“I’m willing to give this job a chance.”
The Wonder Twins are an interesting piece of superhero and comics history. Created for the old Superfriends cartoon, they’ve been adapted and utilized in other sources but never to any degree of lasting or memorable success. They’re iconic, people know of them, but they’re not exactly well-regarded. However, bearing the name upon which the new Wonder Comics line itself is based, they’re now, odd as it may seem, kind of the heart of the line and universe in a way. Mark Russell, the writer behind incredibly bold works such as The Flintstones, Prez and Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles is helming the new revamp alongside artist Stephen Byrne letterer Dave Sharpe. Together, the team makes something that’s not only incredibly distinctive for the Big Two world and DC, but something different for the entire market.
Returning to the core conceit of the Wonder Twins as two messy teenagers who’re still learning the hero business while being aliens to a culture they do not know intimately, Russell and Byrne immediately establish a level of pathos for Jayna and Zan. The former is a clever but shy individual, while the latter’s the more cocky, overcompensating one in pursuit of approval. It’s an understandable, classic dynamic we’ve seen before and it helps make the duo not only relatable and familiar but believable. We’re all met or known or even been people like that and it’s that universal experience which Byrne and Russell tap into. Bringing a great humorous spin, the team presents the twins as, essentially, interns working in the hero business whilst trying to be regular teenagers going to school.
Digging into that, the first issue tackles a universal aspect of teenage life: humiliation. Everybody’s faced it, everyone knows it and it’s never not painful. Funny though it may be, as one might hope from Russell, the book is incredibly resonant and touching in how it comforts its readers and the teenagers on their troubles. It recasts even familiar icons such as Superman and Batman in relatable light, showcasing how even the greatest and most revered of heroes have been through the sort of mundane messes we all have. It’s this assurance, this message of ‘It’s all going to be okay, it happens’ that really strikes through. It showcases the heroes’ greatest power: empathy. It’s the kind of comforting thing one might hope to hand to a teenager, where in they get to see their icons reassure them in that fashion. Byrne’s storytelling is essential here, with his renditions of the iconic DC heroes feeling so classic and familiar in its makeup, while also humanizing them and bringing them down to our stature, so we may engage with them. His heroes feel heroic, yes, but also distinctly believable in how human they are, which is what helps the book work.
But all that said–make no mistake, this isn’t a book just for teenagers, it’s an all ages ride that anyone can get on and that’s the appeal. While there’s the incredibly touching teenage narrative at play, which is in and of itself a great wellspring of material, there’s a lot more going on. The book showcases us a world where in the adults have messed up or lack perspective. The kids may be messy, but so are the adults, for all their posturing. The heroes make organizational errors and make other choices which feel questionable. One of the key moments that is unmistakeable is the choice they make of risking the end of the entire universe for the sake of one small issue. An issue, which, amusingly enough, Jayna manages to resolve with relative ease in a matter of seconds. All it took was a girl with an idea. And it’s that kind of core, which is really what Wonder Twins is all about. It’s about the youth, yes, but it’s also about the adults and the world they’ve created and are leaving behind for the youth. They’ve risked so much for so little, they lack the perspective the youth does and for all their brilliance, they’re messy. Russell is a creator who’s long been able to find something to say about niche properties or concepts most have written off and this is no exception. Using the familiar duo of the twins, he’s written about pertinent concerns we all face today through a superhero lens.
None of it could land, however, without Byrne’s careful balance. Byrne manages to pull off all the cartoony fun and charm one expects from a book about the twins whilst balancing the more very real concerns. There’s a playful absurdity to the world and characters he presents, which perfectly captures what the story’s about and fits with Russell, making them a great combo. Every comedic beat, funny line or reaction works because of Byrne’s character work, where in he captures every simple shrug, smug grin or outlandish yell. His colorwork stands out as well, carrying a lovely, bright sheen which gives the book a unique look and texture, helping identify it and Byrne’s style instantly. Letterer Dave Sharpe also manages to admirably deliver and guide the reader along the story, ensuring every joke and emotional sequence does what it’s designed to. Acting in perfect sync with Byrne’s characters and their performances, Sharpe’s placements are all smart and they strike with great effect.
Hysterical as hell and full of charm, Wonder Twins is a terrific revitalization of the classic property. This is a book you can sit down and read with the family, laughing together and finding something to enjoy and dig into on every level. And if wanting to share the Wonder Twins with everyone you know isn’t a win for a book, what is? Russell and Byrne have another hit on their hands. You’ll laugh, you’ll relate and most importantly, you’ll want more.