Wonder Twins #5
At the high school science fair, Jayna’s new friend Polly Math has just won first place for her research on whether the internet is alive. (Of course it is.) Jayna thinks that Polly should celebrate, but Polly is still reeling from the revelation that her father Filo Math is working with the League of Annoyance, a group of subsuper-villains. Polly is determined not to let her dad go down the drain with the criminal element and Jayna, superhero that she is, makes a silent promise that she and her brother Zan will take care of everything.
At the Math house, Filo walks in to find the Scrambler waiting for him there. They trade stories of their past – Filo not being able to find a job because he was black, despite his qualifications, until one day Lex Luthor took a chance on him; the Scrambler a stage magician who discovered that his audience didn’t really want magic, just reassurances that things would once more be normal. He asks Filo to help him with one last trick. They’re interrupted by Polly, though, who kicks Scrambler out of their home.
While Polly talks her father out of a life of crime – even if he does owe Lex Luthor an obscene amount of money – the Wonder Twins face off against the League of Annoyance, and Zan finally makes his “total refreshment” catchphrase work. Kind of. The twins make quick work of the League, except for one member – Sylvia – who has a phone made from Kryptonian technology. She gets away and calls Lex, leaving a long winded message the way that only someone from the boomer generation could. Unfortunately, Filo Math chooses this time to stop by the League of Annoyance’s lair and winds up freaking out Sylvia, whose phone zaps Filo away. (Not to worry though – unbeknownst to anyone, Filo ends up in the Phantom Zone, where he’s trapped along with Sylvia’s other victims.) Sylvia’s actions were caught on camera by some nearby citizens and she becomes known as Cell Phone Sylvia. Lex promptly brings Sylvia onto his own network – Lex News – to help clean up her image, and it all ends with the police letting Sylvia off the hook. Polly, angry at how all of this has turned out, reaches out to the only person she can think of for his help – the Scrambler!
Zan and Jayna are at the Hall of Justice when Polly and the Scrambler’s plan is put into effect. The Scrambler has connected himself to the worldwide cloud, and the population of Earth has thirty days to change the world into a fair one that’s worth living in for everyone on the planet. If they don’t do so by the deadline, the Scrambler will scramble the consciousness of everyone on the planet – and just to show his good faith, he scrambled the minds of a million people, including scrambling the mind of one corrupt executive into the mind of one of the children working in his sweatshops.
There are few writers out there like Mark Russell, who can deftly and so easily satirize modern political issues into a fun, breezy, superhero outing. The fact that Wonder Twins has recently been extended to a full twelve issues clearly speaks to how good of a writer Russell is, and how well-received these stories have been. When the book first launched, it was difficult to see the forest for the trees as far as this book was concerned – there were a lot of disparate pieces, and one couldn’t tell how Russell was planning on pulling them together into a more cohesive story – but now it makes a lot of sense. The book is filled with many sly nods and jokes to common tropes and political themes – things like the talk show that Sylvia attends, with the Straw Man and the robotic pundit, Sylvia’s racist, ageist meltdown – as well as interesting tidbits like Sylvia’s Kryptonian phone. It’s a smart, cleverly written book, and Polly Math’s journey from a hurt young woman to one who wants to take action against the injustices of the world is fantastic and believable. The fact that she turned to the Scrambler might be a step too far, sure, but these are comics, and sometimes a step too far is what it takes to get things done. Tying in with that is the fact that the story is taking a D-list villain like the Scrambler and giving him a big, crazy plan that only includes world domination of the world doesn’t better itself. It’s a great twist, and one that shows that villainy isn’t always about hurting people or destroying the world.
Stephen Byrne’s art is, as always, polished, smooth, and lively. Simply put, there are only maybe one or two other artists that could have infused this book with half as much grace, power, and humour as Byrne is able to. The book very much feels like a modern cartoon, one that would feel at home on DC’s DC Universe app or Netflix. Especially of note are the scene with Filo Math stuck in the Phantom Zone, and Polly’s breakdown later on in the book.
If there’s a singular complaint, it’s that for a book that’s titled Wonder Twins, we don’t really see much of Zan and Jayna in this book, though they do get a couple of great scenes, including a great action sequence. Of course, we’re setting up what the big bad plan is going to be, and following Polly’s own journey and downfall, and it’s better to show this happening than have it be some eleventh-hour plot twist (surprise, Polly’s a villain!). Especially since Polly isn’t really a villain here – she’s just misguided…as many of the League of Annoyances tend to be. It’s a brilliant, nuanced look on villainy and motivation, and I can’t wait to see where Russell and Byrne go with it in the next issue.
A funny, well-written modern social satire placed against a superheroic backdrop, this book is a must-read.
Wonder Twins #5: Ending Up Wherever Life Dumps You
Writing - 9/109/10
Storyline - 9/109/10
Art - 10/1010/10
Color - 10/1010/10
Cover Art - 9/109/10
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