The 12 being the first post-OMD work from writer J Michael Straczynski, with artist Chris Weston. I didn't have high hopes for this, the idea of a bunch of World War Two lesser lights being frozen in time and reawoken today sounded a tad 'been there, done that' but the promise of Weston on art, and the inclusion of Marvel UK pulp-style hero Nightraven got me to try the first issue.
Excellent decision, me. This is a solidly entertaining comic book, with intriguing characters and a story that seems to know where it's going. Much of the issue is set in the dying days of World War Two, with narrator The Phantom Reporter introducing us to the other 11 members of a group thrown together by fate.
They're a typically Seond World War bunch of generic heroes and strongmen, including burning man The Fiery Mask, flying fellow Captain Wonder and avenging angel The Witness. There's just one woman, the original Black Widow who - OMG OMD! - made a deal with the devil to get a death touch and more. The Phantom Reporter is what the more powerful heroes call a 'tourist' - no actual powers, more your gas mask Sandman type very handsome, though, in his natty purple suit with pink highlights.
Aside from the obvious craft and graft represented here, thing that tickled me included the aforementioned Captain Wonder - a bare-legged hero who doesn't shave his pins - and the protests-too-much Dynamic Man, who seens sissies everywhere.
When the heroes arrive in 2008 they prove to be smart and likeable, as the US tries to help them adjust by lying to them about the date. Deciding to then appeal to the 12's patriotism after their (well-meaning) deceit is revealed may not prove the brightest decision.
JMS writes up a storm here, giving us an intelligent, meaty script; I don't know enough about US speech patterns of 60 years ago to suggest anything is jarring - I did wonder if 'closet' was applied to secret 'pansies' but these terms are often older than we assume. And anyway, I can live with the odd anachronism when a story is this good.
Weston does a wonderful job - his lack of flash suits the characters while he does strong work differentiating the 12. And colourist Chris Chuckry does a great job making the mystery men stand out against the greyness of war. The look reminds me of Gene Ha and Xander Cannon's work on Top Ten, high praise.
The package is rounded off with excellent production design - Kaare Andrews' wonderfully pulpy cover has a creased, aged quality (slab that!) while the splash page is a mock-up of a Forties-style Daily Bugle. Buy it - even if Nightraven has for some reason failed to show up.