Mini review and spoilers from G.I. Joe: Above and Beyond

I’ve seen various places online talking about this G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA prequel novel written by Max Allen Collins, who also is writing the Rise of COBRA novelization.  This creates a nice seamless writing style (for better or worse).

Above and Beyond is about 260 pages long and features Duke and Ripcord as the leaders of “Able Team” a special forces team that gets caught in the middle of a MARS Weapons deal with a South American country.  There is military action galore, Ripcord is fairly obnoxious with his one-liners, but for the most part it was an enjoyable read.  I was honestly very surprised at the level of violence in the book, with various soldier deaths described in disturbing layers of detail.  It’s fairly apparent that this book was not meant for kids.

Throughout the whole book we follow along behind Able Team, who is also being shadowed by G.I. Joe’s “Alpha Team” consisting of Gung Ho, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Heavy Duty, and Breaker.  Seeing Gung Ho used as the Team Leader was a pretty cool touch, and this actually really got me fired up for the whole launch of this movie “universe”.  Gung Ho appearing in Above and Beyond as well as the Wal-Mart 2-Packs, then also tied into the video game all really started to make me realize how neat this whole interweaved universe is shaping up.  I know everyone has their own issues and complaints with the movie, but to me, it’s an opening door to another fresh take, just like Sigma 6 was, or even the whole Spy Troops/Valor Vs. Venom storyline was.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my old school Joe, but I’m always enamored with a fresh take as well.

Basically what happens is the aforementioned South American country is involved with some inner political intrigue involving an arms dealer, a rogue general and some rebels who are all trying to get their hands on some next generation “Pulse Rifles”.  Along with these pulse rifles come rumors of genetically altered Super Soldiers, which catch G.I. Joe’s eye as well as Able Team.  Various military action occurs with Able Team and the Joes having their own personal battles alongside each other for much of the book, without Duke and Ripcord knowing about it.

Weaved into the military action is a slightly more personal story with Duke and his girlfriend Ana, who’s brother Rex is a military scientist, but someone who spends all of his time in a lab.  It becomes obvious early in the book that Rex craves action, something his sister is not too fond of.  Duke and Ripcord spend their personal time with Ana and Rex, while Duke gets up the nerve to ask her to marry him…she, of course, agrees.

For the last segment of the book, Rex is thrilled to announce that he has finally gotten the chance to join an actual military operation, which is to be on Able Team with Duke and Ripcord as they begin another potential world-saving mission hunting down this secret laboratory where the Super Soldiers are supposedly being prepped.  Rex, of course,  being the expert scientist that he is, is attached to Able Team, and as expected, Ana makes Duke promise to keep him safe…an ominous foreshadowing if I’ve ever read one.

Most folks know how things go from here…  Duke, Ripcord, and Rex end up in a town full of enemy soldiers and mercenaries, then make it to the secret lab.  Rex enters the lab as Duke tells him he has five minutes before an air strike hits…but tragedy occurrs when the air strike hits early and levels the building with Rex inside.

Overall, the book was a quick and fun read, though nothing intellectually stimulating, that’s for sure.  There was a lot of the typical writing pratfalls, some issues with pacing, and  Ripcord’s snarkiness went pretty far overboard, but all in all, I really enjoyed this first look into the world of this new G.I. Joe.  I’ve also heard Ripcord’s joking is toned down quite a bit in the film itself, so this is somewhat of a non-issue.  Or a lesser issue, anyway.

Duke and “Rip”‘s camaraderie was believable, they really talked to each other like a couple of college buddies who have spent a lot of time together, which was cool.  I had big questions about the forced Ripcord/Duke relationship, but it went pretty well in the book.  One thing that was a bit annoying was that they used their code names ALL THROUGH the book.  Yes, even Duke’s fiance Ana called him Duke.  I kid you not.  I don’t think I ever once saw Duke called “Conrad” or Ripcord called “Wallace” or anything like it…seemed pretty silly.  Granted, they did establish their real names, but nobody ever used them.  Even in Able Team, all other team members used real names, but they both just used Duke and Ripcord (or more often, just “Rip”).

I was a bit dismayed that there weren’t more G.I. Joe cameos, considering this was somewhat an offshoot of the movie.  It was awesome seeing Gung Ho, but why not some appearances of other well known Joes who wouldn’t make the cut into the final film?  Shipwreck?  Deep Six?  Anyone like that who has a figure coming, but isn’t known to be in the actual movie?  I think that would have been very neat, but alas, Gung Ho is pretty much it.

I really liked how they laid out the pulse weapons and futuristic technology…they made it seem like whoever controlled these weapons really controlled the world…and the whole thing fits pretty nicely into the movie universe.  I’ve read an early draft of the script, but I have not read the movie novelization yet (I’m starting it tonight) so that will tell me more definitively how the whole thing kind of blends together.

All in all, it was definitely not a thinking man’s book, but it was a good, brisk read, and I think that’s pretty much what the movie will be.

Now what I’m going to talk about next delves into movie-related spoilers, so anyone who wants to be totally clean of stuff that might impact the story of The Rise of COBRA you may want to stop reading now.

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THIS IS YOUR LAST WARNING

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Okay.  Anyone who sort of knows the backstory of The Rise of COBRA (or wants to), this book basically lines everything up.  Most of us know by now that Rex Lewis becomes “The Doctor”, who directs MARS Industries from the shadows, using nanomites to control Destro, and basically do all sorts of bad things.  Then, of course, as the movie goes on, The Doctor is then revealed as COBRA Commander himself.  There is some debate amongst the fandom about this, which I totally understand, but I do have to admit, I like the twist that happens in this book.

Whether it impacts the film or not, it’s revealed in this book that Gung Ho actually calls the air strike in early, so as not to risk losing the Super Soldiers.  So, in effect, G.I. Joe is the reason why Rex Lewis “died”, and was thus reborn as COBRA Commander.  I don’t know at this point whether or not Duke ever learns this, or even if it becomes a talking point in the film, but I do think it provides an interesting dichotomy…  COBRA is the reason for G.I. Joe, yet G.I. Joe caused COBRA, etc…  considering Rex was also a good friend of Duke and his fiance’s brother, I’d also be interested to know what Duke thought about this whole chain of events.

I’m honestly not sure if the film will dive that deep into any of this, but it brings up some great questions.

9 thoughts on “Mini review and spoilers from G.I. Joe: Above and Beyond

  1. Once you finish reading the movie novel you’ll understand everything.The novel answers most of the questions we may have about characters, motives, all the blah, blah, blah with Duke, Ana, Rex, Destro and all of the above. It all makes sense.I just finished reading it on Sunday. It was a good and exciting read with plenty of graphic action and of course a few jokes thrown in here and there.

  2. Movie CC story arc sounds like it’s going to be like a darker version of Fred II’s in a lot of ways.

    Squadmate of two Joes gets seemingly KIA, then joins the bad guys out of bitterness.

  3. Hey Justin, where did you buy this book at?
    Is available at places like BarnesNobles or Target?

  4. Several Joe movie books are at Barnes and Noble, Borders Books, and some people have found the prequel at Walmart.

  5. I’ve seen the book at Wal-Mart and Target both… I would imagine Barnes and Noble would have it, too. I’ve looked at a Borders, but they didn’t have it there.

  6. After reading both the prequel and the movie novel the only character that’s really changed is CC. He’s not a used car salesman and he’s not a former Cobra-La scientist and that’s fine with me. The rest of the characters are pretty much the same. I don’t see Ripcord as a changed character but an all new character as other than the name he carries there’s no parallel between him and the 84 figure. I’m also glad they didn’t name him Stalker as it wouldn’t have fit the character. The action / plot is very reminiscent of a Sunbow mini while the SE / CC back story and the connection of three characters is very Hamaesque so I’m all for it. Is it perfect? No, but it’s Joe… there’s no doubt in my mind about that.

  7. I puchased both the prequel and the movie novel at Walmart and I’ve also seen it at Target.

  8. I picked up Above & Beyond and Rise of Cobra today at Wal-Mart. I’m about 3/4 through Above & Beyond. Totally digging it! It’s definitely NOT the G.I. Joe from the 80’s, but then again, it is 2009! I’ll probably be done in the next 90 minutes and will head on to movie novel tomorrow. More and more excited about movie!

  9. Just for the record, G.I. Joe Above and Beyond isn’t a prequel. The definition of a prequel is something that comes out after the first one but takes place before it. What it should be called is a predecessor to G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra.

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