Propaganda marches proudly into Berlin with The Twelve
The Twelve #1
By J Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston
In what sounds like a particularly dodgy joke: twelve costumed heroes walk into SS Headquarters at the end of the Second World War:
“Every Allied Superpower, every man, woman or half assed sidekick who had ever worn a costume, had descended on Berlin. Dynamic Man said you couldn’t throw a rock without hitting somebody in a mask and tights.”
(the opening of The Twelve #1 written by J.M. Straczynski, art by Chris Weston, published Marvel)
But these 12 heroes aren’t a team, just 12 unconnected super-people who happen to be in the wrong place at exactly the wrong time. Because the SS have been planning for the end of the war and are determined to use these heroes as a blueprint for a new master race. The 12 are put into freezing tubes and the SS plan to escape Berlin with their super DNA all nicely frozen. But the SS didn’t realise how soon Berlin would fall, not to the Americans, but to the Russians. This left the 12 underground, frozen and forgotten for 53 years until they’re discovered and thawed out by the US army who have great plans of their own for these 12 costumed heroes half a century out of time.
Because this is a post Civil War Marvel world where heroes aren’t trusted by the government anymore and this group of throw backs come from a more patriotic, more controllable era:
“These people… these heroes… Are from a time when the United States was the unquestioned good guy, when patriotism was something to be applauded, not mocked in the press. They do what they’re told because they believe in the Government that’s telling them to do it. And you just don’t see that in the superhero crowd much these days.
Defrost them? Damned straight we’re going to defrost them. As far as Uncle Sam’s concerned they’re still on the clock.”
(the truth of their situation is finally explained to the defrosted heroes in Straczynski and Weston’s The Twelve #1, published Marvel)
Uncle Sam sells them a new life serving their country, a new purpose for these men and women whose loved ones are either dead or unknown to them after more than half a century frozen. But the final page, a jolting jump forward in time from their awakening, shows that something has gone very wrong.
It’s a very promising start to the series, with Straczynski doing a straightforward job on the writing, setting up the series nicely and promising that the future just isn’t the rosy, all-American utopia the government is looking for.
But it’s not the story or the dialogue that makes this something you should all be picking up. The thing that puts this head and shoulders above the competition, the thing that makes it so much better than every other superteam book on the racks is the phenomenal artwork by Chris Weston. Hopefully you’re all familiar with Weston’s classically British artwork from Ministry of Space and The Filth. It’s a thing of beauty, evoking the spirits of Lawrence, Bellamy and Frank Hampson. It’s a study in how to be an artist and I could spend a long time just looking at each page.
I’ll be looking in on the Twelve to see where Straczynski takes it. But I think most of the enjoyment will be garnered from just looking at it.
Richard Bruton is a lifelong comics fan and former Comic Book Store Guy; you can read more of his thoughts on comics and life on his blog Fictions.