Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 2

Published: March 4th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama, Steven Grant
Art by: Geof Isherwood, Mike Vosburg
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 235 Pages

Review:

While I liked the first volume of these collected editions, this is where the style of Larry Hama’s classic era G.I. Joe legacy really kicks things into high gear.

The main takeaway from this is that it starts to get away from episodic feeling single issues and becomes a more fluid larger story arc. This is where the saga really begins to grow and how it evolves into something more solid than the awesome Sunbow/Marvel cartoon series.

This is also where Destro and Major Bludd come into the franchise. Both characters are great in this and have more depth than their cartoon counterparts. Bludd was just sort of a loud, crass, on field commander that was quick to retreat in the cartoons. Here, he is a bit of a badass and his distaste for Destro is very apparent.

Also, we get our first glimpse into the passionate relationship between Destro and the Baroness and how it creates problems for the Baroness and her relationship with Cobra Commander and her place in his organization.

We also get two characters I loved from the comics: Dr. Venom and Scar-face. Neither of them had toys or appeared in the cartoon but they were cool, dynamic characters in the comic series with more character development than most characters got in the television show.

There is also a significant amount of time for Snake Eyes to shine here. He appears in the first collected edition but was mostly just there to look cool. Here, we really get to know him and see how he is probably the most vital single member of the G.I. Joe team.

Another thing about this series of issues, is that you witness death for the first time in the G.I. Joe franchise. Unlike the cartoon, many characters don’t survive in the comics. It goes to show that no one is actually safe and that this take on the franchise has more gravitas and the weight of these characters’ actions can have mortal consequences.

All in all, this is a really good installment in the classic G.I. Joe comics run. This is where the series found its footing and started taking real risks.

Rating: 7.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 4: Defiance

Published: April 24th, 2018
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Diogenes Neves, Carlos Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

This is the biggest storyline so far in the current Deathstroke series. It sees Deathstroke try to further atone for his past sins while becoming the leader of a new group he has formed with his children and a few former Teen Titans.

Also, Deathstroke and his team wear some pretty cool looking black and white costumes.

This has been the biggest and most popular story in the most recent and ongoing Deathstroke series. So once I got to this volume, I was really excited to jump in, especially with all the plot threads leading up to it being fresh in my mind. There are several characters that this series is trying to balance but it has done a good job, so far, of keeping things moving and flowing properly.

And sure, Deathstroke is often times overshadowed by other characters in his own series but it all ties directly to him and his journey since the current series started.

The biggest problem with this chapter, however, is that it doesn’t wrap up within this volume. The Defiance team’s story carries over into what will be the next installment, which isn’t released for a few more months. I’d like to jump into it while this is all fresh but I guess I’ll have to pickup a few of the single issues I’m missing to fill the few holes in my collection.

What I like about this though, is that it feels like a throwback to Cable coming into New Mutants and eventually forming X-Force. There are some parallels to it and it makes this feel like something I would have read in the early ’90s when I was first getting into comics at a deeper level.

This is capped off by a story that sort of interjects itself into the Defiance plot and forces the series to switch gears momentarily. But that story was really cool and pits Slade Wilson against several of DC’s top villains who are trying to test if he has turned over a new leaf or if he is still “evil” at his core.

This was a good collection but it leaves you hanging.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 1

Published: December 31st, 2008 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama, Steven Grant, Herb Trimpe
Art by: Don Perlin, Herb Trimpe, Mike Vosburg
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 238 Pages

Review:

This is the first in a series of collected volumes that are reprints of the original Marvel Comics run on the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero franchise. These are the tales that started it all and introduced people to these characters from one of the best-selling toy lines of all-time.

This series is written by Larry Hama, the man who really is the original author of G.I. Joe and who established everything that people have come to know about the franchise and its characters. While he didn’t work on the popular cartoon, it was Hama who developed the characters’ personas and who set the tone and style of the series.

G.I. Joe was originally developed by Hama to be a series for Marvel that followed the son of Nick Fury, a team of commandos and their war against Hydra. Marvel rejected the idea but when Hasbro came knocking, looking for a comic book series to tie into their toy line, Hama resurrected his idea and retrofitted the commandos into the G.I. Joe team and Cobra became the replacement for Hydra.

This volume collects issues 1 through 10. At this point, G.I. Joe hadn’t evolved into a saga like it would become. These earliest issues were more like the cartoon, one-off stories that stood on their own without having to really read the stuff before or after. As the series rolled on, story arcs got longer, the mythos expanded and most issues were connected to a larger narrative.

While I prefer the series when it gets broader and tells larger tales, these early issues are still great.

However, there is one real highlight with this and it is the two-parter that introduces us to the October Guard (or Oktober Guard, as it would later be spelled). They are the Soviet equivalent to the G.I. Joe team and while things start out rocky between the two groups, they look past Cold War drama and work together to fight Cobra. Other than this quick two-parter though, everything else was single issue stories.

I do like that the earliest stuff uses Stalker a lot, as he is one of my favorite G.I. Joe characters. The Joe team is pretty small here though, as is Cobra. In fact, the only named members of Cobra in these first ten issues are Cobra Commander (who is not a coward like in the cartoon) and the Baroness.

These earliest stories were fun to relive but the series gets better as it finds its footing, establishes some new ideas and new characters and evolves away from simple, one issue storytelling.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 3: Twilight

Published: October 17th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: Joe Bennett, Jason Paz, Larry Hama, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 165 Pages

Review:

Deathstroke is at it again. What do I mean by that? Well, he is back to being a hardcore badass. Not that he ever wasn’t a hardcore badass. He’s always been a hardcore badass. But here, he continues being a hardcore badass and even if he isn’t the sole focal point of his post-Rebirth series, he still takes over the pages that he’s on.

That being said, I don’t mind that he sometimes feels like a co-star in his own series, as everything happening in these books is tied into Deathstroke and is all leading towards something bigger. Or, at least, that’s what this build feels like.

A big portion of this story has to do with Slade Wilson meeting Tanya Spears, the young girl that took on the name of Power Girl, after the original Power Girl left. This serves to setup the Defiance storyline, which is the one directly following this arc. Tanya is a big part of that story, as are many of the other people this book focuses on.

While this feels like it is a filler story, if you’ve been paying attention to this series, thus far, there are a lot of clues and things that are dropped throughout this. It also resolves a few minor plot points and builds on the love and tension between the core characters, mainly Slade and his children, Rose and Joseph.

The highlight of this book though is the introduction of Tanya, how she saves Slade and then works as his ally until a plot twist comes into play.

In the end, this is a good volume in the current Deathstroke series. I haven’t been let down by this series yet.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Comic Review: Deathstroke, Vol. 1: The Professional

Published: March 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest
Art by: James Bennett, Belardino Brabo, Mark Morales, Carlo Pagulayan, Jason Paz, Larry Hama

DC Comics, 143 Pages

Review:

I started reading some of the modern Deathstroke stuff recently. Being that I felt like I needed to have the earlier stories in his current run to have a better grip on what was happening, I decided to go back and start with the first collection of Deathstroke issues since the start of DC’s Rebirth.

This was an interesting book and it showed me how far the character of Deathstroke has come since I used to read about him in the ’80s and ’90s. Plus, it really helped to give me more context as to where he fits in the DC Comics universe now.

This collection has two stories in it. One of them sends Deathstroke to an exotic country where he must deal with double crosses and twists. He also comes face to face with supervillain, the Clock King. The second story takes Deathstroke and his daughter Rose to Gotham City. We see them get tangled up with Batman and the modern Robin, Damian Wayne. I feel like there are some hints or Easter eggs here that will come back in the current ongoing story arc, Deathstroke Vs. Batman. But I won’t read that until the final two issues come out.

I really liked this volume in the current Deathstroke run. I’ve always liked the character and it seems like the writer, Christopher Priest, has a good grasp on who Slade Wilson is. The stuff with Slade and his daughter was really well written.

I also though the art was damn good and liked seeing that Larry Hama worked on some of it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with: The other Deathstroke stories since DC’s Rebirth. Also, the current runs on Nightwing and Red Hood and the Outlaws.

Documentary Review: Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (2013)

Original Run: October 8th, 2013 – October 15th, 2013
Directed by: Michael Kantor
Written by: Michael Kantor, Laurence Maslon, J. David Spurlock
Music by: Christopher Rife
Cast: Liev Schreiber (host), Mark Waid, Stan Lee, Adam West, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrision, Lynda Carter, Jeph Loeb, J. Michael Straczynski, Geoff Johns, Zack Snyder, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Tim Daly

Ghost Light Films, National Endowment for the Humanities, PBS, 3 Episodes, 55 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

A few years ago, PBS did this three part documentary series on the history of comic books. It was hosted by Liev Schreiber, which was really cool, and featured a ton of creators, as well as notable celebrities who have played some of the iconic comic book characters in television and film.

The history of comic books is incredibly vast. Narrowing down what to cover in three episodes, each of which ran just under an hour, couldn’t have been easy but the people behind this did a good job of focusing on the important stuff. I wish there was more time given to the challenges of the Comics Code Authority but that’s probably boring subject matter to most modern fans.

Superheroes spends a lot of time talking about the creation of Superman, Batman and the early heroes that would be at the forefront of DC Comics. They then spent some time talking about Stan Lee and his creations, which helped to put Marvel on the map. To my surprise, even though they didn’t spend much time on it, they covered some of the story that lead to the formation of Image Comics in the ’90s, which was the biggest thing in comic books during my most formative years as a comics fan.

I wish that this would have been bigger than it was. Three episodes just weren’t enough. This could have easily been one of those 10-part Ken Burns style documentaries with two hour episodes and they still wouldn’t have run out of material. I’m hoping that someone does do a comic industry documentary like that at some point; it’s long overdue.

But at least we live in a time where this wonderful medium isn’t considered low brow shit. It’s become a respected art form and format for storytelling. A lot of that has to do with the success of comic book movies the last few decades but at least fans don’t have to feel like they need to hide their fandom when out in public anymore.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics and recent comic book documentaries Chris Claremont’s X-Men and The Image Revolution.

 

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Origins – Omnibus Two

Published: September 16th, 2014
Written by: Chuck Dixon, Larry Hama, various
Art by: S.L. Gallant, Alex Cal, Werther Dell’edera, various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 268 Pages

Review:

After reading the first G.I. Joe: Origins omnibus, I had to immediately jump into the second and final one.

This collection of stories wasn’t as good as the first but it was still some solid G.I. Joe material to sink your teeth into and helps to build up the foundation for all the other IDW stories that came after it.

There is a one chapter Larry Hama Snake Eyes story in here, so that is a treat to any real old school Joe fan. We also get some material from Chuck Dixon, another accomplished G.I. Joe writer, as well as a few others.

My favorite part of this collection was the last four chapters, which were about a character named Monk and how he was manipulated by Cobra into becoming something greater than what he should have been. Eventually, he becomes the pet of Krake, who goes on to be the second Cobra Commander in the IDW G.I. Joe universe.

The art in this collection is fantastic, the stories are pretty good and it is a nice addition to the IDW lineage of G.I. Joe titles. It serves to give more background on the Joes and Cobra, which really just enhances the experience of reading IDW’s main G.I. Joe storylines during the runs of Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: G.I. Joe: Origins – Omnibus One, as well as other early IDW G.I. Joe stories before the Cobra Civil War mega event.