In the current world of event comics and constant announcements about “the next big thing,” this little series by J. Michael Straczynski and Chris Weston seems to have been nearly forgotten about. If it doesn’t tie in to “Secret Invasion” or “Final Crisis” or even “Batman R.I.P.,” or if it doesn’t insult anyone’s intelligence with red and green musclemen, then nobody seems interested in talking about it. Maybe everyone’s waiting for the collected edition of the entire series, or maybe everyone has moved on, and doesn’t care about yet another revisionist resurrection of obscure Golden Age characters.
But “The Twelve” is a good series, even if Straczynski’s story suffers from the same problems his work usually suffers from: it’s all set-up and very little forward movement. Straczynski’s skill seems to lie in his ability to establish ominous superhuman situations, slowly peeling back the layers of a world to show the nuances of character interaction. Yet he rarely gets past that, except to provide some moments of sudden violence in the climax. Take his “Supreme Power” work, for example, and think about how much time was spent establishing the characters and how little time was spent having the characters do much of anything. “The Twelve” is a bit like that, but with a 12-issue time limit things are progressing a bit more quickly (but not much). And what is the series progressing toward? We don’t exactly know, although the first issue revealed a death scene that will be fully explained before the end, certainly.
So if just another case of Straczynski treading narrative water, why would “The Twelve” be worth reading? The answer is simple: Chris Weston.
Chris Weston should be a superstar artist by this point. His ultra-detailed rendering and skill at perfectly pacing a story make him one of the best artists working in the medium today. But because he so vividly de-mythologizes supposedly larger-than-life superhuman characters, he will never be one of those “Wizard Magazine” Top Artists. He is Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland mixed together, but with a real physical weight to his figures, and an inherent sadness, and he is absolutely perfect for “The Twelve.”
Issue #8 takes magnificent advantage of Weston’s skills, flashing back to highlight the “true” origin of the Golden Age Black Widow and providing a few brief scenes of the other characters getting into various degrees of trouble. His depiction of the Blue Blade’s selfish interest in the Electro robot is particularly stunning, and the finely rendered background details add a sense of tragic reality that few artists in the history of the medium could pull off as effectively. Weston is amazing.
This isn’t a bad story by any means — in fact, I think it’s the best thing Straczynski has ever written — but the best parts of “The Twelve” belong to Chris Weston. He makes this series worth reading, in all of its sordid, pathetic unraveling.