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.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 5

Published: September 9th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

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

Review:

This was such a fun read and I powered through it pretty damn quickly for a trade paperback of its size.

This volume is also a transitional period for the G.I. Joe franchise. This is the bridge between the first generation of toys to the second. This starts with the characters and vehicles you know from the first season of the TV show but it slowly introduces characters and vehicles from the second season. This also ends with the story that sees the creation of Serpentor, the short lived Cobra leader that wrestled power away from Cobra Commander.

Other first appearances here, just to name a few from memory, are Scrap Iron, Dr. Mindbender, Airtight, Alpine, Quick Kick, Beachhead, Bazooka and Zarana.

The stories here are all pretty good. This continues to go the route of being a bigger interconnected saga than just having episodic tales, which is how I prefer the G.I. Joe comic series.

There are two big highlights to this volume, one is the aforementioned creation of Serpentor, the other is the first real team-up of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. They finally discover who killed their master and go to Cobra Island to seek revenge.

Volume 5 also has a lot of Dreadnok stuff and as I’ve said in earlier reviews, they are my favorite group in the G.I. Joe universe. And since Zarana shows up, at the end, we also get our first new member of the group since their debut some time before this. That only means that Monkey Wrench and Thrasher aren’t too far behind.

There was also a lot of good stuff regarding the “Fred” character in this. He becomes even more important later on. We also got to see more of Billy training with Storm Shadow.

This was a solid volume of classic G.I. Joe tales. Larry Hama was on his A game with these stories and Rod Whigham was killing it on the art side.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 4

Published: July 1st, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Mark Bright, Bob Camp, Larry Hama, Frank Springer, Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

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

Review:

The collection before this one, as well as the back half of the one before that, got more into longer epic stories that carried over from issue to issue. This collection gets back to being more episodic like the earliest volumes. I prefer my G.I. Joe stories to be larger and having multiple issue arcs but this string of issues is a good balance between the two, as some plot threads continue to be sewn into the larger tapestry.

This collection also introduces us to Lady Jaye, Flint and the Cobra twins: Tomax and Xamot. It also starts the Billy storyline, which I don’t want to spoil but he’s a little kid with ties to Cobra Commander and is initially used by Cobra agents to try and assassinate the Commander.

Most importantly, we get the debut of my favorite member of G.I. Joe, Hector “Shipwreck” Delgado. Now he was my favorite character in the TV series. I just need to see how he stacks up in the classic comics, as I haven’t read these stories since the ’80s and I never got to read the complete saga. It’s also worth noting that Barbecue first appears in the same issue as Shipwreck.

While this does have a more episodic format, the last few issues collected here sort of string together and get back towards giving us a more long-term story.

I felt that Larry Hama and this series really hits its peak with the issues in the collection before this one. However, this continues to build off of those really well. The comic book G.I. Joe universe keeps getting larger, the stakes keep getting higher and this doesn’t feel safe unlike the cartoon.

This is just another solid string of issues, the momentum is still going strong and I’m looking forward to volume 5, which is where Serpentor eventually shows up.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 3

Published: May 6th, 2009 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Larry Hama, Steve Leialoha, Mike Vosburg, Jon D’Agostino, Russ Heath
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 233 Pages

Review:

This edition of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero classic collection starts off with one of the most iconic issues of all-time, issue 21. This is the one that introduces Storm Shadow, the Arashikage ninja clan and gives you the first clues to Snake Eyes’ backstory.

But it doesn’t stop there. You also get the introduction of Duke and Roadblock, then the iconic issue where the Baroness gets facial reconstructive surgery and Cobra Commander is captured, then you get the debut of Zartan and the Dreadnoks (my favorite subgroup in Cobra), as well as Firefly, and by this point, you’re not even halfway into this collection of issues.

This also has the long story arc that is Snake Eyes actual origin and the Everglades showdown between Cobra’s elite, the Dreadnoks and core members of the G.I. Joe team.

While the second collection of stories got into multi-issue story arcs, this is where the G.I. Joe comics series truly becomes a larger ongoing saga. Each story leads into the next and there is a consistent ongoing thread now, where the earliest issues felt more episode and were mostly one issue plots that were resolved pretty quickly.

This is also the string of issues that made me fall in love with this series as a kid. This is also midway between the beginning and where Serpentor and a new generation of characters start to pour in. This is the high point of the first phase of G.I. Joe in comic book form. Granted, I haven’t read anything after issue 30 in several years so there is still a chance I’ll like the next volume even more.

It’s just hard to top the ninja heavy action, the debut of the Dreadnoks and the Everglades battle that takes place here.

There isn’t a dull moment in this volume.

Additionally, Storm Shadow’s backstory in the comic books is much better and you actually understand what his motivations are and why he is a member of Cobra.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

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.