all but the most naive that this is simply the place in the book where the coloured ink budget operated out.After this, we get a monochrome Fantastic Four narrative. It’s the John Buscema depict one in which The Thing can revert to normal whenever he wants to but has also turned evil and goes on the rampage around the streets of New York. Can the FF stop him before he kills anyone? I’m sort of guessing they can.The main appeal of this narrative is, of course, the elegantly efficient artwork of Buscema at his peak.Midway through this, we get a full page Nick Fury pin-up credited to, “Stiles/ Tartag.” Clearly, Tartag is John Tartaglione but I must confess to not having a clue who Stiles is.Next, we get the Captain Britain Fun Page, featuring a Spot The Difference challenge and a game in which you have to guess the first name of various Marvel characters. It’s not the most challenging thing you’ll ever encounter.Next, we get a page promoting that year’s Marvel UK annuals and Bring on the Bad Guys, along with a coupon we can clip out, in order to send off for them.The issue’s final strip is a Jim Steranko drawn SHIELD tale of the 1965 New York blackout, with evil culprits of an Asiatic appearance launching some sort of assault beneath the Statue of Liberty. What they’re up to is not revealed in this issue but Captain America’s on hand to give assistance to Nick Fury.If the colouring on Captain Britain’s strip is appeal; on this one, it isn’t. The colouring seems far too strong, especially on people’s faces, and is also not lined up with the artwork as well as on the main strip. I believe I’ve said in the past that Steranko’s work on SHIELD tends to leave me cold and I’m not a fan of either Nick Fury or his spy agency, so it’s a narrative that lacks any great appeal to me.And there you have it, the first issue of Captain Britain I ever owned. Reading it now, all these years later, it’s more likeable than I thought it was at the time, although the Fantastic Four strip is the only one that I feel any desire to see the next part of.Happily, next week, our favourite books are back in the shops and I can get back to declaring that I don’t know what happens in them.
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