A few years ago, I did a read-through of several G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero trades that I had collected over the years, beginning with issue #1 in 1982 and ending with the trade that went up to issue #70, which is just beyond when I stopped collecting the book with issue #66 in 1987. I had made a point to try and track down other trades so that I could read the rest of the series, but getting them in print has been tough (and cost prohibitive) so I decided to scrap it unless I come across a trade at some point. Included in those trades was a book collecting all of the Yearbook issues as well as the first year or so of Special Missions, the second Joe book to come out in 1986.
I found those first two Special Missions trades to be outstanding; in fact, there are a few issues in there that were better than the issues of the regular series. Their strength seemed to be allowing Larry Hama to tell one-off stories or stories that didn’t exactly need to fit into the then-current continuity of the regular series, which was at that point tied up in a long storyline involving the destruction of The Pit, the apparent death of Cobra Commander, and the possible retirement of Destro. Plus, there were new toys being released all the time and a number of them were a lot more … colorful? … than we’d first seen in the book’s opening years. Okay, the toys were always colorful. But they were definitely turning in a direction that was more fictional than realistic when it came to military weaponry.
I can see that in the issues that I have here, all of which I recently grabbed out of a “fill a shortbox for $40” sale at my LCS. They weren’t in the best condition but at what amounted to about a quarter a pop, I wasn’t asking for VF/NM. Plus, they were issues beyond what I’d read in the trade paperback collections and books that with the exception of one of them were completely new to me.
The exception, by the way? Issue #26. For some reason, at random, I had a copy of this back when it first came out in the summer of 1989. I may have bought it while on vacation or when I wandered into Amazing Comics at some point before my collecting days began in earnest. That issue, which features the death of most of The Oktober Guard, is one of the best in this pile, which is literally the back half the series (it ends with issue #28).
Unlike the first few issues of Special Missions, there’s a through-line with these stories that involves not only Cobra but Destro’s Iron Grenadiers and the Latin American country of Sierra Gordo, which I believe was most likely a stand-in for Nicaragua. Some of the stories go into multiple issues and almost all of them make sure to stay continuous with the goings on in the main book–there’s mention of the death of Serpentor and the Fred clone is still in the Cobra Commander armor. Others are there to showcase something from the toy line. All of them can stand up pretty well on their own in that you don’t have to worry about being caught up on the main book.
They are hit or miss, though. There’s a couple of dogfighting stories that feature newer planes from the toy line that are retreads of older issues (such as Special Missions #5 and stories deep into the back issues of the main book). There’s a really good one-and-done hostage-crisis story with a solid twist in issue #22. The Oktober Guard story is really good and has the commanders of the Guard having a heroic–albeit phyrric–final moment. And there’s some solid Snake-Eyes action. For what I paid for them, I got the chance to relive playing with my action figures in my basement, even though some of the characters were figures I never owned and it did kind of have the feel of one of those days when I busted out my Joes because I randomly wanted to play with toys I hadn’t touched in two years.
So these aren’t regrettable. They’re fun comics and great nostalgia for 1980s kids. But unless you’re collecting the series on a hardcore level, paying more than, say, a dollar an issue (which, incidentally, is the cover price) is not going to be worth it.
Keep, Sell, Donate, or Trash?