It makes sense that IDW would relaunch its G.I. Joe series with the impending release of the newest G.I. Joe live-action film (G.I. Joe Retaliation, 3/29). The connection is made even more obvious when Roadblock, a lead character played in the new film by wrestler-turned-action-star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, is the first Joe we see and subsequently stick with throughout the bulk of the issue. While it’s definitely too early to tell how much of this is carefully orchestrated timing, or if we’ll see any actual cross-referencing between the two mediums, one thing is clear, this is definitely a different kind of G.I. Joe.
A more modern, self-referential tone replaces the classic, gung-ho patriotism almost immediately. The Joes have been publicly outed and as a result see a change in leadership from Hawk to the original Joe, General Colton. In response to the government mandated need for a “celebrity soldier,” Colton has ground leader Duke put together a new, hipper team made of the right mix of gender and ethnicity to ensure maximum marketing reach. This team has twitter profiles, toys, lunchboxes and cool-sounding names designed to appeal to the masses. All the meta-humor that goes along with this kind of set-up can get a bit grating but I can’t help thinking that just maybe writer Fred Van Lente is onto something a little more deep than your standard breaking-the-fourth-wall, tongue-in-cheek, chuckle grab-bag.
Is there more to the strange stabs at the celebrity culture by linking it to the need for a “heroic celebrity military?” It’s entirely possible that I’m reading way too much into this way too soon. Part of me hopes that there’s some sort of justification for naming the imbedded unit blogger/journalist Hashtag and giving her a completely annoying, stereotypical twenty-something personality. Luckily, the rest of the crew is rounded out with a good mix of classic fan favorites and a few new personalities, each getting a moment or two for a proper introduction.
As a re-introduction, the issue works wonderfully. It features a simple setup and some decently enjoyable dialogue built around an action set piece that is as smartly conceived as it is executed. It’s paced beautifully - helped by Steve Kurth’s slick, coherent yet familiar designs. G.I. Joe #1 could have used less meta-humor and more emphasis on teasing future plot threads. I’m curious to see how this first arc plays out, to see if this series is as smart as I think it could be. For now, I’m happy with this safe but nevertheless enjoyable warning shot. You have my attention.