I'm a big fan of Golden Age characters, so when I found out that a dozen long-forgotten heroes from Timely/Marvel Comics would be rejuvenated in the series THE TWELVE, I took notice. It didn't hurt that Chris Weston, one of my favorite artists, would be illustrating the series; on the other hand, it didn't help that it would be written by J. Michael Straczynski, whose past work I rate a solid "meh". In any case, I waited for the eventual collected edition, only to discover that Marvel would be splitting the twelve-issue series into two volumes of six issues each, and not even including the classic reprints from #s 0 and 1/2. When you consider that each hardcover is $25, and each trade is $15, that's not a good deal... call me old-fashioned, but I'm of a different mindset that you should be able to get an entire twelve issues in one trade for $20 or so, and to heck with the ridiculous glossy paper. Anyway, I held out and found a beat-up $8 copy of THE TWELVE VOLUME 1 hardcover at the local used bookstore, dove in, and was really surprised. So far, this is some good stuff. I don't see this story offering a monumental conclusion - more likely, it was done simply to renew the trademarks for these characters - but it's engaging enough to hold my interest, and in today's comic market, that's a rare thing.
The jacket flap proclaims "Yesterday's Men of Tomorrow - Today!" Just like a certain star-spangled Avenger, The Twelve are trapped in suspended animation at the end of World War II; however, these folks are revived SIXTY years later instead of twenty. In return for service to their country, their needs are provided for by the US Government of this strange new era, but as the story progresses, it indeed appears that nothing is truly free... including the Twelve. The gaudily-attired Captain Wonder, Dynamic Man, the Witness, the Black Widow, Fiery Mask, and Blue Blade; the more "mundane" Mastermind Excello, Mister E, the Laughing Mask, and Phantom Reporter; and the bizarre Rockman and Electro are very intriguing characters who seek to find their purpose in the modern Marvel Universe, whether it involves locating family members, getting back into the superhero game, or settling old scores, and all the while being stalked by a killer. The only thing is, if these characters are truly returning to the modern MU, I would have preferred to see more interaction with other modern characters. It would have been great to see Captain America or Nick Fury drop by for a debriefing.
Straczynski's story moves quickly and smoothly, providing a great set-up for the adventures of these heroes out of time. I could be biased, but Chris Weston was the perfect choice to illustrate this story, as each of The Twelve looks looks so unique - even two characters with almost identical costumes have their own distinctive facial features. After just six issues, I'm interested to see how this story concludes; however, you can be sure that I'll buy it at a discount.