Book of the Month

Book of the Month – G.I. Joe: Cobra

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Size: pages
Price: 19.99

In many ways, without G.I. Joe there is no iFanboy.

As a kid, growing up and reading comics in the early 1980s G.I. Joe was ubiquitous. Everyone I was friends with both read the comics and ran home every day to watch the cartoon, and there were some epic battles set up with those toys in my apartment (that’s marketing and synergy at work, kids!). G.I. Joe was one of the few comics that I collected on a regular basis before I was ever a regular weekly comic store customer. I hit that newsstand on 79th and Broadway every month to grab the newest issue so that my friend and I could excitedly recount the latest adventures of the Joes and their arch rivals — the ruthless terrorist organization called Cobra.

Even as kids we knew that the G.I. Joe comic was far superior to the G.I. Joe cartoon. While the cartoon offered the thrill of seeing out favorite characters come to life (even if they gave our favorite character Snake-Eyes the royal screwjob in terms of screentime and also pairing off his girlfriend Scarlett with Duke) and offered those awesome voice characterizations, the comic book offered something that the cartoon never could — serious long form storytelling that somehow, miraculously, walked the fine-line between toy promotion and serious war comics. G.I. Joe lasted well over 100 issues until, inevitably, the title devolved into over-the-top silliness and one can look back and plainly see the heavy hand of Hasbro near the end. I still think back with sadness on the day I finally decided to drop G.I. Joe.

I always thought that G.I. Joe was a property that would be fertile ground for a serious and more realistic treatment. I figured that with a company like Hasbro at the wheel that that was probably unlikely, although much to my surprise a darker and more hard-edged G.I. Joe has begun to emerge lately. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra — which no one would mistake for dark and realistic — was much more violent and bloody than I expected, and the Warren Ellis-penned cartoon G.I. Joe: Resolute was as close to a realistic and badass G.I. Joe as we’ll probably ever get on any kind of a screen.

But that’s all kids stuff compared to G.I. Joe: Cobra.

When IDW announced that they had obtained the rights to G.I. Joe comics, and that they would be launching a whole line of books, I greeted the news with the sense of weary excitement that comes when you’ve had one of your favorite properties rebooted multiple times by many different companies, none of which ever really came close to capturing the magic of the original books by Marvel Comics. G.I. Joe did a really good job of capturing the feel of the G.I. Joe world updated for modern times and modern sensibilities. G.I. Joe: Origins the world of the first book and looked at its beginnings with more realistic edge courtesy of G.I. Joe’s original architect Larry Hama. Both of those books were child’s play next to G.I. Joe: Cobra.

I don’t think that anyone was prepared for G.I. Joe: Cobra. I certainly wasn’t.  The first issue was a surprise Pick of the Week, and it was one of those grab you by the throat choices that makes our job easier. And the series never let up — between the four main issues and the special extra issue, G.I. Joe: Cobra earned three Pick of the Week honors and now here it is, the absolute clear choice for November’s Book of the Month.

The story of G.I. Joe: Cobra is, on its surface, a simple one. Early on in the life of G.I. Joe, a wise-cracking, rule-breaking Joe code-named Chuckles is washed out of the unit for… well, being a wise-cracking rule breaker. At least that’s what everyone in G.I. Joe is lead to believe. In actuality, the Joe’s leader General Hawk has tapped Chuckles for an extremely important and extremely dangerous mission. Chuckles is to enter the world of ex-military mercenaries in hopes of garnering enough of a reputation to catch the eye of a shadowy and dangerous new terrorist organization that G.I. Joe knows nothing about, but we know to be Cobra. Chuckles has entered into a long undercover operation that only General Hawk and a Joe code-named Jinx (who will serve as Chuckles’ handler) knows about.

This is a G.I. Joe book with real genuine darkness. It’s disturbing in parts. As Chuckles rises through the ranks of international guns for hire in some of the most bleak and war torn parts of the globe, he has to do some pretty evil things in order to maintain his cover and complete his mission. How far into the darkness will a good person go when their own survival and the survival of the mission is at stake? I can tell you that Chuckles is willing to go pretty far, and his actions are not without psychological consequence. And that’s really what this book is all about. While on the surface we watch as Chuckles does what he has to do (including getting in shootouts with his old buddies in G.I. Joe) in order to keep his reputation as a mercenary, the real story of G.I. Joe: Cobra is: what does all of this violence, deceit and betrayal to do someone? When do you actually become the evil person you were once only pretending to be? I give all the credit in the world to writers Christos Gage and Mike Costa for presenting themes that I never thought that I would see explored so realistically in a G.I. Joe book. Frankly, I’m still shocked that this book exists.

One of the big reasons why G.I. Joe: Cobra is such a success is because of the art by Antonio Fuso. This is a comic that looks like no other G.I. Joe book that you’ve ever seen before. When I first opened G.I. Joe: Cobra #1 I was taken aback by the art in the best possible way. The art is gritty and stark and is perfectly suited to the tale being told here. There is nothing overly flashy going on here. Even the gunshots are portrayed in a subdued way — you can practically hear the popping sound that real guns make as opposed to the Hollywood sound effects we are all used to. The visual look that Fuso creates here really adds to the sense of danger and despair that saturates Chuckles’ very existence.

And speaking of art, this collected edition includes the standard cover galleries and character designs, but it also features one really great extra. The G.I. Joe Cobra Special that wrapped the mini-series up featured the story of the series’ main villains and it was told in a very subtle symmetrical style that was one of the most impressive things that I have seen in comics this year. In the back of this collection the entire issue is laid out with the mirror image pages shown side-to-side so you can get a better sense of just how ingeniously that issue was constructed. If you read that special and were impressed by its symmetry it’s worth checking out this collection just to get a better look at those pages.

G.I. Joe: Cobra was absolutely and without a doubt one of the best books of the year and to me it was the biggest surprise of the year. If you didn’t read it the first time now’s your chance to rectify that. And you don’t need to be well-versed in G.I. Joe lore to enjoy this book. You don’t need to know anything about G.I. Joe. Everything you need is on the page, sometimes horrifyingly so.


Conor Kilpatrick
I feel like Chuckles is going to have some serious therapy bills.
conor@ifanboy.com

You can buy G.I. Joe: Cobra at In Stock Trades or at Amazon!

Comments

  1. stuclach stuclach says:

    Damn straight.  Thank you for the excellent writeup and the glimpse of your childhood experience.  I know at least 3 people who will be receiving a copy of this for Christmas.

  2. vadamowens vadamowens says:

    Yeah, this was an incredible series.  I’m glad you’ve decided to feature it as book of the month.

  3. RoiVampire RoiVampire says:

    ok you got me you bastard. i’m in.

  4. whoisfriend whoisfriend says:

    Saw this coming from a mile away.

     

    It was great.  After hearing about it for so long, I downloaded the issues on my iPhone.  Best $3.96 I ever spent.

  5. deezer deezer says:

    Thank God, I was gonna go nuts if this wasn’t the pick. Fantastic book and, to date, the only comic I’ve been able to get my friends to read.

  6. drakedangerz drakedangerz says:

    Heck yes.  Easily one of the best books of the year.  And the special issue is up there as one of the best single issues of the year for me.  Pick this up people, you’ll like it.

  7. Looking forward to this. Probably going to ask for Christmas.

    You guys really have made me exciting for this. Cause at first I thought it was all just ‘GI Joe’ man love. But this really sounds like one of the better comics to come out for 2009.

  8. Lucien21 Lucien21 says:

    I was always dismissive of this book in the LCS. GI Joe doesn’t have the history with me it obviously has with Conor.

     It was Action Man who was all the rage as a kid in late 70′s-early 80′s Britain. His fuzzy felt hair, his eagle eyes etc was put through the ringer as we threw him off bridges, shot at him with .22 rifles and sent him on missions that would break most toys.

     So when this came out I just thought it was kiddie rubbish or linked to that dreadful movie in the summer.

    I picked it up the other week after hearing a lot of positive buzz from the site and thank god I did. I really enjoyed this TPB and would recommend it to people who are into Queen & Country and spy stories.

    I’ve picked up this and Asterios Polyp in recent months due to this site. My bank manager is not so happy.

  9. DaveCarr DaveCarr says:
  10. Jim Mroczkowski Jimski (@jimski) says:

    I never, never, never, never, never thought I would buy a GI Joe comic book as a grown man, much less that it would be any good at all, much MUCH less that it would be great. Every wire and diode in my brain is built to dismiss this, but I loved it. The Roger Ebert quote I repeat so often comes to mind again in this case: it’s not what a story is about that matters, but how it is about it.

  11. Hayamo says:

    Wasn’t interested in G.I. Joe books at all until I came to iFanboy, and now I’m picking up every trade from IDW and somehow at the same time ended up putting the IDW Transformers books on my lists, this is definitely #1 on my list of things to get (I’m kinda stressed for money right now)

  12. IDW seems to have done a great job doing comics on old, 80′s cartoons.

    Are the Transformers comics any good? I hear great things about the ‘All Hail Megatron’ mini.

  13. I still have to read that special!

  14. Chris Rohling Anson17 says:

    @TNC. I’d say they’re pretty good. They’re starting an ongoing instead of the series of minis they’ve been doing. I’m sure the first couple issues would be a fun little test drive.

  15. ShonenRafa77 ShonenRafa77 says:

    I wish Transformers had something like this break-out hit mini-series going for it; I can’t WAIT to read this!!

    Thanks for another fantastic write-up, Conor! 

  16. stuclach stuclach says:

    @ShonenRafa77 – I hear "All Hail Megatron" is very good (TNC mentioned it above).  I haven’t read it yet, so I can’t vouch for it, but I can tell you it is on my Christmas wish list.

  17. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    The art in All Hail Megatron is gorgeous. 

  18. stuclach stuclach says:

    @Paul – Are you implying that the writing isn’t as fabulous?  If so, I’m a bit disappointed, but I’ll still read it.

  19. Paul Montgomery PaulMontgomery (@fuzzytypewriter) says:

    No, you’re inferring that. I haven’t read the book, just flipped though it. 

  20. stuclach stuclach says:

    Damn my inferring ass.  Good.  I will keep my expectations unreasonably high.

  21. Chris Rohling Anson17 says:

    Finally got around to reading this just now. This book has made a believer of me. G.I. Joe can be interesting. I used to be a hater, but not I’m willing to give this stuff a shot, or at least the IDW line. Read a couple of issues of the Origins series and thought it was good, but this was on a whole different level. Great storytelling, great characterization and intriguing plot. The Special was really cool too. Need to reread that one and dissect it a little bit more.

  22. Crucio Crucio says:

    Yeah I really liked this story and the special. I also like the other back up book. I find it funny that the main book is the weakest one and is still a decent read.

  23. Jason Wood Wood says:

    TOTALLY agree. As a kid of the 80s, G.I. Joe (and Transformers) were "MY" toys and I was as addicted to them, the cartoon and the comics as anyone walking the Earth. In spite of that, I’ve generally not held a passion for G.I. Joe comics since the Marvel series wrapped up. I would try them, but they rarely held my interest.

    But Andy Schmidt and the IDW creators are doing such a great job, and I’ve been right there with you guys in praising their efforts. G.I. Joe Cobra, for me, is the class of a great crop. You summarize the reasons this is such a fantastic series, and I’m thrilled to hear the Special 1-shot is included in the trade b/c IMHO that’s one of the best, if not the best, single issues of the year.

     

  24. Cheeris says:

    I too started reading the issues when it was first made Pick of the Week. While I enjoyed it, I didn’t think it was anything special, or interesting or even original. Substitute the word ‘Sleeper’ for each instance of ‘G.I. Joe: Cobra’ in the above review and I think you would have a much more valid review.

    Is it because I was never a G.I. Joe fan? I can see why former childhood fans now in their 20/30s would be really excited about a well-written adult version, but taken on its own merits I really don’t think that this merits any ‘book of the year’ talk.

  25. 70namrepuS 70namrepuS says:

    I picked up the issues when they came out based soley on Conor and Josh’s recommendations and was glad I did.  Excellent review.

  26. vadamowens vadamowens says:

    I actually first heard about this on Freshink and then saw it was potw on ifanboy.  So I knew for sure I had to pick it up.

  27. gandalf25 gandalf25 says:

    I couldn’t agree more with the book of the month nod.  I’ve been disappointed in GI JOE for so many years that I just dismissed what seems like the twelfth relaunch since I’ve started reading again, but are the other titles anywhere near this good?  This was Queen & Country level good and I’m a huge fan of that series.  If anyone is reading the main titles, how does this stack up? 

  28. Crippler Crippler says:

    This is going to be a Christmas gift for at least one buddy who doesn’t read comics anymore, but still loves G I Joe. 

  29. NawidA NawidA says:

    Picked this up for $10 at Wondercon. Wow. Closest thing to Sleeper I’ve read.