A Review of “The Twelve”

For those that don’t know, J. Michael Straczynski, is the man and can never do wrong by me.  His run on Spider-man brought me back to comics with tears of Joy.  I say without a doubt that Babylon 5 was one of the most revolutionary shows of it’s time.  Jeremiah was a deeply moving show.  Etcetera, etcetera.

In short, anytime he puts his pen to paper, it’s gold.  I have yet to see Changeling, but I heard it was produced with only a first draft from JMS, which to me is quite a remarkable achievement.

OK, fanboy moment is over.  Onto the topic at hand; The Twelve.

I’ve just finished volume 1 of the trade paperback and I’d be running to the comic shop to look for the next volume, but it’s 2 AM and they may be closed right now.

I’d like to say it’s something like taking Watchmen, but throwing it into the Marvel Universe, but that would be an insult to two great individual works.  Each one has it’s own message, meaning and flavor, if you can say that about a book.  It’s my blog, so I will!

My first thought throughout reading this was rather negative, that it was nothing more than twelve Captain America’s bitching about the good ol’ days.  The man out of time theme can get old fast, but I like how they played with it, the same way some of us play with “the future.”  Stop to think of this; it’s 2009, we were promised jet packs, flying cars and lunar colonies.”  That’s the initial thoughts of one of the more forward looking characters, and something many of us have thought since the turn of the century.

But imagine waking up 60 years in the future, and not seeing what you expected.  Imagine dedicating your life to the ideal of making the world better, and finding that the world is actually worse than you left it.  What would probably hurt more is realizing that the today’s world doesn’t care that it has gotten worse.

The “man out of time” story device tends to get preachy, I’ll agree with that.  This book takes a turn against that by objectively portraying twelve sides of the “good old” days.  It’s hard to hide the racist undertones of the fourties when a Golden Age hero automatically assumes an African American stole a white woman’s purse, especially when he has a total meltdown when he discovers the black man was her husband and he was trying to catch the real crook.

The Twelve gives us a world of black and white clashing with the shades of gray mentality of today’s world, and forces both to acknowledge eachother.  It doesn’t just go on and preach about how things were better back then, but I see it as showing where we may have actually improved.

Superheroes of the fourties could really be considered social outcasts, no matter how much they try to be acceptable public figures.  As we’ve seen, many are isolated for various reasons.  Superman is lonely because he’s the last son of Krypton.  Batman is alone because he can’t let go.  Even Captain America, the original man out of time, has adapted to the modern world, even in the Ultimate Universe.  With existing “man out of time” stories, there’s a point where you need to give that up and get on with the story.  The Twelve makes that the story.  Some instantly fit in, others want to be left alone, and others try to fit in, but can’t or don’t know how.  Many of these characters are tragic, which makes you feel for them, and I find it relatable.

Someone told me that flawed characters are easier to relate to, and I begrudgingly agree.  However, I enjoy stories of characters that try hard to be better than what they are, and that’s what I enjoy most about some of these heroes.  I say some because you know, going into it, that not all of these guys will be as bright and shiny as they were in the Golden Age.  It’s fun to see who tarnishes and who shines.

All I can say now is…I can’t wait for volume 2! Damn you JMS, you’ve given me another addiction!

Update

The Twelve series has been completed, and it’s on Amazon (and probably Comixology). Pick it up here, and help support this blog.