Wow…has it been that long since I reviewed an IDW book? Yes, it has. Shame on me.
The real tragedy is that I’ve been enjoying IDW’s Joe books recently, by and large, but I just haven’t had time to review every issue as I would like. Trying to change that. I’m at a training seminar this week, and I decided to take a bit of a break today from studying to get some G.I. Joe fix in. It also helps that I had easy access to a comic store today to pick up a few issues. Back at home, I normally pick up my monthly books right across the street from work at a local Newbury Comics. Well, Hurricane Irene flooded that entire shopping plaza out a few weeks back, which has limited my ability to quench my Joe comic fix.
Granted, there are digital copies out there from IDW for sites that review their content, but I usually prefer to flip through a paper copy of the book while typing up the review, just for simplicity sake. Call me old school.
Now, because of the delay in newsletter releases compared to the “real time” access on the internet, I have been reviewing the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero title for the Collectors’ Club newsletter, but rather than just copy and paste the same content to the web, I’d rather do separate reviews in the various medium. But I figured that enough was finally enough and I needed to get back on track. Hit the jump to read the latest review.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #170
Writer: Larry Hama
Art: SL Gallant
Over the past several months I have extolled the virtues of the Real American Hero title, saying that it perfectly captures the spirit and energy of the classic series, and with issue #170, it continues to do so. Not only does it continue to do so, and not only does it do well to emulate the classic series, but it manages to emulate the series at its heyday. This doesn’t feel like the 90’s books continued, this feels like the 80’s books apologizing for the 90’s books and going back to the 80’s books. It is awesome.
This issue features a little bit of everything. Arguably, the “main” storyline involves a night operations team departing from the Flagg into parts unknown. This team consists of Flint, Roadblock, Lady Jaye, and Recondo, zipping along in a Tomahawk piloted by Wild Bill and Lift Ticket. It’s a who’s who of popular characters from the old Marvel series, and Gallant does terrific work as always translating them impeccably from their 80’s aesthetic.
Along with this we learn how the Mainframe vs. Firefly and Crystal Ball angle ended, we see some more evolution of the Arashikage Clan, and find out the great connection between Sneak Peek and Destro’s cousin Darklon.
And herein lies the amazement. Darklon has been one of my favorite unknown characters for a long time, though I can’t honestly say why. I just love his helmet, love the figure tooling, and love that he has such a direct connection to the Destro family, yet received so little back story embellishment. Hama is able just to grab this random character out of thin air and immediately inject him into the ongoing story. That is perhaps what is my favorite part of this continuation of the Marvel book. Where each new invention of the mythology has to go back and re-establish characters we already know (Snake Eyes, Firefly, Zartan, etc…) the Marvel book has all of these characters well established and well known. Hama pretty much has carte blanch to explore other interesting members of G.I. Joe and Cobra, such as Sneak Peek and Darklon.
I mean, Sneak Peek. Come on. Previously known as the chubby guy named after Stephen King’s son, Larry Hama has managed to salvage a potential error (Sneak Peek was thought to have died back in Trucial Abysma) and totally reinvent the character, giving him immediate personality and purpose. Sneak Peek isn’t just a goof in a gray and red uniform any more, he has an actual job to do, and suddenly, after only a few months, I find myself hoping that Hasbro eventually releases a Sneak Peek update in the modern style.
What the hell is wrong with me?
Along with all of this good stuff, Hama even manages to once again explore the back story of the Arashikage Clan and find more wrinkles to uncover and more conflict to dig into. I would have never thought it possible, but here it is.
As mentioned and pretty much run into the ground at this point, this book just works. It works. It reads, feels, and rolls like you would expect a continuation of the 80’s to. Larry Hama doesn’t seem forced into any corners, or struggling to write things he’s not interested in. He’s not reinventing any wheels, he’s just going out and doing what he wants to do, and it is working. Then of course there is the art. Like every month, SL Gallant translates the Joe characters perfectly from plastic to paper, and seeing vehicles like the Flagg, the Skystriker, and the Tomahawk drawn in such exacting and meticulous detail is a total treat. He seems to understand what makes the characters identifiable, and doesn’t worry about putting his own twist on things, he just puts out a very realistic, very accurate, and very 80’s style page, and as a long time G.I. Joe fan I cannot thank him enough for it.
I can’t think of a single Joe title I have looked forward to reading more month in and month out than this one. It’s everything I’ve loved about G.I. Joe over the past three decades, all rolled into a perfect 22-page monthly package. Kudos to Hama, to Gallant, and to IDW for making it happen.