GeneralsJoes reviews IDW’s G.I. Joe: Origins #20 – 21

During New York ComicCon it was revealed that the G.I. Joe: Origins title was going to be fading away, and to be honest, I wasn’t extremely bothered by the news.  Sure, it’s one less G.I. Joe title on the shelves, but beyond snippets into the backgrounds of various characters, what were we really missing?

Well, then I remembered Issues #16 – 18…the Zartan origin.  That was good stuff.  Very good stuff.  Probably the best three issue run during the Origins series, which is pretty ironic, considering it was written by Chuck Dixon, who has been infamous for his up and down roller coaster through the main G.I. Joe title.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the Hama stuff at the beginning, but I’m ready to start moving on.  I’m ready to start evolving the story, and not continuing to mull about in the past.  Origins going away was no big shakes.  What was more important to me was how was it going to leave?

Well, turns out, as one of the last stories to run within G.I. Joe: Origins, the mysterious tale of Michael Monk might just end the series on a very high note.

To avoid spoilers, click the “Read the rest of the story” link below for the full review.

Sedition

  1. Incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.
  2. Any action, esp. in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.
  3. Archaic . rebellious disorder.

G.I. Joe: Origins – Sedition by Numbers
Written by: David Lapham
Art by: Werther Dell’edera

At first mention, I didn’t have my hopes up real high about this latest arc in G.I. Joe: Origins.  I mean, who is Michael Monk?  Why is he important enough to warrant his own dedicated trio of issues in a book that is supposed to be focusing on the backstories of important, critical characters?  Monk certainly didn’t appear to be either one of those.

But, in the end, it’s the story that counts, and two issues into this arc, the story is purely captivating.

G.I. Joe: Origins #20

Reading much more like an arc of G.I. Joe: Cobra than G.I. Joe: Origins, Issue #2o introduces us to Dr. Lester Harvath, who works secretly for Cobra.  Dr. Harvath would appear to be a social engineer working in their recruiting department, and he uses a fascinating number scale to measure the capacity and potential value of subjects for Cobra.

Immediately there’s an ironic twist as we learn that while Cobra Commander himself measures as an “8” on this numerical scale, Harvath himself is merely a 4.  And this seems to be a source of much discontent with the Doctor, even as he continues his recruiting practices for the organization.  Much of the seedier side of Cobra recruiting is seen in this issue as potential troopers are gathered up, and innocents who are of no value to Cobra are summarily executed in cold blood.  And it isn’t even always innocents…in one case, Cobra required a squad of “fours”, and ordered that all of the “fives” be dealt with.

Along the way we meet Michael Monk, a military man who is learning to deal with a sick child and a problematic relationship with his wife.  After being dismissed from the army for being too aggressive with opponents, he has faked illness to qualify for government assistance to help his child, who has Lupus.  He speaks to his therapist, who has him take a familiar test…and when she gets the results, she calls Dr. Harvath.  With Monk on the verge of suicide, Harvath leads a squad in, stuns him, and makes him an offer he cannot refuse.

Issue #20 isn’t loaded with action.  However, it has a crisply written plot by David Lapham that within 22 pages manages to make us care for “The Mad Monk” and really become interested in this strange numerical system that seems to drive Dr. Harvath’s recruiting process.  Monk is immediately the victim, which is an interesting turn of events, considering we’re reading about the evolution of a Cobra operative.

The art is pretty stylized, and again, bares strong resemblance to the same detail-less noir style as G.I. Joe: Cobra, which will probably turn off some folks.  I don’t mind it too much, but I’m hardly a comic book afficianado these days, I’m mostly in it for the story, and this issue has story in spades.  I will say the art does sometimes shift from detailed to “artistic” (for lack of a better term) at a moment’s notice, which can be somewhat distracting.  Ultimately, though, it tells the story it needs to tell, and the comic does not suffer for it in the least.

By the end of Issue #20, I was certainly interested to hear more of Michael Monk’s story.  In Issue #21, I got my wish.

G.I. Joe: Origins #21

Where the last issue put the onus mostly on Dr. Harvath, in Issue #21, Michael Monk is front and center.  We seem him going through the initial phases of the training process with the Cobra organization, and being put through some horrible situations, mostly to see how he handles adversity.  He manages to handle it exceedingly well, for the most part, and excels at nearly everything he does.

He gets into a few altercations with his drill sergeant, and when (in the heat of battle) he finally takes out some aggression on him, he ends up in the infirmary with Dr. Harvath questioning his value to Cobra.  Confirming for Monk that his family is being extremely well taken care of, and will continue to be if he serves Cobra, Harvath coaxes him back into action, and “The Mad Monk” excels once again.  He becomes somewhat legendary amongst the Cobra cadre, and is approached by some operatives about moving even higher up the chain of command.

Meanwhile, Harvath seems to have his own agenda, and is trying  to arrange for Monk to be sent into the “Lion’s Den”.

While Issue #20 did a great job setting the scene, #21 really started to deliver on the action.  Gunfights are prevalent throughout the issue, and we see one of Cobra’s secret divisions “Colossus Security” doing some dirty work in the Middle East.  Through the thick of it, Monk remains a great character who the reader feels for, even amongst all of his darkness.  He really seems to be a good guy caught up with some bad people as the issue starts, though towards the end of Issue #21, he clearly knows where his place is, and what he’s being asked to do.

Lapham continues his very strong action and dialog work, however the art remains consistently unstable.  Again, like #20, it does the job, but certainly isn’t excellent.  It’s almost got an “animated” type of style with some exaggerated action movements, some distinctive facial features, and some “sketchbook” panels, but I don’t know…it just doesn’t vibe with me 100%.  However, it doesn’t detract from an excellent story, and one that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed thus far.  Once again, this arc seems like it would be more in line with G.I. Joe: Cobra (which certainly is NOT a complaint) and I’ll be interested to see how it serves as an “origin”.  Whatever the end result is, I’m on the edge of my seat waiting for Issue #22, which is a compliment indeed, considering these are origins books that technically have already happened.

Good job on this one, IDW, you’re ending the Origins title on a definite high note.  Hopefully the final installment pays off.

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