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Shadowhawk reviews the second Cobra Command collection, written by Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa and published by IDW Publishing. This is a trade paperback issue which includes Cobra #10-11, Snake Eyes #10-11, and G.I. Joe #11.
“COBRA ups the stakes for the Joes as Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa continue to write a superb series about honour, friendship and treachery.” ~The Founding Fields
Cobra Command Volume 2 is something I’d been looking forwards to since I finished Volume 1 back in June. I’ve been a long-time of the entire IP, as I said in my review of the latter, and G.I.Joe has always been a sort of obsession for me, be it the action figures of old, or the TV series or the movies over the years. When I finally read the graphic novel this month, I was just as amazed with it as I had been with the first installment in the series. The writing is just as darn good, the art is even better, and the whole experience really takes you back to the glory days of the old 155-issue Marvel run, the direct sequel to which IDW is currently publishing.
More than anything, the Cobra Command series is grounded in reality and in the modern world. There are several reasons for this: it is a cross-over series that delves into the geopolitics of the world therein, it takes a personal approach to the betrayals and treachery of COBRA that are less comic and more brutally honest, it deals with the issues of rogue terrorist organisations gaining access to dirty weapons, and ultimately, it is all about the divides between what military forces the world over need to function effectively versus what the politicians think.
Of course, there are the relationships between the various Joes that feature prominently here, the best of which is that ages-old classic G.I.Joe story, the feud between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes.
In Cobra Command Volume 2, the new Cobra Commander progresses with his unopposed invasion and takeover of the country of Nanzhao while he deals with dissenters within his own ranks and starts to dictate terms to the world powers. That might be slightly inaccurate. He is opposed by the Joes and a peacekeeping division of the International Security Assistant Force. But as is often the case in such matters, the Joes are woefully understaffed and lack the proper resources, while Cobra go on unchecked. That’s a classic plot for the G.I.Joes as far as I’m concerned. And it’s why I like the IDW series so much. Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa mix the new with the old really well.
This also happens to be one of the more brutal G.I.Joe arcs I have read to date. The old Cobra Commander, the one who screwed up 90% of the time but still managed to come back all the time, a schizophrenic, mentally-addled at the best of times, was someone I loved to hate. You just couldn’t help but like him. He brought a dose of humour and comic relief that no one else in the IP has managed to date. But there is little of such things in this series. The new Cobra Commander, Krake, is merciless and ruthless. And on top of everything, he is supremely confident and competent. The script for all the five issues in this collection shows that again and again. If you admired the old Commander for his successful ineptness, then you admire the new Commander for his supreme control over everything. This is one of the highlights of the series. This guy is someone that you don’t really want to mess with, as Major Bludd and Tomax find out to their detriment.
All the Joes featured in these pages also got a good outing. Scarlett’s character design continues to bother me, but thankfully everything else here makes up for it. Dixon has a good handle on Snake Eyes for example. He is able to get across the character’s thoughts and emotions really well even though he is one of the most challenging characters ever: he is mute and everything he does, it is through his actions. Then there’s Flint and Hawk. Two of my favourite characters from the old cartoon series. Flint is turning into more and more of a competent leader rather than the hardcase he has been in the past, a change that I’m liking so far. It is something that is taking him more towards a fully-rounded personality and not just a random cliched character. Hawk has great scenes, and my likeness for him is all about the nostalgia of things.
The biggest characterisation surprise here for me was the Baroness. She’s had a reputation for being an accomplished infiltration agent ever since the first issue of the old Marvel run. It was glossed over in those times but it was there for the reader to see, an aspect of her character that was developed and “nurtured” over the issues since. That aspect comes back in force for Cobra Command Volume 2. The difference this time is that it is not so much comical, but dark and brutal. She kills in the most gruesome ways and it was almost a shock to see so much naked brutality from her. A perfect sign of her allegiance to the new Cobra Commander. This series is worth it just to see her in action, whether it is taking out elite guards in nothing but a bathing towel or going full-on hand-to-hand with a rogue Joe agent. So, so much better than her current on-screen portrayal in the G.I.Joe movie. Don’t get me wrong, Sienna Miller looked great as the Baroness, but the character herself was just so damn dull. A great wasted opportunity there. Fortunately, Mike Costa is on form here.
And ultimately, that’s the thing about the series. Each character, whether it is the minor ones like Mainframe and Scarlett, or the major ones like Snake Eyes and Baroness, they are all represented well in each panel. Dixon and Costa are doing a great job on the series and I expect this solid characterisation to continue in all the future issues (it actually does, as I’ve already read the third volume, a review of which will be going up soon).
The artwork, as always, is great, although there are a few things here and there that I didn’t quite like, such as Scarlett’s character design and Flint’s face. The latter is just… odd. At times he looks like Sly Stallone, other times like a more gaunt-faced Bruce Willis. Just weird. Other than that though, each panel and each issue really captures the feel of the characters it is about, and the settings. For someone who has been following this new IDW series, particularlyCobra Command, most characters have a consistent look to them and are easy to tell apart. The depiction of the various vehicles and units is also good, although I wish the B.A.T.S had their traditional look rather than the more robot-automaton thing the artists have going. That really is my only major issue with the artwork.
And finally, the cover artworks, all by Dave Wilkins. Can I just say that I am in love with these covers? I love these covers. They are just fantastic. They have depth and dynamism aplenty, whether it is Flint and Roadblock facing off against B.A.T.S on the cover of G.I.Joe #11 or Scarlett (in her proper design!), Mainframe and Serpentor character shot on the cover of Cobra#10. Too good. Wilkins has definitely won me over with his work.
I have to say that the entire art team is to be congratulated on such a great effort. Their work is some of the best I’ve seen to date.
Overall, Cobra Command Volume 2 is a great follow-on in the series and should things continue, then this is definitely some of the best G.I.Joe work ever.