Movies / Animé and Toons

G.I. JOE Renegades: Season One


By Hervé St-Louis
July 13, 2020 - 22:57

When Lieutenant Scarlet recruits Duke, Roadblock, Tunnel Rat, and Ripcord to help her investigate a Cobra laboratory, everything turns to disaster following the explosion and a tense battle with Cobra agents. Now on the run, and with the assistance of the mysterious Snake Eyes, the G.I. Joe Renegade attempt to clear their names while taking out Cobra. But the Baroness, Cobra Commander, Destro, and many other opponents such as Zartan, Major Blood, and the Crimson Twins stand in their way. Will the Joes ever clear their names?

I reviewed the first half of this one season classic cartoon from the early 2010s previously and finally got a hold of the rest of this magnificent series which collects the full show in one Blu-Ray package. This series featured an angular redesign of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero with younger characters and modern fatigues that looked less like conventional issues. But the series was quite good in focusing on a smaller cast and including as many guest stars as possible. It really was G.I Joe but told differently.

Unfortunately, this series suffered the fate of many other animation of stalwarts of the 1980s in the early 2000s and 2010s. He-Man and Thundercats each suffered one season treatments while dramatically reinterpreting toy-based cartoons of the 1980s in a smart way. In each case, the toys they were associated with did not sell as demographics and tastes changed. Former fans of the series from the 1980s watched the cartoons and enjoyed the smart storytelling and improved designs. But kids did not buy the toys that came with the shows. Hence, little money was available to support second seasons and the series failed.

G.I. Joe Renegades: The Complete Series suffered this fate with limited toy releases and problematic placement on an animation channel partly owned by producer Hasbro. Much like its other companions G.I. Joe Renegades: The Complete Series left a door open for a second season that will probably never come. Fortunately, the first season offered enough of conclusion and wrap up of its current storylines.

The unholy alliance between toys, comics, cartoons, and often breakfast cereals from the 1980s stopped working in the 2000s and the 2010s. What does this mean for a good series centered on a few characters with a higher level of artistic integrity, great layouts, great voice acting, and healthy dose of 3D-animated vehicles? We get G.I. Joe Renegades: The Complete Series with a continuing plotline and themed episodes and strong characterization. But no matter how good it is, the cartoon can fail to reach an audience and only survive as a gem that collectors will revisit often years later thanks to Blu-Ray and streaming services.

What I liked about this series is that it managed to make Duke interesting and less of a generic character. I was not aware until recently that in G.I. Joe fandom that Duke was controversial. I would say it seems that he suffers from Rodimus Prime or even Prowl affliction. Each is a good guy that is intensely disliked. In the case of Prowl, he even shares the same voice actor as the original Duke from the cartoon! Here is a funny anecdote. I just guessed that the actor’s name was Michael Bell. I checked on Duck Duck Go to see if I were right, and it turned out that I am. How on Earth do I remember obscure trivia such as this keeps amazing me.  This marks me as a real child of the 1980s and even though I feel more like lapsed fan most times I still know my cartoon and comics history like no one else!

Anyhow, this Duke is much younger but still the star of this series. There seems to be an understated love triangle between Duke, Scarlett, and Snake Eyes which I like a lot as it mirrors the situation in both the comics and the 1980s’ cartoon in one place. Because it is an ensemble piece, each character plays a very clear role that differs from the more diverse cast of the 1980s A Real American Hero. Duke is the leader. Scarlett is the girl. Snake Eyes is the mysterious rebel. Roadblock is the strong one and mechanic. Tunnel Rat is the small wisecracking smart ass and Ripcord is Ripcord. Okay, Ripcord was intended to be the everyman character, but they did something to him that made him less interesting. I know this cartoon is about decade old, but I will not spoil it for you.

Of course, the villains is always what defines such a series. The Baroness played a much larger role here than in any cartoon. She was the main villain working under an competent Cobra Commander. Destro was still in love with the Baroness but his role was minor compared to previous appearances. This series suffered mostly because it did not have iconic vehicles. The magical truck that could do just about anything did not entice me. As a toy collector, I would not have been interested in it. It doesn’t have the signature coolness of a Hiss tank or a Mobat.

And this was one main issue with this interpretation of G.I. Joe. Whenever it ventures too much into the science fiction and abandons military realism, it suffers. Lasers are only cool with G.I. Joes when Flash, Grand Slam, and Sci-Fi. One pet peeve of mine with G.I. Joe has always been ninjas. I don’t mind them, but I dislike when they take over. Here, we get a lot of ninja antics with Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Jinx, but it is bearable.

With the new G.I. Joe Classified universe release first as a toy, as well as recent mobile games for the brand, I seriously doubt that there will ever be a return to the cool world of G.I. Joe Renegades: The Complete Series. This series, like many of the ones that Transformers’ fans have had an opportunity to watch, simply reinforces the core elements of the classic 1980s cartoons and the toys first released in the 1960s to add another layer to this long-lasting series. The core elements are all there, and it seems that the Blu-Ray is easy to find online for fans who want to immerse themselves in that universe. Unlike the Transformers’ whose various series can be complicated to track, with much less G.I. Joe material around, this is one series you can enjoy while looking out for the latest from this elite military unit and the evil Cobra!

Be sure to check out the original review for this series which covered the plotlines in more details.

Rating: 8.5 /10

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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