I’ve been slacking in my comic reviews, but when I had a few spare moments this week and wanted to post a review for the IDW Cobra title because it continues to excel and reinvent the G.I. Joe mythology, and manage to do it well. So many fans get so absorbed with the way they view G.I. Joe and how it “should be” I think it’s really refreshing to see someone like Mike Costa rewrite the formula and do it so damned well.
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Writer – Mike Costa
Artists – Antonio Fuso & Atilio Rojo
One of the most frustrating things about being a fan or being part of a fandom is that so many people seem to want a property that is just like how they remember it. They want all of the uniforms to remain the same, all of the characters to act and speak exactly like they always have. I certainly respect a level of nostalgia that drives many fans to love the properties they do, but in my opinion, after thirty years, we’ve gotta see some new things. How many times are we going to see the same themes repeated time and time again for three decades before it gets stale, or before it becomes way too dated.
Let’s face it, Russia is not the same place it was 30 years ago. There isn’t that superpower confrontational undertones between the United States and the Soviet Union like there was back then, and there isn’t this natural rivalry between a Spec Ops team in America and one in Russia.
But the Oktober Guard has a very strong and devoted segment of the fandom, and it makes sense for IDW to bring them on in this new G.I. Joe universe. I’m thrilled that Mike Costa is the one who took the ball and ran with it. This issue is a perfect reason why.
The Oktober Guard immediately feels like a natural fit for this universe, even though they are a product of the 80’s Cold War era. As a third party spec ops team, which was apparently initially funded by Cobra themselves, we get a great look at the background of Daina in this issue and the roots of what became the Oktober Guard. We see the awesome Spetnaz influence (with full credit to Larry Hama, who introduced most of us to the Russian special forces group before we ever heard mention of them in a “real world” setting). These Oktober Guard members obviously use the classics as an influence, but are able to build on those characters and make them current, and extremely nasty.
Colonel Shtern is a terrific hard-edged character, and his back and forth to Major Bludd was a fantastic piece of writing, and I loved the transition to Ronin in the air ducts. Ronin has become a really awesome character in my mind, and I grow more disappointed that a disjointed Hasbro marketing strategy doesn’t seem to be drawing many influences to some of the great things that IDW is doing within the pages of their comics. I would love to see a Ronin figure on store shelves.
Perhaps the biggest change in this Oktober Guard team is with Gorky, who is no longer a beret wearing flirt for Lady Jaye…he’s now a scarred, bald, body armor wearing bad ass with knives…and the fight with Ronin was an instant classic. I couldn’t help but feel an homage to old school Daredevil comics here. I know I’ve mentioned Antonio Fuso’s art in the past and that he occasionally struggles to portray realistic action, but this battle panel-for-panel was easy to follow, dramatic, action-packed, and terrific. I still enjoy how well Fuso’s work integrates with the style of the Cobra title, and the way he draws these updated Oktober Guard characters really influences my positive opinion of them.
I will admit, though, Rojo’s art in the Daina flashback was fantastic as well. I really liked the different styles. Rojo’s very clean and clear style almost represented a happier, brighter time, while the transition to Fuso portrayed a very gritty, drastic shift to a current, dirty, modern day universe. It worked remarkably well.
As usual, Costa weaves a terrific tale, translated excellently to paper, and I enjoyed this issue immensely. While I loved the way the Cobra Command multi-parter wove a story between all IDW titles, I’ll admit, Cobra has been a nice departure from the Target: Snake Eyes story, and they’re doing an exceptional job with the Oktober Guard. Great stuff.