G.I. Joe #1 ComicWow! Review

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Some decades ago, Hasbro created several different lines of toys.  They revived the venerable GI Joe series, and brought forth Transformers and The Micronauts.  All of these series were relatively successful comics.  Arguably, the GI Joe comics were the most successful.  They spun off an animated TV Series, animated (and later live action) movies and more.    The comics series based on Transformers was less successful, but it served as the basis for several different animated series, and these series were acclaimed for excellence in writing.  MASK, a series about a GI-Joe like team of specialists each with their own transforming highly weaponized vehicles, was considered by many to be derivative, but still featured some good writing and innovative plot twists.

In the wake of Star Wars raging success (do not forget that it gave us Battlestar Galactica!) Mego created the Micronauts, tiny heroes from a microscopic universe.  Although the toys did not do too well, the comics were well-received by the fans.  Hasbro (technically Parker Brothers, the board game division of Hasbro) also created the incredibly underrated ROM: Spaceknight, a character whose comics did far better than the original product.  Micronauts and Rom deserve special mention for two similarities.  Neither had an animated TV series, and Marvel gave both comics top-drawer talent.  Rom was written by Bill Mantolo and illustrated by Sal Buscema (later by Steve Ditko).   Micronauts, also written by Mantolo has a range of prominent Marvel artists including Gil Kane, Howard Chakyn, Steve Ditko, Greg LaRoque, and more.  Both series were not the standard Sci-Fi Space Opera.  They featured high-concept storylines.  Rom was a study in loneliness.  He was a warrior who had sacrificed his humanity in order to protect his people.  He constantly fought two wars, one against the shape-shifting eldritch Dire Wraiths and the other – to hold onto what was left of his soul.  The Micronauts, on the other hand, were a group of uneasy allies fighting against an oppressive and omnipresent government.  It was so well written that readers of all political stripes could identify with the characters.  A recurring theme was the cost of defeating evil, not only in terms of friends lost, but in terms of the moral and ethical compromises needed to attain victory.

Perhaps it is because of these complex themes and concepts that there were no children’s   cartoons made from the two series, but readers praised the quality of the storytelling that Marvel brought to these two titles.

IDW brought GI Joe and Transformers back quite a while ago, and they have been strong performers, spawning mini-series, trade paperbacks, and significant reader and critical appreciation.

Recently, IDW ran an event called Revolution, wherein they brought all of these series into a unified storyline.  They did not pull any punches; this was not an ‘Alternative Universe’ or a ‘What If’ story.  They ran this as an event similar to DC’s Blackest Night or Marvel’s Civil War.  They ran the event with the full intention of making canonical changes to the series and franchises involved.

Now, readers will get to see the changes.  Obviously, there have been changes in the externalities of the IDW universe.  There has been worldwide disruption.  Humans in the Macroverse (our reality) are now aware of the Microverse.  Humanity is now aware of and acting to counter the danger posed by the Dire Wraiths.  Cybertonian technology is in the hands of both the good guys and the bad guys.  GI Joe is now a world-wide task force.

Internally, people have lost friends, made allies, and become aware of new enemies.  They have also seen things that have changed them.  Even hardened combat veterans like the Joes are not immune to the carnage they have seen.

IDW proudly declares on the cover of GI Joe #1 that it is “The Crown Jewel of the Hasbro Universe.”

That is a lot of weight to place on a single title.  It is a move somewhat reminiscent of Marvel’s golden era, when it proclaimed the Fantastic Four to be “The World’s Greatest Comic Magazine.”

So, having laid out the entire context, the ultimate question comes up:  Is it any good? In short, yes.

Aubery Sitterson does a fine job of moving readers into the action of the story while providing solid exposition.  Readers are brought up to speed on the changes in the team, mission, setting and context without stopping for any long expository speeches or ‘remember when’ flashbacks.

There is a level to which he expects readers to know the team, and to have at least a general idea of the IDW/Hasbro universe and the events of Revolution, but he does not beat the readers to death with it.  There have been changes in the team due to losses suffered in Revolution.  They have a new headquarters, new missions (International Peacekeeping Initiative), new technology, and new problems.  Not only do they have Cybertonian weapons technology, they have a Cybertonian member of the team.

The Joes have been tasked to send a team to assist the Chinese (!) government.  They have lost control of a large area in their interior, and they need the Joes to figure out what happened and fix it.  Given the large number of strange things that just happened in the world, the Chinese government requesting aid from “Real American Heroes” who are becoming Earth’s Heroes is not that strange.

Giannis Milogiannis has a style different from what long-time readers of GI Joe might expect.  Some of his recent work includes the TMNT BeBop/RockSteady one shot, and GI Joe: Revolutions.  He did some work on Prophet, and on Marvel’s All-New ULtimates.  His style is less precise and mechanical and more focused on the characters.  His characters are more impressionistic and less realistic than long-time readers might expect, but Milogiannis has a great skill for bring out the deep emotions of characters in discrete and nuances ways.  His portrayal of Rock & Roll, the machine gunner, combined with Sitterson’s writing is most impressive.  He has managed to capture the weariness of an old soldier, wondering if he has one more campaign in him, but too driven to quit.

Many other characters are taking on different roles and different aspects under this writing team.  Scarlett, once a field commander and a respected ‘first among equals,’ is now the acting team commander.  Roadblock also moves from ‘one of the Guys’ into a leadership role.  They have been through a lot, and they have not fully recovered.  At the same time, they are facing new challenges and both old and new enemies.  More is being asked of them than ever before.

Will team members keep on going? Will new leaders succeed in their new roles? Will the team succeed in their new mission? Will they hold together? Yes, definitely.

Written by: Aubrey Sitterson

Illustrated by: Giannis Milonogiannis

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