I’m not even going to lie; I had to Wiki this series to remember what all had happened since issue #8 came out in 2008! But basically, twelve practically forgotten heroes from Timely Comics (Marvel’s precursor) were dusted off by J. Michael Straczynski, along with artist Chris Weston, and it was revealed that these twelve heroes (The Phantom Reporter, Rockman, Fiery Mask, Mastermind Excello, Mister E, Captain Wonder, The Witness, Black Widow, Laughing Mask, Blue Blade, Dynamic Man and Electro), in the waning days of World War II were captured by Nazis and locked in cryogenic chambers, with the intention of experimenting on them to discover the source of their powers. However the facility was bombed and all the Nazis were killed, leaving these heroes in cryogenic stasis for the ensuing decades. Eventually the area is excavated and they are discovered. At first, the U.S. government tries to fool the heroes into thinking it’s still the 1940s (kind of like how they did in the movie ‘Captain America‘), but The Phantom Reporter notices discrepancies and figured out the ruse. So, now the preserved heroes must adapt to life in a frightening new era, where many of their loved ones are deceased and technology has advanced to seeming like magic.
The heroes share a mansion and go about attempting to acclimate to life in the 21st century. For some, like The Phantom Reporter, it’s easier. He goes back to work for The Daily Bugle, writing a column… on a typewriter! The Black Widow (real name: Claire Voyant!) goes back to serving her mysterious dark master… and takes a little swim in Lady Lake. Speaking of, closeted homosexual (allegedly), Dynamic Man may or may not have massacred everyone in a gay bar. The Laughing Mask is arrested for a murder in the 1940s, after his guns are examined and match those used in a vigilante killing. Captain Wonder is saddened to learn that his wife died 20 years ago and both his sons died in Vietnam. He reunites with Tim, his now elderly former kid sidekick.
Mastermind Excello with his mental abilities cannot handle this modern world with all the stimuli in the environment and retreats to a private mansion with lead-lined walls to gain his bearings. The Blue Blade hopes to become a celebrity and creates his own television show, which winds up being an antiquated cabaret show that bombs. He hopes to retool it and brings in the robot Electro. But when mentally linked to the robot, he discovers a secret worth killing for.
That brings us up to this issue. (Whew!) The Phantom Reporter discusses the vast difference between life in the 40s and today with all the gadgets and constant hustle. Then at the studio where his show is filmed, Blue Blade is assaulted by the supposedly inert Electro. He fights back, but whatever he discovered while linked to Electro is apparently too dark a secret and the robot (being controlled by an outside force) kills him. The Phantom Reporter arrives and Elizabeth Zogolowski, the niece of Electro’s inventor links him up to Electro’s control panel in order that he too can discover this dark mystery, but a police officer disconnects him and he collapses.
There are a couple of brief interludes sprinkled throughout, such as a charity appearance by Dynamic Man at a baseball game and the issue closes with the Fiery Mask revealing to Mastermind Excello his dark secret origin.
This is a unique book that calls to mind the Minute Men from ‘Watchmen.’ There are a number of dark mysteries woven throughout and I’m not sure they will all be answered in the last three issues. Overall, it’s intriguing, but the three+ years since the last issue killed a lot of momentum and I’m not even sure I remembered everything that was going on.
I will say, though, that I love the idea of using these wacky characters! I read a book Marvel published when this series started that reprinted their original comics from the 40s and some of them were just out there! Back then, it seems like creators just threw out whatever crazy idea entered their minds and published them! I like that Straczynski doesn’t apologize for that and at least initially, they all stick with their silly old costumes like Captain Wonder with his bare, hairy legs and Blue Blades, ahem, minimal costume. But there’s no feeling of mockery there. They simply are as they always were. While some characters are essentially extras, the several that have received a lot of attention are very nicely fleshed out. The Phantom Reporter leads the cast and is a great, very well-rounded character. Blue Blade was showy and flamboyant, making his death that much more unsettling. Rockman’s origin was particularly poignant.
Chris Weston’s art is very nice! Every character has a unique and consistent face, and his expressiveness is top notch! A lot of excellent body language too. When Mastermind Excello enters the mansion, his haughtiness is evident just from his posture and the way his head is notched upward slightly with his nose in the air. When the Phantom Reporter learns of Blue Blade’s death, the shocked look on his face quickly changes to a resigned slump. Very nice! There are just tons and tons of detail in every image in this book, so excellent work there!
It might have been a long wait, but I’m glad this book is finally being wrapped up and look forward to reading it in trade to get the whole story in one serving.
Verdict: Buy (but you might want to track down the previous issues first)
THE TWELVE #9
Written by J. Michael Straczynski
Art by Chris Weston