G.I. Joe: America’s Elite #28
Written by Mark Powers
Art by Mike Bear
Colors by Jean-Francois Beaulieu
Letters by Brian J. Crowley
Devil’s Due Publishing
Cover price: $3.50; On-sale: Oct. 2007
I’ve never read a G.I. Joe comic.
I’d be lying if I said I was ever really interested in one. I used to love the cartoon, for sure. I grew up on it! Snake-Eyes was my favorite (wasn’t he everybody’s?), but I was still shocked and saddened when it looked like they had killed off team-leader Duke in the animated movie. Many adults would say that the show was just a half-hour-long commercial for the action figures (not dolls… Action Figures), but I wasn’t hearing it. The ‘Joes adventures were real to me… they were my adventures! They taught me that knowing was half the battle!
Still… almost twenty (shudddder) years later, I just couldn’t quite bring myself to look at the comics. Maybe I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to my memories? Maybe I was just afraid to get involved in such a potentially lengthy bit of continuity.
Whatever the reason, I’m now starting to think… maybe I was wrong.
Mark Powers, writer of the surprise DDP hit Drafted (have you read it yet?), is the mind behind the Real American Heroes’ latest adventures in G.I. Joe: America’s Elite #28. Bringing to the table the same attention to character detail that makes his work on Drafted so gripping, Powers has not only given the ‘Joes real names, he’s given them histories, families, and personal issues, transforming them from cartoon archetypes into living, breathing people.
Even while the larger plot elements of the series’ 12-part “World War III” saga are shown through brief jump-cuts to various political maneuverings and covert operations around the world (something that is becoming a specialty of Powers’s), the majority of this issue focuses on a much more intimate stage.
Conrad “Duke” Hauser is a prisoner of Cobra, and they are using his unwitting father as leverage to coax him into revealing G.I. Joe’s secrets. It’s a psychological game, feeding his father lies about Duke and triggering the man’s guilt over his estrangement from his son, all while Duke watches from the next room as his father is slowly deconstructed in front of him, because of him.
It’s an excellent scene, and it proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is not the G.I. Joe you grew up with. Powers has taken those stories and added depth and believability, essentially turning childhood entertainment into something you wouldn’t be ashamed to look at as an adult. It’s an admirable effort, and it gives me hope for the inevitable film adaptation.
It is not, however, beyond reproach. In fact, it’s sad that such a wonderful scene has to be ruined in the end, but it is. As tensions ride high and a rescue attempt is made, the Cobra interrogator is forced to raise the stakes, dropping all pretense and deciding to play rough. The scene climaxes with a Mexican standoff between Duke, his father, the Cobra agent, and the ‘Joe sent to rescue Duke. Guns are pulled, gambits are made…
And then the scene’s plausibility takes a crap.
I won’t reveal what happens in the end, but suffice it to say the harsh reality of writing for licensed characters rears its ugly head and the story suffers for it. It wasn’t a complete deal-breaker for me, but it certainly lost the book points.
Through it all, the artwork by Mike Bear, while not particularly impressive, does not disappoint either. He does the job, providing solid depictions of the many scenarios and settings that we encounter throughout the issue. The color work by Jean-Francois Beaulieu, on the other hand, does a very nice job of enhancing the line work and setting the atmosphere of each scene.
This is definitely a book worth looking at for fans of the original cartoon, as well as readers who enjoy Tom Clancy-style stories without the bloatedness of Tom Clancy. Despite the disappointing end, the rest of the issue sets an interesting stage, and I can only hope that by the end of this — “the most epic G.I. Joe story ever” — Devil’s Due’s licensing agreement will have allowed the creators to make some serious dents in the lives of the ‘Joes. Otherwise, the book’s great failure could be its inability to let its characters evolve like the real people they try to be.
In the meantime, I give it a B+.