What a damn depressing book.
You might remember a little hero named Captain America. He’s famous, has appeared in his own comic for years, has a cool shield. You probably know about the guy.
Well, Cap got frozen in a block of ice for around twenty years–only to be awakened by the Avengers in 1964. Cap had some trouble adjusting to losing twenty years of his life when he woke up. However, like a hero, he adjusted to life in a new time. He eventually even came to like living in the modern world.
The theme of The Twelve is similar to Cap’s story. Twelve World War II heroes are put in suspended animation as the Allies overtake Berlin in 1945. The heroes’ bodies are discovered in 2008, and the heroes are awakened. Unfortunately, J. Michael Straczynski is not Stan Lee, and these “heroes” are not the same kind of hero that Steve Rogers proved to be.
Simply put, these heroes are a mess. They’re all miserable in the modern world, each one forced to come to terms with being very much out of step with modern life.
For instance, Rockman might be insane, and he misses his subterranean kingdom terribly. The Laughing Mask’s murderous crime-fighting tactics are horrifically out of step with modern criminal rights, and he finds himself arrested. Captain Wonder misses his family with a painful ache in his heart. The Black Widow appears to have made a deal with the devil. Dynamic Man fights crime 24/7 in an attempt to deny the truth of what happened to him.
And on, and on, and on . . . a never ending collection of misery and unhappiness in a group of costumed heroes.
Reading six issues of this miniseries collected together was an overwhelming experience for me. Unfortunately, the overwhelming emotion was depression.
The Twelve are a depressed bunch of time-lost heroes who can’t move on with their lives, and their misery made me miserable. There’s nothing heroic about the Twelve. They really come across as a bunch of small-minded whiners with powers.
The saving grace is that Chris Weston delivers a solid job with the art. None of the problems with this book are his fault. He’s highly adept at drawing normal people in normal circumstances, which is essentially what the Twelve are in this book. He’s especially talented at capturing the real iconic heroism of his characters. Unfortunately, the characters rarely get a chance to be heroic.
It’s sad to see how the nature of heroism has changed in the last 44 years. When he woke up, Captain America was an adult dealing with the consequences of his time-slip like a man who has no choice but to move on with his life. Conversely, the characters in this book, just can’t move on. They keep living their angst-filled lives and feeling miserable, page after page after page.
If JMS is building up to a conclusion where the characters of the Twelve find some transcendence in their life, then all this misery might have been worth it. Yet, as a standalone book, reading through all this is a real chore.