Wednesday, January 22, 2014

G.I. JOE Week: Death by Paneled Goods

G.I. JOE week began with some random cartoon viewing.  Then I checked my graphic novels and there were several bound collections of Marvel's comic book series at my disposal.  Running from 1982 to 1994 and serving up 155 issues, G.I. JOE is the story of the "Daring, Anti-terrorist strike team, each member hand-picked from the elite of our armed forces, they stand ever vigilant..."  Mainly written by Army veteran Larry Hama, the JOE comics took us all over the world and served up more realistic storylines than the kid friendly cartoon.

Of course all of the colorful costumes and characters were gleaned from the syndicated series but here they were fleshed out, given backstories, love interests and lots and lots of sorrow.  Take mainstay Snake-Eyes, a commando with a pet wolf in the cartoon, Snake's comic book background makes him a soldier in Vietnam who is wounded in action, saved, then has his face blown off in a helicopter crash, loses the ability to speak, comes home to find out his family died in a car accident on their way to pick him up, joins a ninja clan then spends decades fighting his adopted brother who goes from good to evil to good.  And that's just what I can remember off the top of my head!

Anyways, it was a fortuitous event that Quick Kick's introduction in the cartoon spurred my JOE week as my copy of G.I. JOE Classics, Volume 11, collecting issues #101-110 contains his and many other JOE deaths.  There's multiple storylines going on, the first being a team of JOE's led by Flint and Lady Jaye team up with their Russian counterparts, the Oktober Guard and fight it out with Cobra.  Then there's Mutt and Spirit fighting a brain washed small town while Stalker and Storm-Shadow are hunted down by vengeful government bigwigs.  Snake-Eyes is involved in a big chunk of the action as his lady love Scarlett has fallen into a coma after being shot by the Baroness.  Storm-Shadow blackmails The Jugglers, a cabal of Generals who control JOE operations, into sending Snake-Eyes into a war zone on a suicide mission to get his mind off his chica.  It's there that Storm-Shadow puts Snake into a ninja mindset that will help him let go of hubris and focus on the mission i.e. turns him into a killing machine!

Then it's time for the show as the JOE's are fighting a losing battle in the middle eastern country of Trucial-Abysmia in issue #109.  Evil twins Xamot and Tomax capture a squad of JOE's and in a fumble of miscommunication, the twins think they're to execute their prisoners but blanche at the notion.  A burly SAW Viper steps up to the plate and lays waste to several JOE's with a machine gun and extreme prejudice.  Doc, Heavy Metal and Thunder are down but the remaining JOE's are able to escape in a Cobra tank.  Taking heavy fire, the tank explodes, killing Quick Kick, Breaker and Crazylegs.  Duke, Lt. Falcon and Cross Country are the only survivors and are out for blood.

There's definitely a lot going on in these issues but it's a fast read as Hama is smart enough to give certain arcs enough spotlight before moving on so we don't get bored.  The art is a little uneven as MD Bright's pencils give most of the characters similar faces but provides lots of detail and action.  But Jon Statema's work looks plain rushed in the seminal #109.  Quick Kick gets his brief moment before dying by grabbing a machine gun to mow down some Cobra troops after his comrades are killed.  The art on those pages is thin lined and not overly dynamic.  Actually, the whole death sequence of the JOE's is kind of like that, just there with no real reason.  Quick Kick, Doc and company don't have much to do before they're slaughtered so their deaths are more of a surprise and "why'd they do that?" than an impact.

Now I have to get my hands on Volume 12 to see how the JOE's get out of the desert and get some pay back for their brothers...

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