Review: The Twelve #1

Forgotten warriors remembered
Someday future historians are going to stumble across the modern world's bizarre fascination with World War II, and they're going to assume that the war was won by caped crusaders, domino-masked pulp heroes, super-spies, and vampires with souls. What makes World War II such a tempting territory for us to tie our fictions into? Perhaps because it seems refreshingly simple in a way that wars before or after just don't. Big danger, absolute evil, high stakes, and the good guys won in the end. Hey, how can you argue with that?
J. Michael Straczynski returned to WWII this month with “The Twelve”, a limited series that brings up twelve of the most obscure war-era heroes from Timely Comics, Marvels predecessor. The premise here is to pull a Captain America with these lads and lasses, bring them into the modern age. In the process though, Straczynski has the opportunity to do some insightful commentary on the post-Civil War Marvel universe, which translates at least a little into commentary on the world as it is. The man-out-of-time, from a “simpler” time, has only become more relevant since the 60's when Captain America was first thawed out. It's not an original premise, but it may be a fruitful one none the less.
If we just stick with this issue itself we're left with a fascinating period tale told with style and flair. Straczynski is helped out by Chris Weston's art, which has just the right retro touch to it. He depicts the pre-spandex age of costume design with honesty. He doesn't modernize the old-fashioned costumes, but does depict them with modern standards of realism. Somehow, they don't look unbelievably bad. Well, not mostly.
Straczynski's writing follows suit. There are modern exchanges among the characters that never could have taken place in the Golden Age (Dynamic Man's homophobia, the implied prejudice against heroes without powers,) but at the same time he embraces the feel of an age where plain old magic was an acceptable way for heroes to get their powers, and a pair of .45s were suitable weapons for a mainstream, all American hero. Characters like Mister E or The Laughing Mask show their pulp origins clearly, and are something different from just the traditionally known heroes of the age. It depicts without dipping too deeply into nostalgia for the simpler past, and the first issue already seems to be asking if the world of yesterday was really any kinder or less ambiguous.
The result is a feel distinctly unlike anything else currently in Marvel comics, and the ease with which it's depicted is wonderful to behold. The whole thing has a much more genuine feel then some other modern attempts to depict this era.
This is a first issue, and as such it suffers from the traditional first issue problem of more talking about what is going to happen than things actually happening, but the unique feel that the writer and artist manage to create together says that this is going to be a fun ride.
0 Yes
0 No
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