Wonder Twins #7
Zan and Jayna, the Justice League interns known as the Wonder Twins, have had their first victory by bringing down the Scrambler and Polly Math, and while it should be a time of celebration for the two fledgling heroes, it’s anything but. Well, for Jayna anyway, who is racked with guilt over not being able to save her. Zan, on the other hand, is eating up the victory of finally being a hero. They’re finally on a roll...or so they think. With the League of Annoyance defeated, there’s not really a lot for the Wonder Twins to do on a heroic front, so Superman has to temporarily demote them to being Hall of Justice tour guides.
While the twins get settled into their new roles, a bunch of hockey fans start rioting in the city. Instead of leaving the problem for the police to solve, Superman calls on a guy they have for mass rioting situations – a particularly stinky man codenamed Repulso, who is kept in a hermetically sealed bunker. Lonely and friendless, Repulso has an upbeat attitude and does the job as needed, but it’s obvious he’s lonely and yearns for human contact.
The next morning, while Zan and Jayna are giving a tour of the Hall of Justice, a bored Superman wishes for something to go wrong. His wish comes true when Wonder Woman alerts him to a meteor that’s on a collision course with Earth. With the current trajectory, 140 million people could die upon impact. As Superman puts the Hall of Justice on alert, the twins bring their tour group into the control room...where the tour group learns of the impending doom and danger.
Later, the media goes wild with the story of the impending meteor, and matters aren’t helped any when the public sees Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman flying off to take care of the meteor, as they’re mistakenly blamed for running away from the problem. Meanwhile, another riot starts in town, and Repulso is called back to chase the rioters away. News of the planet’s probable demise hits everywhere, including Morris High School. When class lets out early, the Wonder Twins activate their powers and jump in to save the day. Jayna takes the form of a giant ant who can’t smell, and Zan takes the form of a giant purple cloud. They work together to save Repulso and chase the rioters away.
The rioters head to the Hall of Justice, where they’re met by Wonder Woman, Superman, and Batman, who explain that they had left to take care of the problem, not to run away from it. When asked why they don’t let the public know when they’re in mortal danger, Superman points to all of the devastation from the riots behind them.
Later, Jayna has a heart to heart with Superman inside the Hall of Justice cafeteria, talking about losing her best friend, her demotion, her brother no longer having any time for her – everything that’s gone wrong in her life lately. Superman points out that what they do is lonely work, and gives her some very helpful advice about how life always gives them some sort of consolation – in this case being able to bond over mutual isolation. That in mind, the issue ends with Jayna – in ant-form – bonding with Repulso over their mutual isolation.
Wonder Twins is an interesting book. On the surface, it seems like light-hearted, zany comedy, with toonish art, bright colours, and jokes on every page, but once you dig a little deeper, you find out that the book has a lot to say about human nature, society, and the nature of heroism. There are few writers who are able to so easily, so deftly, pull all those elements into one cohesive package without seeming preachy or forcing mood whiplash onto the reader, but Mark Russell is able to pull it off seamlessly. It’s the mark of a great writer, and Russell is very much one of the modern greats, even if he may not get the sort of recognition that a Grant Morrison or a Gail Simone gets.
One of Russell’s greatest strengths is crafting interesting, new, believable characters with concepts so simple that it’s a wonder no one’s pulled them off in quite the same way that he does. Repulso is a fantastic example – there is nothing about the man that is repulsive, except for his specific power, which is giving off a scent so potent that it gets through to everything and chases everything away. He’s lonely, and any lesser writer would have made him villainous, but Russell instead focuses on his heroic strengths, and allows him to bond with another character who feels quite like an outsider. It’s great stuff.
One of the things that we don’t see much in comics is how the general public reacts to the disasters that the Justice League faces on a daily basis. Clearly, most things the League is able to keep away from the public, but after the issue with the Scrambler, the League wants to be more transparent with the public, and that means letting people in – it also means allowing those same people to inadvertently find out about the disasters they deal with, and causing wide-spread panic in the process. The public reacts almost exactly as you’d expect them to – rioting, destroying things, losing all sense of social decorum as they prepare for the worst, without trusting their heroes. Having Repulso, Jayna, and Zan be the calm in the middle of that storm was a fantastic step – not everything can be resolved with violence, after all – but it also allowed Russell to put Jayna’s life in perspective. Whether she walks away from it more or less jaded – Superman’s words were something of a bummer, even as they were inspiring – remains to be seen, but for now, she’s walked out of the whole situation in a slightly more positive place.
It goes without saying that Russell is gifted with humour, and there are definitely some bright moments in this issue, many of them shown through Zan who, though he doesn’t get the focus that Jayna does, gets to be the comic relief who sometimes actually does or says the right then. But then there’s also the moments where he does the wrong thing, such as when he gives his tour group an example of the heavy gravity of another planet, and his interactions at school now that he’s a hero, where he’s maybe a little overfull of himself, but also honest about how his wit isn’t maybe as sharp as it could be. He’s a fantastic foil, both for Jayna and Superman, but one suspects that sooner or later, Russell’s going to give him some deeper development as well.
There isn’t much you can say about Stephen Byrne’s art that hasn’t been said before – the artist is a master-class in expressive, detailed art that’s both full of humour but also full of pathos when needs be. Just the way he handles Repulso in this issue, from his talkative moments, to that one moment where he’s brought back to his bunker, alone and friendless – he makes it look so easy, but his art speaks volumes. His is the kind of art that could be easy to take for granted – in many ways, it is classic comic book art – but there are few artists capable of giving all of their characters different faces, and allowing them to get their emotions across even without words, and Byrne is capable of that in spades. It is a ridiculously beautiful looking book.
With a deeper story about the isolation that superheroics can sometimes bring, set against the back-drop of a city-wide panic, this is a smart, well-written installment that shouldn't be missed.
Wonder Twins #7: A Big Stink
- 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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