Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 3

When a trade paperback begins with “Silent Interlude”, which is easily one of the most famous issues of the series, you know it’s going to be good.

It would be about thirty issues and three or four years until I actually started collecting and reading G.I. Joe as it came out, so this stretch of the comic was still new to me going in, although it wasn’t entirely foreign because I’d heard of (but don’t remember actually reading) issue #21 and at one point owned issues #26 and #27 (“Snake Eyes: The Origin”), albeit in second printings. I gave those two comics away years ago–they’d been rolled-spined and whipped to shit from years of reading and rereading them–and even covered them in a segment on my ‘Nam podcast, “In Country”. They are, quite possibly, two of my favorite issues of the series. And upon this latest reading, they still hold up.

In fact, this entire trade is outstanding. Building on the momentum from the previous trade where the prolonged storylines began to take hold instead of one-and-done adventures, we have the aftermath of Cobra’s first attack on the Pit, plus the introduction of another wave of characters, including favorite joes Roadblock and Duke (I was wondering where he was) as well as Storm Shadow, Firefly, and Zartan (along with the Dreadnocks). I have to admit that I’ve never been much of a fan of Zartan and the Dreadnocks, but I do appreciate the “master of disguise” aspect to his character. Storm Shadow has always been one of my favorite characters ever, and I have to say that it’s cool to see Larry Hama roll out new characters and vehicles (like the Cobra Rattler, a toy I never had but always wanted) seamlessly.

The story throughout much of this trade focuses on the relentless pursuit of Cobra Commander, and the scheming among Destro, The Baroness (who gets reconstructive surgery on her face after being horribly injured several issues earlier) and Major Bludd to usurp the Commander’s lead. There’s a serious amount of double-crossing and plans being hatched on a level that we didn’t always see on the cartoon (at least from what I can remember), and I can see the seeds being sown for Serpentor as well as the Cobra Commander impostor known as Fred from when I was reading the book. It’s ten issues of recon missions, spying, chases, and the type of prolonged arc that had me finishing this entire trade in the span of just a few hours. Hama has really hit his stride. The characters seem real and yet still feel like the action figures I loved playing with.

As for “Silent Interlude”, the all-silent story that is in issue #21, it lives up to and surpasses its reputation. I had been familiar with its sequel from G.I. Joe Yearbook #3, where Scarlett leads a rescue mission to get Snake-Eyes after his capture in issue #55. At the time–because even in 1987, a back-issue of issue #21 was hard to find and expensive when found–I didn’t know that she was returning the favor from this issue, where Snake-Eyes is the one rescuing her. Larry Hama writes and draws it and while the Snake-Eyes’ action sequences are “Wolverine Fights Alone in the Sewers”-level amazing (and I’d say even better–sorry, X-fans), the fact that Scarlett is a total badass and not a damsel in distress elevates this. Watching her resist interrogation and then actually escape herself was one of the best things about this and I love how this issue, along with #26 and 27, establish the relationship between Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, and Storm Shadow, which is one that we’ll see further and further developed as the series goes on.

These trades continue to be well worth the tracking down I did, and this reading project continues to prove worth it beyond just the nostalgia. And I’m kind of looking forward to the hunt for the trades beyond what I already own.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?

Keep.

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