Pick of the Week

09.30.2009 – G.I. Joe: Cobra Special #1

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Avg Rating: 4.4
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 18.5%
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Size: pages
Price: 3.99

I think it’s safe to say that G.I. Joe: Cobra was my favorite and most unexpected mini-series in the past year.  I mean, who saw that coming?  Who could have imagined that the series would come from out of nowhere, and garner several Pick of the Week honors, and leave us all wanting more?  Fortunately, the fine folks at IDW saw the success of the series, and got us some more of it.  I was very pleased to find G.I. Joe: Cobra Special #1 was more of the same greatness, but with a twist.

When we left off with the mini-series, it had been revealed to Chuckles that he’d been dealing with Xamot all along.  Or was it Tomax?  I forget.  Either way, Xamot took one in the face from Chuckles, and now he’s the one with the scar.  You and I might remember Tomax and Xamot from the cartoon series/toyline, and if you’re like me, you’ll remember that you never liked the twins at all.  They were all effete, had no cool weapons, and their affectation was the creepy way they finished each others sentences and the lingering fear that they were even closer than you were willing to imagine.  So, when it was revealed that the Cobra version of the Barbie twins was the villain in the book, I wasn’t all that happy.  But it only lasted a moment, and the unhappiness was completely obliterated by this special issue. 

In the issue, we get a tour through the world, mind, and history of Xamot and Tomax.  Very recently, in light of the dictators giving speeches, and more importantly clogging up all the traffic in Manhattan, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about what sort of things go through the mind of a despot.  Do they think they’re doing the right thing?  Are they sadists?  Do they regret?  Is there self-doubt?  This book took a very respectable stab at coming up with what might be going on inside the head of such a person, and what we get is a character, sort of similar to Alan Moore’s Ozymandias, but if he had an identical twin and they went into the Foreign Legion (WITH silly hats), and then went on to be the heads of a global corporation, specializing in all sorts of atrocious activities, all with the purpose of making vast sums of money, and gaining power.  That is, they genius twins realized, the way to attain true freedom.

Yet, there is a crack in their plan, because that scar on Xamot’s face represents a schism, and it is the way this issue is set up that really makes it a special Special.  The issue is divided into mirror images, the first half, Tomax’s version of evens, and the second Xamot’s.  It’s visually a mirror image, and halfway through the book, the narration changes from blue to red, and the last page mirrors the first, as it becomes entirely clear what they’ve been leading up to.  It was remarkably successful, and flipping back through it once more, I’m blown away by the elegance of this book that, once again, no one expected to be any good at all.  Yet here are Mike Costa, sans Christos Gage this time, and Antonio Fuso doing top of the line, fantastic comic books about Xamot and Tomax of all things.

Speaking of Antonio Fuso.  This does not work without the artist at all, and he’s bringing the thunder again.  From the really wonderful alternate black or white covers to the moody and unique interiors, from page one, Fuso has established a visual style that sets this book out from the pack.  It doesn’t look like anything else on the stands, and it certainly doesn’t look anything like your assumptions of a G.I. Joe book might look like.  It’s not that he’s blowing us away with eye-rending visuals as much that he’s establishing one hell of a tone and mood.  At the end of the day, I’ll trade that for an impressive splash page 10 times out of 10.  He’s not flashy, and it’s perfect.  I’m pretty sure the man drew a H.I.S.S. Tank in here, and it didn’t feel out of place.  That is talent!

I’ve become wary and jaded to the point that when I like something a lot, I’m able to accept that there’s only so much, and to press on would just pale in comparison to what came before.  But with this special, and even without Gage, who co-wrote the mini-series, we’ve seen that there is more gas in the tank in the style of G.I. Joe: Cobra, and I couldn’t be happier.  I’m even willing to say that you could feel relatively comfortable just reading this one-shot, and if you like it, you’ll want to go back and get the prior issues, if we haven’t already convinced you.  In the meantime, I’m going to go over the extremely well-crafted issue a few more times, and just soak in all that comic book skill.

Josh Flanagan
Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era?


  1. Jediaxle Jediaxle says:

    WOW Josh that was quick.  I just got back from comic store and really looking forward to reading your article after I read my books.

  2. AmirCat AmirCat says:

    Oh man! I didn’t even realize this was coming out! I am gonna have to add to my pull list. Sweet. Thanks Josh.


    Ok, now please talk about your French Bulldog.

  3. FluffNFluff FluffNFluff says:

    I really liked Cobra, but I was very impressed this week at how Geoff Johns and Doug Manke finally got the tone and direction down for Blackest Night – it’s a "lets get the whole group together" story done really well mixed with some romantic notes and great definition of Sinestro’s character.

     And I kind of like that the hint for next week is winking at "Oh, if you thought getting Sinestro on board was rough, wait until Atrocitous shows up WAKKA WAKKA WAKKA." It goes to show that a tired concept can be done really well.

  4. FACE FACE says:

    well it was a tough decision, but I went with Alice in Chains’ new album "Black Gives Way to Blue" as my POTW. can anyone really be suprised by that?

  5. stuclach stuclach says:

    This issue was phenomenal.  However, Green Lantern #46 was excellent, as well.  This will require some thought (I hate doing that).  

    I was very happy to see Chuckles left an impression and the HISS Tank was just icing.  IDW has found a winner here.  They need Costa to keep working in this universe.

    I tried to think of a cool Palindrome to add to my post, but cannot match Costa’s wit.

  6. stuclach stuclach says:

    I absolutely second Josh’s suggestion that you can read this as a standalone issue.  You do not need the 4 issue Cobra arc.  You WILL want it after reading this, but it works without it (in my opinion).

    @Josh – This is an excellent writeup that highlights exactly how I felt when reading this.  Articles like this are the reason I come to this site.  Thank you. 

  7. DenverDave DenverDave says:

    Well, the cover looks cool…

  8. Jim Jim says:

    Nice review. I read the Cobra series, and was reading the other two Joe books until a couple of months ago. Just lost interest in that world– at least to the point where my limited budget didn’t allow me to continue reading those books.

    Best books I’ve read so far this week were Thor and Secret Warriors, both of which were excellent– and Green Lantern, which was terrific.  A light week for me, but those were three really nice comics.

    Also picked up Teen Titans #75, to give the new writer a chance. Yeah, that happened. The less said about that issue, the better.

  9. stuclach stuclach says:

    @DenverDave – The alternate cover is essentially a negative of the one Josh posted.  In my opinion it is even cooler.

  10. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    It’s white instead of black. They’re neat next to each other.

  11. Gabe Gabe says:

    I bet josh bought all the covers and coated them in mylar.

  12. Conor Kilpatrick conor (@cskilpatrick) says:

    He slabbed them.

  13. stuclach stuclach says:

    He slabbed ‘em like he does all his Picks of the Week.  Then they try to convince us that slabbing is silly, so our books will get damaged and theirs will appreciate and they can sell them for a massive profit. It’s all a massive plot. Sneaky bastards.

  14. stuclach stuclach says:

    Dammit, Conor.  Speedy bastard.

  15. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    I meant at the store…

  16. stuclach stuclach says:

    That’s what they all say.

  17. Jeez this must’ve been a terrific mini. You made 3/5 issues Pick of the week!

    Great review as always. I guess bad on me for waiting the trade on this mini. I’m more stoked then ever though, considering how much praise this website gave it.

  18. stuclach stuclach says:

    Do we know if this one-shot will be collected in the Cobra trade?  It would be a shame if people missed out on reading it.

  19. IDW is pretty good about collecting the issues properly (even if they do price the shit out of them). So I have absolutely no GI Joe knowledge besides Resolute. I can jump into this?

  20. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    It’s a new continuity.  You can read it!

  21. Josh what’s a good jumping on point for Green Lante…..I mean G.I. Joe?

  22. PraxJarvin PraxJarvin says:

    Cool. I really liked the first issue, wasn’t in love with the second issue and then forgot to pick up the rest. Didn’t even see this on the stands today. @Stuclach also suggested I get this. Maybe I’ll pick it up next week. Great write up. My pick was Green Lantern. 

  23. Fantomas Fantomas says:

    the trade will include this special and the 5 page prequel from gi joe #0

  24. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    I have never heard of Xamot or Tomax, but this review is *amazing* and makes me want to read this story.  Well done.  Also, the podcasts where you guys talk about GI Joe are some of the best, so I am looking forward to this one!

  25. stuclach stuclach says:

    @Fantomas – Thank you for the info. I know what my brother is getting for Christmas.

  26. mguy77 mguy77 says:

    Green Lantern #46 is my POW & the real deal.


  27. drakedangerz drakedangerz says:

    I wasn’t too impressed with the plot, but as soon as I got half way thorough and realized this was going to be a symmetric book, I immediately thought of the Fearful Symmetry issue of Watchmen.  I loved the design for this issue.  Not sure if it will be my POTW yet because, like I said, the story itself didn’t really blow me away.  It’s between this and GL.

    Anyone else a little let down by Thor this week? 

  28. @drake: I havent read it but don’t despair yet. JMS still has another issue left to go.

  29. B B says:

    The best jumping on point for GI Joe is to buy a Snake Eyes toy.

  30. Chunkahash Chunkahash says:

    The numbering of the pages in this book was pretty cool.  Counting up halfway through, and then back down to 1.  Definitely pick of the week so far, and I’m about halfway through my stack.

  31. Gabe Gabe says:

    so, josh isn’t gona mention the whole "better than watchmen" thing?

  32. Ron Richards ron (@ronxo) says:

    you didn’t like Tomax and Xamot as a kid? how are we friends? I liked them from the get go – they had the money!

  33. Sold out at two stores.  Blast!

  34. grigs grigs says:


    From your review, you make it sound like the whole issue was Xamot talking. I don’t have the issue in front of me so I can’t verify it, but I thought it was first half Tomax, second half Xamot.

    The way that I read it was that the narrator changed half way through. The color of the narrator box changed during the double page spread that showed both characters.

    It was one of the reasons why I appreciated this issue so much. Tomax and Xamot are identical twins, but with names that are opposites. I found myself thinking about the issue being about their ying yang nature. How from the outside they are identical like the two parts of the ying yang, but in fact are opposites–competing and complimentary forces.

    The entire story echoed their lives and their personalities. You see moments from Tomax’s perspective that he thinks are awesome that Xamot is bored with. And while the pivotal moment is Chuckle’s cutting Xamot, the contrasting views have been there beneath the surface the whole time.

  35. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    @grigs – good call.  Adjusted.

  36. grigs grigs says:

    @josh cool. thanks.

    The more I think about this book, the more impressed I am with the craft of it. at the surface level, the character development and story is exceptional. You pretty much get wrapped up in that on the first reading.

    But the second reading has all of the craft of the story being a mirror, the same panels from different views. What a great book.

  37. Unoob Unoob says:

    And once again "Blackest" Night has turned into "Reddest Headed Stepchild" Night.

    Don’t get all defensive-y. I know that this scratched the itch this week for you, but it’s hard to believe that the great Sinestro moments this week were outdone by G.I. Joe. And YES I know that it doesnt mean that u didnt like GL, but this was just better for you. 

    It is just hard to believe that after all these week of BN books, that not ONE has made the POTW yet. I know there is no conspiracy, but it IS hurting my brain.

  38. Unoob Unoob says:

    ANd let NO ONE challenge your journalistic integrity. After hosting the Geoff Johns event at JH, the less informed might have thought that at least a small percentage of his opus would have been picked by now.

  39. Jediaxle Jediaxle says:

    Very few books when I get to the end I read again right away and that’s exactly what I did with this Cobra issue. Awesome book and easy POTW for me.

  40. Comiculous says:

    Excellent choice!

  41. mguy77 mguy77 says:

    Josh please add the publisher name (IDW)at the top of the review.  Currently it just says COMICS.



  42. ohcaroline ohcaroline says:

    Josh did that on purpose.  Because he’s biased in favor of Marvel.

  43. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    It says COMICS because of the way that our site gathers information from Diamond to populate the Pull List feature.  I can’t change it, or it will break the code that keeps it all connected. Not the best, but it works.

  44. As the ifanboy historian let me state this FLASH FACT:

    IDW has only had three comics as Pick of the Week for this website. What were the three? The three out of five issues of GI JOE: Cobra that came out this year. :)

  45. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:

    They’ve had a Book of the Month though, a much more rare honor.

  46. @josh: What was the book of the month? I can’t find the link to look up the history of it.

  47. Josh Flanagan josh (@jaflanagan) says:
  48. drakedangerz drakedangerz says:

    I read this again last night and each caption on the first part of the book has a caption that says almost the exact opposite on the second part of the book.  Simply amazing.

  49. edward says:

    i only pick up two books this week. I spent under $10. I could get used to this

  50. powerdad powerdad says:

    You guys have done the amazing – you’ve made G.I. Joe sound interesting (and perhaps the comic makers should get some credit here too). I never cared about G.I. Joe, but lately you’re getting me to the point I might actually read an issue. Amazing, just amazing of you guys.

  51. stuclach stuclach says:

    @powerdad – Just speaking for myself here, but I think the first arc of G.I. Joe Origins and all the G.I. Joe Cobra stuff were excellent.  The main book is interesting, but of a slightly lower quality.  I would suggest you grab the first Origins trade (http://www.amazon.com/G-I-JOE-Origins-Graphic-Novels/dp/1600104975) and the Cobra trade (which is supposed to include this special: http://www.amazon.com/G-I-JOE-COBRA-Graphic-Novels/dp/1600105351/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1254525158&sr=1-4).

    I’m glad IDW has been giving G.I. Joe the attention it deserves. 

  52. powerdad powerdad says:

    Too cool, stuclach!  Thanks so much!

  53. roadcrew1 roadcrew1 says:

    I met nilcamp this week and as we were getting our books, we were both looking for GI Joe, and lo and behold….only 1 copy left.  So I decided to let him have it and then I look on here and it’s the POTW…..damn.  Now I have to go find it sooner than later.

  54. grigs grigs says:

    @drakedangerz It’s not simply every caption, it is every panel, panel layout, and even the perspective and distance in each panel. It’s really quite a feat. I greatly enjoy flipping between the front and back to see the contrasts on a panel by panel basis.

  55. drakedangerz drakedangerz says:

    @grigs-yup, I caught on to that quickly.  I just wanted to point out the captions because that was something I missed the first time around.

  56. Crucio Crucio says:

    I have to say, all the years I watched G.I.Joe and read some books and the movie. It was obvious that the Joes would stomp the ground with Cobra 10 times out of 10. The way they’ve set this continuity up, Cobra won ages ago and that’s what makes this interesting. The Joes are underdogs, despite have hordes of resources, Cobra already controls the world and no one knows they exist. Good Pick.

  57. Mangaman Mangaman says:

    DAMN JOSH! You spoiled the ending of the regular Cobra series = I didn’t even read the trade yet. (that’s okay though, I’ll have a good drink later, should make me forget).

    At first I didn’t pick it up, then with all the buzz I went back for it, and boy was I grateful. I practically tore up the pages comparing the parallel symmatry between scenes. This is the kind of stuff I think of when I think of Alan Moore, now it’s the kind of stuff I’ll think of when I think of Mike Costa. Anyone know what other works he’s done? Any nearly as good as this one? I’m curious…

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