Friday, March 6, 2015

The Twelve

During World War II there were two kinds of heroes. Those with powers and those without. Those without were typically “tourists”, guys who put on the mask for fame and women. But when war broke out, they all joined the fight, powers or not. The most notable of course is Captain America. And while Steve Rogers was frozen and woke up in the modern world, there were other heroes who had a similar fate. These twelve heroes got grouped together by chance and were tasked with a secret mission. They were going to raid the Nazi SS headquarters in Berlin. They made it in but they never came out and faded into obscurity. In August of 2008 a construction crew working on the foundation for new apartments accidentally broke open a secret chamber. There they found The Twelve in stasis. Trapped by the S.S. they were to be experimented on after the Nazis took back Germany from the Allies. That never happened.

The Twelve lies somewhere between Watchmen and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Writer J. Michael Straczynski and artist Chris Weston created this tale of twelve heroes out of time for Marvel Comics. Their history is even as interesting as their fictional lives on paper. These characters date back to when Marvel was Timely Comics. Straczynski and Weston brought them back for this miniseries. The Twelve are:

Master Mind Excello
Precognition and extreme perceptive powers. He has low level telepathy and can even sense broadcast waves. The modern world is so noisy he had to go into seclusion to literally clear his head.

Dynamic Man
Super strength, flight, invulnerability. His creator made him to be free of vice and a savior to humanity. But todays humanity is different from that of the 1940s.

Super strength and near invulnerability. He claims to hail from an underground civilization, but it may be his mind covering up an emotional trauma.

Captain Wonder
Super strength, flight. An accident with an experimental drug gave him his powers. He joined the fight against the Nazis and now he lives in a world where everyone he loved is gone.

Black Widow
Technically the original Black Widow and also the first female hero in comics. In the modern version of her origin, she sold her soul to a demon in exchange for vengeance on her sisters murderer.

The Fiery Mask
Project and controlling fire and heat. His claims his powers come from a mad scientists failed attempt to kill him.

The Phantom Reporter
No powers, but skilled in fighting. He is a reporter who put on a mask to right the wrongs he reported on. He now reports on the world from the perspective of a man from the past.

Mister E.
Another tourist, he has no powers, but joined the fight against the Nazis. He now returns to find a son who resents him for abandoning the family and hiding his Jewish faith.

Laughing Mask
No powers but a will to punish criminals. This District Attorney became to fed up with the justice system and took the law into his own hands.

The Blue Blade
No powers buy he has... style. He is described as "Errol Flynn turned up to eleven." Kids, ask your parents... or grandparents. The modern world might give him what he wants most, a bigger spotlight and fame.

The Witness
A detective who accidentally shot an innocent man. He tries to kill himself after prison but a voice tells him it's not his time and gives him the ability to see a crime before it happens. He observes the victims and judges if they are worth saving.

A robot controlled by electronic telepathy. Cut off from it's creator, it no longer moves.

The Twelve wake into the world after Marvel's Civil War and have to register with the government. They are given an offer to become sanctioned government agents while they recover at a secret mansion. They don’t have to work for the government and they are free to stay as long as they want, but if they decide to leave they must make it on their own. In a new world they struggle to adjust and all their sins and baggage just become amplified. In this story there is no huge enemy at the gates. There is no great evil they are teaming up to conquer. This is more of a study on how people would react to a world they are out of touch with. Fans of Babylon 5 are familiar with Straczynski's ability to unfold a story and the lives of his characters. Their biggest threat is themselves and some don't survive to the end of the series. This is a stand alone story and even though it exists within the regular Marvel Universe, this is the only time these characters have made an appearance since their Timely Comics days.

The series premiered in 2007 and finished in 2008. I was fortunate enough to find a hardback collected addition at a used bookstore and took a chance. This is one of those great books whee you don't have to know the history of any characters to get into the story. Even thought they appeared in comics' Golden Age, this is very much a new origin story and even though the door was left open for future stories, but the story arc here was completed. It is an interesting and entertaining series definitely worth picking up for something a little different.

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