Classic G.I. Joe Vol. 4

As I move through these trades of Marvel’s “A Real American Hero” series, I find myself getting closer to the year and a half’s worth of stories that I read and collected in 1987 (for the record, I read issues #59-66 as they were published and my back issues stretched continuously to issue #46). I also see a series that is starting to hit its “maturity”.

I think that’s because during the 1980s, most comic books associated with toy lines didn’t really stick around for very long or were just miniseries to begin with. I realize that there are exceptions to that rule, even with books that were contemporary to G.I. Joe (ROM, for instance). But Larry Hama’s series is (to me) the gold standard because not only did he manage to weave in new characters and vehicles (read: new toys), but as we see in this trade, he layered a mythology for the series that really cemented its legacy.

That mythology mostly involves Snake-Eyes, but he also is building long-running subplots involving treachery in Cobra and a Crimson Guard spy named “Fred” who is connected to Ripcord’s girlfriend Candy, story points that would echo into those comics I read in 1987. I know it’s common for long-running story elements to take years to resolve in today’s comics, but G.I. Joe had to have had a pretty high audience turnover in the mid-1980s, so being able to produce fresh stories while also rewarding longtime fans speaks to Hama’s strengths as a writer.

I can’t point to a particular issue from this collection that stands out as being better than the others. It just seemed like one big story to me, many of which had some great Mike Zeck covers (and even a John Byrne cover). But the story was so intriguing, I kept coming back to see what was going to happen and what bits and pieces were going to to get revealed. And when I pick this up again, I’ll be into the “payoff” part as well as heading into the years that to me were well-worn territory.

Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?

Keep.

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