Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Twelve #1 Review

Kaare Andrews is a phenomenal artist who can seemingly mimic any style (for examples, see his Incredible Hulk covers, and his The Arachnight Returns series), and he can do unique and interesting art as well as anyone, but this cover is awful. It looks like the kind of weak Alex Ross rip-off art we so so much after Marvels hit. I don't know what kind of effect he was going for here--is it supposed to look amateurish because the characters are dorky and lame? That seems like a bad way to sell a comic, especially when the interior art is by the hyper-hypno-detailed Chris Weston. Weston is like the creepy, deviant version of Brian Bolland. The Bolland who hangs around Times Square, circa 1974, sketching teenage prostitutes while smoking opium.

The cover, though, looks like it was painted by that kid in art class who just kept drawing pictures of Conan the Barbarian in spandex. I don't get it.

The main attractions in The Twelve are Chris Weston's insanely detailed and, yes, sordid art (there's a reason why this guy was selected to draw Morrison's The Filth), and the high concept: lame-ass, forgotten Marvel Golden Age heroes awakened in the contemporary Marvel universe.

For me, writer J. Michael Straczynski is a detraction. I had high hopes for his Supreme Power/Squadron Supreme work, but after several years, it didn't amount to a damn thing. I still see people praise his work on that series, and I'm baffled. I would love for someone to explain to me what was so good about it, because I can sure tell you what was not good: the decompression made Bendis look like Gardner Fox, the alterations to the characters made them less interesting that the "originals," and the entire series (or two series) were ALL set-up and no payoff. He built a new version of the Squadron Supreme and then had them do absolutely nothing. And that took years and years. As for his Fantastic Four and Spider-Man work, I have no opinion, because I only dipped into his runs on those titles a few times, and I didn't find anything that made me want to stick around. That's cool, though. None of those Spider-Man stories actually happened now anyway, because comics are magic.

But, I think Straczynski can redeem himself with The Twelve, at least as far as I'm concerned. This series has incredible potential, if issue #1 is any indication, and it is. It's also a finite series, so no matter how much he wants to decompress things, he's still got to have SOMETHING happen within the next twelve comics, and, hell, he even ends this first issue with a shocking cliffhanger, showing what will happen in the future (and it's not good--I mean, not good for the characters; it IS good for us, because we like dead people in our comics). Yes, someone will die in The Twelve! It's not like that's any kind of spoiler anyway, since you don't know who these damn characters are. You probably know there's some big guy, some guy with a sword, another guy who looks like Commander Steel with short-shorts, and a bunch of guys who all look like the Crimson Avenger. I've read the comic and that's basically all I know too.

Actually, Straczynski does go out of his way to tell you who these characters are, with his use of a first-person narrator who likes the exposition (well, to be fair, he is a Golden Age character--although that might make a cooler high concept: a Golden Age character knowingly stuck in Bendis and Straczynski's Marvel, pissed off at the lack of narrative captions and plot momentum. Is that the metafictional conceit of this book? We'll have to wait and see on that one. The book is clearly set in a post-Civil War Marvel universe, and that does play an active role in how these character will be used.)

Straczynski also has an annoying habit of treating the characters, and therefore the readers, like idiots, as in the example of Electro, the robot man. Electro, who is basically a giant remote-control robot, doesn't work in a sealed underground bunker, which prompts dozens of lines of dialogue like this (I'm paraphrasing):

"Electro must not work, because we've been sealed off."

"Because we are in an undergound bunker, Electro cannot receive signals."

"Electro isn't working."

"Bunker sealing must make Electro breaky breaky"

"No radio. Bunker blocking it. Electro no worky."

Then, decades later, when the characters awaken from their Rip Van Winkle sleepy sleep, a soldier wonders why Electro isn't working, even though another guy just explained how Electro is a giant remote-control robot. Keep in mind, by the way, that they don't have the control for Electro. That was in the hands of someone back in the states. So the soldier asking why Electro doesn't work is like you randomly coming across a decades-old radio controlled car with no controller, putting it on the ground, and wondering why it isn't driving around.

I'm glad Straczynski thinks that we, and or the U. S. military (or both) are that dumb.

But, you know what? This comic will be really good, once it's all finished. I can tell. The Chris Weston art is seriously good enough to make you pick it up, and if you thought the whole Captain America-frozen-in-ice-and-awakened-in-a-time-not-his-own concept was great back in 1964, image that same concept, but TIMES TWELVE, and in 2008! Wait, that sounds lame. But it's not. Just do the math. Multiply Captain America's coolness (subtract half a point for deadness) by 12 and then add 44. Take that number, divide it by the number of previous Straczynski comics you own, then add the number of Filth or 2000AD issues in your collection. Double it if you bought an extra copy of The Twelve in mint condition, subtract 100 if you downloaded it illegally, and then you'll get the coolness factor of this comic.

So read The Twelve. It's got stuff in it.


Chad Nevett said...

18.36... is that a good cool factor?

I was on the fence about buying this, but now I'm leaning towards the "buy" side and may just fall off before I hit a shop.

Timothy Callahan said...

That's a pretty high number. Although you're clearly underestimating Captain America's coolness. It should start at one gazillion, since he's the first American guy to punch a Nazi in the face. So, recalculate with a base of one gazillion, and you'll see how hard it is to ignore The Twelve.

You should probably wait and buy the inevitable hardcover, honestly, and I would be shocked if this sucker was released without delays (Weston's pages are PACKED with detail), but I'll be buying the floppies!

Timothy Callahan said...

Then again, you live in Canada, so you would under-value Captain America, wouldn't you? How about this, use the coolness factor of Bernie Mirault's The Jam instead.

Timothy Callahan said...

...that's MIREAULT, sorry.

Chad Nevett said...


Never heard of that. But, yeah, I gave Captain America an 8 on the cool scale. Now, were it Captain America, the number would be higher.

Chris Weston is always hyper-detailed and I can't recall any of his comics shipping late really. The Filth came out on time as did Fantastic Four: First Family. Plus, lots of lead time.

Guess it will come down to me in the store and what mood strikes me. (Or maybe a few more reviews from people whose opinions I respect.)

lame said...

I found the Electro dialogue to be an intentional exercise in contrast.

The 40's characters think it's weird he stops working because they don't know jack squat about anything remote controlled. The whole technology is new and untested and radios are just talking boxes to them.

The modern guys don't get it because the idea of a remote controlled hero is kind of a joke to them. They're used to robots that walk, talk, and get married.

So Electro was was ahead of his time in WW2 and is way behind the times in 2008. :)