By Koppy McFad
January 31, 2009 - 00:15
A new Kobra is installed as head of the deadly cult that has menaced the DC universe for decades in this one-shot special.
The new Kobra however has different things in mind for his terrorist cult. In the past, the legions of Kobra have behaved like DC Comics' version of Marvel's Hydra or even the Cobra organisation of the G.I. JOE cartoons: they have had advanced technology and a seemingly unlimited supply of fanatical followers-- all working at various world-conquering schemes.
The new Kobra says he is turning his back on all that and will now rely on a hidden army of sleeper agents who will strike at the world from the shadows. To show the extent of his determination to follow this new course, he destroys many of the old Kobra's resources and personnel-- even striking at a captured Kobra base that Superman had secured.
It is a novel twist and a highly-original way of using the Kobra cult as villains-- one that willl hopefully distinguish them from other evil, world-conquering organisations that infest the comic book world. But it remains to be seen if the writers can find ways of using this more subtle threat to mankind instead of simply having Kobra threaten the world with a new doomsday weapon every four months or so.
Sadly, this issue shows the difficulty of writing about covert plans and secret plots. The story jumps back and forth, making it hard to tell what is a flashback, what is a flash-forward, what is happening in a hidden temple and what is happening in a high-security base. While Kobra does perpetrate a horrible crime in this issue, the gravity of his act does not come through. So he killed a bunch of Checkmate agents and some mutants? Doesn't that happen about twice a week in comics? The only really effective scene is the one where a female Checkmate agent pleads with Kobra, thinking that she can still bring him to his senses. Other than that, it is all just gunfire and explosions.
The art tries to achieve a realistic, gritty look to match the new Kobra mind-set. But it does not help tell the story. Too often, one setting looks identical to the other, the Checkmate agents look indistinguishable and even Kobra himself is inconsistently portrayed. Perhaps the artist isn't entirely at fault. DC Comics may not yet be sure how the new Kobra should look as the guy on the cover doesn't seem to look anything like the guy in the insides.
What is really interesting is the similarities between the new Kobra organisation and real-life terror groups like al-Qaeda. DC and Marvel have been too politically-correct to use Islamic extremists as villains but in this issue, we see distinct parallels between such groups and Kobra's cult. The fanaticism of their members, their willingness to kill anyone-- even themselves for their cause, their disregard for the outside world, their reliance on hidden infiltrators to commit attacks, are all hallmarks of modern-day Islamic terror groups. Kobra even uses the word 'jihad' near the end. It remains to be seen if DC writers can really exploit this new group to tell new, more timely stories. Or if Kobra will simply deteriorate into another bunch of hooded thugs in a few years time.
Rating: 5 /10