In my review of the preceding chapter in Alan Davis' X-Men run - "The Shattering" - I mentioned that the eventual payoff at the end of the collection was worth the muddy build-up. "The Twelve" is practically the opposite. A lot of issues of "Wolverine," "Cable" and the two main X-Men books are well done, particularly the bonafide morality play between Logan, Sabretooth and the Incredible Hulk in the opener. Erik Larsen and Leinil Yu present as good a "Wolverine" story as you're likely to see, which strikes to the core of the character.
And how about Rob Liefeld returning the pages of Cable? Oy vey, that art. Liefeld wasn't as "exaggerating" at this stage of his career, but there are still some rough spots including the arms on the horseman death and the visible aversion to drawing feet. But I still like some of the scaling-back here. Ever since the late 90s, Rob has had something to prove and watching him try is admirable with better results than you'd expect. There is solid work on a fight sequence between Nathan and Death followed by a tussle between Cable and Apocalypse.
Meanwhile, in the pages of "X-Men," Chris Claremont ghostwrites another issue with the art and plotting of Alan Davis. It's pretty much everything I would want from Claremont with a moral confrontation between Charles Xavier and Magneto, some tender moments between Colossus and Mikhael, and an OUTSTANDING sequence with Kitty, Death and a scimitar.
But the story has a few BIG problems that it can't overcome. First of all, there's the involvement of the Skrulls who pretty much ruin everything they touch here. The Skrulls, you see, have begun dealing with their own mutant class who are repressed to the point of execution. This gives us the character Fiz, who you cannot possibly give less than a crap about. He's like the earnest, annoying Wesley Crusher of the Skrull race only he's kinda dumb.
Then there's the resolution to the Death plotline which is a befuddling mess as it comes to a complete stop, and then creates a paradox by refusing to end. Warren, who previously held the mantle of that particular Horseman, loses his gourd and winds up with glowing wings for reasons that cannot be explained. While there's a nice little callback to history, it's completely destroyed by a sentiment that suggests the power of happy thoughts can overcome anything. Total garbage.
Then when we finally get to Apocalypse revealing what his plan for the so-called Twelve is, everything goes down the drain. Apocalypse, you see, has created a machine that needs to be powered by twelve specific mutants so he can steal all of their powers and transfer his consciousness into the body of the WORST X-Men character of the 90s, Nate Grey. I get the Living Monolith as a conduit. But the machine needs to work because Cyclops, Jean Grey and Cable are a family unit? Even though Cable isn't even Jean's son? (They actually reference WHO HIS ACTUAL MOTHER IS in a terrible solo story before the climax.) Why do you need Magneto and Polaris as "opposing metallic poles?" Storm, Iceman and Sunfire as the "elements?" Xavier, Bishop and Mikhael representing "the mind, time and space?" It's ridiculous.
And then there's the ending. "The Twelve" has an infamous final panel that is both terrible and unintentionally hilarious at the same time. If there was an indicator that the franchise needed a serious kick in the ass, the fate of Apocalypse (and an X-Man) is it.
Still, it's SO bad that I can't help but find the whole shebang entertaining and I feel the story is worth following into the next stage. Why?
Because it only gets worse.