Review: Wonder Twins Volume 1: Activate!
Review: Wonder Twins Volume 1: Activate!
Written by Mark Russell; Art by Stephen Bryne
DC Comics; November 2019
Wonder Comics is a DC Comics pop-up imprint that features teen superheroes. The imprint premiered with the series Young Justice, to be followed by Naomi, Dial H for HERO, and finally Wonder Twins. The Wonder Twins didn’t originate in the comics but were created for the 1970’s cartoon series, Superfriends, where they were more for comic relief, but still came through in a bind. This new series continues that perspective, updating the characters for a new generation.
Zan and Jayna are from the planet Exxor, where they did something (not yet explained) that would have sent them into exile. Superman, a friend of their father, offers to bring the twins to live on Earth. Uprooted from their home planet, the twins must learn about their new home and navigate high school as well as intern at the Hall of Justice. They make friends, go on dates, and fight minor league villains.
This first volume, which collects the first half of the mini series, was really fun. Zan and Jayna are portrayed more as teenagers with powers than powered teenagers. Zan is outgoing and confident while Jayna is more introverted and pragmatic. Zan is portrayed as more carefree while Jayna is more serious. They are shape-shifters, with Jayna being able to shift into any kind of animal, and Zan turning into different forms of water. They only use their powers when on assignment for the Hall of Justice, and activate them by fist bumping.
The stories balance between their school life and internship at the Hall of Justice. We see them experience embarrassing moments, make friends, and go on dates, while also battling the second tier villains to the Legion of Doom, the League of Annoyance. Zan’s embarrassing moment led to a great scene with Superman and Batman recounting some of their own less-than-stellar moments from high school. Jayna shows some of her smarts by doing what the Justice League couldn’t: tricking Myxlplyx. Gleek, the sidekick blue monkey from the cartoon, is introduced and given a backstory that keeps him firmly out of comedy relief territory as he helps the twins when they are captured by the League of Annoyance. The League does live up to their name, trying to be evil, but not being very good at it, leading the reader and the twins, to almost feel sorry for them.
While I enjoyed the story overall, the underlying issues in them didn’t work as well. I didn’t have a problem with Jayna having trouble understanding how some things work on Earth. Coming from a world where there are no prisons, it’s understandable that she would have problems understanding the workings of prisons here. But some of the other issues that come up, such as racism and classism, come out of nowhere. Some of the character beats and plot points could have used more foreshadowing to my adult mind, but they may work fine as is for the target audience.
Wonder Twins has a distinctly irreverent feel to it, reminding me a lot of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl without the meta references. There is quite a bit of political satire that worked well with the tone of the book. Zan and Jayna feel like real people, something that was missing from the cartoon. I especially enjoyed Zan’s reaction to his first date on Earth not going as planned. I’m sure there are a lot of women who wish more men thought like him. He had a good character arc through this first half. Jayna’s arc took her into an unexpected direction, but it felt realistic for someone that didn’t have a lot of friends. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this first volume and will definitely be picking up the second one.
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About Lori Henderson
Lori Henderson is a mother of two teenage daughters and an avid reader. She blogs about manga at her personal blog Manga Xanadu as well as contributing and editing for Manga Village. She blogs about all things fandom (mainly Doctor Who) at her other personal blog Fangirl Xanadu. She's been at it so for over 5 years now and counting!
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