Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Review: The Twelve # 1

Writer J. Michael Straczynski (Babylon 5) and artist Chris Weston (Enemy Ace: War in Heaven) just debuted the first issue of their year-long, twelve part Marvel Comics series called, The Twelve.

Billed as "A Thrilling Novel Of Tomorrow", The Twelve reintroduces an even dozen of Marvel's largely forgotten, golden age characters from way back in the 1940's when the company was known as Timely Comics. The Black Widow (the lone female hero), the Blue Blade, Captain Wonder, Dynamic Man, Electro the Robot, the Fiery Mask, the Laughing Mask, Master Mind Excello, Mr. E, the Phantom Reporter, Rockman and the Witness fall victim to Nazi scientists at the close of WWII and are left in suspended animation for the subsequent decades between then and now (August 2008; per the story).

Upon awakening, the heroes quickly ascertain the truth of their situation and slowly begin to acclimate to the present day. Narrated by the Phantom Reporter, the tale effectively informs the reader of the heroes powers (or lack of same) and then jumps right into what is to be the maguffin. One of their number is apparently found murdered on the last page of this issue, but therein lies the rub. Despite adequate media indications that this very thing is the crux upon which the series will spin, the overall manner in which it plays out in the introductory issue is jarring to say the least.

The Phantom Reporters narration reveals that the "death" takes place much, much later than what we've just read of the heroes return to the world in this very issue, and also after they've just been encouraged to again take their places as heroes for the nation [in the wake of the huge Civil War crossover, to boot]. Indeed the physical appearance of the Phantom Reporter is certainly different on that last page, as is that of his obviously deceased former compatriot. As much as I was looking forward to this issue, the break took me immediately outside of the story that Straczynski was weaving - - - and unnecessarily so, in my opinion.

Fortunately the art is very good by Weston and it alone will draw me back for more of the mystery, but I hope that we aren't going to be similarly yin & yang'ed for ten more issues before everything is all-too-neatly tied up in the final issues denouement.

Either way, these quirky heroes are welcome back. Let's just hope that they all don't bite the bullet during the course of the series.

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