I said this in the post I made with the preview for this issue…but it seems like just yesterday we were anticipating what Fred Van Lente was going to do with IDW’s flagship G.I. Joe title, and here we are, seven issues deep, and we’ve already made it through one story arc and are on the verge of kicking off another.
Even before this issue was released it was causing some controversy, mostly based around the supposed return of G.I. Joe ninja Snake Eyes. So, were those concerns valid? Read the full review after the jump. As one might suspect, there are spoilers contained below!
G.I. Joe #7
Writer: Fred Van Lente
Artist: Steve Kurth
Inker: Allen Martinez
Colorist: Joana LaFuente
Letterer: Neil Uyetake
Consulting Editor: Carlos Guzman
Editor: John Barber
IDW Publishing’s main G.I. Joe title kicked off with it’s third “season” approximately seven months ago and has certainly been faced with vicious scrutiny from the G.I. Joe faithful. A G.I. Joe crowd who is more comfortable with real-life military operations even though these military operations are surrounded by clones, robots, and guys in bird suits.
With this in mind, I find myself almost invigorated by what Van Lente is doing with the G.I. Joe title. Larry Hama has always had the perfect, innate ability to blend the fanciful with the realism and create a world where these things can co-exist without it being just plain bizarre. However, other writers have struggled with that duty. Chuck Dixon’s tact has been to jump full on into “real world” military and try to explain away some of the other strangeness, or perhaps just gloss over it entirely, delivering a very straight, military tale that appeals to some. To Van Lente’s credit, he seems to go the other way. Don’t get me wrong, there are still military elements here, but the main G.I. Joe title seems much further steeped in more familiar comic book lore, which some fans don’t like, but I have been able to really get my head around.
I mean, it’s funny… Issue #6 last month was rubbing me the wrong way because Cover Girl was able to join the G.I. Joe team merely because she won a reality show competition. I mean… what? But then you realize that yes, this happened, but this happened in a universe where one of the G.I. Joe operatives wears a metal bullet on his head and tight red spandex, so really… what’s the big deal?
I’ve been able to detach myself somewhat from the more typical realistic military elements and have found myself really enjoying this book quite a bit more than I suspected I would. What’s really cool also is that Van Lente seems to have a natural ability to bridge some of these other aspects of G.I. Joe and do it well. We’ve already seen Joe Colton as the commanding General of the team, and we’ve seen Duke playing with a fuzzy head G.I. Joe as a kid. As referenced above, Bulletman appeared alongside Cover Girl in Issue #6 (not to mention Lt. Stone from G.I. Joe: Extreme), and then within the first few pages of this issue we see some awesome connections with Sgt. Savage, General Blitz and the Iron Army.
But the main focus of this book is on Cobra agent the Mad Monk and his return to the G.I. Joe universe after his fantastic turn in the
Cobra series G.I. Joe Origins where the character was expertly developed by Mike Costa David Lapham. It’s not often that characters who are not toy-based are brought into a G.I. Joe story and I enjoy them (I’d prefer the toys provide more inspiration) but Lapham did such awesome work with the Monk, I can accept him. Van Lente does a fantastic job tying in Monk’s origin story to this further continuation of his adventures, and the sinister methods he enacts to further Cobra’s goals in Manhattan.
And yes, we see Snake Eyes. Kind of. As I sort of suspected when I first saw the preview, the Snake Eyes appearance here is a red herring, and a training exercise with Quick Kick wearing Snake Eyes’ suit, so no reason to think IDW’s going back on their word to keep the mute ninja out of the limelight for a little while.
This issue was a very enjoyable read, as we see some great interactions between the Baroness and Destro, and get a better peek into Duke’s past as well. Cover Girl and Roadblock have some suspicions about a potential mole in the G.I. Joe team, and I love that they’re addressing these in their own unique ways. But I think Mad Monk is the star of this issue, and I love the conversation Destro has with the Baroness about his Lome Score and just how dangerous that makes the Mad Monk based on those results.
What really solidified the way this book is written, different from other iterations of G.I. Joe, was with the final page, though. I loved how Cover Girl brought Scarlett and her team into the story, and found myself surprisingly geeked out about it. Just like in the 90’s when the X-Men had their “Gold” and “Blue” teams and when those teams worked together it was a really big deal, I got the same excitement out of this, which I found surprising. G.I. Joe has always been one large team, and I was pleasantly surprised at how effective Van Lente has been at segregating a “face” of G.I. Joe with the down and dirty “guts” of the team, and it was pretty exciting to see them crossing over (or on the verge of crossing over) especially considering the reason for it. Very well done.
Kurth’s artwork in this issue retained its somewhat “hit or miss” status with me. Some panels, especially those with the Mad Monk, were really well done and nicely detailed. However, some other segments (like much of the faux-Snake Eyes combat) seemed rushed and not as crisp.
Based on previous work, I felt pretty good about Fred Van Lente being involved with a G.I. Joe title, and now that we have seven issues under our belt, I still remain really fascinated by this change in direction and I’m enjoying the process. I do wish the artwork would tighten up a little bit and the uniforms still aren’t resonating with me a whole lot, but beyond these mostly superficial comments I’m enjoying what I’m seeing. This issue was no different.
NOTE: I had erroneously attributed Monk’s creation/development to Mike Costa from the G.I. Joe: Cobra series. Shame on me, he was created/developed by David Lapham for the G.I. Joe: Origins series. Mea Culpa.