On the face of it, there are probably very few DC characters who would seem to be crying out for a revival quite as little as the Wonder Twins. Angel and the Ape, possibly, or Sugar and Spike? But even they might have more credibility with modern audiences than Zan and Jayna, the shapeshifting twins from the planet Exxor whose one claim to fame is that they used to hang out with the Super Friends forty years ago! There was a brief attempt to resurrect them, suitably grim ‘n’ grittied up for the ’90s in Extreme Justice in 1995, but that’s probably best forgotten, and of course they’ve continued to appear sporadically in other media. But the chances of their ever starring in a solo title were always so slim as to be virtually non-existent.
Fortunately, Mark Russell (the same writer who previously chose to revive Prez Rickard a while back and whose Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles was a 2018 Broken Frontier Award winner) disagrees, and the result, judging by this month’s Wonder Twins #1, may be the most refreshing new title DC have launched since… well, since Young Justice the month before last, really, but that’s another story. The point is, DC appear to have rediscovered the benefits of fun in comics, and this title illustrates that perfectly.
Zan and Jayna have been restored to pretty much their factory settings, as a couple of fairly upbeat, lighthearted teenagers; Jayna rather more thoughtful than Zan (who is primarily interested in getting girls and has a curious habit of referring to himself in the third person), studying at an Earth school where their alien nature seems to be common knowledge while working at the Hall of Justice, now the headquarters of the ‘proper’ Justice League rather than the rather twee Super Friends of old. However, while the twins are back to their old selves, Russell’s writing is not in the simplistic style of their original appearances, but is infused with a wonderfully naturalistic, sometimes slightly racy humour (the perfect illustration of this being Zan’s matter-of-fact explanation to a class of teens of how Exxorians are driven into a frenzy of lust by thunderstorms, which must make Exxor an interesting place to live at times).
Wonder Woman’s less than impressed reaction to being told the limitations of Zan’s powers (for the uninitiated, he can only turn into forms composed of water, while Jayna’s remit is animal forms) is also funny, as is Black Lightning’s response to being called to an emergency which he is fundamentally unsuited to deal with. Basically, this is a book which at no point takes itself even remotely seriously, but which still has a lot of heart.
Russell’s writing is perfectly paired with Stephen Byrne’s art, which has a classic, uncluttered feel to it, reminiscent of the era the Twins originated in but with far more polish and technical expertise than some of their past outings. The Twins live in a DC Universe which is unmistakeably the same one we see elsewhere, but somehow brighter and more uplifting than it often is nowadays. And the Twins themselves are engaging and likeable characters, clearly rookies at the superhero game but equally clearly with a lot of potential (Zayna’s method of defeating old Superman foe Mr. Mxyzptlk is very clever). In fact, I think “a lot of potential” is probably a good one-sentence summation of this book.
Let’s hope it’s given a fighting chance to live up to it!
Mark Russell (W), Stephen Byrne (A), Dave Sharpe (L) • DC Comics, $3.99
Review by Tony Ingram