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May 31

Betsy Braddock: Captain Britain #4 annotations

Posted on Wednesday, May 31, 2023 by Paul in Annotations

As always, this post contains spoilers, and page numbers go by the digital edition.

“Earth’s Most Furious”
Writer: Tini Howard
Artist: Vasco Georgiev
Colour artist: Erick Arciniega
Letterer: Ariana Maher
Design: Tom Muller with Jay Bowen
Editor: Sarah Brunstad

COVER / PAGE 1: Captain Britain and Askani under attack by Morgan Le Fey’s Furies and Dr Doom’s Doombots.

PAGES 2-4. Betsy Braddock and Tony Stark talk.

This scene picks up from the end of the previous issue, with Betsy visiting Tony to ask for his help as “an expert on Morgan Le Fey”.

“I went to Otherworld once upon a time. With Doctor Doom.” If this is meant to be referring to Iron Man vol 1 #150, then that was a time travel story, not a trip to Otherworld.

“I dueled King Arthur somewhat recently.” In Excalibur #26 (which came out back in December 2021).

“Terrible what happened to the West End.” Tony is referring the Fury attack last issue.

PAGE 5. Recap and credits.

PAGE 6. Rachel discusses the Sacred Timeline with the Askani librarian.

I have no idea what this library is meant to be – we haven’t seen it before in this series. From page 8, it seems to be somewhere that Rachel can mentally project herself.

“Askani – you seek the sacred timeline?” Given the Askani context, Howard is presumably referring not to the core sequence of events that the Time Variance Authority were trying to protect in the Loki TV show, but rather to a line of dialogue from a flashback in Cable #52 (1998). In the flashback, time traveller Ch’vayre recounts how he was sent back in time by Askani priestess Madame Sanctity. Sanctity is actually Tanya Trask, the daughter of the guy who created the Sentinels, who fled into the future with her mutant time travel powers. She specifically identifies herself to Ch’vayre as “guardian of the sacred timeline and high priestess of the Askani Church.”

The notion of the “sacred timeline” here does have some parallels with the Loki version, though. In Loki (as I understand it) the “sacred timeline” wasn’t a single timeline as such but rather the basic pattern that all timelines were expected to adhere to in some degree. The talking book here seems to be making a point about most lives existing in multiple forms (“every existence in every form”), but Rachel being unique in the multiverse – a plot point from Chris Claremont’s Excalibur that was stressed repeatedly in “Cross Time Caper” but never really went anywhere.

“I know that this Askani title means I’ve caught up to some sort of prophecy…” Various minor characters in Knights of X made comments to this effect.

The picture in the book shows Scott, Jean, Rachel and young Cable. Judging from the costumes, it’s early in the Krakoan era.

PAGE 7. Data page, explaining the Askani record of souls in rather cryptic terms (but no more than is usual for Askani stuff). The page seems to be saying that “Askani” is the name of the talking book.

Honestly, with one issue left to go in this series, I have reservations about the wisdom of pushing this complex storyline forward. But we’ll see.

PAGES 8-9. The Braddocks get ready to go out.

PAGES 10-11. The Braddocks arrive at the charity ball.

“What about the rumours of another baby, Meggan?” Oh yeah, whatever happened about that? Way back at the first Hellfire Gala, Excalibur #21 and Way of X #3 both strongly imply that Meggan isn’t drinking alcohol because she’s pregnant. Nightcrawler certainly draws that conclusion. It’s never been mentioned again, and presumably the plot has been dropped.

PAGE 12. Data page. An interview with Betsy in Woman magazine. Once again, Marvel don’t seem to care much about checking whether these names are in use – the UK has had a Woman magazine since 1937. It describes itself as “the must-have weekly features and fashion magazine that inspired 40-plus women to discover new ideas and inspiration.” It’s the sort of thing you find in supermarkets next to the word searches.

The Violet Velveteen was the club from Malice’s origin story in Excalibur #20.

The Violet Swan is, obviously enough, the member of the Captain Britain Corps who’s a swan; she shows up a lot in crowd scenes.

Betsy’s “recent collaboration with the Avengers” is presumably the next scene.

PAGE 13-17. The Avengers help to defeat the Fury.

Pretty self-explanatory, though I’m not at all clear what the point was of bringing in the Avengers.

PAGES 18-19. Jamie restores Mongibel.

Doom acquired Morgan’s shrunken castle Mongibel in Excalibur #23. Presumably the implication is that Jamie had some hand in shrinking it in the first place, or at least he’s been enlisted to restore it.

“Felt bad about lettin’ ‘er get experimented on back when I was king!” Back in Excalibur‘s first year, Apocalypse was cheerfully experimenting on the captive Morgan while Jamie was his puppet king.

Dr Doom seems to be saying that there is some wider magic-related reason why Morgan Le Fay needs to be in Britain (though he doesn’t seem to suggest that anything more than that is important). Betsy interprets that as Doom backing up his lover on something trivial, but that would be wildly out of character for Doom – and to be fair, his own dialogue is much more in character.

PAGES 20-23. The Braddocks yell at Jamie and make plans.

Again, fairly self-explanatory. We’re told that Morgan will have to co-operate with “the land” in order to achieve her goals, and that this is why she needs some sort of Captain Britain on side. Presumably, with the Fury thing having come to absolutely nothing, that does indeed mean she’s stuck working with Betsy. It’s all very arbitrary, but that’s magic for you.

PAGE 24. Brian confronts the captive Fury.

“That old Mothermind computer tried to tell me that the Fury of 238 had lost his identity in the new kingdom.” In the data page in issue #1, though the in-universe version will have been slightly different (our version had references to specific comics). The Fury of Earth-238 was the original Fury, which the data page claimed had become just one more Fury in the Everforge Furies’ hivemind.

Describing Mothermind as “old” seems to suggest that it’s a rebranded Mastermind.

PAGE 25. Trailers.

Bring on the comments

  1. Michael says:

    Marvel’s been using Woman Magazine since the 1970’s- it was the magazine Carol Danvers used to work at.

  2. Michael says:

    Jordan White confirmed that there are no immediate plans for Betsy after next issue. Meanwhile, Kwannon seems to have outshined Betsy- having just finished up in Marauders and now appearing in Uncanny Avengers. One of the things that most people forgot is that one of the reasons why Betsy remained a half-naked Asian ninja long after people complained about the Unfortunate Implications is Betsy was an unpopular character before she became a bloody ninja.Claremont tried to make her “edgy” after she crossed the Atlantic but instead she wound up doing things like not telling her teammates a villain implanted bionic eyes in her (and being SHOCKED when it turned out he was using them to spy on the team), suggesting killing Havok for no real reason and “saving” Havok from the Reavers by forcing him through a mystical portal that rendered him amnesiac against his will and being SHOCKED when the amnesiac Havok was found by Hodge and tricked into attacking the X-Men. So if you decide to seperate her from Kwannon, you can’t just return her to her pre-Asian status quo, because you’re basically left with a psychotic idiot. So you need a very good writer to reinvent her for the 221st Century and Tini isn’t it.

  3. Salloh says:

    “One of the things that most people forgot is that one of the reasons why Betsy remained a half-naked Asian ninja long after people complained about the Unfortunate Implications is Betsy was an unpopular character before she became a bloody ninja. […] So you need a very good writer to reinvent her for the 221st Century and Tini isn’t it.”

    This. Very much this. I don’t feel the same degree of outright disdain for Betsy, to be fair. But the basic character set-up just isn’t intriguing enough.

    I think some of the harshness she takes on by the Outback era seems the result of circumstance, but also as an important means to differentiate her from Jean Grey. Without that contrast, she would stand as the likable, amenable, British supermodel with psychic skills – and the roster had no particular need for that.

    The body swap storyline is a horrid mess, and most of 90s storytelling is defined either by arbitrary angst (i.e., the awkward Crimson Dawn add-on) or her straightforward romance with Warren.

    I think Remender might have been the writer to best grasp what Psylocke meant, after a point: the brokenness of the character tied into to her status (displaced, and a killer), and her own convoluted history was mirrored by the Angel/Archangel duality.

    If you’re going to correct the bizarre transmogrification storyline, you have to move through all that material – including the trauma, the contradiction, and how to reconcile different aspects of the character.

    Instead, by recasting her as a friendly mystical nationalist, largely unbothered by her past, the Krakoa era has only added to the character’s reduction to nonsense.

  4. Salloh says:

    P.S. And I realize how completely and utterly silly this is, but I just can’t with the Betsy/Rachel pairing. Not in terms of their published history, not in terms of shared experience and interests, and definitely not in terms of their relationship with the X-Men.

    Rachel has always read to me as someone who’s just a few years older than Kitty and the New Mutants, though she moved through other contexts. Pairing her with Psylocke, who at a point flirts with Cyclops and has been in a long-tern relationship with Angel, feels like a massive misreading on Howard’s part.

    (And yes, I will forever be bitter that Williams’s X-Factor was pushed towards failure while Howard and Percy continue to repeat the same story beats for years…)

  5. Jenny says:

    I guess the point of the Avengers was to have big heroes facing down a Fury, but like, they’ve been so watered down by this point in terms of strength that it seems pointless.

  6. Allan M says:

    The lines that jumped at me this issue were Betsy saying: “Charity ball. We sponsored it. Something inoffensive like “fighting hunger.”

    We’ve spent four years with Betsy stridently defending her role as Captain Britain, this issue has Rachel and Brian reassuring her yet again that yes, you’re Captain Britain, for real. And yet every time Betsy deals with the actual Britain that exists and the people that live there, she is somewhere between condescending and contemptuous.

    So yeah, god forbid you show up to an event and have small talk with people to prevent people from starving to death. What a hardship. Poor you.

  7. Thom H. says:

    “(And yes, I will forever be bitter that Williams’s X-Factor was pushed towards failure while Howard and Percy continue to repeat the same story beats for years…)”

    100%. Rachel hadn’t been written that well in years (decades?). The aloof goth(ish) girl with the killer pet and the time-travelling telepathy? Yes, please.

    I haven’t read Howard’s version of Rachel, but I don’t have faith that it’s that good.

  8. Chris V says:

    Betsy was interested in Doug Ramsey when Claremont brought her into his X-books. This wouldn’t be unprecedented for her.

  9. Moo says:

    Hmm. Admittedly, I don’t understand how Betsy being romantically involved with anyone could be considered out of character for her. Betsy would fuck a lawnmower if it were sentient and paid her a compliment.

  10. Nathan X says:

    Another disappointing endeavor and the weakest so far.

    One recurring weakness is its “monster-of-the-week” structure, which proves to be a detriment to the overall narrative. Too much is packed into a limited number of pages, rendering many plot elements ultimately inconsequential.

    Furthermore, Howard’s metacommentary is becoming excessive and burdensome. In each issue, she relentlessly hammers home the same tiresome rhetoric about Betsy being Captain Britain and her romantic relationship with Rachel, employing dialogue that feels forced and cringe-inducing. The author’s self-insertion becomes glaringly obvious in the date page interview.

    Rachel continues to be the weakest aspect of the comic. She bears little resemblance to the Rachel Summers readers know and fails to capture her essence. Regrettably, Rachel’s sole purpose seems to be that of a nagging and jealous girlfriend, constantly reiterating her relationship with Betsy. She becomes nothing more than a personality-lacking prop.

    According to Howard, the book’s mission statement was to introduce Betsy to the Marvel Universe. However, what unfolds is an uninspiring and tedious team-up with the Avengers, lasting a mere two pages and contributing nothing substantial to the overall plot.

    The artificial characterizations in this issue further undermine its quality. Jamie Braddock inexplicably aids Morgan Le Fay in the most contrived manner possible, lacking any discernible motive. Dr. Doom’s shallow justification for supporting Morgan is similarly nonsensical. Additionally, after a four-year feud with Morgan, Betsy inexplicably decides to cooperate with her, defying any logical reasoning. None of these arguments hold any water and only serve to confuse readers.

    In summary, Betsy Braddock: Captain Britain #4 disappoints on multiple fronts and fails to deliver a coherent and engaging narrative experience.

    * To whom it may concern: Betsy’s WOMAN MAGAZINE Cover can be seen in “EXCALIBUR: THE SWORD IS DRAWN”. Also featured in the same comic book is Betsy’s CHIC MAGAZINE’s “Britain’s Most Beautiful Woman” spread, which is also referred to in BB:CB #4.

  11. Joseph S. says:

    The 221st Century? Maybe that’s what this Askani plot is building towards 😉

    Seriously though, at least Howard was able to drop “Prestige” as a codename

    It’s a shame Leah Williams didn’t get a few follow up minis. I mean, I guess we got Trial and X-Terminators. But I much prefer her Rachel. I don’t dislike the Rachel/Betsy pairing, and I don’t think Rachel’s age is much of a barrier in any case (she’s at various times been lost in the time stream and so on), but that said Howard’s characterization falls flat. The pacing of these series is just so odd. As Nathan writes above, this mini has been so heavy handed but still feels underdeveloped. Would love to see Williams write Rachel again soon

  12. Evilgus says:

    Fully agree with everyone about the frustrating demise of Williams’ X-Factor, and her excellent characterisation of Rachel (and future story set ups).

    I just don’t understand how Howard’s version of Betsy was given a third roll of the dice, when it plainly wasn’t working. I guess it has succeeded in firmly establishing Betsy as Captain Britain though?

    I actually think that Howard and Wells did the best they could with separating Betsy/Kwannon and establishing a believable character dynamic. The problem is that Betsy has been so regressed and self doubting, she’s no longer an entertaining read. And from a marketing perspective, Kwannon has gained all the visual signifiers (psychic butterflies, knife) that were originally Betsy’s. One character really has suffered here.

    Anyway, I’m sure a good writer can do something fun with Betsy and the Captain Britain mythos, but just outside the X-Men. And again, maybe someone with something to say about the UK?

  13. MasterMahan says:

    One of the many problems with this thrice-cancelled title is Howard’s version of Betsy Braddock is deeply unlikable. @Allan M gives an excellent example above, but the part of issue that struck me is Betsy being told that Morgan was being experimented on. Unless I’ve missed something, this is the first Betsy is finding that Apocalypse broke his word about letting Morgan go free.

    So how does Betsy react to finding out her ally was holding someone prisoner and experimenting on them? Does she react with shock or horror? Does she wonder if this conflict with Morgan is as black-and-white as she thought? Does she in the very least ask for more information?

    None of those. She throws Jamie into a wall and yells at him. Betsy finds out her ally was doing something horrific, but she just doesn’t care.

  14. Voord 99 says:

    I suspect there’s a decent miniseries that could be done with Betsy in a stylized let’s-pretend-it’s-the-1960s vein as “psychic secret agent who used to be a model and is also from the landed aristocracy.” But it would involve a willed ignoring of just about everything that was done with the character since Claremont brought her into the X-books.

  15. Jon R says:

    The mention of the Prestige codename made me realize something. I’ve never hated it, but thought it wasn’t suited for Rachel. Who would it be suited for? Someone who might play up their beauty and power and– oh hey, like a former supermodel. I could totally see giving Betsy the Prestige name.

  16. […] BRADDOCK: CAPTAIN BRITAIN #4. (Annotations here.) So we’ve reached the penultimate issue, and while there isn’t quite a mad scramble […]

  17. Thom H. says:

    @Jon R: Absolutely. Give “Captain Britain” back to Brian and start all over with Betsy as “Prestige.” She can work with S.H.I.E.L.D. to amplify the ’60s vibes.

    Tangentially, I think of Rachel as someone who doesn’t particularly care about codenames. I can imagine she’d rather do without, or she might pick up something from the ’90s like “MindSlap” to see if she could get people to call her that. Basically, I consider her the cool older sister I never had.

  18. Moo says:

    Prestige sounds like a name Emma Frost would choose for herself if she really felt she needed a codename.

  19. Mike Loughlin says:

    X-Factor is cancelled and the last story is stretched out into a weird mini-series. New Mutants goes in one direction w/ Madeline Pryor, then an entire crossover miniseries goes another way. Percy & Howard continue to grind out material that feels like it goes nowhere. Duggan’s X-Men is sloppy. Orlando’s Marauders and Spurrier’s Legion of X suffer from comprehensibility issues.

    The pandemic and Hickman’s departure caused problems, but I think the main problem is editorial. Maybe the line is too big, or stories aren’t being worked out before hand, or editors are giving creative teams last-minute changes, or even giving some of them too much freedom. At any rate, I think there are major problems at an organizational level.

  20. Luis Dantas says:

    About Rachel’s age, I am just not seeing any clear indications in what I know about her. She could be anywhere from about Kate’s age to about forty or so or even older. As pointed out above, she has been absent for extended periods in situations that may have affected her true or apparent age as well. That is before hypothesizing that being a mutant and/or having hosted the Phoenix Force for long periods may also be factors.

    And I agree that Leah Williams wrote her far better than most people have in decades. I hope we see more of that.

  21. Karl_H says:

    You could give me a quiz after reading any given issue of Howard’s work, about why characters did certain things, or why things happened the way they did, and I’d probably fail half the time. I’m not trying to be mean, but it just feels like there is a lot of information not making it to the page and not easily inferred from context.

    Regarding her persistence as an active X-writer when others like Williams aren’t getting the same steady work, she does get pretty good reviews most places, and is well-liked by various podcasts whose opinions I trust, so maybe (as I’ve suggested before) I am just being too fussy.

  22. Luis Dantas says:

    She is creative, and she writes LGBTIQ+ characters with respect. She is also paired with a fine artist, well-suited to the kind of fantasy that she wants to tell.

    Those are significant strengths, and I suppose there are market niches that find that enough. I just happen to want more.

  23. Michael says:

    @Luis- re:Rachel’s age- In Uncanny 194, Rogue cheers when Rachel seems to have killed a villain and Kitty thinks “Is that anything to cheer about, that a girl OUR AGE can kill?” In Excalibur 1 in 1988, Brian and Dai Thomas describe Rachel as a teenager. So Rachel was meant to be a teenager before the whole Mother Askani mess.

  24. Michael says:

    Also, in Uncanny X-Men 449, AFTER the Askani mess, Viper attacks Rachel and tells her she doesn’t usually hunt below the legal limit- there’s no sport in hunting children. That means that Rachel is below 21? below 18? at the time of that story.

  25. Alexx Kay says:

    “If this is meant to be referring to Iron Man vol 1 150, then that was a time travel story, not a trip to Otherworld.”
    While it was *presented* as a time-travel story, they ended up in Camelot, with King Arthur and Morgan le Fay. I think that retconning it to have been Otherworld makes a lot of sense.

  26. Alexx Kay says:

    Page 7: The line “Thanks for today” jumped out at me. We have recently seen a large, mystical library in another X-book, and it belonged to someone whose power seems to come from people thanking her. Oh, and that library was also involved in some complex timeline shenanigans. Could just be a coincidence, of course.

  27. Alexx Kay says:

    “with one issue left to go in this series, I have reservations about the wisdom of pushing this complex storyline forward.”
    Anyone who imprinted on Claremont’s writing is going to attempt complex, drawn-out storytelling. Sometimes (often, even) those attempts fail, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be tried. Life is uncertain, especially in the world of corporate comics. A writer plants seeds. Sometimes they get to tend those seeds themselves, and grow trees of story. Sometimes they don’t, and the seeds lie fallow. And then, years or decades later, some other writer may decide to water those seeds, and grow a different tree. That’s how corporate storytelling functions.

  28. Alexx Kay says:

    Nathan X: “she relentlessly hammers home the same tiresome rhetoric about Betsy’s romantic relationship with Rachel”
    It’s political. For decades, writers have tried to suggest that characters had non-mainstream sexuality, only to have corporate forbid them from unequivocally stating it. It wasn’t uncommon for such subtextual relationships to get explicitly written _against_ by subsequent writers. Howard fought hard, for years, to finally be allowed to have Betsy and Rachel kiss. Having won that fight, she is determined to not leave things in doubt. If she had lost control of Betsy’s story immediately after that big splash page kiss, it would have been easy for the next writer to say that that was a “friendship” kiss, and didn’t imply anything more. Now, there are five more comic book issues showing a relationship that cannot be ignored. It could always get retconned away, of course, but Howard’s trying to make that difficult.

  29. Alexx Kay says:

    Various people say that they preferred Leah Williams’s characterization of Rachel. I’ve heard some interviews with her where she claims to have been writing Rachel as in a romantic relationship with Betsy. But, she never really got a chance to make that more than subtext (see previous comment), so it was easy for readers to miss.

    (Sorry about all the separate comments. I tried to post them all at once, but it crashed the submission form, and only by lots of experimentation did I determine what the problem was. Apparently asterisk symbols are a no-go?)

  30. Joseph S. says:

    Battle of the Atom have sung the praises of Howard’s run, as well as Percy’s work on X-Force and Wolverine. But they also have interview Jordan White and many of the writers (including Williams and Percy, not sure if Tini had ever been on the show) so I take everything they say about current runs with a grain of salt. Not for nothing, they’ve avoided actually reviewing and ranking any recent runs.

  31. Voord 99 says:

    Jay and Miles X-Plain the X-Men, also, while they haven’t been particularly detailed in their comments, have been generally positive about Howard’s work on Excalibur and its other incarnations.

    I think this space is inevitably going to be towards the negative end of the spectrum, because it’s a space in which people are going to be sensitive about how Howard handles Britishness. (Our hosts, obviously, but not just them.) I have a lot of sympathy with that, but then again, I grew up in Ireland and live in America, so I’ve had to deal a lot with American media dealing in crap when depicting a country with which I’m intimately familiar. At the same time, from a cynical pragmatic point of view I’m afraid that the question of whether Reuben Brousseau is an accurate reflection of Jacob Rees-Mogg or not was never going to have a moment’s traction with the large majority of the target audience.

  32. Mike Loughlin says:

    I watched a video on YouTube from a (non-homophobic, non-racist) reviewer/recapper who liked some of what they read of Howard’s recent Catwoman comics, but had issues with how things seemed to happen between pages with no explanation. That’s the problem I had with Howard’s Excalibur, and it went from being a minor quirk to an active detriment to the reading experience. I think Howard can write good individual issues and characters (as well as bad), but needs a good editor to tell her when the storytelling needs shoring up (also: better research into the politics and cultures of Great Britain).

  33. Nathan X says:

    @Alexx Kay Agree to disagree. There are thousands of other ways Howard could have used the space of 5 issues to solidify Betsy and Rachel’s relationship instead of using the same tired dialogues repeatedly. Every interaction between Rachel and Betsy plays out the same way. It’s always “Hi, you’re my girlfriend” “Yes, we’re dating” and nothing more. It’s all very shallow, and it ends up having the opposite effect. Instead of solidifying this relationship, it just leaves readers bored. Even LGBT+ fans are complaining about this particular aspect because it seems like this relationship has nothing else to offer besides metacommentary. There hasn’t been any deep conversation between the two so far. To put it simply, Howard dropped the ball.

  34. Chris V says:

    Yes, the problem is Howard’s writing. Her scripts far too often leave the reader scratching their head wondering what Howard is trying to say.
    The issue isn’t that Howard fails to understand Britain. This is a superhero comic. Of course it is going to come down to an evil Druid for the good guys to punch. What else do people expect? Gillen showed how a competent writer can easily make a compelling story out of this type of idea while using Arthurian lore. The problem is that Howard didn’t bother to put the time or effort into making Reuben’s involvement in any sense a compelling plot. Her writing is clumsy, and I dread to think of a more realism-based commentary from Howard.

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