Book Review: ‘The Joy of Joe: Memories of America’s Movable Fighting Man from Today’s Grown-Up Kids’

This pretty short book is a collection of a few dozen essays written by some fairly notable people, about their childhood love of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Some essays are about the old ’60s toys but most are about the ’80s version of G.I. Joe and all of it’s forms: toys, comics and the cartoon.

Fabian Nicieza even contributed to the book, which was cool as I’ve been a big fan of his comic book writing since the early ’90s.

This obviously won’t mean much to non-G.I. Joe fans but for those of us who have a love of the franchise, it was really nice reading about how passionate these writers are about the toyline and everything that came with it.

In the end, it’s just nice being reminded from time to time that you’re not alone in your love of something that feels long gone, that will probably never be the same, even after several attempts at resurrection.

Rating: 6.5/10

Comic Review: IDW Deviations

Published: 2017
Written by: various
Art by: various
Based on: Judge Dredd by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, The X-Files by Chris Carter, Ghostbusters by Ivan Reitman, Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis, G.I. Joe by Hasbro, Transformers by Hasbro, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, My Little Pony by Bonnie Zacherle, Star Trek by Gene Roddenberry

IDW Publishing, 356 Pages

Review:

So IDW decided to do their own version of Marvel’s What If?… series and DC’s Elseworlds tales. Except, IDW doesn’t have really any creations of their own, at least none that anyone really seems to care about. Instead, they are most known for printing comics of intellectual properties that they pay for publishing rights to have.

This series of one-shots gave us “what if” tales for Judge Dredd, G.I. Joe, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Trek, X-Files, Ghostbusters and My Little Pony.

At their best, there were a few issues that were simply, okay. But most of these were terrible. And they weren’t terrible for one reason, they had just about everything going wrong for them.

In fact, the only two of these that I would give a passing grade to are Donny Cates’ take on Star Trek, which is still a poor effort considering Cates’ caliber, as well as the Transformers one, which gave us an alternate take on the events of the original animated motion picture.

The worse one of the lot was the one I was most excited for: G.I. Joe. It was a big, lame, unfunny joke that poked at some of the franchise’s tropes but did so without the writer having a single funny bone in their entire body. I’ve never not laughed so hard.

This was something that had potential, could have given us some really cool results and honestly, shouldn’t have been that hard to write at even a passable level. IDW has lost their fucking way, man. I guess it’s no surprise that the company is up shit’s creek, now getting bailouts from Marvel on their D-list comic books.

Frankly, I’m pissed I paid for these issues.

Rating: 3.5/10
Pairs well with: the IDW 20/20, Infestation and Revolution events, as well as some of the IDW crossovers.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Silent Option

Published: September 19th, 2018 – March 13th, 2019
Written by: Larry Hama, Ryan Ferrier
Art by: Netho Diaz, Kenneth Loh
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 151 Pages

Review:

This four-part miniseries is the latest G.I. Joe story from longtime G.I. Joe writer Larry Hama. It is also the first IDW G.I. Joe story that I’ve read in several months, as I was starting to get burnt out on the franchise due to how IDW has handled it since Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa left the series.

Larry Hama is still writing the regular ongoing series that started at Marvel in the early ’80s but it just doesn’t have the same magic it used to and so much has changed for the worse that I don’t much care for Hama’s ongoing continuity even though his work, decades ago, is what initially got me into buying comic books to begin with.

I wanted to check this out, though. The main reason is that I’ve been yearning for a good G.I. Joe story and this miniseries is centered around Helix, a modern character but one I came to love in the IDW rebooted continuity. I know, I know, these multiple continuities can get confusing but I believe that this is technically Helix’s first appearance in the original Hama continuity, so I wanted to see how it played out.

Overall, her story was good but this complete story arc was pretty mundane. I’m an old school fan, so the lack of Cobra in this story sucked, as did the lack of old school Joes. Sure, the story featured Firefly but the villain was generic and just had some red ninjas to do her bidding and on the Joe side we got Alpine and tiny cameos from Hawk, Cutter and Shipwreck but this was pretty much a new Joe team featuring characters that are poor recreations of iconic Joe members.

Hell, we get two new versions of Snake Eyes here but neither of them are even 5 percent as cool as the original. I don’t dig the girl Snake Eyes and it seems like a cheap attempt by IDW at trying to create their own X-23 type of character. For those that don’t know, X-23 was a female clone of Wolverine in Marvel Comics titles.

I thought the art was mostly good and this had a harder edge to it than most of Hama’s G.I. Joe stories, as it dealt with human sex trafficking, but it lacked in badass points when compared to the Dixon and Costa G.I. Joe stories from the IDW reboot continuity.

This wasn’t a complete waste of time but it didn’t do much to motivate me to give G.I. Joe a seventeenth chance.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: any of the Larry Hama G.I. Joe stuff at IDW.

Vids I Dig 005: Douglas Ernst Mentions Talking Pulp’s Twitter Page and Parody Comic

This is from back in October of 2018 but when there were a lot of developments regarding the lawsuit between Richard C. Meyer and Mark Waid, I was making a parody G.I. Joe comic about it. YouTube commentator Douglas Ernst brought it up in a video. Talking Pulp is mentioned starting around 4:07.

Comic Review: M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol. 2: Rise of V.E.N.O.M.

Published: December 13th, 2017
Written by: Brandon M. Easton, David A. Rodriguez
Art by: Andrew Griffith, Drew Moss, Juan Samu
Based on: M.A.S.K. by Kenner Products

IDW Publishing, 162 Pages

Review:

I really wanted this comic to be good, as I was a huge fan of the toyline when I was a young boy in the ’80s.

There are a few reasons as to why this just doesn’t cut the mustard but the biggest is that it doesn’t know what the hell it needs to be. This is the second and final volume in IDW’s run on the M.A.S.K. property but it sacrifices the property itself by wedging in G.I. Joe and Transformers characters, essentially being a crossover with those other Hasbro franchises.

And when it isn’t focused on other franchises, it just keeps giving us origin stories and nothing with any real meat to it. There is nothing here to make me care about M.A.S.K. on its own.

I feel as if IDW didn’t have any faith in M.A.S.K. and tried to draw more attention to it by throwing these characters into a G.I. Joe and Transformers story. It reminds me of when Marvel would have a new or struggling comic book in the ’90s so they had to throw Spider-Man in it and on the cover in an effort to generate more sales. It isn’t a tactic that worked a quarter of a century ago and it doesn’t work now.

The writing is a mess, the story is all over the place and then the art isn’t very good either. There just isn’t much here worth giving a crap about.

M.A.S.K. vs. G.I. Joe vs. Transformers story could be great but M.A.S.K. needs to swim on its own first.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: other M.A.S.K. comics, as well as comics for other Hasbro properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Comic Review: M.A.S.K.: Mobile Armored Strike Kommand, Vol. 1: Mobilize

Published: August 23rd, 2017
Written by: Brandon M. Easton
Art by: Juan Samu, Tony Vargas
Based on: M.A.S.K. by Kenner Products

IDW Publishing, 146 Pages

Review:

Man, I really wanted this to be good.

I was a big fan of M.A.S.K. when I was a kid in the ’80s. I used to watch the cartoon daily and I owned a lot of the toys, including the massive Boulder Hill headquarters playset.

IDW Publishing had also done a really good job with other Hasbro properties, specifically G.I. Joe and Transformers for several years before this came out.

The problem was that M.A.S.K. got its comic adaptation too late, as it started off as part of the Revolution crossover that saw the world of M.A.S.K. meld together with G.I. JoeTransformersROMMicronauts and Action Man. That crossover really muddled things up for me and it’s where IDW’s great G.I. Joe run ended.

I don’t blame IDW for the crossover, as it was something that Hasbro wanted as an experiment to see how their multiple toy brands could co-exist in a shared universe because shared universes are hot right now and Hasbro wants to attempt this on a larger stage: motion pictures.

While this takes place mostly after the crossover, the worlds of G.I. Joe and Transformers are still referenced here and it doesn’t allow M.A.S.K. to establish its own unique mythos and story. The tech used in this is descended from Cybertronian tech, which sort of cheapens the rich property that M.A.S.K. once was.

I’m not trying to be overly negative but I think that M.A.S.K. can and should stand on its own, at least this early into its comic book run.

The tone of the writing also didn’t mesh well with the art style. The covers were great but the interior art was a bit too kiddish for the seriousness of the story. I felt like something along the lines of Robert Atkins’ art style during his G.I. Joe run would have been more appropriate.

I did mostly like the story and how things were set up between the M.A.S.K. team and the villainous V.E.N.O.M. I liked that Miles Mayhem trained the heroes but was now their primary enemy.

But sadly, I thought that this was too light on the vehicle action. It seemed like the masks and their powers were used more frequently than the cool, transforming vehicles. The vehicles are why every kid liked M.A.S.K. in the first place. They need to be front and center in every issue and utilized in the story. In fact, I forgot that the masks actually did anything other than making a cool fashion statement.

I have the second volume and I plan to read it and review it as well. Hopefully, it finds its groove and builds off of this mostly mediocre start.

Rating: 5.75/10
Pairs well with: other M.A.S.K. comics, as well as comics for other Hasbro properties like G.I. Joe and Transformers.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 6

Published: December 16th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Rod Whigham, Todd McFarlane, Ron Wagner
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 236 Pages

Review:

This collection of the classic Larry Hama G.I. Joe comics is probably most unlike any of the others before it. The string of issues collected here, numbers 51 through 60, showcase a lot of new Joes and members of Cobra, as well as dealing with Serpentor taking control of Cobra while Cobra Commander spends some time connecting with his estranged son and trying out his battle armor, which was worn by his action figure after G.I. Joe: The Movie in the cartoon series and toy line.

One cool thing worth noting is that one of the issues here was drawn by Todd McFarlane before he would achieve fame with The Amazing Spider-Man and later, Spawn.

While I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of the collections before it, it is still a good string of tales. However, this is getting closer to the era of G.I. Joe that I didn’t like as much as the earlier stuff.

The franchise, at this point, has so many characters that comic book debuts happen nearly every issue and usually with multiple new faces showing up at the same time. One issue in here had the new look Cobra Commander out on his first mission with the debuting Raptor, Fred VII and a new group of Joes like Tunnel Rat and Outback. And I know I’m probably missing several others. It’s just hard for the comic to follow a tightly knit narrative like this series did at it’s peak from volumes 3 through 5.

Don’t get me wrong, if you love G.I. Joe, especially the Larry Hama side of the universe, then this should still satisfy you. It just shows that this is a franchise in constant flux and this feels more like a transition to newer things than something that builds off of what we’ve come to know thus far. But this is also planting seeds for the Cobra Civil War storyline, which was one of the high points in the comic’s entire run.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.