(Marvel Comics, 1987. Writer: Larry Hama, Art: various)
Well, I bought these because I’m slightly addicted to digest-sized comics. It’s weird, I know. I also hear people talking about how good these old Marvel G.I. Joe comics are all the time, so I figured I’d better finally check them out. Most of these reprint three issues each of the series and they are considerably cheaper than trying to get the back issues or even the current TPB reprint series. Especially for me since I probably won’t be looking for any more of them
Look, I know, I know. It’s a goddamn G.I. Joe comic. What did I expect right? How could I come in here remotely expecting to find a comic I could give a positive review to?
I was biased to begin with. As a kid I liked science fiction, and I hated anything that promoted the idea of American military superiority or American patriotism / nationalism. I liked Knight Rider, and I hated The A-Team. And I loved Transformers and I disliked G.I. Joe (except for the ninjas). As an Indian-born kid growing up in Canada, I found it hard to see — even at that age — how one country could be said to be better than any other, especially if the grounds of that claim was muscle-power or money or Olympic medals. Also, there were a lot of redneck tough guys on the Joe team (an affliction COBRA did not seem to suffer from) which is something I REEEEAAAALLLYYY hated. — the same reason I could never watch Dukes of Hazzard. And I was never interested in “tactics” or “ops” or “hardware, This may sound strange from someone who suffered from severe Punisher-itis for twenty years, but that was more a case of me enjoying the violence rather than details about guns.
Of course, the basic concepts of neither G.I. Joe nor Transformers make any kind of sense if you think about them for more than five minutes. I always preferred Ditko’s Doctor Strange to Spider-Man, because with Spider-Man you have to at least consider the science-fictional constructs and it all falls apart. With magic, if it doesn’t make sense you can just write it off to something they didn’t explain on-screen. Transformers was so out to lunch, it was practically in the magic category. G.I. Joe, why do you only have ONE GUY that can pilot a jet?
So, anyway, Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe. People swear by this comic, and many point out how much better it was than the cartoon. That may be true. COBRA peons get regularly killed instead of ubiquitously ejecting to safety whenever they’re shot out of the sky. Hama seems to have staged all of the combat so that it works within the three-dimensional space described. Early issues feature one-issue stories, around issue #14 or so, we start seeing longer, interconnected, more complex storylines running over multiple issues. The introduction of the COBRA character Destro around this period and also his romance with the Baroness is interesting. They also introduce internal dissent and backstabbing within the COBRA ranks around this period which was way more fun than Joe-vs-Cobra-listen-to-my-witty-banter-while-I-describe-my-tank over and over again for reams of issues.
But this is still a G.I. Joe comic, aimed apparently, at stupid twelve-year olds. Snake Eyes is arrested and spends several issues in jail. At no time during his booking or jail time is he ever made to remove his mask. The G.I. Joe scuba guy participates in dry-land missions always in his full scuba gear. A COBRA agent attacks Snake Eyes on a ferry, and after beating him, Snake Eyes throws him overboard rather than taking him prisoner.
Take a look at the cover to issue #10. I get the point of this cover — it’s supposed to be a nice town, but COBRA is secretly lurking in the background. Except I wonder how normal any town is where a ninja and a woman carrying a crossbow can walk around in broad daylight (the woman with a huge grin on her face) without causing any issues.
I hear tell that there’s some ninja stuff later on — Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow stuff. That is some material I would genuinely like to read if anyone can tell me the relevant issue numbers. I would like to read the famous silent issue as well.
Otherwise, the idea of continuing to read this series to the stage where we discover that freakish, flamboyant, psychotic mastermind Cobra Commander used to be a used car salesman (actual storyline!) is just too head-spinning to contemplate.