Pick of the Week
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It’s a good time to be a G.I. Joe fan.
This new version of the classic property that IDW is jumping into with both feet is proving surprisingly successful so far, and that’s no mean feat considering how many times various comic book companies have tried to recapture the magic of the original Marvel series.
IDW’s strategy is to not try to stay slavishly devoted to the original continuity (like Devil’s Due tried to do) while still maintaining the original characters and basic premise (unlike Darkhorse’s attempt), and filtering it all through a more realistic lens.
Make no mistake, this new G.I. Joe world is hard edged and badass.
The main series, G.I. Joe, is telling the overall story, while the first mini-series that came out, G.I. Joe: Origins, is filling in the backstory. In this new mini-series, G.I. Joe: Cobra, we get a look at the dark underbelly of this new world as deep cover agent Chuckles attempts to infiltrate this mysterious new terrorist organization that no one seems to know anything about.
And this Chuckles is unlike any other Chuckles you’ve ever seen before. This is Chuckles as the roughest, toughest, most capable deepcover agent you’ve ever seen. This is Chuckles as Jack Bauer.
This is a G.I. Joe unlike any I’ve ever seen before.
Chuckles likes wisecracks, he likes Hawaiian shirts, and he doesn’t really like strict military protocol. Thus, Chuckles is the perfect candidate to get officially drummed out of G.I. Joe and unofficially sent by Hawk on a dangerous, years long undercover mission to become an international mercenary – a gun for hire for anyone willing to pay – and rise in the ranks with an ultimate goal of infiltrating high level terrorist organizations. Only Hawk knows that Chuckles is on this mission. Only Hawk and Chuckles’ handler/medic/love interest Jinx.
I think it’s fair to say that we won’t see this Chuckles throwing any missiles at Cobra tanks.
Ugh. That movie.
G.I. Joe: Cobra #1 opens with Chuckles on a job interview with the mysterious terrorist organization that no one really knows about, except for us the readers who know that it’s Cobra. We learn about Chuckles’ history through flashbacks as he sits at a bar and has the kind of casually tense conversation that two armed men who are trained and willing to kill each other (no questions asked) tend to have in dark, dingy bars in Estonia. Of course G.I. Joe busts in on the meeting to arrest Chuckles’ contact, and a firefight ensues where Chuckles proves himself well enough in helping the Cobra agent escape to get invited to join up with (the as yet unnamed) Cobra.
This G.I. Joe is dark. It’s dirty. It’s got an edge. People get shot. People get killed. This military unit might have a silly name and everyone on it might have a goofy codename, but it functions in a quasi-realistic way. Take away the G.I. Joe brand and I might be touting this book as the next great spy series.
The multi-book structure that IDW has gone with for G.I. Joe allows for deeper storytelling, and a greater feeling of immersion. I feel like I’m surrounded by this story and that I’m not just witnessing it. What’s great about this book in particular is that you don’t necessarily have to have read any other G.I. Joe books to follow the story. Here the pertinent information is given, and you are told who all the players are and what their motivations are so that you can jump right in and enjoy the book. If you’re reading all three books then you are immersed in this grand tale of G.I. Joe vs. Cobra. If you just pick up this book and know nothing about the other books, or of G.I. Joe in general, this is just a story about an undercover agent trying to bring down a terrorist organization. It’s a series that – so far – can be enjoyed on multiple levels depending on how invested you want to be. Between the G.I. Joe, Superman, Green Lantern and Batman books, I’m really digging these multi-book stories right now.
The art by Antonia Fuso is phenomenal. It perfectly matches the tone of the story – it’s gritty and realistic and features lots of sharp edges. It’s a dirty story with a dirty look to it. The style is everything that is missing from the art in the main book, which is way too cartoony for the tone that they are trying to achieve with that book, to the point where it is coming dangerously close to undermining it.
Right now, for my money, the two mini-series – G.I. Joe: Origins and G.I. Joe: Cobra – have blown right past the main book in terms of overall quality. A lot of that has to do with the art, but there is also a darker, more realistic feel to the minis that isn’t there yet in the main book.
It’s hard to say how successful this newest incarnation of the G.I. Joe world is going to be. Right now, it’s off to a great start, but then again they all tend to start strong. I hold out a lot of hope for this go-round as the talent on the books is, for the most, part top notch and the new, gritty direction they have chosen to take is a good one.
Now where did I put my Hawaiian shirt?