G.I. Joe (Season 4) #1
Writer: Karen Traviss
Artist: Steve Kurth
Colors: Kito Young
Letters: Tom B. Young
Editor: John Barber
Special Thanks: Max Brooks
Truth be told, I wasn't sure what to expect from the new G.I. Joe title from IDW Publications. First of all, it was the third apparent "relaunch" of the past three years, which doesn't give off a good feeling right off the bat. Secondly, the main theme of the story seemed to be very similar to...well, almost every other iteration of G.I. Joe over the past few years. Cobra is now "legitimate", G.I. Joe is downsized and subversive. We've seen that with G.I. Joe: Renegades, we saw it with G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and we saw it with Larry Hama's "Real American Hero" relaunch several years ago as well. The idea didn't seem very fresh
On the flip side, I was feeling pretty good about Karen Traviss. She has a good resume, and her actual background in journalism and defense correspondence gave me some hope that she might bring an air of realism and legitimacy to the main IDW title. It seemed like a pretty big departure from Fred Van Lente's "super hero" approach, but one of the main draws of G.I. Joe is that it can be many things to many people, so perhaps the transition wouldn't be a bad thing?
And it wasn't.
The first issue was very dialogue and prose heavy, which is expected for a "set up" to this new take on the G.I. Joe mythology, but the good thing is the dialogue is smart and to the point, and establishes this is a modern political action yarn. I can already see the tights and armor fading from view as more military elements come to the forefront, yet I'm still sensing some G.I. Joe influence. In other words, I don't think we're being thrust too far into military realism as the Chuck Dixon Special Missions titles had a tendancy to do. I think we've seen some extremes in recent years between Van Lente and Dixon, and it would be terrific if Traviss could find some good middle ground. It's the same middle ground that Hama has seemingly effortlessly walked throughout his several decade career. It's okay for gritty military realism and crazy science fiction wackyness to co-exist in one cohesive universe. That's kind of what G.I. Joe has been for over 30 years. It almost seems like writers are afraid to do both, so they choose one or the other and drift towards that extreme.
It's very early, and certainly first impressions are that Traviss will stay along the lines of miliary realism, but when it's written as smart and captivating as issue #1 was, I think that's okay.
Scarlett is the main catalyst of G.I. Joe's attempt at legitimacy this time around, working alongside Joe Colton to try and convince the upper brass that G.I. Joe is still needed in a time when Cobra has seemingly gone legitimate. Meanwhile, Traviss has elected to take Paul Allor's storyline at the end of the previous G.I. Joe run and go with it, which was an interesting decision, and a nice point of continuity between the two stories. Steve Kurth's art is another link between the universes, and he seems to have evolved nicely here, though some of his face work still looks a bit animated. In many panels, though, he does some very nice shade work and does a really good job setting the mood, especially in those scenes within G.I. Joe headquarters where the remaining team members, Mainframe, Roadblock, and Helix are talking about their potential futures. The way vultures are circling and trying to pick the carcass of the team, bringing them into other government agencies is a really interesting angle as well.
Really, what this first issue comes down to is setting the stage. We have some very intriguing moving parts, from potential civil unrest, to dissention within the Cobra ranks, and a G.I. Joe team desperate for a "win" to save the very future of their team. There are some fascinating political elements interwoven in this story, and its quite clear that Traviss has a great grasp of modern international intrigue. This first issue was a very well thought out, well conceived introduction to this G.I. Joe team of the future, and I was very pleasantly surprised. Yes, it stays on the side of realism, but it doesn't shy away from the politics and the international ramifications of a team like G.I. Joe doing what it does, and I'm really interested to see what comes of it.
Great introduction. I'll definitely be reading along.