Or – “Onccce Wassss A Maaaan…”

After months of painstaking undercover work, the G.I. Joe operative codenamed Chuckles captured the brass ring and put a bullet in the Cobra Commander.  G.I. Joe’s triumph is short-lived, sadly, since the Cobra organization has no shortage of wackjobs ready to pick up the shiny faceplate of evil.  You know what they say:  It’s always darkest before it gets PITCH BLACK…

(Okay, maybe only Otter Disaster says that, but it still counts.)

Writer(s): Chuck Dixon/Mike Costa
Artist(s): Javier Saltares/Antonia Fuso/Agustin Padilla
Colorist(s) Romulo Fajardo Jr./Arianna Florean/J. Brown
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Andy Schmidt
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, on G.I. Joe: The Commander is dead!  After months of positioning (and at least two G.I. Joe: Cobra minis) Chuckles made his shot, killing the commander and leaving the mysterious terrorist organization known as Cobra without their leader.  Unfortunately, this isn’t a world of red and blue lasers and parachuting unharmed from exploding Skystrikers, as Chuckles gave up his own life in the doing.  Now, the Joe team isn’t even sure WHAT happened, much less that their man was the instrument of the occurrence, leaving Cobra with a taste for vengeance.  And like some mythical thing only Veronica Sawyer’s junior high school boyfriend would know about, the severed head of Cobra has grown multiple replacements…

Knowing Is, Indeed, Half The Battle…

If your only G.I. Joe experience comes from the old-school cartoon, you’re in for a surprise (and probably a treat) as this issue opens.  A six-man squad, codenamed Team Mike, arrives in Springfield, the center of Cobra operations, discovering only a ghost town.  I’m an old hand at certain bits of writing, and when I hear the code-names of these Joes (Deadcheck, Flakjack, Ratrace, Halfstep, Sandcrab and Barbeque) and I only recognize one, I worry for their life expectancy.  Sure enough, the team goes looking for trouble and finds considerably more trouble than they’re ready for in the form of an armored Cobra badass named Krake (Germanic for Kraken, another serpent metaphor.)  A mysterious man in shadow watches approvingly as the Joes are gunned down in cold blood, a story that promises to pick up again in next month’s relaunching ‘G.I. Joe #1.’

Where’s Nemesis Enforcer?

The reason for the bodycount becomes clear as we join the Cobras in media res, as the mysterious Doctor Vargas (who reminds me of Doctor Venom, probably intentionally) as he is called into a meeting of the council of Cobra.  Some of the usual suspects are here (The Baroness, Major Bludd, Tomax) as well as some new faces, but they all have one common goal:  Take out as many enemy targets as possible, and the one with the highest body count becomes Commander.  It’s a simple, brutal rule of succession and it turns out that Krake’s massacre puts him ahead of the game.  Things get even more complicated when the heretical loony toon known as Serpentor arrives, upsetting Baroness’ apple cart.  “How can you have a funeral without a holy man?” asks Serpentor, as we also get a tease for next month’s relaunched ‘Cobra #1.’

The Verdict: Yo, JOE!

I haven’t been reading IDW’s main G.I. Joe book regularly, but I’ve been following the events of G.I. Joe: Cobra, and it’s nice to see a company that isn’t afraid to take a risk, making the centerpiece of that successful mini into the new centerpiece of the ongoing storyline.  Chuckles’ descent into the heart of Cobra pretty much couldn’t end well, but it was a bit shocking to see him take out Cobra Commander just as the villain was establishing himself.  IDW’s continuity is much less dependent on the characterizations from my childhood (they have the “Real American Hero” line for that), which allows them to off a somewhat recognizable name like Barbeque, but to also kill Xamot and the Commander himself!  With Chuck Dixon in play, you know that the characterization will be strong, even for the smallest character, and the military tactics and jargon are only better handled (in my opinion, anyway) by Larry Hama.  Overall, the art is pretty good as well, with Fuso’s Cobra portion of the issue more impressive than Javier Saltares G.I. Joe massacree with four part harmony and such…  There are some problems with understanding the bigger picture (I only know what really happened with the Commander from reading the Cobra miniseries) and the six-man-band of unknown cannon fodder Joes was a bit of a giveaway, but overall it’s a strong debut.  I’m quite impressed with this latest iteration, and G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War #0 earns a more than impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall. If they can keep the continuity from getting rebooted (a recurring problem with my G.I. Joe reading since the 90s), IDW has the makings of a hit on their hands.

Rating: ★★★½☆

Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Do you find a problem with making a property so associated with children’s entertainment a gritty and realistic black-ops war story?



About Author

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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