G.I. Joe: Special Missions #3 Review
After a ridiculously distracting previous issue, Chuck Dixon's Special Missions title is on the hot seat. The continued focus on the underwater adventures of Scarlett and Mainframe is an odd choice considering the relatively interesting power struggle happening on the surface. A three way battle is brewing between Baroness' mercenary force, the Joes and a scheming Serpentor representing Cobra. So far, much of the story has been a slow build toward this huge moment that could potentially serve as a multi-issue spanning sea battle. If Dixon can pull it off, maybe some of this unnecessary wheel-spinning will have been worth it, plot-wise.
It's sort of amazing how little the Joes have had to do so far in this title. Sharks have been the biggest obstacle and that threat is smartly taken care of rather quickly in order to get Scarlett and Mainframe back up to the surface. But wait, now they have to take time to decompress because they were too deep for too long. Instead of seeing the Joes prepare for the coming action we get to see Scarlett giving orders through a headset while Mainframe chugs a soda. Why are the Joes so boring? Dixon is typically good for at least a few solid action set pieces each issue but he really appears to be dropping the ball here.
While there isn't much in the way of action, there's lots of movement on the bad guy front with Baroness further asserting her control of the situation by quelling a potential mutiny from her mercs. Watch out for this in the coming issues, I have a feeling instead of a triple-threat match for the dough, we might end up seeing a fatal four-way. Speaking of threats, Serpentor finally figures out the Baroness' location through some scheming of his own and sends a team of his best soldiers to intercept the salvage ship. I'm still not quite sure what Cobra's true play is in this besides just salvage recovery. Before, Serpentor appeared to have some sort of score to settle with the Baroness, but now with the brief appearance of the Cobra Commander everything seems to be about the money.
Since the beginning, I haven't been a fan of Gulacy's art on Special Missions. It's wildly inconsistent with the bigger scenes and action being fairly well put together but it's his faces that take me out of the story every single time. They feel rushed and lazy with very little detail and an unfortunate reliance on shadows that make some of the dialogue scenes rougher than they need to be. If Dixon can deliver on the big action that's being hinted here, the tide could turn on whether this is a Joe title worth getting month to month. It's hard to recommend Special Missions right now, considering the new Cobra Files title is great and Van Lente's main title gets better with each issue.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #190 Review
The locale-jumping of A Real American Hero continues with a new issue focusing on a different set of Joes in what looks to be the jungles of Southeast Asia. Team leader Chuckles is joined by Jinx, Lady Jaye, and Lowlight in an effort to stop Major Bludd along with a local warlord named Generalissimo Tep from killing innocent village dwelling civilians. It's the same plot from countless action movies and even features the damsel in distress, in this case Lady Jaye. I'll give it to writer Larry Hama, he certainly is sticking to his old school schtick right down to the clichéd plot and dialogue. Unfortunately it doesn't make for an interesting story with each beat even more predictable than the last.
With the previous issues, Hama has been able to coast on well-executed action scenes that move everything forward at a good pace. Here it feels like chore going from panel-to-panel seeing boring characters spout hammy dialogue without much investment in anything that's going on. We're sort of just thrown into the conflict without much context so when the Generalissimo starts going over the top with the razing of the village, you can't help but laugh and wonder just why in the hell any of this is happening. Why is Lady Jaye so attached to this village that she'd be willing to risk her life to save it? What's the bigger picture for the Generalissimo and why is Major Bludd so interested in helping him? Why is Chuckles wearing a ridiculous Hawaiian shirt? These are important questions!
Look, I'm all for a cheesy, old school action romp in the jungle fighting over the top warlords while saying hilariously campy lines like “To hell with the Pentagon, Generalissimo Tep just wrote his own firing order.” but you have to at least give us something interesting to have fun with. Everything feels like it's on autopilot and Hama let a computer program to write the story. Throw in a curveball, give us a great action scene, or focus on one character and their relationship to the events taking place. Stereotypical jungle villagers, lame action and the promise of a better follow up issue just isn't enough.
Hopefully Hama can get back the spark that made the last few issues entertaining despite the problems. The mini-arcs are doing their job of providing a fast paced, fun ride for readers that allow timely jumping on points to happen every few issues but please give the loyal readers a little more to grab ahold of. For now I'll have to be content with the two titles that I actually give a damn about and hope better material is on the way.
Both Special Missions and A Real American Hero continue to be the weak links in the G.I. Joe chain of titles. Veteran writers Chuck Dixon and Larry Hama have to step up their game and deliver something of interest in the coming weeks. The level of quality here has been disappointing month to month considering the talents of all involved. It's time to step up fellas and start producing the material that Joe fans deserve.