Or – “Pork Chop Sandwiches?!?!!??

I clearly remember the thunderbolt that was G.I. Joe on my personal preteen cultural zeitgeist circa 1982.  I’d had some dealings with comic books, but issue #1 of G.I. Joe was a MUST-HAVE.  The cartoon commercials led to purchase of the toys led to obsessive watching of the cartoon led to trying (and failing) to get my first comic book subscription.  I still fondly remember hangining out with my cousin Elwood in my grandfather’s boat, deciding that nobody got to be Snake-Eyes and instead making up our own Joe team members.  There are really only three things you need to know about G.I. Joe for the purposes of this review:  The original 13 team members will always be the best, The Baroness will always be super-hot, and the movie never happened.  Repeat after me: IT.  NEVER.  HAPPENED.

Scripter: Larry Hama
Penciller: Mike Vosburg
Inker: Jon D’Agostino
Cover: Mike Vosburg/Jack Abel
Colorist: Glynis Wein
Letterer: Joe Rosen
Editor: Denny O’Neil
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Price: 60 Cents (Current NM Price: $20)

Previously, on G.I. Joe: “G.I. Joe is the code name for America’s daring, highly trained special mission force. Its purpose: to defend human freedom against Cobra, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world!”  To that end, representatives of all branches of the military have come together with spiffy code-names and futuristic equipment, taking on the menace of Cobra wherever it raises it’s shrouded head in agony…  or something.  By the time this issue dawns, the Joe team has become quite adept at busting Cobra’s schemes, to the point where they are willing to engage in a runnin gbattle through the street of San Francisco (though, sadly, Karl Malden is nowhere in sight.)

Setting the story squarely in the 80’s, the Joes manage to rip the car of a punk rocker in half, and the chase ends with the Cobra van rear-ending a Pinto, which then predictably blows itself to smithereens.  Clutch takes a bullet, and Breaker knocks over a couple of Hell’s Angels unidentified and non-copyrighted motorcycle gang members, who starting beating him to a pulp.  Scarlett, the Joe team’s resident badass, brings that confrontation to an abrupt ending…

What, indeed, Breaker?  Turns out that whatever is going on, it’s going on in a small banana republic called Sierra Gordo, where a hand-picked team of Joes seeks out the mysterious Naja Trading Corporation, to try and figure out what in the world Cobra is trying to do.  This being a stealth mission, naturally, it involves Stalker dressing like Colonel Sanders and Breaker in a Hawaiian shirt and bermuda shorts.  ‘Cause that’s inconspicuous…  Snake-Eyes and Gung-Ho watch from the nearby jungles, and are surprised by the sight of a familiar face…

I really love the fact that Doctor Venom so clearly looks like Christopher Lee as James Bond villain Scaramanga in this sequence.  Stalker blows their cover, a firefight breaks out, and it looks like the Joes are going to come out on top when another quarter is heard from…

The mysterious Mr. K. Winn turns out to be a not-all-that-clever pseudonym for Kwinn The Eskimo, an old acquaintance of Snake-Eyes and company.  Being a mercenary, Kwinn will work for whomever signs the checks, though he has a strange code of honor all his own (and contrary to some reports, his presence does not cause anyone to jump for joy.)  Dr. Venom sends the eskimo off while he questions Snake-Eyes, but Kwinn realizes quickly that a mute man can’t be made to talk.  Unfortunately, Dr. Venom has already beaten Snake-Eyes to death before Kwinn arrives, and they leave his body in the burning remains of their building…

When I read this at the tender age of 12, I was overcome with sadness and disbelief at the thought that Snake-Eyes (who was at that time the coolest member of the team, or so I believed) was gone, and found this whole sequence to be immensely satisfying storytelling.  Even now, I very much enjoy how writer Larry Hama structured Doctor Venom’s realization as the boat pulls away, flashing back to a previous issue where he used his Brain-Wave Scanner to read the masked man’s memories.  Cobro mainstay The Baroness is not happy with Venom’s carelessness, but the not-so-good Doctor isn’t worried…

Gung-Ho and Breaker make clever use of the latter’s ever-present bubblegum to get free of their bonds (turns out that rats love sugar) but there’s still another player on the field…

The mystery of what exactly is under that black mask is one of the things that I remember most strongly about the early issues of this title, and the eventual reveal is naturally disappointing.  It doesn’t help that, much like Doctor Doom, the creators aren’t entirely sure whether his head looks like hamburger, or just has a big scar like an extra in a World War II flick.  The Joes bust out, and Snake-Eyes heroically stays behind to take out the Cobra bunker.  Cue the Baroness with a nice big, steaming cup of “Death From Above!!”

For the second time in the space of one issue, Snake-Eyes is lost and presumed dead, and I clearly remember how shocking the climax was, and how very much I wanted to find the next issue and see how it all panned out.  In fact,  believe that this is the first time that a comic cliffhanger compelled me (nay, FORCED me) to come back and see what happened next.  I’m actually pretty impressed with how well the story holds up, combining spy-genre tropes with a muted soldier vibe, and to Hama’s credit, the later superhero/super-ninja story creep has yet to take over G.I. Joe at this point.  Snake-Eyes stalking to the bunker with a rifle is still an image that is burned into my brain, and in my rereading of the book, I remember certain passages of dialogue verbatim THIRTY YEARS and countless comic books later.  G.I. Joe #12 is an example of a book that could do damn-near no wrong, and serves as a clear reminder of exactly why the team’s adventures were so catalyzing in the summer of ’82, earning a two-fisted 4 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day:  What cliffhangers really piqued your imagination and brought you back for more?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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  1. diagnull
    February 7, 2011 at 1:50 am — Reply

    You guys need to review one of the GIJoe classic trades…or better yet, all of them. Everyone has at least one bad-ass moment.

  2. oldcomicfan
    February 7, 2011 at 8:11 am — Reply

    I wish you guys would just shut up about the GI Joe comics, cartoon shows and action figures. Those plastic pieces of off-colored crap were NOT real GI Joes. They were knock-off garbage given the name of “GI Joe” in order to hopefully leech off the original toy’s fame in order to sell more of said knock-off garbage. The real GI Joes were large dolls made by Hasbro, nearly a foot tall, that came with all sorts of World War II weapons, jeeps and other accessories. They had removeable cloth uniforms. There was no associate cartoon shows or comic books, only designed to sell more of said plastic crap. The thing was, with the real GI Joe toys, you sort of had to use your own imagination and make up your own adventures. These often involved the neighbor girls and their Barbie Dolls (ahem) but that’s neither here nor there. The unpopularity of the military during the Vietnam War killed off the original GI Joes line. To those of us who owned and played with the original during the 60s, these later abortions, created only to cash in on the action figure craze born with Star Wars, these later “GI Joes” don’t exist.

    • diagnull
      February 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm — Reply

      TL; DR

    • February 7, 2011 at 4:18 pm — Reply

      That’s why we say that mileage varies. However, I haven’t shut up in a long time, so that’s probably a vain hope… :)

  3. Noobian74
    February 10, 2011 at 11:49 am — Reply

    I didn’t buy every book when Marvel put out Secret Wars (you know, the original, before they made the Beyonder look like a Miami Vice extra). In 1986, I read a friend’s copy of #11, where the heroes were deciding on whether they were going to attack the Beyonder-fied Doom or not. Colossus was the tie-breaker. He voted to go after Doom. The last page shows a bolt from on high destroying them ! That was one of the earliest”What the–?” cliffhangers I experinced.


  4. Damascus
    April 5, 2011 at 1:39 am — Reply

    Come on Matthew someone could have been Snake Eyes, sure he’s a badass like no other, but there was always Storm Shadow and my personal favorite, Quick Kick. I think it’s the Bruce Lee element to the character, but Quick Kick was one of my favorite toys, that and Low Light, but that could be because he rocked some goggle/cool glasses and I had glasses.

    By the way Matthew, are you going to start going by The Mighty Naja Hanna from now on?

    To an above poster, there was more that could be gleaned from the G.I. Joe well than simply a dozen foot tall dolls that you then can put in a tree or whatever, the 80s cartoon took hold of many young boys growing up during the 80s or even a little later who got the hand-me-down toys from their siblings. The cartoon and comics have expanded on these fictitious characters exploits for years now, much like Spider-man or Superman. Lincoln Logs were some of the earliest building block toys you could get but I compel you to make a badass spaceship out of those and compare it to some new Legos and see which one looks better. I loved the G.I. Joe figures from my youth, and at that time I wasn’t watching the cartoons unless I saw them on re-runs, but I could just as easily use my imagination and sit there with my brother with a giant pile of guys and a big pile of weapons and we’d go back and forth choosing one by one what we wanted so it’d be fair and then we’d set all the guys up on this epic battlefield of our Bedroom and then we’d get bored and go watch Animaniacs. It was tons of fun! I just wish that at some point, The Centurions had crossed paths with G.I. Joe.

    • April 5, 2011 at 8:09 pm — Reply

      By the way Matthew, are you going to start going by The Mighty Naja Hanna from now on?

      Actually, I’m not… It’s a little known fact that King Cobras, unlike all the other snakes who are called cobras, are not of order Naja, but indeed of order Ophiophagus. :D

      • Damascus
        April 5, 2011 at 9:43 pm — Reply

        Yes but the all knowing General/Security guard in the topmost panel says that Naja Hanna means King Cobra in Hindi. Are you saying that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about? Do you really think they’d allow such an egregious error to be printed in a comic book?

      • April 6, 2011 at 12:46 am — Reply


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