Sunday, July 20, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #18 (December 1983)

"Destro Returns!"

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Mike Vosburg (artist), Jon D'Agostino (inker), Edward Norton (letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Denny O'Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Ace, Airborne (last seen in issue #16), Clutch, Flash, Grunt, Hawk, Rock 'N Roll, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Torpedo, Wild Bill

Supporting Characters: Kwinn

Villains: Cobra Commander, Cobra troops (including the pilot seen last issue), Destro, Dr. Venom, Scar-Face

Reagan-era Goodness: Destro and Scar-Face hijack an airliner to Libya. Libya was considered a sponsor of terrorism almost on par with Iran during the early 1980s. However, proof would not show itself until 1986 after a disco in Berlin was bombed.

Story: The G.I. Joe team, Kwinn, and Snake Eyes converge on Coney Island to find Destro already there also looking for the fugitive courier. Destro and Scar-Face escape to Libya, but are followed by the G.I. Joe team. Scar-Face is captured, but Destro doesn't appear too concerned.

Review: Again Larry Hama writes this issue to quickly move the plot along, building up to the climax of next issue. Most of the plot threads set in motion as far back as issue #12 are moved along fairly quickly here.

Everybody arriving at Coney Island more or less simultaneously was a bit convenient. I could buy the Joes and Destro arriving the same day, but all three was a bit much. Kwinn and Snake Eyes wouldn't have had access to any intelligence of Scar-Face being there. They just happened to luck into finding him.

This story makes no apology for Destro and Scar-Face being terrorists. They hijack an airliner to make their escape to Libya. Presumably, they release the plane and its passengers unharmed afterward. Cobra is considered a "fighter in the cause" of the "freedom loving peoples of Libya." Like Cobra being welcomed in Iran back in issue #7, this allows for a bit of globe-trotting by the G.I. Joe team. However, the exact nature of the relationship isn't made clear. Over time, we'll see less and less of Cobra interacting with real-world terrorist nations in favor of countries created for the comic like Sierra Gordo.

In Libya, Dr. Venom finally gets his chance to inject Scar-Face with his toxin. Cobra's plan is finally spelled out: get rid of the G.I. Joe team by inserting Scar-Face into their headquarters. The plan works out perfectly when the Joes follow Scar-Face to Libya. Also working out is Hawk's exit strategy for leaving Libya by having his air power secure their escape route. I'm not entirely sure where they boarded the submarine back to the US though.

The tag line for the next issue claims Joe triumphs but a Joe dies. See you next issue.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #17 (November 1983)

"Loose Ends"

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Mike Vosburg (artist), Jon D'Agostino (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), George Roussos (colorist), Denny O'Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Ace, Breaker, Clutch, Cover Girl, Doc, Flash, Grand Slam, Grunt, Gung Ho, Hawk, Rock 'N Roll, Scarlett, Short-Fuze, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Steeler, Torpedo, Tripwire, Wild Bill, Zap

Breaker, Cover Girl, Doc, Gung Ho, Short-Fuze, Steeler, Tripwire, and Zap all appear next in issue #19. Grand Slam also appears in issue #19 but behind the scenes.

Supporting Characters: Kwinn

Villains: Cobra Commander, a Cobra operative (a hospital doctor), Cobra troops, Destro, Dr. Venom, Major Bludd, Scar-Face

Cameo Appearances: Baroness (briefly seen in a hospital room, also in flashback)

Reagan-era Goodness: Kwinn and Snake Eyes win a pink Cadillac in a dice game. Elvis Presley had a pink Cadillac in the 1950s, which inspired Bruce Springsteen to record his song "Pink Cadillac" (released in 1984). The appearance of the car in this issue predates the song by about seven or eight months.

Story: Pursuing Cobra, the G.I. Joe team captures Major Bludd when he attempts to hijack a bus carrying none other than Scar-Face. Snake Eyes and Kwinn escape from their Miami jail cell and get underway to Coney Island.

Review: Picking up where the previous installment left off, this issue keeps the proverbial ball rolling. Hawk was wearing not only an armored vest under his uniform, but a SWAT vest. While the plot convenience was handled reasonably well, I can't say that I cared for the convenience of Hawk being up and around a few hours later to deal with Major Bludd in the hospital. I guess this begs the question of the other Joes being similarly equipped.

The intrigue within Cobra takes another turn when Cobra Commander convinces Destro that Major Bludd's attempted assassination was because he was in love with the Baroness! Destro buys it hook, line, and sinker. Bludd gets his comeuppance when he's captured after a failed attempt to hijack a bus.

I wasn't too keen on the contrived escape by Snake Eyes and Kwinn from their Miami jail. Kwinn just happens to carry a saw blade in his shoe? Please. However, I did enjoy the two of them riding in the pink Cadillac after the dice game with Kwinn chiding Snake Eyes for taking a man's hat. What I'm not sure about is how Kwinn knows that Scar-Face's hideout is at Coney Island or why Scar-Face is there instead of say, Springfield.

And Coney Island is where all the loose ends of the current storyline will apparently be wrapped up. Destro knows he'll find him there, Kwinn and Snake Eyes inexplicably know he's there, and Snake Eyes tips off the G.I. Joe team. The stage is being set for the next two issues and the resolution of this storyline.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Commercial Break - G.I. Joe #11, #14, and #16

By 1983, G.I. Joe was a phenomenon for boys between 5 and 12 (I'm sure some girls liked it too, but I never knew any). That year debuted three additional commercials for the comics (not to mention a buttload for the toys). Let's take a look, shall we?

First up is G.I. Joe #11, which made young De super excited to see new Joes added to the roster:

Even the commercial alluded to the mysterious air around Destro by shrounding him in shadow. One somewhat interesting note is the Joe flying the hang-glider. That's Grunt in his tan uniform, which was the figure included with the Falcon Glider "toy" (quotes used because that thing was a giant piece of styrofoam crap that glided about as well as a rock) whereas it was Airborne flying the glider in the comic itself.

Let's take a look at the ad for G.I. Joe #14:

Despite his lame voice in the commercial (thankfully changed to Arthur Burghardt's rich bass voice in the cartoon), Destro is still considered the mack daddy of bad guys. Love the song lyrics too: "Destro is his name. Destro is his name!" and now G.I. Joe is fighting Cobra and Destro. The guy gets his own billing too!

Take a look at the Joes hopping out of the personnel carrier. Tripwire wouldn't appear until two issues later but he's brandishing his metal detector like a can of whup-ass. And there was only one Skystriker jet in the comic, not a squadron.

Lastly, the commercial for G.I. Joe #16 is a potpourri of product placement (not like the comic itself wasn't):

Did the songwriter even read the comic? Major Bludd was "trained by Destro"? I guess mentioning Major Bludd being hired to assassinate Destro wasn't deemed suitable in an advertisement for kids. The Cobra Officer captured as part of the plan wouldn't happen until G.I. Joe #18. Cobra managed to escape in this issue when Cobra Commander shot Hawk in the back (after deciding not to shoot Destro!).

We'll return to the comics shortly.

Friday, June 20, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #16 (October 1983)

"Night Attack!"

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Mike Vosburg (artist), Jon D'Agostino (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), Andy Yanchus (colorist), Denny O'Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Airborne (last seen in G.I. Joe #11, appears next in G.I. Joe #18), Breaker, Clutch, Cover Girl (Courtney S. Krieger, first appearance, full name revealed in G.I. Joe: Order of Battle #1), Doc, Flash (last seen in G.I. Joe #10), Grand Slam, Grunt, Gung Ho, Hawk, Rock 'N Roll, Scarlett, Short-Fuze, Stalker, Steeler, Torpedo (last seen in G.I. Joe #13), Tripwire (Tormod S. Skoog, first appearance, full name revealed in G.I. Joe Yearbook #1), Wild Bill, Zap

Clutch, Doc, Gung Ho, Rock 'N Roll, Wild Bill, and Zap were all last seen in G.I. Joe #14. Grand Slam, Short-Fuze, and Steeler were last seen in G.I. Joe #11

Supporting Characters: General Flagg (last seen in G.I. Joe #14, appears next in G.I. Joe #19)

Villains: Baroness, Cobra Commander, Cobra troops, Destro, Dr. Venom, Major Bludd, Scar-Face

Character Notes: Doc, Flash, Grand Slam, Grunt, Short-Fuze, and Stalker are strictly behind the scenes in this issue. Their presence in Washington, DC is revealed in the next issue.

Story: Cobra quietly invades Washington, DC in an attempt to poison the US money supply with Dr. Venom's biological toxin. When Cobra Commander implements his plan to assassinate Destro (using Major Bludd), the Baroness purposely crashes her tank to save him. Hawk faces off against Destro, leaving the Commander in a quandary of whom to kill.

Review: This was the very first issue read by young De. My friend Kevin and I read this issue aloud while sitting on the swing set outside his house. I think we might have made hang gliders for our action figures out of heavy bond paper earlier that afternoon. Anyway, enough reminiscing for now.

This is a fairly solid issue that advances the storyline at a fairly brisk pace. The training session that kicks off the story is pretty routine and does a decent job of introducing the new Wolverine missile tank and its driver, Cover Girl. While I had hoped there wouldn't be friction between Scarlett and Cover Girl, it's not outside of Scarlett's personality to bristle at outsiders. Tripwire introduction as a clumsy explosives expert is pretty hilarious if you think about it. Thankfully, this aspect is not played up for laughs too often.

My favorite scene in this issue is easily the dinner scene at Cobra headquarters when we get a glimpse into everyone's head to see how all of them are scheming in one way or another. The old adage of "no honor among thieves" is certainly in play here. Major Bludd is formally introduced to the rest of the Cobra cadre here; his true purpose as Destro's assassin a secret until later in the issue.

Hawk's meeting with General Flagg is rather telling. Cobra announces the Capitol building as their target, but Hawk is convinced that the Treasury is the actual target based on the clues found in Sierra Gordo and Vermont. However, Flagg is having none of it based on the incident in Vermont (where the G.I. Joe team blew up a furniture factory in broad daylight) and hoping to avoid a public panic. Speaking from personal experience, I live and work near DC and a panic would not only affect the city but a surrounding radius of about 25-30 miles. On September 11, 2001, getting out of the city and its immediate suburbs (such as Arlington, where the Pentagon is located) was a nightmare.

For the record, money is not printed at the Treasury Building, it's printed at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. Yes, it's a division of the US Treasury but the buildings are located at a considerable distance from each other. The main building is near the White House while the Bureau is over near the tidal basin at the Jefferson Memorial. Oh, and the printing presses are underground and have been for a long time (I used to work there). You can't just walk inside and be greeted by printing equipment. All right, enough nitpicking.

The real barometer of the Destro-Baroness relationship comes when the Baroness sacrifices herself to save Destro from being killed by Major Bludd (manning the turret in her tank). Destro eventually composes himself to fist fight Hawk where the good colonel manages to land many a blow on Destro's steel mask. It's a bit silly but it's very minor in the face of the overall story. The Commander's decision to shoot Hawk is a pained one but it's a decision that allows Cobra to escape and fight another day.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #15 (September 1983)

"Red-Eye to Miami!"

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Mike Vosburg (artist), Jon D'Agostino (inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Andy Yanchus (colorist), Denny O'Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Breaker, Grunt, Hawk, Scarlett, Snake Eyes (appears next in G.I. Joe #17), Stalker

Supporting Characters: Kwinn (appears next in G.I. Joe #17)

Villains: Baroness, Cobra Commander, a Cobra lawyer (first and only appearance), Cobra troops (disguised as renegade Sierra Gordo troops, no further appearances, all killed by Kwinn), Destro, Dr. Venom, a group of smugglers (first and only appearance), Major Bludd (Sebastian Bludd, first appearance, named revealed in G.I. Joe #16), renegade Sierra Gordo troops

Character Note: There is one other Joe at Hawk's meeting but only that person's hands are visible.

Story: Dr. Venom, Kwinn, and Snake Eyes escape from Sierra Gordo aboard a stolen airplane. Meanwhile, the intrigue begins to heat up within the Cobra organization.

Review: This issue is unusual in that most of the story doesn't directly involve the G.I. Joe team in any significant capacity. They appear for a few panels to briefly foreshadow the next issue, but that is it as far as their participation in this issue.

Kwinn returns and, once he kills the Cobra troops, it's time for the unlikely trio to get out of the jungle despite Dr. Venom being the most undesirable of traveling companions. They manage to steal a World War II-era British Avro Lancaster bomber from the airfield attacked by the G.I. Joe team last issue. I'm not entirely certain how a banana republic would have access to a vintage WWII bomber in working condition 40 years after the war, but hey, I'm willing to suspend a little disbelief for a decent story.

During the escape is a neat sequence between the bomber and a fighter pilot dispatched from the airfield. Dr. Venom flies below the cloud cover and gives the fighter pilot's eyes a chance to dilate in the darkness before switching on the bomber's running lights and blinding him. Later, Venom unsurprisingly betrays Kwinn and Snake Eyes by attempting to murder them. Kwinn nearly kills him but Snake Eyes tells his Eskimo friend to spare the life of "the weasel."

At Cobra headquarters, it is learned that Dr. Venom is alive and well and offering the biological catalyst for the toxin. While Cobra Commander acknowledges Venom is crafty, he's still not sold on how the G.I. Joe team learned the location of the furniture factory from last issue. Destro blames Scar-Face but the Commander doesn't buy it and calls in Major Bludd to deal with his Destro problem. However, Destro tells the Baroness of his actions which tears her loyalties apart. We'll see both of these items dealt with next issue.

The smuggler plot point was a little dumb but I suppose somewhat necessary to add a bit of urgency. With the fuel line shot, the three escapees dump everything and then are in the process of removing the plane's paneling in the hopes of making it to shore. The old married couple strolling down memory lane as the plane crash lands was a bit silly.

Landing a plane on a beach is apparently a crime, so Kwinn and Snake Eyes are taken into custody while Venom escapes through his lawyer. While Dr. Venom appears next issue, Kwinn and Snake Eyes aren't seen until the issue following next.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #14 (August 1983)

"Destro Attacks"

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Mike Vosburg (artist), Jon D'Agostino (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), Christie Scheele (colorist), Denny O'Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Ace (Brad J. Armbruster, first appearance, name revealed in G.I. Joe: Order of Battle #1, appears next in G.I. Joe #17), Breaker, Clutch (last seen in G.I. Joe #12), Doc (appears next in G.I. Joe #17), Gung Ho, Grunt, Hawk, Rock 'N Roll, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Wild Bill, Zap (latter two last seen in G.I. Joe #11)

Clutch, Gung Ho, Rock 'N Roll, Wild Bill, and Zap appear next in G.I. Joe #16.

Supporting Characters: General Flagg (last seen in G.I. Joe #12, appears next in G.I. Joe #16), Kwinn

Villains: Baroness, Cobra Commander, Cobra airborne troops (first and only appearance), Cobra operatives (posing as furniture factory employees, first and only appearance for all), Destro (first full appearance), Dr. Venom, Scar-Face

Story: While Dr. Venom, Kwinn, and Snake Eyes attempt to escape the sunken bunker, the G.I. Joe team follow the micro dot (found in Sierra Gordo) to Springfield, Vermont in hopes of finding Cobra's headquarters.

Review: Obscured in shadow or behind objects, Destro finally makes his first full appearance here and it's a doozy. His relationship with the Baroness heats up big time and we learn that he had a hand in Scar-Face's activities down in Sierra Gordo. However, we have no idea what Destro's agenda is at this point but we do know he's out for Cobra Commander's blood given that he had the micro dots switched so the G.I. Joe team would attack him in Vermont. And the plan might have worked if the Baroness hadn't been the Commander's pilot. By saving the Baroness, he also saved the Commander, and he's not happy about it.

Before the battle in Vermont, the Baroness notes that the micro dot originally planned to be planted in Sierra Gordo was to have Cobra's headquarters underneath Ft. Wadsworth! Little does Cobra know what lurks beneath that small Army base. Cobra's other plan is to introduce Dr. Venom's biological toxin into G.I. Joe headquarters by having one of their troops captured. But Dr. Venom being the wily sort, notes (after his escape from the bunker) that the toxin is useless without his secret catalyst.

Dr. Venom and Snake Eyes escape from their watery prison only to run into the disguised Cobra troops from last issue. Kwinn was clubbed on the head by the bad doctor and left for dead. Of course, we'll see Kwinn again quite soon.

My last item deals with the G.I. Joe team's new weapon, the Skystriker jet. Sure, it's likely that there will be occasions when air support might be necessary. However, the jet literally blows up a furniture factory outside of Vermont. Yes, it's an evil furniture factory that probably made tables with uneven legs but that sort of thing is hard to hide from the public. In issue #16, General Flagg alludes to the Vermont mission not ending well despite the clues found there.

Monday, June 16, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #13 (July 1983)

"Last Plane from Rio Lindo"

Credits: Larry Hama (writer), Mike Vosburg (artist), Jon D'Agostino (inker), Joe Rosen (letterer), Bob Sharen (colorist), Denny O'Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Breaker, Doc (last seen in G.I. Joe #11), Gung Ho, Grunt (last seen in G.I. Joe #10), Hawk, Rock 'N Roll (last seen in G.I. Joe #11), Scarlett, Snake Eyes (behind the scenes), Stalker, Torpedo (Edward W. Leialoha, first appearance, name revealed in G.I. Joe: Order of Battle #2, appears next in G.I. Joe #16)

Supporting Characters: Kwinn (behind the scenes)

Villains: Baroness, Cobra Commander (last seen in G.I. Joe #11), Cobra troops (some disguised as renegade Sierra Gordo soldiers), Destro (last seen in G.I. Joe #11, face obscured in this story), Dr. Venom (behind the scenes), Scar-Face, a group of mercenaries (Emil and Richter named, first and only appearance, all killed in this story)

Character Notes: As revealed in G.I. Joe #14, Dr. Venom, Kwinn, and Snake Eyes are alive in the sunken bunker and are thus, behind the scenes in this issue.

Reagan-era Goodness: Scarlett throws $1,300 at the Sierra Gordo cabbie when the rescue team takes his cab. The cabbie goes nuts, exclaiming, "American dollars! Hundred-dollar bills!" Pretty sure it'll be a good, long while before anyone goes that nuts over American currency again.

Story: With Snake Eyes believed dead, the remaining team members prepare to leave Sierra Gordo and find a courier pouch containing a document with a micro-dot. Meanwhile at Cobra headquarters, Cobra Commander reveals his plans to the Baroness.

Review: This issue takes place immediately after issue #12 and doesn't really take a rest until the end. So we'll proceed as apace as we can...

Intrigue presents itself early in this story when Scar-Face insists on leaving immediately while the Baroness wants to finish the job of killing the G.I. Joe team. As we'll learn in the next issue, Scar-Face had his reasons for hightailing it out of Sierra Gordo. The Baroness even lets Cobra Commander onto her instincts that Scar-Face may be a pawn in someone else's agenda. However, Cobra Commander later reveals that Scar-Face was under a post-hypnotic suggestion to make him appear duplicitous (umm... yeah). Once again, the Commander is pulling the strings to get the G.I. Joe team to hopefully chase its tail while they engage in evil. We'll soon learn that the Commander isn't totally in control. It's this sort of subtle layering that would go on to hook many a reader and make it clear that this comic was more than marketing for toys.

If jumping off an exploding boat wasn't enough, poor Stalker is attacked by a crocodile. His rattling off of biology info while he fights the crocodile is a bit silly. Taking the cake for silliness is Breaker building a fire in enemy territory, which is rightfully chastised by Stalker. I guess we're to assume that Breaker is a bit young but it seems a bit convenient for a special forces operative to relax his guard when he's still in the middle of a hostile area. Gung Ho would have probably kicked his butt had he not gone into town to phone headquarters.

The fire does attract some mercenaries who believe that they can glean some information about Cobra and sell it. It's not entirely clear who the mercenaries worked for: the recently-collapsed government or the rebels responsible for its collapse. Despite having seen action in Algeria (presumably during the Algerian War in the 1960s), they are no match for a squad of Cobra troops. This is the sort of enemy G.I. Joe should be up against, not the buffoons seen later in the series or in the cartoon.

Based on the abandoned research station found by the G.I. Joe team, it would appear to be the location where Dr. Venom crafted the biological toxin currently in the possession of Scar-Face and the Baroness. While Stalker immediately discounts Breaker's finding the courier pouch, no one really questions the micro dot found. We'll see the ramifications of the micro dot next issue.

The issue's end of letting us know that somebody was still alive in the bunker was a nice way to cap off the issue. We're not sure who's still alive in there but somebody certainly is.