March 22, 2010

Spearheading THE TWELVE

"Did you read the new Twelve one shot?" I was asked Saturday night.

It was my usual comic meetup - in fact, I wasn't aware that the seriously interrupted Marvel series had even been republished.

My response was a simple, "Oh, they finally released issue #9?"

"No,  it's a one shot."

I had given up reading the series before its long "hiatus" - for me, the series seemed to be building up to something...but took way too long to do it. So I went ahead and purchased The Twelve: Spearhead, a "prequel" to the miniseries. At the very least, it would be a way for me to catch the book again, and see if there was the possibility of reengaging with the series.

Admittedly, this book is a one-man show - written and drawn by Chris Weston (the normal series artist), and quite frankly, I really enjoyed it. It's a brisk, done-in-one book that really helps set the tone for the later series, but more importantly, firmly places the group in Marvel's Golden Age. I think it helps that without J. Michael Straczynski's love of building plots and foreshadowing (or "writing for the trade", as the kids say), it easily tells a story that fits as an "introduction" to the main miniseries...but more importantly, helps Marvel better integrate its Golden Age characters into the overall universe.

It's 1945, the end of World War II is approaching, and the Invaders - as well as other heroes - are recruited in a mission to further curtail Nazi efforts. (To say more would be spoiling, suffice it to say, there's an extremely clever twist about the mission). The Twelve are used as part of the overall effort, but in a unique way - the Phantom Reporter is there to write about the efforts for the home front, and the Twelve is there to provide "backup" for the Invaders.

Throughout the book, there are some nice touches - starting off with a reference to a then-popular Spike Jones tune, Weston's story hits upon the same themes of the series, but (quite surprisingly) much more efficiently and simply than Straczynski did. The Phantom Reporter's continuing mantra of "we make them look good" - and his continual commentary about how "the real heroes" are the men on the front lines - remind the reader that, ultimately, these are "forgotten" heroes. Marvel has some serious ground to gain when considering its Golden Age (and especially in comparison to DC), but The Twelve: Spearhead is a great read which makes incredible strides towards rethinking its legacy.

On the final page of the comic is a cover for The Twelve # 9, with both Straczynski's and Weston's names on them. I am being cautiously optimistic over the book's release (after all, Straczynski had a very public falling out with Marvel, and his DC work may prevent him from participating), but I will say this:

Marvel, let Weston make an effort on finishing the story by himself. I think he deserves the chance, based on this one-shot.

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