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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 9




Title:
Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 9





ISBN:
9781600107061


Price:
$24.99


Publisher/Year:
IDW, 2010


Artist: Marshall Rogers, Don Hudson, Ron Wagner,
Paul Ryan, Tony Salmons, M.D. Bright


Writer:
Larry Hama


Collects:
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #81-90





Rating:
3/5





There’s
a reason why IDW refers to their collection of the Marvel Comics run of G.I.
Joe as “classic”. First of all, it’s a nice tag that sells the book and
differentiates it from the myriad of other Joe titles they’re currently
publishing but more importantly, these are the definitive tales of G.I. Joe.
Unless you’re an aging baby boomer with a collection of 12-inch Joes, when you
think A Real American Hero, images of Cobra Commander, Destro and Snake Eyes
immediately spring to mind. And it goes without saying that Larry Hama’s
excellent work on the series is the reason why both the toy line and comics
were so successful. In this day and age, Hama is finally getting his just
rewards and readers are coming out of the woodwork to admit that yeah, this was
a pretty damn good series that definitely surpassed our expectations of a toy
tie-in. And I would argue that this volume is one of the best examples of that
excellence.





We
see the continued battles between Joe and Cobra only now Destro has branched
off to form his own terrorist organization, the Iron Grenadiers. It’s a
three-way battle for superiority that builds off the events of the previous
volume. The Cobra Civil War is over and new evils are introduced, including
Darklon, another outlandishly costumed terrorist from some unheard of country
that wishes to buy weapons from Cobra. The origin of the original Cobra
Commander is more thoroughly explored, as is his connection to Snake Eyes and
Storm Shadow which dates back to the Vietnam War. Eastern philosophy mixes with
the excruciating and often comical training exercises that take place in boot
camp and as usual, a bevy of new Joes and Cobras are introduced. And in a 25th
anniversary issue (from way back in 1988), we meet the original G.I. Joe.





As to
why I feel this is one of the best examples of Hama’s work on the series... I
should first admit that the stories contained here actually aren’t among my
favorites. As a long-time Joe fan, my personal favorites are the early issues,
when the cast of characters was much smaller and every new secret and twist
that was revealed was a real shocker. By the time 1988 rolled around, both the
Joe and Cobra teams had expanded to a point where those characters that we’d come
to know and love as real people were beginning to be shoved into the
background. Obviously, the point of a comic that promotes a toy line is to sell
toys and when new figures and vehicles are introduced every year, they all need
to get some face time in the comics. But what’s amazing about this volume and
what separates it from earlier ones is that at no point does it ever feel
forced. By this point in the game, Hama had it down to a science and introduces
new elements with such ease that you never realize that his hand is being
guided by editorial or the folks at Hasbro.





In
previous volumes of the series, a story would be chugging along at a nice, even
pace when all of the sudden, something like the Star Viper would appear
completely out of left field, only to have the story resume in the next issue.
You definitely got the feeling that after three or four issues of the story
Hama wanted to tell, you’d have to read one that he was obligated to tell. It
often felt very forced and unnatural and definitely took me out of the overall
story. Not so with this volume. Perhaps it’s a result of better communication
or perhaps he just developed his skills but either way, it works. There’s not a
bad story in this book.





Okay,
the Battle Force 2000 story wasn’t that great, but you can’t really fault him
for that one, can you?





And
that’s why, as a huge G.I. Joe fan who read a lot of these issues when they
were originally released and is re-living his childhood now, I feel that this
is such a perfect example of why Larry Hama deserves so much credit for this
series. I hadn’t read these comics in two decades, and I didn’t know quite what
to expect when picked it up. This is the era in which I was growing out of G.I
Joe and not following it as much as I used to. This is the era in which the toy
line was becoming more and more outlandish and had lost much of what I
considered to be its “realistic edge”. Would I be as interested with all of the
new developments and new characters?





Turns
out my answer is a big “hell yeah”. These are just really great stories of a
highly advanced military organization fighting crazy bad guys of an almost
super-villainous variety. It’s true that there isn’t quite as much character development
as in previous issues due to the large cast, but that doesn’t mean it’s
completely absent. In addition to the more adventurous and exciting stories, we
also get a lot of insight into Zartan’s background as well as a great deal of
mentoring Billy receives from Storm Shadow. The action is big and bombastic and
there’s even a little social commentary and humor too. Lawyers and politicians
are subtlety (and sometimes not-so subtlety) skewered and the stories are
played for laughs almost as often as not. And there’s ninjas, dude. Who doesn’t
love ninjas?





Overall,
it’s just plain fun, something often seems missing in many comics these days.
This is a book that knows exactly what it is and what it’s supposed to be, but
still manages to surprise you with some great characterization and scripting.
If you were into G.I. Joe back then and you’re wondering how the book held up
over the years, do yourself a favor and pick this volume up. In fact, pick all
of them up. There are a lot of great new G.I. Joe comics on the stands right
now (and some not-so-great), but this is the real deal right here. Kudos to IDW
for getting these back into print and in the case of this volume, collecting
them for the first time.

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