Monday, 14 May 2018

G.I. JOE #250(!): JUMPING BACK INTO THE PIT



First up, not only is this a brilliant idea from IDW Publishing to continue the 80s/90s Marvel series of comics (IDW has their own reboot series plus this continuation, which started in 2010 with #156) but it's also refreshing to see an ongoing series that doesn't feel the need to reset to a "first issue" every other month.  Call me old fashioned.  IDW's own Transformers comics started like this but after a few years went the way of having various interlinking titles instead of one long ongoing series.  Ghostbusters Answer the Call also seems like its going to be various mini-series too, rather than one comic with different stories which is a shame, but it's great to see G.I. Joe sticking to its guns (pun very much intended).  While back at the time of the original comic both this and Transformers from Marvel had a couple of special series, those were to compliment the main run and they did the job really well so I'm happy to see IDW following that lead here.

This milestone 250th issue is actually part five of the Dawn of the Arashikage story which focuses on the new Snake Eyes, a gifted high-school athlete by the name of Dawn Moreno.  I was gutted to discover the original Snake had died at some point in the story, as he was a favourite character of mine in the original Transformers UK comic's backup strip; even though he couldn't talk the writers and artists had a brilliant knack of embodying him with so much character.  But that was always one of the great things about those classic stories for both the GIs and the Transformers, knowing anyone could die at any time and no one was safe (unlike the cartoon versions of both) added to the tension and drama.


Time does indeed move on and why shouldn't a new Snake Eyes be female?  I was already excited for this new development and the way this has been set up is intriguing and very original.  Dawn's unique physical abilities made her a target for Cobra Commander, who forced her through intense experiments to see if she'd be of any use to him.  However, one of Dr. Mindbender's experiments saw him accidentally implant Snake Eyes' memories into her fragile teenage mind, pushing her psychological limits and resulting in her going on the run.  Struggling against visions from his past, Dawn gained assistance from the Arashikage Clan of the title, Snake Eyes' ninja comrades, and soon found herself up against Cobra's Firefly.  But that fight ended with him fleeing instead of facing defeat against this newly awakened ninja foe and so this is where I found myself at the start of #250, my first issue.


The catch-up on the editorial page was in-depth enough I felt I was on top of everything and I ended up really enjoying this snippet into the creation of this new character.  There were a couple of surprises along the way with certain Cobra characters working alongside the Joes, which has only heightened my desire to read up on the complete original series through the graphic novel collections.  For now though this tale plays out as one long action sequence on top of a moving express train in a Japanese city, but don't be thinking this means it's light on characterisation.  Alongside some quick wit and tense dialogue there's a flashback belonging to the original Snake Eyes, referred to as an example of him remembering.  This idea of Dawn's mind being home to those memories is fascinating and I'm just sad I didn't get to see more of these by missing out on the first four episodes.


Despite the fact I'm only reading the final chapter there appears to be real character development in the 24 pages of strip on display here, so I can only imagine how gripping the full story was.  For now anyway.  I'll get caught up!  Original writer Larry Hama hasn't lost any of his brilliance for great storytelling and just like when I re-read those 80s/90s instalments about a decade ago it's hard to believe this is a series based on a toy licence.  Netho Diaz and his team of inkers bring a real grittiness to the proceedings, embodying Dawn with a real sense of presence here even with her face covered by a familiar looking mask.  The same goes for Storm Shadow and Firefly, the latter of which you can see below in a particularly tense moment in the action aboard the speeding carriage.


There's a whiff of Herb Trimbe in the artwork, the original main artist of the series who has guest-drawn for this continuation before now.  Whether this familiarity is deliberate on the part of Diaz or not, or whether the artists were chosen by IDW for this reason I'm not sure, but either way it's a perfect fit. There's few non-action scenes in this issue but that's to be expected given the circumstances, but the quieter moments we do get have some wonderfully deep and satisfying dialogue, such as when Dawn finds herself on the Huey helicopter surrounded by her new teammates for the first time.  The art in this scene is just as rewarding, a golden colour edging its way over the characters very subtly, until we get a simply gorgeous final panel showing the sunset and lens flare glittering over the chopper and the city.  Kudos to colourist Milen Parvonov in particular there.

While this is the final part of a story I felt it was a great jumping on point.  As with the lengthy Transformers UK series, or in an even bigger way with 2000AD, it's fun to be part of a milestone issue such as this.  The few extra pages of strip really seem to have given the team time to flesh out the players here enough for me to care about the outcome of a story I wasn't previously privy to.  In fact the only criticism I could level at this issue is the fact it was billed as a bumper sized issue on IDW's website, yet it's only 8 pages bigger and half of that is just extra adverts.

But that's neither here nor there, because since I bought this issue I've now purchased and read the next and I can say with certainty I'm here for the foreseeable future.  Unlike other comics titles I've read in the past, or movies based on such properties, this final act of an epic tale didn't sacrifice story and character content for action and that meant the world to me.  I didn't think I'd be able to tell if I'd be on board until I read some new stories from their beginning, but #250 of A Real American Hero really did prove me wrong.

If you can track it down by ordering it from your comics store make sure you do.  A little bit of comics history and, for this blog anyway, the start of a bright future.

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