Pick of the Week
What did the
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- Pick of the Week - 05.22.2013 - Daredevil #26
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Art & Cover by Antonio Fuso
Size: 32 pages
The old story on the G.I. Joe: Cobra series is that it defied explanation, and was really the book that should not have been. From the time the first series hit, it seemed to defy logic, and be much better than it had any right to be. Then, when something is good, the people in charge of that thing want to continue, and they extended what had once been limited. There was a second mini-series, and then an ongoing series. And other than some bumps in the middle, it’s always been a very good comic book. It’s a good comic book both because of and despite being a licensed property with the G.I. Joe brand. It survived editorial changes, and a befuddling non-impressive feature film. Even though it sort of followed in the footsteps of its more mainstream sibling series, it was always accessible on its own, and it got to the point where all there was left to say was, “Yeah, that was good again.” I’d enjoy an issue, and mention that I wanted to talk about it on our podcast, and then when it was my turn, I’d find I didn’t really have much to add. Now, with issue #13, a solid jumping on point if there ever was, it’s once again got me excited.
It might just be that whatever formula IDW, Mike Costa, and Antonio Fuso have cooked up just does it for me. It’s melodramatic, military, a little bit overwrought, and yet very subtle all at the same time. This book walks on the razor edge of contradiction, and sticks the landing every time. Even now, years after it’s been coming out, it still feels a little silly to be talking about a G.I. Joe comic book like this. Hell, that might be part of the attraction.
Anyone can read this, regardless of your status as a fan of the toys or whatever. That’s almost a non-issue. Cobra and G.I. Joe have both been messed up and reconfigured. There was one Cobra Commander, and he was killed, and then there was another one, and a coup, and no one trusts anyone, and that’s where we are. The shades of grey on this title are fantastic. None of the good guys seem much better than the bad guys. Everyone is very capable, and at any point, the world can tilt on its axis, and reset all the pieces on the board. That’s where we are at the start of this issue. Chameleon (code name) is a former Cobra agent, now working for the Joes, and she’s shown the new Joe base, smack dab in the middle of a Las Vegas casino. Meanwhile, we’ve also learned that Hawk is out, and Duke is the new guy, and this other guy, Flint has shown up too. It’s fan service to a tiny extent, because it’s completely grown up, and not in a gratuitous way. I can’t tell you why it works where so many other things have failed in this arena, but it’s quite a feat.
One of the things I really like about this series, as exemplified in this issue, is Costa’s eschewing the incessant need to have everyone explain everything and talk constantly to explain their motivations. Dialog and exposition are terse. There’s a multiple page sequence of a girl with a katana blade dispatching Cobra agents. You might or might not know who she is or why, but you get the gist, and there’s this purified version of storytelling taking place where you’d least expect it. If they do have pages with a lot of dialog, it’s always well punctuated and balanced with other quiet pages, and that’s where the action and major beats take place. It just feels consistently well balanced, and rarely forced.
It needs to be said that this series doesn’t work without Antonio Fuso. He’s been the main artist on this book from the get go, and his understated style has only gotten more sophisticated as time goes on. Again, this doesn’t feel or look like a G.I. Joe book. Fuso has grounded it in a quiet calmness, regardless of what action is happening on the page. That silent sequence with the sword? It looks like dance. It looks like choreography. You can play the movie version of it in your head, and it’s in slow motion, with very little sound. It’s beautiful, Ronin’s leaping and slicing occurring in circles that take up half the page, that you can’t quite see, but know they’re there. Then he uses this wonderful little insert panels of asymmetrical sizing to play with pacing. And it’s unfortunate that no one seems to be talking about how good this guy is, probably because he’s on Cobra of all titles. But not me man. I want to beat the Antonio Fuso drum, because he’s doing some of the finest work on the stands today, and he’s been doing it for a while.
I don’t care if you don’t like G.I. Joe. I don’t care if you weren’t old enough, or you were too old to watch the cartoon, or read the comics, or play with the toys. I don’t care if you think properties based on those kinds of things are inherently dumb. If you like good comics about secret espionage and good guys and bad guys who don’t really seem like they’re either, this is a book you need to try. If you’ve ever liked a Nick Fury story, this is for you. If you liked 24, do this. If you read issue #13, and you like it, but don’t know everything that’s going on, go back and get more. It’s damn near a sure bet. The craft is that high. Again, I understand your hesitation. I would have it too, but I’ve been shown the light, and Cobra is just plain good. And the first one of you to come up to me after its canceled, and telling me that you finally tried it, and that I was right all along? You’re going to get such a talking to.