Larry Hama returns to GI Joe to pick up where he left off, and Jude Terror reviews it!
Credits & Solicit Info:
Larry Hama (w) • Agustin Padilla (a) • Padilla, Rod Whigham (c)
The ‘80s live on in this all-new series that spins out of the Free Comic Book Day issue 155-1/2 and hearkens back to the beloved JOE comics from your childhood! Larry Hama returns to script Real American Hero even as COBRA wins the bid to provide internal security for a terrorist-beleaguered USA. First order of business: put out a secret assassination order on the disbanded G.I. Joes. SNAKE EYES isn’t taking it lying down and overreacts maybe just a tiny bit...
FC • 32 pages • $3.99 • On sale 07/21/10
Lary Hama's original run on GI Joe is what brought me to comics, and after taking a decade break from comics during the nineties, Image's GI Joe Reinstated brought me back. After a spiteful boycott of IDW's new GI Joe series since they discontinued that original continuity with their relaunch, I was more excited than I've been about just about anything when I heard that Larry Hama would be picking up where he left off with GI Joe #156.
Hama's original run is regarded among those in the know as one of the finest in comics, and certainly the finest among licensed properties. For the entirety of the eighties, Larry Hama was synonymous with GI Joe. Does he still have the magic?
GI Joe #156 begins by establishing the new status quo for the Joe universe. Cobra are considered heroes and deeply rooted in the US Government. The Joe team have been branded traitors and are on the run. As Cobra operatives execute a plan to eliminate the Joes, the Joes secretly organize and attempt to regroup.
Wisely, Hama focuses on a core group of Joes here. While part of the appeal of GI Joe is the huge cast of characters to draw from, Hama knows that new readers will need to become invested in a small group of characters first if this book is to succeed. Hama focuses on some of the most well known and instantly recognizable Joes. While this is a good choice, it does handicap the book by not also focusing on the recognizable Cobra characters, which we all know is half the fun of GI Joe. Of course, the prologue issue that came out on Free Comic Book Day focused entirely on Cobra, and was excellent, so I have no doubt that when those characters do come into the forefront, it will be very satisfying.
Hama spends most of this issue doing what he does best: delivering realistic military dialog and situations. It's a pleasure to read Hama, who brings real military experience to the table, writing authentic dialog that provides a counterpoint to the outlandish premise of GI Joe. The Joes act ruthlessly and efficiently in a desperate situation, and this is necessary to set this book apart in a medium that can sometimes make this sort of book too cartoonish to work. Readers unfamiliar with Hama's work will be impressed with the realism.
Hama understands that one of the biggest attractions of this series was the ninja action, particularly with Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, and Snake Eyes definitely makes an impact in this issue, handily disposing of multiple ninja assassins. Snake Eyes is a difficult character to write effectively because he cannot speak, but Hama has shown in the past that he is adept at telling compelling stories without the need for words, as the critically acclaimed silent issue, GI Joe #21, proved decades ago. Unfortunately, Snake Eyes in this issue feels more like the cartoon version than the comics one: a superficial silent badass. Snake Eyes was the action figure everyone wanted because he looked the coolest, but Hama's original run proved that Snake Eyes was also one of the deepest characters on the team with an intricate back story. Hopefully we will see more of that Snake Eyes as the series progresses.
On art chores, Padilla provides suitable work. It doesn't particularly stand out as unique, but it is competent and more than adequate for this series. This is okay though. Padilla is a lower profile artist, and he can make a name for himself on this book. One thing that hurt the original series was inconsistency with artwork, so if Padilla is allowed to continue on this book and develop his style with these characters, I have no doubt it wiill lead to good things both for readers and for Padilla's career.
I may seem overly critical with this issue, but remember that I was sold on this book the moment I heard it was being published. I know Hama will deliver, I know these are some of the best characters in comics, and I know that this will end up being one of the best series on the stands. I have absolute faith in Hama. However, for this book to succeed it needs to be viewed as more than just a nostalgia trip by new readers, and therefore it needs to be exceptional. The biggest challenge the team is facing is making a property that many view as firmly rooted in the eighties relevant to a modern audience.
My recommendation is that new readers try this book, but make a commitment to read it through at least the first arc. Hama is an old school master, and his work will build upon itself to create epic stories. For readers of the original series, you don't need my convincing. It's all there with this series: the military sensibility, ninja action, and all out evil and intrigue of Cobra (check out the FCBD special issue #155 1/2 for that).
Rating: TRY IT!!!
My rating scale:
BUY IT - You have to read this for the foreseeable future.
TRY IT - Worth at least a few issues.
WAIT FOR IT - Pick this up in trade if it lives up to its potential.
SKIP IT - Spend your money on something better