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.