Review: Wonder Twins Vol. 2: The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins trade paperback (DC Comics)

September 9, 2020

Wonder Twins Vol 2 The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins

With the shock of the new wearing off, Wonder Twins Vol. 2: The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins does not quite have the same punch as the first volume, though I’d still have happily kept reading. This second six-issue arc does lead up to a cumulative conclusion, but to me it felt more episodic than the earlier book. That’s perhaps because a lot of this is “aftermath” (or “AfterMath,” as one issue title puns), cleaning up from the first volume instead of building something new. In considering this review, I also found myself wishing the Wonder Twins had faced a more serious opponent in this final book; I never quite felt the Twins were endangered, and even with keeping the elements of humor, I think it would have been interesting to see some semi-serious pathos here, such to connect with the characters more emotionally (something the Harley Quinn title has pulled off nicely).

Still, writer Mark Russell does well in his satirical musings of “strangers in a strange land” aliens Jayna and Zan, who continually find the established rules of right and wrong, and who’s an enemy and who’s a friend, are flimsier than they expected. The story is bookended by some protests against the Justice League, too, with which Russell continues to poke some of the problematic aspects of humanity with a stick.

[Review contains spoilers]

Among the big arcs in Fall and Rise is that we learn the Twins came to Earth from their planet Exxor because their grandfather had been a brutal tyrant and the Exxorians were unlikely to look past it. This is paralleled of course with the “sins of the father” that caused Jayna’s friend Polly Math to do bad herself in Wonder Twins Vol. 1: Activate!. In what’s one of the better sequences, halfway through the book, the Twins first have to pull of a heist to get an errant Phantom Zone projector away from Lex Luthor, and then venture to space to free Polly’s father and others from the Phantom Zone.

That effectively brings Polly and Filo Math’s story to its conclusion. What follows — the Twins having to stop an errant computer program of Filo’s from running amok — feels a bit tacked on, as does the low-stakes fight with the remnants with the League of Annoyance in the last issue. Russell still works in the big themes of youth versus experience, that the changes brought by the young should be accepted by the older generation instead of feared. In terms of narrative structure, however, it rather feels like Wonder Twins ends and then starts up a little bit and then ends again and ends again after that, petering slowly out.

Among contributions Russell makes to the silly side of the DC Universe is the idea that, for non-emergent crowd control (like rioting hockey fans), the Justice League rolls out Repulso, a middle-aged metahuman with the power of bad body odor (so bad that his handlers wear masks and lower him into crowds by a crane). It’s pretty Harley Quinn-esque, reinforcing that Russell is one choice, at least, for that title’s next writer.

Russell trots out Repulso in both this volume’s beginning and end, to an extent as the book’s moral center. In the beginning, Repulso, forced to live alone in a bunker, epitomizes Jayna’s growing realization that heroism is often lonely work with no true winners. In the end, Repulso is dropped into a group who want to let Filo’s computer program Colonel 86 return the world to the social and technological norms of the 1980s. The more biting satire there is artist Stephen Byrne drawing the crowd as essentially the same white man with different-patterned bald spots. Russell’s entreaty via Repulso, however, that the protesters just need to accept progress as a way of life seems reductive considering the deep-seated prejudices that otherwise underlie the types of groups being lampooned.

Stephen Byrne contributes wide, expressive art as before, just this side of cartoony (and with heavy Super Friends influences. Matter of fact, one wonders if now was the time for Wonder Twins precisely because Scott Snyder has the League back in the Hall of Justice. But I digress). Sole guest artist Mike Norton is just right, and Cris Peter’s slightly heavier, slightly deeper colors almost fit the characters better — all evocative of Paul Pelletier. It’s heartening to see the Twins drawn well by someone other than Byrne here, giving hope another team could do Jayna and Zan justice; I felt less confident that someone other than Joe Quinones would ever be right for the Dial H for HERO characters.

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Wonder Twins Vol. 2: The Fall and Rise of the Wonder Twins (a title with almost no tie to the plot itself) ends with the Twins running their own superheroic think tank, Asterisk. On one hand, I don’t mind seeing the Twins with their own “site” in the DC Universe, such that they could again appear (though remaining in the Hall of Justice might’ve been fine, too). On the other hand, I thought Event Leviathan was supposed to lessen the amount of these random science groups in the DCU; we rarely see the Justice Foundation ever and my suspicion is Asterisk might go the same way. Those are small quibbles, however; Mark Russell did a fine job bringing the Wonder Twins into the modern DC Universe and I hope they remain a part of it.

[Includes original covers, Stephen Byrne line art and progressions]


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