Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 12

Published: July 20th, 2011
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: John Stateman, Herb Trimpe, Rod Whigham, Andrew Wildeman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 280 Pages

Review:

The last volume was probably where I would have jumped off the series when I was a kid, if I hadn’t jumped off of it before that due to getting older and getting strange feelings around girls.

Sadly, this collection of issues didn’t pick things back up and it just continued down a crappy path.

At this point, it’s like all the good stories have been told and the series just feels like it is running aimlessly on fumes without a clear direction. Maybe Larry Hama stopped caring and Hasbro was just making him wedge in all their new, weird toys, which, in my opinion, wrecked the franchise and killed it due to terrible redesigns and stupid, unrealistic vehicles.

With this stretch of issues, the art quality also fell off fairly significantly. While this features multiple artists, the overall quality is poor and littered with issues from bad perspective to weird faces and bizarre anatomy.

This is also longer than the previous eleven volumes by a couple of issues, which made pushing through it even harder.

But at least there were a lot of ninjas!… even if most of the new ones look really stupid.

Rating: 5.5/10
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. 11

Published: April 20th, 2011
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Mark Bright, Ron Garney, John Stateman, Lee Weeks
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 252 Pages

Review:

This may be where the series lost me. Granted, I think I started to feel that way a few volumes back but the series rebounded in a good way.

By this point in the long-running G.I. Joe series, though, it feels like Larry Hama is just running through the motions. Also, I feel less connected to it and less nostalgic for it, as I’ve gotten to the point in the franchise where I stopped paying attention to it when I was a kid.

That had a lot to do with getting older and with the design of the later G.I. Joe toys getting bizarre and ugly. I hated most of the new vehicles of this era, as well as the new characters and old character redesigns. Some things were good from this time but 90 percent of it was garish and impractical. I liked this when it at least felt grounded in some sort of reality.

None of that is specifically Hama’s fault. He didn’t design the toys and new character looks, so he had to make the best out of what was given to him to adapt into the larger story. Besides, this comic’s original purpose was to sell toys.

Like the other volumes I’ve reviewed, this one collects multiple story arcs. Some are fairly interesting but most of them just felt really redundant.

I did like the art, which was changing with the times but this does still generally look like an ’80s era G.I. Joe comic.

Overall, I’d say that this was my least favorite stretch of the original comic series that I’ve read so far. There are still four volumes left but I’ll probably finish the series, being that I’m this far into it.

Rating: 6.25/10
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. 10

Published: December 22nd, 2010
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Mark Bright, Geof Isherwood, Tony Salmons, Herb Trimpe
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

Marvel Comics (original printing), IDW Publishing (reprinted), 252 Pages

Review:

After the last volume kind of picked things up a bit, this collection really shifts things into high gear, as the original Cobra Commander returns to power and gets his revenge on those within Cobra who he deems as traitors.

This series of ten issues also features the “Snake Eyes Trilogy” storyline, which sees things drastically change for the popular ninja hero, as well as the Baroness, who has dedicated her life to destroying the man. This also changes things for Destro, as well as Storm Shadow and Scarlett.

There’s also a side plot about two of the Joes being brainwashed and under the control of Cobra.

Needless to say, a lot happens in these ten issues and there really isn’t a dull moment.

Larry Hama, even by this point, didn’t seem to tire of these stories and these characters. This caps off with the 100th issue and I have to say that Hama, over the first hundred comics, has done a stupendous job in developing these characters and making many of them feel unique and real.

The art in some of the issues here is a change up from the norm. Most of this does look consistent but other artists came in for an issue or two and altered the visual style a bit. None of it was bad but it was a bit unusual, after having read this series for so long and it having a pretty consistent look.

Ten volumes into the collected classic Marvel series and this is still one of my favorite reads out of all the comics I have picked up over the years. I never got this far when the series was current but I can see now that I truly missed out on these great, later stories.

Rating: 8.75/10
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. 9

Published: September 1st, 2010
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Don Hudson, Marshall Rogers, Paul Ryan, Tony Salmons, Ron Wagner
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

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

Review:

This era of the comic book lines up with the DiC era of the cartoon series. It features those versions of the character designs as well as the newer characters that came out around that time. However, while the DiC era of the cartoon was total shit, the comic book is damn solid and I wish I hadn’t checked out of G.I. Joe by this point, as a kid. Had I just been reading these stories, I probably would’ve been loyal for a bit longer, even if I had reached middle school age.

What I like about Larry Hama’s comic stories is that Cobra has different factions after the Cobra Civil War. Cobra Commander is an impostor, Zartan knows this while using the info to make the Dreadnoks influence stronger and Destro and his Iron Grenadiers are pretty much a faction separate from the main body of Cobra, who are at odds with them and G.I. Joe. There are a lot of layers and new angles to the G.I. Joe universe that make this a pretty exciting and fresh time in Hama’s legendary run on the title.

Also, this collection of issues feature the original 1960s G.I. Joe (Joe Colton) for the first time in this continuity. This would kind of open the doors for that character to be used somewhat frequently, as he has been used multiple times in the comics and even appeared in the second live action movie, played by Bruce Willis.

This collection probably also introduces the most major changes in the series. It debuts the Battle Force 2000 team, Python Patrol and introduced Darklon, who I never knew was Destro’s cousin, and his army. This also sees power shifts happen in Cobra that will help set the stage in a post-Cobra Civil War world.

I dug the hell out of this volume and I honestly assumed that the series would start suffering from redundancy and Larry Hama possibly getting bored with the material. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this wasn’t the case.

Rating: 8.5/10
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. 8

Published: May 19th, 2010
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Marshall Rogers, Ron Wagner, Rod Whigham
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

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

Review:

This is the collection that primarily features the original Cobra Civil War. As the original Cobra Commander has been killed and replaced by Fred VII, working with the Baroness, tensions rise and we see factions break off in an effort to gain control of the Cobra organization. Even G.I. Joe gets involved in an effort to sway the conflict into something that benefits them. Unfortunately, for the Joes, the end result isn’t the one they were hoping for and this story sees the death of Serpentor.

This volume also takes place in the very middle of the original Marvel run, as it is collected into fifteen volumes. The placement of this story wasn’t planned out to be in the middle from a long-term perspective but it kind of feels like it is in the right place, as the rest of the run is greatly effected and altered by what happened here.

Overall, this isn’t the best G.I. Joe story of Hama’s long run but it is the one I remember the most from my childhood. It’s a big event, the biggest in the franchise during its heyday, and it is mostly full of action, war and war strategy. I loved it when I was a kid because it was larger than life and the most epic story the G.I. Joe comic told. It featured a ton of characters and almost every important member of Cobra.

Apart from that, I really like the volumes that build towards this conflict better and it is hard to focus on story and character building when the majority of the pages deal with action and war. But, at the same time, this didn’t need to focus on world building, as Hama did a stupendous job of that before this book.

While this isn’t my favorite collection, it may be the most important as it gives closure to some things and sort of reinvents the wheel, giving the franchise more longevity and new territory to explore.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Comic Review: X-Men: The Age of Apocalypse – The Complete Epic

Published: 1995-1996
Written by: Scott Lobdell, Jeph Loeb, John Francis Moore, Mark Waid, Warren Ellis, Fabian Nicieza, Larry Hama, Howard Mackie, Terry Kavanagh
Art by: Roger Cruz, Terry Dodson, Steve Epting, Andy Kubert, Adam Kubert, Carlos Pacheco, Joe Madureira, Tony Daniel, Salvador Larroca, Chris Bachalo, Ken Lashley, Steve Skroce, Ian Churchill, Joe Bennett

Marvel Comics, 1462 Pages

Review:

I’ve really only heard great things about The Age of Apocalypse storyline since it started back in 1995, an era where I wasn’t really reading comics for awhile, except for Dark Horse’s Star Wars stuff.

In fact, the last major X-Men related event that I had read before this was X-Cutioner’s Song, a pretty good epic. But shortly after that, I got pretty burnt out once the top Marvel guys went off to form Image and then those comics were constantly hindered by delays and irregular schedules.

Based off of all the praise I heard, I always wanted to read this but it was such a massive story, spread over multiple collected volumes that I never really wanted to fork out the over $100 it would cost to buy the whole shebang. So, all these years later, I took advantage of a massive X-Men sale on Comixology and got the entire saga with its prelude for about $20.

Now that I’ve read it, I’m glad I only spent $20 because like Game of Thrones, all my friends and all the critics lied to me about how great this was. It’s not, it’s a clusterfuck of biblical proportions showcasing a lot of the things that were wrong with mid-’90s comic book art from the major publishers.

I’ll start with the art and just come out and say that this was mostly an eyesore to look at. The biggest reason was the colors, which relied so heavily on what I assume are digitally created gradients and overly vibrant colors that this was like staring into the asshole of a tropical fruit salad for hours. Everything is too busy, every single issue collected is made to be overly grandiose and if everything is larger than life and overly vivid, then that becomes the norm and thus, makes everything kind of boring.

Additionally, there is such a mix of different artistic styles that it becomes jarring as these collections jump from issue to issue every twenty pages or so. Some of the artists had great pencils but many of them illustrated in a style that didn’t feel like Marvel and instead felt like the artists were trying to emulate indie comics from Image and Valiant. Besides, the stuff that was illustrated well, ended up being wrecked by the primitive gradients and crazy colors that looked like a giallo film puked all over a box of Prismacolor markers.

When it comes to the narrative side of this, that’s also a mess.

This suffers from trying to be way more ambitious than it needed to be. The whole story is comprised of about seven or eight different subplots that are and aren’t intertwined. Some of them merge towards the end into the bigger story but some stuff just happens within this new timeline. But the story jumps around so much that it makes the whole thing hard to follow as a singular body of work. This is the same problem I have, right now, with all the new X-Men related titles that are tied to a bigger narrative but don’t feel connected as much as they should. But this is what happens when you have a half dozen different titles and different writers, all of whom want to explore different territory in their own way while being trapped within a common framework.

In fact, the only plot I actually enjoyed was the one that dealt with the characters that aren’t tied to the X-Men.

There was a two issue miniseries called X-Universe, which focused on what other Marvel characters were up to during this event. We check in on this timeline’s version of Gwen Stacy, some of the Avengers, Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom and a few others. I found this more interesting and it showed me that this alternate timeline could provide the right sort of environment for cool and refreshing takes on old characters.

While I should probably feel the same way about all the X-Men related characters and their stories, it is hard to focus on any of them because of how this jumps around so much. When I got to the non-X-Men characters, it felt like a nice break from the X-clusterfuck I was pushing myself through.

Ultimately, I was really disappointed in this. I kept powering through it because I was hoping that all these subplots and characters would unify into something coherent that clicked at the end but that didn’t happen. We eventually get to a resolution but it’s not all that satisfying.

On a side note (and spoiler alert): the way that Magneto kills Apocalypse is pretty f’n badass.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: other big X-Men crossovers of the ’80s through ’00s.

Comic Review: Titans: The Lazarus Contract

Published: November 14th, 2017
Written by: Christopher Priest, Benjamin Percy, Dan Abnett
Art by: Brett Booth, Larry Hama, Phil Hester, Carlo Pagulayan, Paul Pelletier, Khoi Pham, Norm Rapmund

DC Comics, 132 Pages

Review:

I’ve read the entirety of Christopher Priest’s fifty-issue run on Deathstroke, which just finished, actually. So I did read his two issues that were part of this larger crossover arc but I missed the Titans and Teen Titans parts, as I wasn’t pulling those titles at my local comic shop. So this is the first time I’ve read this story in its entirety, which I should’ve done earlier as it would’ve added more context to the Deathstroke series, as a whole.

This is sort of a spiritual sequel to the famous The Judas Contract storyline from the Teen Titans comics in the ’80s while also connecting to the events of Deathstroke’s first appearance in The New Teen Titans issue 2 from 1980.

Here, Deathstroke wants to go back in time to save his son Ravager a.k.a. Grant Wilson. He blames the Titans for the death due to their involvement in the event, even though they’re not really responsible. So after learning about the Speed Force and its ability to send speedsters through time, he harvests that power from Kid Flash after winning over his trust.

That being said, we get a speedster Deathstroke, which is just really f’n cool!

Anyway, the story starts off with a bang and it brings in both the Teen Titans and adult Titans teams to deal with the threat. While it focuses mainly on a close knit group of main characters, all the others do get involved but mostly stay in the background, only adding their two cents when its needed to advance the plot or give a larger perspective.

However, even though the management of characters is well handled initially, this does become more of a convoluted mess as it gets towards the end. It just feels like there is too much going on and despite this having a lot of characters, it starts out feeling like a smaller, personal story.

Overall, this is still pretty good and all three writers (Christopher Priest, Dan Abnett and Benjamin Percy) did a good job working together.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: the old Teen Titans story The Judas Contract, as well as Deathstroke/Teen Titans: The Terminus Agenda.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero – Classics, Vol. 7

Published: February 24th, 2010 (IDW reprint version)
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: Ron Wagner, William Johnson, Arvell Jones, Marshall Rogers, Tony Salmons
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

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

Review:

I read through the first six volumes of the classic G.I. Joe comics run pretty quickly, several months ago. So I took a lengthy break to read a lot of other stuff before coming back to it. There are fifteen volumes in total, so I’m now about halfway.

This collection takes place around the time where almost all the iconic characters were going through redesigns. This also features a lot of the characters that debuted in G.I. Joe: The Movie. What I consider the truly classic era is pretty much over by this point, as we get the battle armor Cobra Commander, the gold headed Destro, as well as Jinx, Chuckles and other Joes from that time frame.

As far as the cartoon and the toyline, this is where things started to decline. However, in comic book form, this era ain’t half bad and I really enjoyed Larry Hama’s stories here.

The first big arc deals with Stalker and a couple other Joes who have been captured and are being held captive in a concentration camp in a fictional country ruled by a communist dictator. The story here is pretty dark. Granted, it’s not as dark as it could be but this is a comic written for pre-teen boys as a marketing vehicle to sell toys.

We also have the death of the original Cobra Commander in this collection, as well as the rise of the second Cobra Commander, the man who murdered the original. Tied into that is the continued story of the first Commander’s son, Billy. He continues to train under the Arashikage ninja arts with his teachers Storm Shadow and Jinx.

I guess the best part of the story, at least for me, is where Snake Eyes and Scarlett fake their own deaths in order to recuse their friends from the concentration camp. This does a great job of strengthening their bond, as well as giving us some solid character development for my favorite G.I. Joe couple, Flint and Lady Jaye.

This collection ends kind of open ended but that’s how these volumes go, as each one strictly covers ten issues. I think the last few volumes get a bit shorter though.

Ultimately, this was another solid string of stories in the ongoing G.I. Joe saga. It propels things forward, gives us some new material that feels fresh and has me hopeful for the other volumes that follow.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Any of the original Marvel G.I. Joe and Transformers comics.

Vids I Dig 098: Comic Tropes: Rare ‘G.I. Joe’ Comics

From Comic Tropes’ YouTube description: This video is part of Cobra Convergence, a yearly event where content creators focus on G.I. Joe and their enemy, Cobra. This year, I take a look at some fairly uncommon comics. A European version of G.I. Joe that takes on a splinter sect of Cobra and is tied to the Marvel superhero universe; a G.I. Joe book illustrated by Todd McFarlane that Marvel decided to completely redo by another artist; and the origins of G.I. Joe’s Russian counterparts, the Oktober Guard.

Comic Review: Planet of Vampires

Published: 1975
Written by: Larry Hama, John Albano
Art by: Pat Broderick, Frank McLaughlin, Russ Heath, Neal Adams (cover), Dick Giordano (cover), Larry Lieber (cover)

Atlas/Seaboard Comics, 96 Pages

Review:

Since Atlas/Seaboard Comics only lasted for a year or so, I’ve been trying to round up as many of them as I can. This series was the first one that I completed, so I wanted to give it a proper review.

What drew me to it was both the premise and the fact that it was written by Larry Hama. Granted, Hama only wrote the first issue, so that was a bit of a disappointment when I got to issue numero dos.

Another disappointment was that the third issue, the series’ last, is not a final issue or a conclusion to the story. It leaves you anticipating a fourth issue but one never came. So like all great things in my life, this ended on an unresolved cliffhanger.

But let’s be positive!

The cover art of the first issue was done by Neal Adams and man, it’s a dynamic, energetic and colorful image that hits the right notes for me. If I was a kid in 1975 (3 years before my birth) I would’ve been all over this book like I was all over Image Comics in 1992.

What I really dug about this is that Earth in this story felt a lot like the movie version of Logan’s Run, except overrun by vampires. What’s cool about that is that this comic was out a year before that film.

The story sees astronauts return to Earth from a mission that kept them in space for several years. Upon returning, the Earth looks like it was ravaged by war. The newly arrived astronauts are saved from ravenous humans but soon find out that their heroic hosts are alien vampires that farm humans for blood.

On paper, this comic has just about everything I could want in a ’70s, pulpy, sci-fi, horror story. It was like Buck Rogers meets Hammer Horror.

However, despite the fun story, solid art and my engagement in both of those things, it was pretty sad that it didn’t have a proper conclusion.

I’ve heard negative things about the quality of Atlas Comics’ releases but had they finished this tale, it would be considered a fairly satisfying comic.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Atlas/Seaboard comic releases.