So I realize as I prepare to write this that I’ve been taking something for granted. Month in and month out, the greatness of Larry Hama and SL Gallant effortlessly weaving their way through the G.I. Joe mythology, incorporating new things, adding some great vintage homages and generally having fun with it all. I’ve been buying it every month, reading it every month, and enjoying it every month. But it became a routine and I just kind of expected to have it there, month in and month out.
When IDW announced that SL Gallant would no longer be the primary artist on G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, I have to admit, I was pretty upset. His work with Hama had become evocative of the legendary Hama/Whigham work from back in the day, a team that became so inexorably tied with the brand that it’s difficult to think of that era of G.I. Joe without picturing those particular versions of those characters in your head. The same had become true of Gallant’s time on the title, and now that I don’t have that routine anymore, it feels like a piece of that history is gone.
It’s odd because I’m typically not a fan of brands leaning on vintage nostalgia like a crutch, and I’d much prefer to see different ways that brands can evolve and stay relevant with these days rather than becoming overly reliant on trying to revisit the past…yet Hama/Gallant had just enough taste of the past to feel natural without feeling forced.
That being said, Netho Diaz has certainly made a splash and a very good impression with his work here. Keep reading for a full review.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #246
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: Netho Diaz
Inker: Thiago Gomes
Colors: Milen Parvanev
Letters: Neil Uyetake
Let me get this out of the way first – to me, G.I. Joe is about so much more than ninjas, and to be brutally honest I tire of the ninja storylines quite a bit. So, with the combined news of Gallant’s departure and a new fresh dive into Arashikage lore on the table, I really wasn’t sure how tightly I’d embrace this next new step in the Real American Hero universe.
We spend this first installment in the new “Dawk of the Arashikage” story with a nice mixture of exposition and action. Harada, working alongside Japanese law enforcement is taking other detectives through the crime scene of an especially brutal conflict between ninja clans, with Dawn leading the battle. He describes in meticulous detail the execution of certain killing strikes, which we revisit in flashbacks, making for some very gruesome and detailed imagery. There is a lot of blood going on here, and Diaz’s art is exceptionally well suited to the choreographed action.
We discover that Harada is a liaison between the Japanese Government and the Arashikage and that only a true ninja could hold that place. There is some secret connection between Harada and the ninja clans that is, as of yet, unrevealed.
Meanwhile, Dawn and Obake Obaasan are looking over the scene, showing some distrust of Harada. Dawn gets thrust into a Snake Eyes flashback, and just as Snake Eyes takes full control, the issue ends.
As I said at the beginning, I’m not huge on the over-reliance of ninja themes throughout G.I. Joe, though I know Snake Eyes is obviously one of the mythology’s main draws. I will say I really love how Larry Hama has handled the death of Snake Eyes with the combined evolution of both Throwdown and Dawn, and Dawn’s immersion into Snake Eyes’ memories feel both real and tragic. We get some great insight into the conflicts there at the end of the issue, and I find it fascinating that Hama is still sticking hard to the Vietnam era elements of Snake Eyes’ history, showing no need to “modernize” his backstory. They simply ignore the passage of time and write what feels right, and I love that about this book.
This first installment wasn’t especially fast-paced, but there manages to be a lot of detail work crammed in and the reader gets a crash course on this conflict between ninja clans and the internal dichotomy that Dawn faces with Snake Eyes such a huge part of her now.
I will give Hama credit… Snake Eyes has become a somewhat tired character, at least to those of us who have followed him for over thirty years, and taking him and sort of splitting his personalities into two separate younger, fresher characters surprisingly works. Dawn has been a joy to read so far and continues to be fairly captivating here as well, even though she doesn’t get the showcase.
As for the art… I mentioned previously how attached I was to SL Gallant and the news of his departure was not taken well, at least by me. That being said, Netho Diaz does some great work here. The pace and layout of his art is really well-done and the action scenes are exceptionally dynamic, though I have to admit his sword-play feels a bit more on the spot than his gun play from later in the issue. It’s crucial for an artist of G.I. Joe to balance martial arts action and firearms action equally well, and they are two entirely different styles of conflict, so my hope is that Diaz can do that. Things certainly look good so far. There’s a good amount of detail without going too deep down the rabbit hole, and emotional expressions on characters, even set in the background, work effectively well in portraying the feeling of the scene. He’s got a very good handle on where he’s going with this work.
I have to say the inks are nicely used here as well, especially once they enter the “chamber of horrors” with the use of negative space and pretty tight work around the details. The colors shift from monotone during flashbacks to more vibrant, yet still subdued, during the live action and offset each other well. There are times when both flashback and live action are occurring within the same panel, and the balance still works.
All in all, while not my favorite subject matter, Hama, Diaz, Gomes, Parvanev, and Uyetake do an exceptional job making this issue captivating, and it’s a great jumping on point for new readers I believe, who want to get reintroduced to the G.I. Joe mythology without feeling overwhelmed and inundated by complex weaves of continuity.
I think we can all agree, that G.I. Joe related comics have had an unfortunately tumultuous couple of months, reading this issue served as a great pallet cleanser to get back to enjoying seeing the characters and stories I love being brought to life. I look forward to the upcoming team up with the Six Million Dollar Man, and am very interested to see where Hama, Diaz, and their excellent support structure takes things going forward.
If you have even a passing interest in G.I. Joe, this is a fantastic opportunity to get back on board and ride the train, by all accounts, it will continue to be a fun ride.