Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Infestation 2

Published: March 14th, 2012
Written by: Mike Raicht
Art by: Valentino De Landro, John Rauch
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 53 Pages

Review:

I read the first G.I. Joe: Infestation story not too long ago and reviewed it. It was okay but a bit weird and didn’t seem to have much of a point. The original one was a mega crossover event with other properties that saw them all fighting zombies. This version is pretty much the same thing but instead of zombies, we get a Lovecraftian horror twist.

But like the original, this one was kind of fun but also seemed pretty pointless.

Maybe I need to read the entire Infestation runs but I’m just not interested in most of the other franchises in these crossovers other than TransformersGhostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don’t care so much for IDW’s own original franchises and how they’re tied in. There are also tie ins to 30 Days of Night and Dungeons & Dragons but I don’t care about either of those. Well, unless the D&D book followed the characters from the ’80s cartoon but it doesn’t, it’s just generic D&D stuff.

Like the first Infestation, this one spends some time with the Baroness. But we also get some action from Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, which immediately makes this a bit cooler than its predecessor.

The problem with the Infestation series of books, is that they’re just too short. Maybe it all works better from a narrative standpoint if you read them all but I’d rather just have a more fleshed out G.I. Joe take on H.P. Lovecraft.

This isn’t a waste of time but it also isn’t a must read. It also isn’t necessary if you are trying to read through IDW’s core G.I. Joe stuff, as I recently did. It’s a stand alone story that isn’t specifically tied into anything in the IDW G.I. Joe canon.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other releases in IDW’s multi-franchise Infestation and Infestation 2 crossovers.

Talking Pulp: The Politics of Superman IV: The Quest for Peace

*Written circa 2011 when I was running a blog about politics and economics.

I recently re-watched 1987′s Superman IV: The Quest for Peace and I was quickly reminded as to why this film is by far the worst in the series. It completely lacks the utter awesomeness that was Superman and Superman II and even though Superman III is arguably a suckfest, it did have Richard Fucking Pryor and an awesome fight between Superman and his evil doppelgänger, which made for great cinema when I was a really young lad.

Superman IV, however, was an incredibly poor effort at cashing in on the franchise while Christopher Reeve needed a large vehicle to get his personal political message across. In fact, the only way he would do a fourth film, was if he was allowed to write it and to add his political ideology to it. Unfortunately, for us comic book and film fans, he used one of the greatest heroes of all time to convey that message.

The film more or less begins with the potential threat of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union. Superman then gets a sappy letter from a young boy who is concerned about nukes killing us all. Superman debates his own mind on whether or not he should intervene. He actually goes to the Fortress of Solitude to seek advice from the ghosts of his long gone ancestors. They warn him not to intervene and tell him to find another home away from Earth. Despite their advice, Superman goes before the United Nations and tells the world leaders that he promises to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Already, we are being introduced to a new kind of Superman who is willing to play God in an effort to create a global nanny state. Now while Superman’s motivation and efforts seem noble, he is interfering in the affairs of several governments and essentially turning himself into a know-it-all de facto dictator over the people of Earth.

If Superman can take it upon himself to tell us all how we need to live or even die in this example, he is preventing mankind from making their own choices and learning their own lessons. Like big government, Superman assumes he knows what’s best and is going to use force against humanity to mold us into the world he desires. Superman is robbing us of our freedom in what is a classic example of bad things happening because of good intentions. Superman is so high on his own Kryptonian ego that he fails to realize the unintended consequences his actions will bring forth.

Realistically, one has to wonder if Superman’s selfless actions are indeed selfless or if he is really driven by a selfish agenda. Whenever someone thinks that they know what is best for everyone else and then decides to take action, they show that they are close-minded control freaks that are under the strong belief that people cannot take care of themselves and make their own decisions. Superman assumes he is more informed than the rest of us. This is a Superman I do not like and essentially, he is on the road to becoming a supervillain.

A friend of mine, while we were discussing this via e-mail, added some great points:

Superman has become a villain because he is using the threat of force to subjugate the world to live by his personal moral code. He forced governments of the world to deliver to him their possible only recourse to defeat a possible threat, which is Superman. I bet this new Superman would next force all governments, especially in Africa where it was first discovered, to retrieve and encase all Kryptonite in lead. Superman can then throw that into the sun and therefore the governments of the world and its people would forever be subjected to dictator Superman.

Just like that, people put too much faith in any authority figure larger than themselves. They believe that government, while in the beginnings a humble, dedicatedly small entity, grows into the monstrosity that can destroy freedom for all. And we allowed it to happen, put a shiny symbol on it and say it’s for your own good and if enough people believe, we become defenseless and subjected to the whims of a power mad villain.

All things to think about.

Not only is the issue of eradicating all the nuclear missiles from Earth a big step towards tyranny but the fact that Superman addresses the United Nations, as if they are the real governing power, is a slap in the face of his home country, the United States. Superman has always been a patriot and always exuded the very best qualities of American Exceptionalism. Now he is basically telling the globalist bastards that he is their puppet and he is willing to put their interests before those of his own country.

Now I can see the point in wanting global unity and world peace, I think any sane human would want that. However, Superman treats the UN as if they are a world government and in doing so, he dismisses the Constitution and American sovereignty. I’m not trying to say that he can only play for our team and that he shouldn’t strive to better things but he also shouldn’t act on gut instincts and take such drastic measures at the expense of his homeland. Superman’s actions undermined the United States and in effect, painted them as one of the villains of the story.

Throughout his journey, Superman is once again confronted by a scheme from Lex Luthor. This time Luthor, with his nephew Lenny, devises a plan that could actually potentially destroy our hero. Taking advantage of Superman’s blind faith in his quest, Luthor plants a surprise in a nuclear missile. When that missile is launched, Superman intercepts it and throws it into the sun. Once the weapon explodes into the sun, a new menace is born. Lex Luthor’s new superweapon, known simply as “Nuclear Man”, grows out of the solar-nuclear explosion and flies back to Earth to cause destruction in what is the perfect allegory to all the points I’ve been trying to make.

Nuclear Man wreaks havoc and nearly kills Superman a few times but is ultimately destroyed after being dropped into a nuclear reactor. Hey, nuclear power saves the day! Lex Luthor and Lenny Luthor are rounded up with Lex being sent back to prison and Lenny being sent to a Boy’s Town home. In the end, all is happy and well and Superman regains his senses, thus abandoning his egomaniacal quest to destroy all the nukes in the world. Maybe after all that, common sense struck him and he finally realized that weapons of mass destruction could just be rebuilt and that his quest would be endless.

The film ends with Superman once again undermining the United States and going straight to the United Nations to make a speech. In that heartfelt speech he declares that his mission only achieved a partial victory saying, “There will be peace when the people of the world want it so badly that their governments will have no choice but to give it to them.” While that sounds good, Superman has now gone from hero to villain to hippie. Unfortunately, governments will not just give peace when everyone wishes it. Government is force but Superman is apparently too trusting in the decision makers to make the right decisions when the time comes. The same decision makers that made the decisions to make the nuclear missiles to begin with. The same decision makers that continually go to war, disregarding what the people at home actually want. The same decision makers that formed governments to begin with and invented war when the world was already in a state of global peace.

Poor, poor Superman, you’ve fallen so hard and so far that you can’t even see the forest for the trees. Is this the protector of Earth that you want? A guy reacting to his gut that can’t properly assess a situation that has godlike power to carry out whatever mission he pleases? Whether the film ended on a happy note or not, given enough time, this Superman would once again take it upon himself to forcibly shape the future of our world and everything in it. While he promotes and wishes for peace, the world could never achieve it with Superman standing guard atop the United Nations building.

The truth is, this story was borderline ridiculous for several of the points I already made. In reality, there is no way that all the nuclear weapons could be rounded up and destroyed. Even if this could happen, what is to stop the nations of the world from building more? Also, if you were say China or Iran or North Korea and Superman, who you’ve always associated with America, swoops down into your country and rounds up your nukes, would that not be an act of war? Wouldn’t people in countries that were forcibly disarmed become paranoid over the fact that Superman may have missed some somewhere and therefore, they are now sitting ducks? Apart from that, would everyone in the world just trust Superman to do the right thing and eliminate all the warheads indiscriminately?

What if he actually left America’s nukes alone and this was just a ploy to disarm everyone else?

No one would get paranoid when this guy started missile collecting and fire some of theirs off before Superman was able to get there and stop them? And even if Superman stopped those missiles, what if other nervous leaders got freaked out by the missiles that were being launched and they started launching their own as a countermeasure? Could Superman stop every fired off nuke in the world? It’s easy to just think that he can fly around and force his will on everyone and disarm them but there would be real repercussions that would be catastrophic if not apocalyptic. In trying to save the Earth, Superman would be the last being standing on a smoldering radioactive heap.

You see, even if he could remove all the weapons of mass destruction, he couldn’t force the evil out of evil men’s hearts. In fact, his actions would only anger them more and would spawn other forms of attack. Look at 9/11, that wasn’t done with a nuclear missile. If there is a will, there is a way and if evil men want to strike at the heart of whatever they feel is their enemy, they will still try and sometimes succeed. It’s nice to fantasize and wish that there was someone like Superman who could save the world from itself but ultimately, it is up to mankind to save itself or not.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra

Published: August 25th, 2015
Written by: Mike Costa
Art by: Paolo Villanelli
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 120 Pages

Review:

I can’t stress enough how much I didn’t like the fourth phase of the IDW G.I. Joe run titled The Fall of G.I. Joe. This story takes place alongside it and focuses on a different group of players in the G.I. Joe and Cobra organizations, so I was hoping that it would be better. Also, it was written by Mike Costa, who penned some really good G.I. Joe stories for IDW. At the very least, I anticipated this being better than The Fall of G.I. Joe. So was it?

Well, it starts with a jailbreak that sees G.I. Joe agent Snake Eyes rescuing Cobra’s weapons dealer Destro. It’s a strange twist, especially since Snake Eyes hasn’t been seen for quite some time leading up to this. In any event, it was great having him back and getting a ninja-centric storyline, which the G.I. Joe books had been lacking since Target: Snake Eyes, which came out more than two years before this. Also, I love Destro.

The story also serves to carry on the plot threads from The Cobra Files series. It picks up with the characters from those books: Chameleon, Ronin and Billy, the original Cobra Commander’s son. Also, it allows Storm Shadow to catch up with Snake Eyes to work out their personal differences following the events of Target: Snake Eyes.

Costa did a good job with this book and I’m pretty sure it was his farewell, as G.I. Joe went into a drastic new direction after this where it was crossed over with a bunch of other Hasbro properties and almost got a sort of anime visual style.

Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra isn’t Costa’s best work on G.I. Joe but it was a satisfying chapter in Costa’s long history working on the property.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The story runs alongside The Fall of G.I. Joe but that story arc was terrible. This picks up after the events of Target: Snake Eyes.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe (IDW, Vol. 4): The Fall of G.I. Joe

Published: March 10th, 2015
Written by: Karen Traviss
Art by: Steve Kurth
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 208 Pages

Review:

Well, I finally got there. I’ve gotten to the point where IDW’s G.I. Joe run has gone off of the rails. Sadly, it was at the hands of Karen Traviss, whose work I really enjoyed when she was penning Star Wars books before Disney bought the franchise and ignored the Expanded Universe that Traviss greatly contributed to.

Maybe Traviss got this G.I. Joe gig because of her name. And maybe she wasn’t an avid G.I. Joe fan like she seemed to be a Star Wars fan. Whatever the reasoning, this is just a bad, bad story. Well, it’s a bad G.I. Joe story. It could have been an okay story if you just want your action adventure military tales to be nothing but a bunch of talking. Seriously, that’s all this is… talking.

There is no action, whatsoever. Okay, a few people get shot but not in a big battle or anything, as there are no big battles. This entire story arc made up the fourth phase of IDW’s G.I. Joe run. So this entire phase of a franchise that is known as one of the most action packed of all-time, had absolutely no action. I can’t stress the importance of action in a G.I. Joe story enough. G.I. Joe has always had energy, this had zero.

The art was a big departure from what I’ve been used to with IDW’s other G.I. Joe stuff. It wasn’t bad art, it was just very different. Also, the cover designs are terrible. I’m not sure who approved the art style for the covers of these issues but this is a friggin’ G.I. Joe comic book, not some construction paper art hanging from the hallways of an elementary school. Also, the women were made a lot less attractive, which is becoming the norm in comic books these days but certainly isn’t going to make this book appeal to any thirteen year-old boys. But comic book creators don’t seem like they’re comic book fans anymore or that they even have the vaguest understanding of the medium.

The Fall of G.I. Joe is the worst G.I. Joe story I have read by IDW Publishing up to this point. I will read the follow up Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra but after that, IDW started crossing over G.I. Joe and other franchises; I don’t have any interest in that really.

Rating: 4.75/10
Pairs well with: Nothing. But I guess I’ll mention what comes before it, which is G.I. Joe (IDW, Vol. 3), Vol. 3: Siren’s Song. And also the story that follows it, Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe, Vol. 3: Siren’s Song

Published: July 15th, 2014
Written by: Paul Allor
Art by: Alex Cal, S.L. Gallant, Atilio Rojo, Robert Atkins, Steve Kurth, various
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 104 Pages

Review:

Well, I knew that I would have to eventually get to that point where IDW’s G.I. Joe universe would fall off in quality and this is it. This was the first IDW G.I. Joe book that I didn’t enjoy and found to be a real bore and mostly pretty pointless.

After reading this, it became apparent that IDW didn’t have a solid direction to movie towards with the G.I. Joe property. The earliest titles that were set before and around the M.A.S.S. Device storyline and then everything building towards the Cobra Civil War mega event and its aftermath was all really great. Things started to go south in the third wave of titles, however, and this being the end of that wave, only solidified my fears, that IDW had lost that magic touch.

The story follows a woman with the code name Siren, who goes to work for Cobra because they promise to help her get her son back. The Joes get a signal from her and set off on a mission to rescue her, her son and to take out the Cobra base they are at. They soon discover that the signal was sent months earlier and that Siren’s son has been indoctrinated and brainwashed by Cobra to be an agent. The base is a sort of training center where kids are molded into ideal Cobra soldiers. The camp is ran by Big Boa who is oddly female now and who already appeared in IDW’s G.I. Joe comics as a man before the Cobra Civil War event.

I haven’t minded gender swapped Joe characters before. I love the female Dial Tone and I like that Doc’s daughter took over as a new version of Doc. However, this almost feels more like a political sort of move, as the newly female version of Big Boa isn’t explained or given a background story. The male version died, if I remember correctly, as he hadn’t appeared for awhile before this. Maybe they’ll flesh out the female Big Boa after this but since this is the last release in the third phase of IDW’s G.I. Joe run, it seems doubtful.

There doesn’t seem to be much point to this story, other than to serve as a way to try to popularize IDW’s original character Hashtag, who is a girl blogger that acts like a holier than thou Millennial do-gooder that shouldn’t even be in an elite military group. But I don’t like how the third phase of titles turned G.I. Joe into celebrities and gave them a blogger to follow them around. The whole concept seems silly and forced and this story arc is the culmination of that weird and bad idea.

While I love Krake, the second Cobra Commander that rose to borrow during Cobra Civil War, the G.I. Joe stories have slowly been going off of the rails since he made Cobra public.

IDW Publishing served G.I. Joe incredibly well up to this point. I’m not sure what happened, other than maybe Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa wanting to move on to other projects but I don’t foresee things improving beyond this book.

Rating: 4.5/10
Pairs well with: Other G.I. Joe comics from IDW’s third and fourth phase titles.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe, Vol. 2: Threat Matrix

Published: February 25th, 2014
Written by: Fred Van Lente
Art by: Steve Kurth, Jamal Igle
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 152 Pages

Review:

Threat Matrix is the second volume of IDW’s third G.I. Joe run. It picks up from the story in Homefront and happens alongside the events in G.I. Joe: Special Missions and The Cobra Files.

The story is mostly focused on a big terror attack by Cobra in New York City. Cobra is led by the Mad Monk, who had an important story arc way back in the G.I. Joe: Origins series. Here, he is hellbent on ruining the life of Duke. We also see Destro and the Baroness unite in an effort to undermine Monk, as neither have faith in him or his mission and think that he can be the undoing of the Cobra organization. Also, Cover Girl suspects that Duke is a Cobra spy and all the signs she’s looking for seem to support the unfortunate theory.

This is a complex and layered G.I. Joe story and I loved it. There are lots of suprises, there is a ton of action and the art does a great job of conveying the energy of the story.

The big reveal of what Duke’s secret is, however, was really convenient and pretty stupid. I’ll just leave it at that, as I don’t want to spoil the actual story itself.

The last chapter in this is a bit slower and the overall arc concludes in the second to last issue in this collection. The final chapter is mostly just a flashback to Roadblock becoming a member of G.I. Joe. It doesn’t necessarily serve the greater narrative but maybe it leads into something important in the next volume after this.

Threat Matrix was a good read and better than I thought it would be, as the IDW G.I. Joe universe seemed to be losing some steam in this third phase of titles. I just hope that the finale to this phase goes out with a much needed bang and doesn’t just come and go with a soft wimper.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other G.I. Joe stories that happen at the same time: G.I. Joe: Special Missions (IDW) and G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Vol. 3

Published: July 8th, 2014
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art by: Paul Gulacy, Will Rosado
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 124 Pages

Review:

This is the final book in IDW’s version of G.I. Joe: Special Missions. It is also the end of Chuck Dixon’s run on G.I. Joe, which is pretty sad as he was the best writer the franchise has ever had that isn’t Larry Hama, the old school, original G.I. Joe writer.

Dixon’s stories have been pretty damn solid and he’s created some iconic moments and events that I will always remember in the highest regard. I also own all of his G.I. Joe stuff, so I can go back and enjoy it whenever I feel like it for the rest of my life.

This series came to a close, as the third phase of IDW’s G.I. Joe run was also coming to a close. While the first and second phases were my favorite era in the IDW canon, the third phase was also great and very different due to massive things changing after the big Cobra Civil War event that took up most of phase two.

The story here picks up with Scarlett’s team, who we haven’t really seen since G.I. Joe: Special Missions, Vol. 1 where they were trying to stop the Baroness from recovering a fortune that she lost at sea. This story also serves to bring some closure to the phase one plot that saw Destro kill Copperback’s father. Something that Copperback has wanted revenge for since the M.A.S.S. Device story arc that took up the entirety of phase one.

Overall, this is a really good story with a lot of action and some good plot twists. I feel like Destro has been severely underutilized by IDW but he really gets some time to shine here.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: The other comics that happen alongside this one: G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, Vol. 2G.I. Joe, Vol. 2: Threat Matrix.