Over the past few months I’ve done nothing but heap praise upon the Real American Hero title, which had been disappointing me for a little while, but has since made up for it in a big way.
Well, this month, for the most part, it continues to redeem itself, but something happened in the latest issue, which was actually pretty disappointing to me. Probably minor in the grand scheme of things, and one of the risks you take when you attempt to extend a continuity that hasn’t been touched for over a decade (Devils’ Due notwithstanding).
Still, I do expect more out of Larry Hama, and IDW’s editorial staff. Click the Read the Rest of this Entry link below to find out what I’m bitching about.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #164
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: SL Gallant
Every single issue of this series that comes out, I eagerly flip to the credits page, just to make sure Gallant is still penciling the title. Once that’s confirmed, I sit back and just prepare to enjoy the ride because to date, I have been nothing but impressed by the way he and Hama work together to put out a title that is deserving of the Real American Hero trademark.
And yes, while I do have a significant complaint about this issue, by and large it was still excellent and enjoyable pretty much the whole way through.
Taking up where the previous issue left off, Snake Eyes has strapped himself into the Brainwave Scanner while Billy/Venom desperately scrambles to prevent him from realizing that Dr. Venom is still “alive” in virtual form. At The Pit, the Joes are still monitoring The Baroness and trying to figure out her plans while Mindbender, Destro, the Dreadnoks, and a legion of B.A.T.s roam around above ground. While the Joes recon Cobra’s apparent attack position, Snake Eyes and “Billy” are going after Storm Shadow, tracking him to his water tower hide out in New York.
In Utah, the B.A.T.s and the Joe Recon team battle it out while Destro causes some confusion with his Despoiler, drawing the Joes’ attention out towards the desert, where they see… The Baroness! But how did she escape?
Cobra’s plans are quickly revealed in a brief, but intense firefight in various different locations, which results in The Baroness’ actual freedom, rampant B.A.T. destruction, and an apparent victory for the bad guys.
However, all is not lost. Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes go tooth and nail in New York, and in the end, Storm Shadow applies the Arashikage Mindset on his Sword Brother, breaking him of his brainwashing.
So, my thoughts? Awesome. The issue was awesome. Gallant’s art continues to impress and keeps right on with the spirit of the 80’s. Clean, crisp pencils, well defined inks, and nice bright, very classic colors absolutely bring this artwork to life. I really love it. His knack for being spot on with the uniform design is a huge benefit, and you really get an 80’s feel for the book. Destro coming in with his Despoiler was awesomeness personified, though I’ll admit it was off-putting seeing him pilot it in his old school high-collar ’83 uniform. The B.A.T.s were handled exceptionally well, and looked much better than the versions we saw in the earlier issues. Mindbender and Cobra Commander play off of each other perfectly.
The Joe cast of characters impresses, too. Immediately Hama’s focus on Stalker and Spirit come back into play, as those two are fairly prevalent throughout the issue. Psyche Out is there, too, which makes sense based on The Baroness’ captivity. Best of all, the Snake Eyes brainwashing storyline wraps up, so we get that somewhat tired story plot out of the way. Granted, there’s still the Billy and Dr. Venom dynamic to deal with.
So where did this issue go wrong? Two words: Sneak Peek.
Perhaps I’m making too big a thing out of it, but the inclusion of Sneak Peek just seems to me to be a lack of research. Way back in the now infamous Trucial Abysma days, Sneak Peek was the focus of Issue #113. Bravely running into the field of fire to rescue a local child, Sneak Peek is gunned down by Alley-Vipers, Night Vipers, and Frag-Vipers. Barely clinging to life, Dusty hauls him over his shoulder and trudges him all the way back to camp, remembering fondly of a time when he was invited to Sneak Peek’s family home for the holidays. At the end of the long trek, we all find out that Sneak Peek had been dead “for hours” yet Dusty continued to carry his old friend back to camp.
It was a touching tribute and a nearly perfect end to a character that really didn’t get much attention on the Joe roster. It was an example of just how great Larry Hama was at breathing life into “lifeless” pieces of plastic, and to take someone like Sneak Peek, who most Joe fans wouldn’t look at twice, and make him a strong, powerful character was amazing.
So what happens now? Is this “Sneak Peek” supposed to be a different character? I’m 100% certain it was just a lack of research and a lack of memory that brought him back to the battlefield, which is a damn shame because he had such a great finale. If IDW and Larry Hama try to just say this is just a new guy with his name and his uniform (as they most likely will) that really invalidates the old Sneak Peek character, and believe me, the old Sneak Peek already was nearly invalid enough. Pretty much his only shining point was the nobleness of his last act and the touching story of his final battle. Now, even that is gone.
Yes, I’m certain I’m looking too deep into this comic book, and yes, I understand that it’s tough to hold folks accountable for continuing a story that has been essentially 13 years in the making. But it just seems to me there are a ton of places online to look for dead Joes, and it would have taken but 30 seconds to find out Sneak Peek was a corpse.
95% of this issue was great…but this 5% was really disappointing, and I do hope Mr. Hama and the IDW Editors pay closer attention in the future. They’re working so hard and doing such a great job extending the classic Real American Hero universe, making a little slip up like this unfortunately sets them back. We’ll see how they recover.