G.I. Joe v4 #1 (Comics Review)

I’ve long been a fan of G.I. Joe in all its forms, whether as an animated television series or as comics or as action figures. The recent movies have been the only disappointing part of my life-long G.I. Joe experience, sadly enough, but it is very easy to look past them for there is a vibrant and exciting franchise out there that remains undimmed in its awesomeness despite the terrible movie duology. I’ve been reading G.I. Joe comics on and off for a number of years, taking an occasional break as it were, and as I start to get back into the new phase of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero comics from IDW, it also seems like a great time to read G.I. Joe as an ongoing.

Karen Traviss is, to my knowledge, the first British writer of G.I. Joe, and also the first woman as well. As such, she brings a very different take to the franchise than you’d expect otherwise and given her own experiences writing military science fiction over the years and all, I think it is an exciting time to be a G.I. Joe fan. This week’s relaunched G.I. Joe #1, set five years after the end of the previous series, starts the “Fall of G.I. Joe” arc and the outlook of the world in this reboot is both exciting and fresh, whether we talk story or art.

G.I. Joe v4 001In Karen Traviss’ take on the long-enduring G.I. Joe franchise, the world has changed considerably since the previous series. Five years have come and gone, and they have been rather unkind to the Joes. Fed-up with the long years of lack of progress tackling G.I. Joe, COBRA has turned to a diplomatic approach and has morphed into a peackeeper army rather than global terrorists. And with this “relaunch” the need for a team like G.I. Joe has become superfluous as well, or so the ruling Senators in Washington think. That’s the kind of thinking that Scarlett O’Hara has to fight against as she defends the existence of her team before a Senate committee. And ultimately that’s why I liked this first issue as much as I did.

Traviss’ take here is a bold step forward. There aren’t big gun battles here, or complex espionage programs in place. The fighting has turned ideological and metaphorical. The conflicts aren’t between G.I. Joe and COBRA forces in locked battles against each other, but in boardrooms and senate committees and rallies. What Karen Traviss brings to G.I. Joe is geopolitics and diplomacy rather than pitched battles.

The issue has setup aplenty and it clearly sets a strong tone and direction for future stories. It promises that the realpolitik you see here is not just the dressing on top, but that it also has some substance to it, and I can’t wait to see what more Traviss does with it. A world where Tomax Paoli leads COBRA as politician and where Scarlett’s G.I. Joe is struggling just to stay afloat is one I find interesting for the plain fact that the physical action is so toned down.

Traviss’ first issue contains lots of characters, whether good or bad, and while it is nice to see such an ensemble cast, sometimes it was easy to get lost in it as well since the characterization of particular characters never really gathered steam. I love seeing Scarlett in a leadership role within the team, and the same for Tomax as well since I mark him as a real smooth manipulator of people, but I wanted to see much more of them. Hopefully, as the title develops, Traviss is able to focus more and more on the characters.

Steve Kurth is the penciller here, with Kito Young on colours and Tom B. Long on letters. Kurth has an interesting take on the characters, that’s for sure. He collaborated with writer Fred Van Lente on the previous iteration of G.I. Joe, which I unfortunately didn’t get to read, and it is interesting to see how he draws the various characters. The linework is strong of course, but sometimes there are moments when the characters look a bit too similar, and that’s partly on Young since there’s a dark, grainy colour palette in use, and that underscores the general bleakness of the story in general.

Let’s see what the second issue brings next month!

Rating: 9/10

More G.I. Joe: (v1) Vol.1, Vol.2; (Cobra) Vol.1, Vol.2; (Cobra Command) Vol.1, Vol.2Vol.3; (Special Missions) #1-3.

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