Monday, March 17, 2008


I apologize for the lack of updates. My wife and I just had a baby so free time has been a little tough to come by of late. With any luck, we'll return to something resembling a regular schedule before too long.

Monday, March 3, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #9 (March 1983)

The Diplomat

Credits: Steven Grant (writer), Mike Vosburg (artist), Chic Stone (inker), Janice Chiang (letterer), Andy Yanchus (colorist), Denny O’Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Breaker, Clutch, Grunt, Hawk, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Stalker

Supporting Characters: None

Villains: Cobra Commander, Cobra troops, Cobra frogmen (first and only appearance, not to be confused with the Cobra frogmen code named Eels that first appear in G.I. Joe #47), Cobra operatives (an airline pilot and a hotel desk clerk, first and only appearance for both), Derek Sutherland (an arms dealer, first appearance, killed in this story), Brian Hassell (first and only appearance, an undercover Cobra agent working as a State Department diplomat)

Other Characters: Ambassador of Al-Awali (first and only appearance)

Story: After learning of a Cobra assassination attempt on US ambassador Brian Hassell, the G.I. Joe team is assigned to protect the ambassador and gather more intelligence on Cobra's plans. Clutch and Scarlett escort Hassell to peace talks with the nation of Al-Alawi while Stalker and Snake Eyes follow a trail of clues to learn that Hassell is actually a deep cover Cobra agent with plans to assassinate the
Al-Alawi ambassador and destroy US credibility in the Middle East.

This is the second issue in a row that Larry Hama doesn't write. However, Hama will write the next ten issues before taking another break. Beginning this issue, Mike Vosburg handles the artwork and will continue to do so until issue #20. Vosburg's artwork has a bit of a cartoony, simplistic feel to it but still manages to tell the story well. Speaking of the story, this issue's narrative is fun, rather fast-paced, and akin to an action film which isn't a genre out of place when dealing with a counter-terrorist group.

I liked Cobra Commander's plan of essentially screwing with the G.I. Joe team with the likely possibility of scoring an assassination and its ensuing chaos. He apparently knew that Hassell might fail and doesn't care. The unpredictability of the Commander makes him pretty damn dangerous, which is something we'll see quite often as the series progresses.

This issue establishes that Cobra placed an operative in the US State Department. If there's an operative there, where else could Cobra possibly be hiding within the US government? FBI? CIA? Congress? That's a rather scary prospect and one that later issues would only touch on for the most part. To me, Cobra is a much more fearsome adversary working from within. However, Hasbro wouldn't have been able to sell very many toys of guys in business suits.

James McFadden brings up a really good point in his review. He puts forth that the death of Derek Sutherland creates the vacuum that Destro will fill later on as Cobra's arms supplier. That's an interesting take on the situation -- one definitely worthy of a No Prize (a non-award given out by Marvel for explaining continuity errors in their comics).

Sunday, March 2, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #8 (February 1983)

Code Name: Sea-Strike!

Credits: Herb Trimpe (writer/artist/inker), Rick Parker (letterer), Christie Scheele (colorist), Denny O’Neil (editor)

Feature Characters: Breaker, Clutch, Flash, Grand Slam, Grunt, Hawk, Rock ‘N Roll, Scarlett, Short-Fuze, Snake Eyes, Stalker, Steeler, Zap

Flash, Rock 'N Roll, Short-Fuze, and Zap appear next in G.I. Joe #10. Grand Slam and Steeler appear next in G.I. Joe #11.

Supporting Characters: None

Villains: Cobra Commander, the Baroness (appears next in G.I. Joe #10), Cobra troops (one identified as S.E.A. Legs Leader One)

Story: Cobra attempts to attack a space shuttle mission that will put a satellite into orbit capable of destroying Cobra’s network of undersea bases. The entire G.I. Joe team is assigned to defend Cape Canaveral.

Reagan-era Goodness: Before the mission begins, Hawk channels Phil Esterhaus when he tells everyone, “Let’s be careful out there.” For those of you who didn’t grow up in the 1980s, Phil Esterhaus said this every week on the cop show Hill Street Blues.

Review: This is the first issue where Larry Hama doesn’t write the story in some capacity. Instead, this issue is handled by artist and occasional co-writer, Herb Trimpe. What follows is a departure from the somewhat realistic aspects of Hama’s stories into cartoon territory. Cartoon territory isn’t necessarily a bad thing but it is a bit jarring to go from the ripped-from-the-headlines US-Soviet tension of the past two issues to a paper-thin plot featuring two-dimensional villains using odd vehicles/devices never seen before and, what the hey, a space shuttle flight.

Speaking of the shuttle flight, I find it incredibly unlikely that members of the G.I. Joe team would even be mission specialists on a shuttle flight. While we’ve seen a couple of the Joes in action as capable pilots, we’ve seen nothing to indicate the level of training necessary for a space mission. I don’t buy it. Incidentally, the G.I. Joe team would return to space in issue #65 using their own space shuttle ( another can o’worms unto itself).

Cobra’s plan here, to circle the planet with warheads, is rather ambitious as is Cobra Commander’s claim that it’s the first step “in ruling the cosmos itself.” Again, this is the sort of thing that would become rather common on the cartoon a couple of years later. Some of the more strident fans claim that since this issue wasn’t written by Larry Hama, it doesn’t count as part of the greater Joe canon. The events of this issue aren’t ever referred to again so I’m not going to freak out about it.