Shadowhawk reviews the third Cobra Command collection, written by Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa and published by IDW Publishing. This is a trade paperback issue which includes Cobra #12, Snake Eyes #12, G.I. Joe #12, and the 2012 Cobra Annual: Origin of the Cobra Commander.
“An interesting origin story of the new Cobra Commander, some great action-packed sequences, and an emotional ending with Chuckles mean the Dixon/Costa duo strikes again.”~The Founding Fields
Damn. That’s the first word that comes to mind after finishing this collection. Holy smokes is another. By god is a third. The list goes on. What I’m trying to say here is that this was a fantastic collection, start to finish. Whether it is learning of the new Cobra Commander’s origins as a native of Nanzhao or the last issue here, which deals with the death of the old Cobra Commander, the man we all loved to hate, every page had my adrenaline going. It makes me wonder at the genius of the people writing these stories for each and every one of them is powerful and emotional. What started in Volume 1, continued in Volume 2, and has now culminated in this “first phase” of the Cobra Command collected storyline, is just amazing.
The collection begins with the 2012 Cobra Annual special issue which explores the background of Krake, the new Cobra Commander. From his time as a kid in the drug-fields of Nanzhao, to his adulthood as an assassin-for-hire, the story moves frightfully fast. A lot if thrown at the reader, but thankfully, the writer has kept the story from bogging itself down in unnecessary detail. The Annual shows off just how brutal Krake can be, and the lengths he has gone to become his own man in a harsh world that respects only strength. I’ve read this individually and reading it a second time as part of this collection made me like the story more than I did originally. That was primarily because on its own the story doesn’t work so well as it lacks a thematic context, one that is provided here by the rest of the issues that are a part of the collection.
On one level, it is a fairly trope-ridden story but I think that what makes the story work is precisely that, and because the story also builds up Cobra as a mysterious, shadowy organisation that is feared the world over. The script hits all the checkmarks to give us a character who is ruthless beyond measure, and that he goes where the profit is. His first run-ins with Cobra and his eventual acceptance into the terrorist organsation’s ranks reflect his nature and underscore it. And in those respects, this was a great piece. It ends just a little bit abruptly but that’s ok on the whole. I didn’t mind it too much.
The art, while just as good as it has been in the entire series so far, could have used a tiny bit of work where the character faces are concerned. Distinguishing between the Asian characters visually, especially in a particular sequence involving Storm Shadow and Krake, was hard at times and took away from the story because it brought me out of it.
Then we move on to G.I.Joe #12, in which the team has finally had its teeth pulled out and its claws cut off by the politicians, following the disaster that was Nanzhao and the nuclear weapons unleashed by Krake. When we start here, we have Hawk reciting the names of the dead in Nanzhao during a formal ceremony at the team’s current base. The recital is gut-wrenching because of the names involved, and because this is going to be Hawk’s last time with the survivors. I loved this beginning. It set up the rest of the issue superbly, taking time away from the frontlines and the tanks and the explosions to focus on how the team is dealing with the aftermath of Nanzhao. Thrown in are some bits involving Krake as he moves ahead with his plans to take over the world in a bold gesture that even his predecessor had never imagined.
This was a great issue, with artwork to match. My only gripe though was Scarlett’s character design (once again). This time, she is shown differently than she has been in the past installments, all back in her dull orange/blue-gray uniform and her hair in her trademark pony-tail. I liked neither that, nor the expression on her face in the first few panels of the issue. It is all significantly different from before and it just jars. NOT the Scarlett I know by any means.
Other than that though, an excellent installment.
Next up we have Snake Eyes #12 which continues the adventures of the Silent Master as he returns to see an old mentor before he rejoins his new friends on their mission. This was a much more powerful issue than the previous two stories. As I have no doubt mentioned before, the biggest charm of the character is that he never speaks, communication only through hands, if that. In this issue, he never speaks once, even silently, for this time around its his silence doing the talking for him. Although I suppose that even in a case like this, the man opposite you being the one who trained you and mentored you is telling.
There is nothing flashy about this issue, no grand gestures, no grand sword-fights, nothing. This is Snake Eyes at his most lethal: protecting the people he cares about. It can be a bit frustrating to have all this through a character who can’t speak, but the writer makes it work. The ending is somewhat low-key as well but it sets up the next installment quite well, with the promise that Snake Eyes is going to be back to doing what he does best real soon: kicking Cobra butt.
Artwise, a great issue. No complaints here at all, although a stronger, brighter palette would have been more suitable to the story, which I found to be rather cathartic and layered in its own way.
Finally, we have Cobra #12, which is perhaps the best script in the entire collection. This one is a letter by the G.I.Joe’s top undercover agent, Chuckles, to General Hawk, the former leader of the team. If G.I.Joe #12 was gut-wrenching, then this one is morbidly fascinating and absolutely tragic. This issue could perhaps best be described as a character study of Chuckles, because in his letter he explains his childhood and his adolescence, all of what he went through before he joined the G.I.Joe team and rose to prominence therein as one of its best operatives.
Having read the Cobra Commander Tribute TPB, which includes the startling issue Death of the Cobra Commander, this issue was all the more poignant. Here, Chuckles is laid bare, thboth the man himself and his actions in DotCC, all of which has led him to point where he considers his future, a future without any hope of salvation of any kind, of any friendship. This issue really could not have been better.
In terms of the art, this wasn’t so great because while the locales and the internal visuals were decent, the character expressions often were not., Chuckles being the most prominent example of this. As such, what could have been the best G.I.Joe comic ever, is just mildly excellent. I dare hope for a sequel for this, but most probably there won’t be, for this particular story seems to have come to an end, an emotionally poignant that resonates with the character and with the reader.
As a whole, this collection is really good. The Cobra Command arc seems to have come to a close here, at least thematically, and I can’t wait to see what’s next in store. Perhaps I’ll even catch up with the single issues? We shall see!