REVIEW: G.I. Joe #16
A mission gone wrong! The Joes are fighting Cobra deep beneath the earth, but now they’re trapped with no apparent means of escape. Can they hold out until reinforcements arrive?
Previously in G.I. JOE: Scarlett has led a team of Joes deep into the bowels of South America on a mission to disrupt Cobra’s mining operations. Things don’t go as planned, however, and the team is split into two groups both on the run from Cobra’s vipers with no clear way out of their subterranean snafu.
WE CONTINUE OUR DESCENT
I’ve come to expect a lot of nuance and intrigue from Chuck Dixon’s usually excellent run on this series, but the writing in this issue falls a little flat. The plot is a frenetic run-and-gun through Cobra’s Saknussemmian stronghold and granted, that setting doesn’t much lend itself to any kind of deep conversation or exposition. There are a couple of instances where this clipped style works very well, such as Recondo and Stalker’s encounter with Cobra’s fearsome industrial digging machine, but overall, the characters in this issue seemed like they were actors reciting lines rather than commandos in a life-or-death situation. Elsewhere in the base, Scarlett and Mainframe are under siege with Dr. Mindbender as their prisoner; they’re trying to stay alive until the G.I. Joe cavalry arrives.
Despite all the action and adventure going on between this book’s pages I can’t help but look at it as a lull. Though it concludes the “Deep Terror” arc, the conclusion isn’t satisfying and feels more like an “episode of the week” story from the old Sunbow cartoon—everything, for all intents and purposes, reverts to the status quo.
This issue’s coda features two discoveries of things that shouldn’t be: One is prehistoric fauna still alive in the unfathomable depths of the earth and the other is the perpetuation of the Scarlett/Mainframe flirtation. Scarlett is the unit’s head of counterintelligence and Mainframe is the guy who went AWOL for years when no one believed his conspiracy theories—I’ve never thought these two went together, but with Scarlett’s sort-of-beau Snake Eyes out of the picture it looks like this is something Dixon is going to explore, whether it’s unnatural or not.
We do get a little bit of intrigue thanks to The Baroness, who’s like Old Faithful when it comes to such things. She has a six-panel conversation with someone who’s about to betray the Joes to a Senate panel, but, even so, it’s a bit of “You can’t expect help from Cobra without sacrifice” boilerplate, but I appreciate the effort to add something deeper to the issue.
The B plot involves protesters outside the Joes’ headquarters at Fort Baxter, Kansas. Now that their location has been compromised, Duke orders the unit to pull out, so I’m hopeful they’ll be able to relocate to an HQ as cool as The Pit. The Joes were assigned to Fort Baxter as a kind of punishment for losing The Pit, so maybe they’ve earned their way back into some cooler digs.
THE SHADOW OF SCARTARIS
Will Rosado’s art was also something of a letdown in this issue; it was very static, which didn’t jibe with the extreme action of the story. For the most part it felt like animation cells rather than comics panels, but there were definitely some panels that stood out, and had some dynamism about them, but they were rare gems. The deep, underground setting allowed for some nice shadows that gave parts of a book a moody, spooky feeling — especially at the end in the extreme depths of the earth. I don’t want to make it sound like the art’s bad — it’s not; it’s a very well-drawn issue, but it has a fairly standard panel layout with no big “holy crap!” splash pages to break it up and add to the visual excitement.
BOTTOM LINE: SOMETIMES YOU ACCEPT THE GOOD TO REACH THE AMAZING
For my money, Chuck Dixon’s “G.I. Joe” is simply one of the best books available right now, so the lull of this issue shouldn’t be seen as something inherent to the title. This book has done a lot to shake up the G.I. Joe mythos and give it a lot of verisimilitude, so, consequently, it can feel like a letdown when an issue is just “great” and not “tremendously fantastic.” I’ve not doubted this book since it re-launched and I’m not letting one mediocre experience sour the title—it’s worth reading even if it’s not the shiniest gem in the chest. Pick it up if you’re a Joe fan, but you can easily wait until the next issue to start a new arc.