I was at a crossroads in my comic book collecting career when The Twelve came along. It had a number of things I really liked, a revival of some offbeat Golden Age characters and some lush Chris Weston artwork. Michael Stracynski wasn't a draw for me since he'd was just at that time demolishing The Avengers I'd loved for many decades. But despite some concerns about series that sometimes don't arrive on schedule, I took a tumble for The Twelve. And things went along rather well for a time.
We were introduced to a marvelous assortment of wacky Golden Age characters who looked very distinctive and slightly less silly in the hands of Weston. We see them at the very end of WWII alongside the Invaders and other Timely heroes as they marched into Berlin to put down the Nazis once and for all. But it went sideways when our Twelve heroes got stranded in a basement facility and were trapped and put into suspended animation by some renegade Nazis who themselves then quickly fell victim to the invading Russian army. The twelve heroes were lost and forgotten until renovations in Berlin in 2008 uncovered their ersatz tomb. They were revived by the United States government who sought to make use of these ready-made and presumably exceedingly patriotic heroes. Then that play goes sideways.
The story is told to us by Richard Jones, the Phantom Reporter, a masked mystery man who sans powers had been one of the twelve lost heroes. He tells us what happens to them as they attempt, each in his or her own way to deal with a life which has been put on hold for decades. Some like Wonder Man discovers that his family is dead and he, a good and noble man is distraught.
Other heroes like the Firey Mask, Mastermind Excello, Mister E, The Laughing Mask, and others attempt to find out what is left of their lives. Some like Dynamic Man adapt quickly and immediately start doing heroic deeds again. Some like Blue Blade try to trade on their fame to jump start an entertainment career. We have the Black Widow who does stuff by night that you can't really share out. And then there's the robot Electro who appears inert and to be cut off from his remote control master who is long dead.
The Laughing Mask gets into some trouble early on and the Phantom Reporter reveals himself to be a man with all too human desires. Mister E has to confront the differences between the modern world and the one he left behind in which he had to deny fundamental truths about himself.
The Witness is a hero who appears to have a mission from beyond to stand forth and confront evil doers. That mission has not disappeared even though he has.
And there's Rockman, a mighty strong man who says he came from a distant kingdom beneath the Earth, a land which he is unable to find. His pining for his lost family is heartbreaking.
As all this is happening we are confronted with a flash-forward scene which establishes at once a mystery and the murder of one of our heroes. The Phantom Reporter is committed to finding the answer, but the story is told in such a way that even getting to crime will take time.
This is a beautifully rendered story. Chris Weston's artwork is outstanding, giving a handsome but gritty realism of a kind to events which are long gone in history but still vivid in the imagination. The story of The Twelve will continue in another volume, but that's another post.
See you tomorrow.