Tyler Mager is a writer for CollegeMovieReview.com and a filmmaker based out of Austin, TX. He also happens to be an enthusiastic G.I. Joe fan and will cover IDW's Joe comics in his new regular feature "Into the Pit." Take it away, Tyler...
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #187
Starting in the middle of a run always scares me a bit. I’m a little insane about picking up from the beginning in hopes of not missing a single plot point, surprise or revelation. Luckily for me (and the readers), veteran G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama makes it crystal clear what’s going on even if it’s through stilted, cliché dialogue that unfortunately spends too much time on exposition and not enough time building character. With much of the issue’s focus on lesser-known characters from the Joe ranks, this approach helps identify them but we never see any distinguishing characteristics to separate them from the pack.
The action switches consistently between the Joe's rescue mission, Darklon’s escape and Jinx’s top-secret excursion. At times S.L. Gallant’s art gets a bit chaotic, forcing some weird angles that frame out key moments. Characters sometimes fall or get injured only to be seemingly fine a few pages later. To add to the confusion, many of these newer (at least to me) troopers look so similar that when Lieutenant Falcon shouts out orders, I can’t tell who’s doing what.
There’s an inherent goofiness that Hama uses to his advantage to get some cheap laughs. Specifically there’s a ridiculous prison break featuring fake puke that plays like a scene from the 80's cartoon. I actually admire this approach, as it would have been easier to keep it as gritty and modern G.I. Joe, but instead, it almost dares you not to enjoy at least some aspect of it at a nostalgic level. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero isn’t my kind of comic, but I appreciate the change in focus by highlighting newer characters, many of whom I never knew existed. I just wish I had a sense of who any of them are beyond their silly call signs.
Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow #21
The last time Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow squared off, only Storm Shadow emerged from the duel alive. With this final issue, Chuck Dixon has orchestrated an interesting way to end the spin-off series - a completely silent issue that reflects the dedicated nature of the two lead rivals (Editor's note: Sounds like Dixon is paying homage to the classic 1984 Joe story "Silent Interlude!"). Issue 21 is pure visual storytelling with Dixon taking a backseat, instead relying on the excellent skills of Robert Atkins and Atilio Rojo who prove they are more than up for the task.
The story begins in 1632 with ninja clans battling over a sword inscribed with some sort of a snake. Fast-forward to 2012 where that same sword is found causing some terrorists, Storm Shadow and the Hard Master to collide in a flurry of violence to obtain the mysterious ancient weapon. Swords slice and arrows are loosed as the action is expertly told through a Hollywood-style sequence that thrills.
Some questions are answered while others are saved for the upcoming G.I. Joe reboot but as an experimental piece of comic book storytelling you can’t really get much better than this. It’s unique, beautifully drawn and earns every bit of its gimmick through not just the fantastic action but an emotional last few pages that immediately puts this title on my catch-up list.