G.I. Joe #1
Writer: Karen Traviss (@karentraviss)
Art: Steve Kurth
Colorist: Kito Young
Letterer: Tom B. Long
Review by Joey Braccino
The real American heroes return in IDW’s latest volume of G.I. Joe!!! Penned by best-selling novelist and franchise aficionado Karen Traviss, G.I. Joe #1 is the first part of the ominously titled “Fall of G.I. Joe” storyline. And everything you know and love about G.I. Joe is all upside-down-topsy-turvy in this new volume, so strap on your combat boots and put your gear in your belt pouches, because it’s time to roll out.
Or at least, I think most would assume it would be time to roll out; the tone and tenor of G.I. Joe #1 is very very different that I (or most) would expect. There are no explosions, no shoot-outs, no espionage or tank fights or the like. Instead, we get a very realistic, very deliberate debut that emphasizes geopolitics and international diplomacy over more comic-book-y (or G.I. Joe-y) action.
The first issue introduces an escalating border dispute in Eastern Europe mediated by the internationally renowned peacekeeping force, COBRA. Yes—that COBRA. Apparently, in the last five years in the Joe universe, COBRA has slowly but surely redeemed itself in the world’s eyes through extensive rebranding and peacekeeping missions. Meanwhile, with the primary reason for the Joe’s existence—battling COBRA—essentially rendered moot, the government is actively defunding and dismantling the Joe’s program piece by piece. Scarlett and General Colton hit the Hill to attempt to persuade the politicians to keep the Joe’s around lest something bad happens. A bit of intrigue surrounding the Baroness occurs late in the issue, but for the most part, the new status quo in G.I. Joe is effectively all politicking all the time.
It’s realistic, yes, and captures the current state of “diplomacy” and gridlock in our current political system, but it does say something a bit troubling about the relevance G.I. Joe premise wholesale. Now, obviously, COBRA will probably end up revealing their true colors later in the run, but for the first issue, Karen Traviss adheres almost too closely to the political reality of the situation, making for an overwhelmingly talky, didactic debut.
Thankfully, Steve Kurth and Kito Young’s artwork is bold and brash—the sort of atmosphere that I wish the script had as well. Similar to Dexter Soy’s “heavy metal” digital aesthetic on the early Captain Marvel issues, Kurth’s solid lines and strong figurework is invigorating and weighted. Young’s color palette is equally vibrant and makes for a visually engaging reading experience.
Meh. I suppose readers interested in deliberate political intrigue might be interested, but the overall lack of action makes for a strange G.I. Joe comic. It certainly is a fresh and interesting take on the franchise, but I do wonder if it strays too far from what long-time Joe fans (and really, who else would be seeking this book out) might expect… Still, Traviss handles the new direction realistically, and the art team is more than up to the task of delivering a brilliant visual experience.