G.I. Joe Renegades is a major reboot of the cartoon franchise of the venerable toy line following the 2010 G.I. Joe movie that hit theatres. In this series, a group of soldiers led by intelligence officer Scarlett visit a Corbra laboratory to expose their evil ploy to rule the world and take over the United States. In this version of G.I. Joe, Cobra is a large corporation governed by Adam De Cobray and rich tycoon who is a front for Cobra Commander. After having been accused of bombing and destroying a Cobra laboratory, Scarlett, Duke, Tunnel Rat, Roadblock and Snake Eyes attempt to prove Cobra’s wrong doing but are hunted by their fellow Joes, Flint, Lady Jaye and bunch of Cobra goonies like Doctor Mindbender, the Baroness, Firefly, Major Bludd and more. This is the first batch of the popular cartoon series available on DVD.
I haven’t watched this series before or any after the original series from the 1980s and early 1990s. This series is incredible. I can’t praise it more. This is obviously your father’s G.I. Joe or mine. It’s a new G.I. Joe for a new generation that takes the best from the old series and mashes it up for today’s fans. Many of the reboot in film comics and past cartoons stayed as close as possible to the original series. This one takes liberties with the characters and how they are introduced, but keep all of their essence intact. Doctor Mindbender is still the crazy top Cobra scientist, but now, he’s a young genius with all of his hair and none of his gay outfits! The Baroness still looks quite the same. As for Cobra Commander, he’s still an egomaniac but much more sinister and a master manipulator.
Here, many of the Cobra guys are introduced slowly throughout the season many of which as just plain bad guys not quite affiliated with Cobra at the beginning. An early episode had the Dreadnoughts the bike gang that plagued the Joes in every incarnation. Zartan is still their leader, but this time, looks less science fiction like and more biker-like. However, he kept his voice mimicking abilities, even if we didn’t see him use his disguise skills. Most of the Dreadnoughts were re-designed and some even changed race. There were also a lot more background bikers around the core group. I like how the Dreadnoughts were used in the series.
Some Cobra allies like Stormshadow, Destro, and the Crimson Twins were also used in the series and by their last appearances, each joins Cobra. I have to not that the cartoon got it wrong on one important aspect. Xamot is the Crimson Twin with the scar, not Tomax. How Destro wore a mask and got affiliated with Cobra was also shown quite clearly, although, I didn’t like how lame he seemed here, much like in the movies. In the old cartoon, Destro just wasn’t under Cobra Commander’s total command. I really like how Major Bludd was shown as a very competent mercenary capable of holding his own against Snake Eyes. Although he lost his confrontation with the Joes, he was tricked, as opposed to defeated in combat. I didn’t like Firefly too much. He’s a saboteur with bad lines. Here he was shown to be more of an arsonist than a saboteur.
Now about the Joes, Duke is still the main hero, working with a core group. A lot of reboot of cartoon series tend to focus on a small group of characters representing several archetypes instead of relying on several team members rotating each episode. We got a chance to see many classic G.I. Joe characters like Stalker, Steeler, and Barbecue in several episodes although they were not real Joes. Something interesting was done with Flint. His character was kind of merged with Lieutenant Falcon, reviving the latter’s old rivalry with Duke. Although Flint is heroic, he’s played for a fool throughout the series, especially by his Latina-like sub-commander Lady Jaye. In fact, Lady Jaye seems to be much more in love with Duke than Flint. She just doesn’t seem to like him a lot.
Snake Eyes is still the same and gets some of the best scenes in the cartoon. His backstory as a ninjutsu student was kept intact. There are hints that he and Scarlett love each other too. Scarlett is bossy and annoying, but one thing I did like about her was her voice. If you follow the old cartoon series, you’ll notice the casting was done carefully and that Duke sounds just like the old Duke, Scarlett sounds just like the old Scarlett. I thought that this was one of the best aspects of G.I. Joe Renegade. The voice acting was excellent and the characters were quite recognizable based on their voices.
I felt that Scarlett’s initial foray into a Cobra laboratory was foolish and brash and that her very junior rank did not warrant that. I also felt that Flint’s mere Lieutenant rank was way too low to give him so much power in the military, like force an entry into a jail in one episode or boss around so many troops. But then, the old cartoon also took a lot of liberties with the low ranks of its characters, giving them responsibilities way beyond their rank.
This is where this new G.I. Joe series breaks with the old one. The military aspect and its traditions are not as well reflected as in the classic animated series from the 1980s. Here the characters just don’t feel like they advertise the military life like the old series did. There are many references to missions outside of Cobra but we don’t have the right feel for the military life in this series. If G.I. Joe Renegade was meant to be a recruitment machine the same way the old cartoon from the 1980s was, it would fail.
Another aspect which is not as good are the vehicles. We see the capabilities of the main truck used by the Joes and many Cobra exotic gear, but they are not a large part of the series as if they were characters of their own. By this I mean, if Hasbro was trying to push toys on kids, they didn’t do enough to highlight all of the big vehicles and gear used by characters in the series.
Yet, I really like the mix of characters and how a minor one like Tunnel Rat who came much later in the series and had very little lines and exposure is now part of the core team highlighted.
There are no extras or commentary. That sucks a bit. But I still recommend picking up this series if you’d like to see a well updated G.I. Joe cartoon series.