In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit I have a soft spot in my heart for the Wonder Twins, those goofy, geeky, Gleek-y alien siblings from Hanna-Barbera’s Super Friends days. They were technically cooler than Marvin and Wendy, since Zan and Jayna had actual powers, but they were rarely allowed to go full-tilt aggro on the Legion of Doom with the other DC big shots around. Being able to transform into anything animal- or water-related has the potential to be cool, like a variation on Beast Boy or Vixen or Iceman or a kickass water bender. The Zan and Jayna of old, though, were mostly relegated to problems only an eagle carrying a bucket of water could solve.
But this is DC Comics, where hope springs eternal, and characters can be resurrected, rebooted and reimagined for a new age. In Wonder Twins #1, the kids have been on Earth for only a few months, under the watchful eye of Superman. As a favor to their father, Supes rescues the kids from some mysterious trouble on their homeworld of Exxor. (I’m sure we’ll get back to that later.) So now the twins split their time between the halls of high school and the Hall of Justice. Being the first issue, we only get a quick sketch of each of their personalities. Jayna is smart and quirky…and awkward. Zan is mostly horny…and awkward.
While Jayna wants to understand their new home, customs and responsibilities, Zan just wants to be popular and “get right with the ladies.” It’s classic teenage boy schtick that could get really old, really fast, but when Zan experiences his first lightning storm-induced orgasm—a biological Exxorian quirk called thunder lust (I kid you not)—at school, his quest for popularity comes to a screeching halt. Luckily, Batman and Superman are on hand to explain that high school on Earth is a never-ending buffet of humiliation and pain. Helping balance the sting of that cruel lesson, the Wonder Twins get a chance to step up and help the Justice League avoid a potentially universe-shattering attack by Mxyzptlk, with nary an eagle nor bucket of water in sight.
Though this first issue paints the characters pretty broadly, and the high school stuff feels trite, it’s probably for the best they didn’t get the standard grimdark makeover. It’s the Wonder Twins, after all. Thankfully, they’re in the capable hands of series writer Mark Russell, who has done amazing things with other vintage properties, like The Flintstones and Snagglepuss. Russell has a talent for grounding the silly or ridiculous in reality, so I’m looking forward to what he can do with these childhood favorites. Stephen Byrne (Serenity, Green Arrow) gives the artwork a bright, fully saturated, Saturday morning cartoon vibe, which works particularly well with this subject matter. His background gags and throw-away jokes are a particular high point here.
One snarky side note, though: it bugs me when siblings in pop culture actually call each other sis or twin brother, instead of using each other’s names. We know they’re related; the word Twins is in the title! It’s a personal pet peeve, and I hope it’s just a first issue thing, because if it continues, it’s seriously going to harsh my thunder lust, as they say on Exxor.
Title: Wonder Twins #1
Writer: Mark Russell
Artist: Stephen Byrne