Friday, June 13, 2008

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #10 (April 1983)

"A Nice Little Town Like Ours..."

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

Feature Characters: Breaker, Clutch (appears next in G.I. Joe #12), Flash (appears next behind the scenes in G.I. Joe #16), Grunt (appears next in G.I. Joe #13), Hawk (also in flashback), Rock 'n Roll, Scarlett (appears next in G.I. Joe #12), Short-Fuze, Snake Eyes (also in flashbacks), Stalker (appears next in G.I. Joe #12), Zap (appears next in G.I. Joe #14)

Guest Star: Billy (first appearance; name unrevealed in this story; last name never revealed; earliest chronological appearance in flashback in G.I. Joe #38; appears next in G.I. Joe #29)

Villains: Baroness (last seen in G.I. Joe #8), Cobra Commander, Cobra junior officers (Rollo named, first and only appearance for all), Cobra troops, Dr. Venom (first appearance; a Cobra scientist and inventor of the Brainwave Scanner; real name never revealed; appears next in G.I. Joe #12), the citizens of Springfield (some may have appeared last in G.I. Joe #5)

Cameo Appearance: Clutch (in flashback)

Story: While attempting to neutralize a Cobra stronghold in Manhattan, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and Zap are captured and taken to Cobra's headquarters in a town called Springfield. While Snake Eyes is tortured, Scarlett and Zap escape with the help of a young boy sworn to defeat the Cobra organization.

Reagan-era Goodness: Dr. Venom's laboratory is underneath the town video arcade. For all the young whippersnappers out there, arcades were huge in the 1980s with the advent of Pac-Man. Aside from beach boardwalks and amusement parks, I rarely see them anymore with a few notable exceptions (like those seen in the movie The King of Kong).

Review: Larry Hama returns and sticks around for the next ten issues before taking his next break. This story really sets things into motion by establishing quite a bit of backstory without going into a lot of detail. In the case of Snake Eyes, this was accomplished through single-panel flashbacks (I'll get to those in a minute). We're also introduced to Springfield, which will figure a lot into the next 40 issues.

The concept of Springfield is, to me, a very scary prospect. You more or less have an entire town full of terrorists who are training their children to be terrorists. The town appears very normal and can therefore operate clandestinely without arousing suspicion. Also, it's location is kept secret and has never been revealed though there is a lot of speculation among fans. Some swear up and down that it's located in Vermont based on the events of G.I. Joe #14. However, most agree that it's somewhere along the East Coast.

As previously mentioned, we're treated to some insight into the origins of Snake Eyes through his torture in the Brainwave Scanner. While his childhood is fairly unremarkable, we learn that he was involved in a helicopter crash in the Middle East. For years, I thought this alluded to the botched rescue of hostages in Iran. Larry Hama would revisit the circumstances of the accident several times and reveal its purpose several years later. Also seen are a flashback to Vietnam, the death of Snake Eyes' family, and a ninja shrine. It won't be for another couple of years before Larry tackles all of these items head on in G.I. Joe #26-27.

Speaking of the Brainwave Scanner, the story attempts to explain how it works without resorting to too much technobabble. The device's inventor, Dr. Venom, becomes a very prominent character in the months to come. He fits the archetype of mad scientist very well without coming off as silly though he is a bit one-dimensional. The other technological aspects to this story i.e., the odd aircraft and the laser gun in the arcade are a bit silly.

Lastly, this would be one of the last times we see most of the original Joes working as team. Beginning next issue is something we'll see quite frequently during the run of the series: the introduction of Hasbro's new toys into the comic book.


smacky said...

Why do you think Dr. Venom is an alias? Couldn't he just have been destined to be a Cobra scientist?

De said...

I have a hunch his real last name is some Eastern European surname that looks like "Venom" when translated.