Or – “Now You’re A MAN! A Manny Manny Man!”
So often, comic books spend a lot of time setting up interesting, nuanced, layered conflicts, full of angst and realism and existentialistic doubts and foibles, only to come apart at the point where those conflicts come to a head. Titles like Final Crisis, Civil War, even the much lauded Kingdom Come all spend massive amounts of effort, only to wrap things up the Dragonball Z way: AND NOW, THEY FIGHT!
Will The Twelve likewise fall into this insidious story-telling pothole?
Previously, in The Twelve: In the waning days of World War II, 12 American mystery men traveled to Berlin to, as the Colonel from ‘Full Metal Jacket’ might have, “jump on the team and come on in for the big win.” The plan goes awry, the heroes are captured, and awaken decades later in subterranean Nazi bunker. Now in the 21st Century, The Phantom Reporter, Fiery Mask, Rockman, Mastermind Excello, Mister E, Captain Wonder, The Witness, The Black Widow, Laughing Mask, The Blue Blade, Dynamic Man and Electro have been through a bit of trauma, leading to the murder of the Blade at the hands of a mysterious assailant, eventually revealed to be Dynamic Man himself. Last issue, it was revealed that D-Man was himself a raging sociopathic mad android, and the loss of his last vestiges of humanity has pushed Dynamic Man into a murderous rage…
The Twelve have quickly turned into the eleven, and now the Ten Against One, as the battle quickly erupts among the heroes, and a naked Dynamic Man proves to be every bit the match of the combined forces of his compatriots. Chris Weston’s art reminds me a little bit of Gary Frank’s, as even the characters that we like look very disturbing, especially the Phantom Detective’s new mask. What is most fascinating for me during the big melee is that individual heroes struggles are not lost in the fighty-fighty, as Rockman gets a nice moment in the sun… Well, the shadows, really, as he ends up pulling a ‘Big Bad John‘ moment and saving his friends from the wreckage caused by Dynamic Man’s assault. If you’ve read the previous issues, you may remember the story of Rockman’s origins, and Straczynki brings the story full-circle with this issue. The battle doesn’t devolve into Captain Wonder versus Dynamic Man, as I worried it would, nor do the less-powerful members of the assemblage get completely side-lined. Black Widow and Phantom Detective finally cut through the subtext and kiss already, right before they break the cardinal rule and split the party.
Things get very intense, and mystery men begin dying quite regularly as the fight returns (like Frankenstein, Captain Wonder correctly asseses) to the lab where Dynamic Man was born. Mastermind Excello has an awesome BMF moment, followed quickly by an even more bad-ass turn by The Phantom Detective, and the combined assault of the four heroes finally turns the tide. The ending is quite unexpected for me, on a number of levels, and the issue ends with the threat seemingly all wrapped up, but still another issue to go. The issue ends with fire, brimstone and a heroes grave, with some poetic justice for both Rocky and Fiery Mask. I’m not sure what is going to happen next, and I can’t wait to see how it all wraps up. The balance of brawling to thinking is well-handled, and both the fighty-fighty and the talky-talky are precisely balanced and handled deftly.
THE VERDICT: NOT JUST ANOTHER SLAP FIGHT.
The biggest worry that I had about this book from the very beginning was whether or not 12 issues would allow for enough development for 12 characters, especially given the amount of “screen time” allowed for the story’s prime movers. With the exception of the inert Electro and the Laughing Mask (and possibly Mister E, who at least gets in an emotional moment near the end) all of our characters have something to do or say in this issue, and the ending answers a question that nobody realized was asked nearly 8 decades ago. The Twelve #11 reads well, looks great, and avoids the “wide-screen” smashing that I worried would wrap things up, earning a well-deserved 4 out of 5 stars overall. Next issue brings the series to a close, but I’m kind of hoping to see more of these guys in the greater Marvel U soon…