REVIEW: G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero #190

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Or – “Knowing Is Approximately 50% Of Any Given Conflict…”

The original continuity of G.I. Joe was largely the brainchild of Larry Hama, who was originally tasked by Marvel Comics to help put together the action series line, and was the primary writer of the original figure card “dossiers”, one of the things which really differentiated G.I. Joe from that which came before.  A couple of years ago, IDW Publishing picked up that version of the G.I. Joe property from the point their Marvel series had left off, and three years later, Hama’s version is still going strong.  What’s the skinny on America’s daring, highly-trained special missions force 30 years later?  Your Major Spoilers review awaits!

GIJoe190CoverG.I. JOE – A REAL AMERICAN HERO #190
Writer: Larry Hama
Penciler: S.L. Gallant
Inker(s): Gary Erskine & Tom Simmons
Colorist: J. Brown
Letterer: Shawn Lee
Editor: Carlos Guzman
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Cover Price: $3.99

Previously, in G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero:  In the jungles of Southeast Asia, a G.I. Joe insertion team led by Chuckles (their undercover specialist.)  Since Lady Jaye is about to be summarily executed on the cover, things do not seem to be going their way…

AN INAUSPICIOUS BEGINNING FOR SOME UGLY BUSINESS…

When I think about Larry Hama’s writing, I always find myself marveling at how much depth and adult content he manages to skip past the radar, especially when it comes to G.I. Joe.  As this issue opens, Lady Jaye is assisting a native village to build a rope bridge across their river, which would allow them to cross more easily and trade with other villages.  Unfortunately for her, the local strongman/overlord/jerk has the backing of Cobra, and is willing to go full-out to maintain his stranglehold on all egress from “his” turf.  Hama’s story-telling is strong, with fellow Joes Low-Light and Chuckles remarking that nobody ever wants to admit a soldier’s job, and Lady Jaye nearly getting perforated by automatic weapons fire from Major Bludd’s helicopter.  No bright, colorful lasers here (though no one is seriously injured in the first salvo), and the Joes help the villagers to regroup and rebuild.  It’s a very realistic feeling piece throughout, and S.L. Gallant does a great job of rendering a world that is remote, but NOT completely free of modern world.  One of the local hunters wears a shiny pair of aviator glasses, and little bits of modern culture are here and there in the village.

…AND EVEN UGLIER POLITICAL REALITIES.

Things get unpleasant when the Generalissimo Tep shows up in person to punish the villagers for their temerity in trying to build the bridge, singling out Lady Jaye as a trouble-maker, putting her in the untenable position seen on this issue’s cover.  There’s some tense back-and-forth between mission leader Chuckles over the satellite phone and Duke back home, and truly appalling scene where the Joint Chiefs of Staff tell General Hawk (G.I. Joe’s ramrod) that they’re willing to back Tep to consolidate power in the region, leaving the Joes out in the cold, and Lady Jaye at the barrel of a gun.  Hama’s script is tense, but touching, as Tep asks who would speak for Lady Jaye, and the villagers come forth to defend her, citing her kindness, the relief efforts, medicine and TLC she has brought with her.  It gets even uglier then, and while Tep chooses to spare her life, he takes out his anger on the village itself, in an utterly horrifying fashion.  When Chuckles says, at the end of the issue, that it’s time to tell the Joint Chiefs to go &$# themselves and save their fellow, it’s a moment that I as a reader almost cheered for.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  THIS IS NOT MEL TORME.

Hama’s writing hasn’t lost a beat, and the more sophisticated expectations of the current audience make this an even more brutal book than it was in the 80s.  Focusing on a small team of Joes in a wonderfully detailed and created environment, it delivers action and a surprising punch in the gut, setting us up for a reckoning for Tep and Major Bludd.  (I kind of want to see an all-out firefight, but that’s probably not the best way to resolve these issues.)  G.I. Joe – A Real American Hero #190 doesn’t shy away from the realities of battle in a factionalized, terroristic world, but still keeps our heroes human and approachable (and very much soldiers) while making their stories a damn good read, earning 4 out of 5 stars overall.  Even at the $3.99 price point, this one’s a keeper…

Rating: ★★★★☆

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