With the passing of Wednesday, June 19th , the first arc of IDW Publishing’s new G.I. Joe title has come and gone, and we’re left to consider the impact of the Homefront arc on this new G.I. Joe universe and where the book’s direction goes from here.
First and foremost, I am surprised at the stark contrast between this book and the issues that led up to it in previous seasons. Chuck Dixon has a very distinct and straight military look at his G.I. Joe universe, and there were some questions about how Fred VanLente’s style would work after Dixon’s run.
My reaction? It’s a totally different take, but a take that works extremely well on many different levels.
In the five issue story arc, entitled Homefront, Cobra makes their move on US soil and infiltrates a small town, taking it over through subversion, backroom handshakes, and a disturbingly simple combination of legal and illegal maneuvers that quickly bring this town under Cobra control. By the time G.I. Joe discovers the threat, it’s almost too late.
Speaking of G.I. Joe, much has been made of the fact that they are now totally public faces in VanLente’s book. No longer hiding in the shadows, no longer perceived to be dead, these G.I. Joe team members are practically celebrities, yet are also laying their lives on the line on a daily basis. We get a mixture of their celebrity view and the action view in this first arc as various members juggle their previously private lives on a public stage.
All of this goes out the window when their transport copter is shot down over this small town America, and the Joes are separated from reinforcements and forced to battle their way out of the Cobra stronghold, all while trying to avoid harming any innocents who have been duped by the bad guys. The pacing of the entire series flowed extremely well from one issue to another, never feeling like things were taking too long, or happening too quickly. Duke’s capture and eventual rescue all occurred as natural events throughout the story, and I thought Baroness’ relationship to the G.I. Joe Top Kick was exceptionally well done. I was quite happy we actually got some background into Duke’s character as well, giving him some previously unmentioned depth.
Surprisingly, every Joe member on this small team pitched in nicely, too, each one of them using their expertise to further the mission, and each one coming across as an important piece of the puzzle. The rapport between all of the team members flowed naturally and worked extremely well, giving the impression that these are all people who have served together and know each other well, even if we had never seen them interact in previous issues.
Then there was Hashtag. By far the most controversial member of this new team, Hashtag was described as an “embedded blogger” built to interact between the G.I. Joe field team and the American public. Woefully under-equipped to be a member of a special operations force, Hashtag soon gets in over her head, and her character goes through many twists and turns along the way. I was certain I knew her fate by the time the fifth issue was released, but I found myself surprisingly happy to see what the final outcome was, and not just because she was inspired by one of my good friends.
On the Cobra side of things, I found the Baroness and Croc Master to both be great representations of the Cobra baddies who inspired them, especially the Baroness. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m getting very tired with The Baroness and look forward to a time when she’s not the main villainous focus of every G.I. Joe iteration that exists. That being said, I think VanLente did her a solid, writing her as a smart capable baddie, with a vicious streak. Mindbender’s evolution continued here as well, and seeing some of his “mind bending” techniques in action was a very nice progression as well. Scrap Iron knocked my socks off, especially with his new uniform design, though I’ll admit to being a bit disappointed by the shallow singular focus of Firefly, a previously layered and complex character in other mythologies. I applaud VanLente for using some familiar Cobra themes throughout the story, with characters like WORMS making a nice appearance. I did find it a bit curious that they were used as glorified foot soldiers, though, even though the Maggots were certainly present.
Looking at the artwork, I do have to admit that Kurth’s art was somewhat uneven throughout the five issues. There were certain panels and pages which were obvious “impact” pages that looked fantastic, but in some of the fast-paced action scenes, there was some sloppiness, some strange proportions, weird angles, and what looked like somewhat lazy representations of real world weaponry. The art isn’t bad at all, and when Kurth is on, he is really on, but there was some room for improvement, to be sure.
At the end of the day, this is a new take on G.I. Joe, and understandably a take that not all G.I. Joe fans agree with. Is it the perfect representation of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero? No, I don’t think so. But VanLente is doing something that so many have lacked the ability and courage to do in recent years… he’s trying something new. This G.I. Joe isn’t just another uber-military recycled Resolute style action yarn, there are some super hero elements, some unrealistic comic-book elements, and an undercurrent of a slightly more “super hero” world than we’re used to our Joe team operating in (whether VanLente meant it to be or not). These Joes aren’t just wearing flak jackets and helmets, there are some much more comic-book based uniforms here, but I found it to work surprisingly well within the context of the rest of the book.
This isn’t necessarily a comic that diehard G.I. Joe fans will fall all over, but I believe it’s a comic that appeals to a wider audience and does a great job at it.
If you haven’t given it a try yet, do yourself a favor and at least dip your toes in. I think it deserves a lot more credit than it’s getting for trying to broaden the G.I. Joe scope and draw in some other fanbases. It may not be “our” G.I. Joe, but I think there is still plenty for all of us to appreciate.