Current Reviews

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The Twelve #3

Posted: Tuesday, March 11, 2008
By: Jon Judy

J. Michael Straczynski
Chris Weston & Garry Leach
Marvel Comics
How ironic that my primary criticism of this book – a revival of twelve obscure characters from the Golden Age – is that it is too modern.

OK, so it isn’t ironic if one uses the proper definition of the word.

And to be completely accurate, my criticism isn’t that the book as a whole is too modern, but rather that it suffers from a malady common in modern books: It takes too damn long to get past the set-up and get to the point. In fact, after this, the third issue, we’re still given 20-plus pages of set-up.

And isn’t it ironic, although again not according to the denotation of the word, that it would take me 68 words to get to the point that this book takes too long to get to the point?

The premise, for those of you unfamiliar with it: Twelve superheroes of yesteryear were frozen in suspended animation during the invasion of Berlin by the Allies, and have only now been revived. They are all trying to figure out what their place will be in the 21st century, and trying to adjust to the losses they suffered while sleeping the decades away.

It’s a cool premise, and JMS handles it well, giving each of the characters enough attention to give us the illusion that we know them as fully-developed, well-rounded people, and while they are all dealing with the same basic problem, he gives each of them personal, individual issues, so that their conflicts are unique.

Therein, I think, lies the problem. Giving the needed page time to each of these characters – all ten of them, really, as one is sort of a non-entity who doesn’t do anything and another narrates the book so we always get access to his story – anyway, devoting story time to each of these characters eats up a lot of story time.

As a result, we are three issues and nine dollars into this story, and so far the story hasn’t really begun!

As I said, the premise is a great one. Further, I have enough confidence in JMS to make the assumption that there will be a worthwhile payoff after the set-up is over – and there’s reason to hope that it’s over following this issue. Finally, Weston and Leach’s art is terrific – they are good, clear storytellers who can deliver when it comes to the little action we’ve seen so far and make effective use of facial expressions and body language to give extra weight to the stories and individuality of the characters. For example, check out the Phantom Reporter on pages 10-12. No one else in this book stands, sits, and gestures like he does. Weston and Leach make him truly individual, a feat of no small size in any book, let alone one with this many characters.

So I’m going to keep reading, but I don’t suggest you start here if you haven’t been buying this one. Pick up issue four instead, as the ending to issue three suggests that the action – the point – of the story is finally going to get underway next month, and the “last issue” blurbs really have told new readers all they need to know to catch up.



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