Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Great Comics Reread: The Twelve

So a few years back one of the local comic shops had a moving sale every back issue $1.  Sweet I say and have a shopping spree.

Part of that haul was Issues 3-8 of The Twelve as well as The Twelve: Spearhead one shot and the zero and half issues.  A little bit of internet research told me that the series had not been finished.  J. Michael Straczynski (writer) had become in demand with Hollywood after the success of the movie Changeling directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Angelina Jolie.  The artist Chris Weston (who did Spearhead solo) also moved onto other projects.  The general consensus on the net seemed to be that we'd never see the end of the story then in 2012 the last four issues came out.

 The idea is that twelve characters from the Timely Comics era (and hadn't been seen since) were found in 2008 in a bunker in Germany in cryogenic suspension.  The military tries to make them think it's still the 1940s but the narrator The Phantom Reporter soon sees through that.  In many ways the scene is reminiscent of the end of Captain America: The First Avenger which came out three years later. 

Many of the reviews I read claimed that JMS was trying to do a Watchmen.  I can certainly see the similarities - one of the heroes is murdered at the end of the first issue.  The use of defunct characters (the original plans for Watchmen were just that - the MLJ and later the Charlton characters) and the old Timely characters. Some might even say that JMS later work on Before Watchmen bears this out.    I won't go into the merits of this but Watchmen would certainly appear to be an influence on this comic.

I liked the idea that Marvel was embracing some of their Golden Age heritage - except for Captain America and Sub-Mariner there were few characters that seemed to consistently used in the Marvel Universe.  Some of the Characters only appeared in one or two Golden Age Stories some had more.

I wasn't quite so fond of JMS retconning of the character's histories.  The Fiery Mask's origin is revealed to be completely false  for example completely trampling over the Joe Simon origin.  I though his handling of Rockman's origin was better leaving the reader to decide whether the new origin was true or not.

The Phantom Reporter had three identities Richard Jones, cub reporter, The Phantom Reporter and millionaire Van Elden.  The Van Elden identity is completely ignored. (The millionaire playboy fighting crime trope was a little overused in that time and perhaps made him too similar to Mr. E who was already in the Twelve)

It would have been a big problem but the zero and half issues reprinted several of the Golden Age stories so readers would have had the opportunity to read those stories and see the changers that JMS made.

Another thing that I had an issue with was that Twelve was a way to bring these characters back into the modern Marvel universe yet several of the characters were rendered useless for that purpose.  The delayed ending would not have helped in this regard.  Several were dead or presumed so (The Blue Blade, Dynamic Man, Rockman and The Fiery Mask) others seemed to be operating in secret (The Phantom Reporter, The Black Widow, Master Mind Excello, The Laughing Mask, Electro and The Witness) .  Me E had retired. 

Some like Electro and The Black Widow had new bearers of the name running around but a simple name change like (the original Daredevil now referred to as The Death Defying 'Devil  in new stories)

Overall,  I enjoyed the series.  I liked the idea of bringing back the classic characters and giving them a new life.

The pulp style covers were nice.


  1. It's been a year since you made a post here, Mr. M. Are you okay?

    (who STILL enjoys going through Serial Vigilantes)

    1. Howdy Tex,

      I'm okay. I just went through a few things, new job and the ilk so I stopped blogging. I'll be starting back up soon.

  2. ROCK!

    Glad to hear you're okay, man. Looking forward to MOAR Pulpy Goodness!

    (who wouldn't mind a hardcover reissue of Serial Vigilantes)