Volume 9 covers the issues #81-90 of the original Marvel series of G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero, which chronicles the adventures of Cobra relocating to Broca Beach and covers some of the back story that connects between Snake-Eyes and Cobra Commander.
I haven't written a review in a while, so this is probably going to be a bit of a rambling piece, be warned. First off, I would like to say that I am a Canadian, but still a huge fan of G.I. JOE. I've been collecting both the figures and the comics as a kid and am very happy to discuss my thoughts on G.I. JOE at length. Especially as few people around me like it. I first started collecting the action figures as a kid, then started collecting the comics, but I never watched the cartoon. So for me, G.I. JOEs were always very serious, when I saw the cartoon I was quite horrified at how silly they portrayed G.I. JOE.
Okay now for the review. I sometimes start to think that G.I. JOE is too unrealistic in that a real military outfit would not be like G.I. JOE and this thought bums me out. If you don't read much of G.I. JOE then it's easy to fall into the trap or if you read very specific issues of G.I. JOE then you fall into this trap. This series starts off with Battle Force 2000, which is more sci-fi like, and not very modern military. Doesn't help that their chasing a biker gang. I think Hama makes a joke of the whole concept with having the State police chase both G.I. JOE and the Dreadnoks for running through their toll without paying. It's so ridiculous and if you only read issue 81, you would think that G.I. JOE is completely silly. Don't just read issue 81, there's so much good stuff to come.
What follows issue 81, is 82, for obvious mathematical reasons. It easily became one of my favorite issues of G.I. JOE, because it showed that becoming a part of the G.I. JOE team is no walk in the park. It's tough work becoming a joe, and no bum from off the street can become a joe. When you see how some of these guys dress you start to wonder if G.I. JOE takes itself seriously as a military unit and this issue demonstrated that it does. They weeded through guys probably too fast, which was unrealistic, but then this was a comic book, they only have so many panels. Training to be part of an elite unit is serious business, Navy SEALs go through their hell week where they don't sleep at all, but they get lots of food, which the joes didn't. So no sleep and no food, makes for a grueling training. We got to see Duke play the part of First Sergeant, which is good, I often wondered about Duke's roll as a Sergeant, which should be on training troops to be ready for combat, and here we have just that. The comical aspects in this issue were also really good, where Repeater just would not accept that they were on a real mission, but they in fact were. Why Budo would be on the joe team is beyond me, ninja trumps samurai any day of the week.
The next issue 83, I found to be a bit haphazard. Road Pig single handedly invades a police station and breaks out Zarana and Zanzibar. I found that to be way too convenient as a means to break Zarana free. Why is breaking Zarana free not a Cobra operation, after all she holds valuable intelligence on the Cobra organization, such as their new fragile base of operations at Broca Beach. If she were to reveal what was going on there, that would be bad for Cobra, but no Cobra is too busy launching a hit and run attack on the PIT, only to discover that the joes moved the buildings a mile from the original underground location of the pit. Is Cobra really so stupid to not realize that they were not on the original coordinates of their satellite photos? Yeah they didn't have GPS back then, but still.
Issue 84, covers the back story of Zartan and his role in the assassination of the Hard Master. We also meet Billy's mother, and she has that troubled housewife thing going on for her. Though you would expect her to have a bit of an edge what with her husband being the head of a terrorist organization. Perhaps you expect even more edge, because you have to wonder when the relationship between the two of them ended. Was Cobra created at the time? Issue 85 is great, it does the whole silent issue, which issue 21 was made famous for in G.I. JOE. Interestingly, Devil's Due publishing also did a silent issue for their 21st issue of G.I. JOE. The issue without any dialogue is great for action, especially with ninjas. It doesn't get pretentious with fancy quips, and characters swearing vengeance on other characters. Also it shows how badass Storm Shadow truly is, which I always found him to be way cooler than Snake-Eyes even though he's far more susceptible to the bloody brain wave scanner.
Issue 86, was the Special 25th Anniversary Issue of G.I. JOE, which had a special guest appearance by no other than Joe himself. That sounds confusing. Well you see the original Joe was made by Hasbro in the 1970s, and was released as a 12 inch action figure, with life like hair and cloth made clothes. Some might be familiar with the kung fu action grip, which this Joe figure was famous for. Anyway he makes an appearance in the issue, and they state that he is the original G.I. JOE. It's confusing if you think about it too much. Joe is working for this Strategic Defence Initiative laser beam site, which is a throwback to Reagan's time. These things didn't exist by the way, this is pure science fiction. They don't exist today, lasers cannot shoot down little missiles. Anyway not important, the issue itself is one of my favorites, lots of combat, then of course there's the twist, which I won't reveal, but its a response back to issue 82. I also like the combination of Joes used in this issue, I just wish we got to know them a bit better cause guys like Muskrat, Shockwave, Repeater and Lightfoot barely get any time in the issues, and these were some of the figures I had as a kid and thought were awesome. My favorite line comes at the end when Joe explains who he was (well sort of does) and Muskrat says "Golly, I always thought you were bigger!" makes way more sense if you were to put these two together as action figures standing side by side. Muskrat being a 3 3/4inch and Joe being a 12 inch figure. Haha so funny, I know not so much.
Issue 87, by far the best issue in this book, by far. So awesome. A secret siege on Destro Castle, is such an awesome idea. Though they do this exact plot again later on in the series. Anyway we get to see all of Destro's toys, of which are by far cooler than the regular Cobra toys. I mean that both figuratively and literally. Cobra is hiding in plain sight as they prepare to attack Destro's castle, pretending to be gypsies and honeymooners. I can imagine making all those disguise vehicles to hide the other vehicles must have set Cobra back a penny for two. And hey wouldn't Destro have gotten a warning from somebody about a large weapons supply of heavily armoured vehicles to the United Kingdom? Aside from some of the practical issues with this Destro sees through the ruse and defeats Cobra, which leads to a reorganization of Cobra. Great action in this issue, I would love to recreate this battle with figures, it'd be so fun.
Issue 88, was the funniest issue of them all. As there these two fake countries who are sort of at a sense of alert against the other, except that one sells weapons to the other. That part is a little strange. Cobra supports the seller, while GIJOE supporters the buyer faction. Cobra then comes out with this mysterious paint that makes the wearer invisible to infrared and radar. I think Hama was making fun of the whole Python concept as Hasbro released their Python Patrol figures around the same time. Python Patrol figures and vehicles were essentially repaints of stuff that had already been made. Even one of the G.I. JOE's aircraft the X-30 became part of the Python Patrol and there's a comment in the issue that explains that this country Darklonia got the X-30s from another country who had bought them from the United States originally, but was then overthrown and sold the aircraft to Darklonia. Hama even has Dr. Mindbender wearing this paint sprayer that's he's going to use on the vehicles. I can imagine Hama's frustration with Hama with having to introduce figures and vehicles that are hard to fit into the storyline and don't really work. I think this issue really was demonstrative of that frustration. One vehicle that gets such a huge mention is the Camaro that Flint is driving around, Darklon himself is amazed that the Camaro is able to sneak across the border undetected and suspects that the Camaro has the perfect stealth configuration. Yeah I nearly wet myself when I read that, shame Hasbro never came out with a G.I. JOE camaro, that would've been awesome.
Sadly I don't have a lot of say about issues 89 and 90. 89 has a lot of great action as Clutch and Rock & Roll try to evade Cobra, but eventually they get captured and then in 90 told that they'll be implanted with information that'll make them do horrible things. We also get a glimpse in these issues how Destro is trying to change the Cobra organization, and ultimately he has become the head of it, but this isn't a surprise after his military victory over Cobra when they tried to attack his castle. There's a lot of bickering between the different leaders, which is rather amusing. Destro also has some kind of evil plan he's scheming with Serpentor's body, but I can't remember where exactly that goes. Finally issue 90 hints that there's going to be a showdown between Stormshadow and Zartan, but of course no one will die because of it, so its not a very exciting proposed showdown.
As you've read, if you read. I had a lot of different opinions of the various issues in this book, but ultimately it is worth the purchase and if you are at least half the avid G.I. JOE fan that I am, you should go out and buy this. Also be happy that IDW is republishing these issues, because for the longest time we had only the first 50 issues, but nothing else after that. IDW is awesome because they plan to reprint them all and they're also reprinting the Special Mission issues as well, which included some of my favorite G.I. JOE issues ever. I hope they will republish the G.I. JOE yearbooks as well because I only have one of those, and they are rather spectacular to. I hope you have all enjoyed my review and Yojoe!