Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 3: Oktober Guard

G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 3: Oktober Guard is a direct pickup of the plot thread that started in G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake.

This follows Flint’s team of Joes, operating out of a casino in Las Vegas with the assistance of Tomax, a former major player in Cobra. This also follows Major Bludd’s story and the aftermath of his part in the Cobra Command crossover event. Additionally, this also happens at the same time as the events in G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1.

This is written by Chuck Dixon, the greatest G.I. Joe writer that isn’t the legendary Larry Hama. This is also one of my favorite smaller scale Dixon stories. It’s about a small group of characters and isn’t forced to wedge in every Joe and Cobra character like the mega events Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command.

The primary thing of importance here is that this story arc introduces the IDW G.I. Joe universe to the Oktober Guard, who were pretty prevalent during the Cold War G.I. Joe stories of the 1980s. In the old days, they were the Soviet Union’s version of G.I. Joe. In the IDW universe, they are a Russian group that exists in secret and are more like mercenaries than a government agency.

This book also serves to further develop Flint, Lady Jaye, Chameleon, Ronin and Major Bludd. Ultimately, this leads to Major Bludd becoming the leader of Oktober Guard. While that’s a bit of a spoiler, the way in which it happens is pretty cool.

I really liked this story, it continues a great track record of Chuck Dixon’s G.I. Joe tenure and IDW’s handling of the property during this era. Sadly, IDW would lose touch later on but at this point, G.I. Joe is still solid.

Rating: 8.25/10
Pairs well with: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake (the story before it) and G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, Vol. 1 and 2 (which follows it).

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra, Vol. 2: Son of the Snake

After reading through the massive Cobra Civil War event and its sequel Cobra Command, I wanted to see what was next in IDW’s G.I. Joe run. That brought me to Son of the Snake, which is one of the next story arcs after those much bigger books.

This tale happens alongside G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1. I have already read and reviewed Deep Terror.

The G.I. Joe team is broken up into different fragments. This story follows Flint’s group, who are hiding in a casino owned by their new ally and ex-Cobra member, Tomax. Tomax, who escaped a coup gone wrong, reveals to the Joes that the original Cobra Commander had a son and that Cobra is unaware of him. Flint’s team then makes it their mission to find the original Commander’s son in hopes that he has any sort of information that can help them hurt Cobra.

This story serves to develop the characters of Lady Jaye, Chameleon, Ronin, Firefly and Tomax a bit more. It also shows things in a state of flux, as G.I. Joe is splintered and lacking resources while Cobra is having its own internal problems.

This isn’t a great or exciting story but it is similar to Deep Terror in how it gives readers a break from the massive Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command mega-events. The break was needed and it was, at this point, necessary to spend more intimate time with certain characters. This story develops those characters well and helps to enrich the IDW G.I. Joe universe.

For long time G.I. Joe fans, this is a pretty good and engaging read. I like these smaller stories that deal with smaller groups even if the “all out war” events are incredibly fun spectacles.

Son of the Snake is well written, I liked the art and it had a harsh edge to it.

Rating: 7.25/10
Pairs well with:  G.I. Joe: Deep Terror and G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow, Vol. 1., the two stories that happen alongside this one.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra Command

After reading the fantastic Cobra – The Last Laugh and the damn good Cobra Civil War collections, I had to pick up this sequel to those. The three sagas sort of work well as a trilogy: the first one is about the death of Cobra Commander, the second is about finding his replacement and this story is about the new Commander’s first campaign.

This also feels like a fresh start, as things are different after the Cobra Civil War and the new Commander decides to bring Cobra out into the open. No longer are they publicly perceived as conspiracy theory boogeymen, they are now the biggest threat to freedom and liberty in the entire world.

Cobra invades a small country in Southeast Asia. It’s a very smart and strategic invasion, as the country has no real allies and is sort of on its own on the world stage. There is a deeper meaning, as to why they chose this country, but it isn’t fully revealed until the end of this book when you get to the chapter that covers the new Commander’s origin.

This is a well written and well drawn saga by the IDW staff. I’m loving the work of Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa and they are the best creative team writing G.I. Joe comics since the original Larry Hama era in the ’80s and ’90s.

The story sees the Joes go to blows with Cobra in Nanzhao, the country under siege. It also follows Snake Eyes as he confronts Storm Shadow and the Arashikage in a jungle temple. There is even a side story about Major Bludd and Tomax working together in an effort to create a coup within Cobra, as neither are happy with Krake as the new Cobra Commander.

For fans of classic G.I. Joe, there is a lot to love about this story. My only real complaint about IDW’s run on G.I. Joe is that I’m not a fan of how they write Zartan and up to this point, the Dreadnoks are non existent. I want me some damn Dreadnoks!

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The two sagas that precede it: Cobra – The Last Laugh and Cobra Civil War. This is the final part of a trilogy of major events around the Cobra Civil War.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War – Compendium

After reading the incredible saga Cobra – The Last Laugh, I had no choice but to have to jump right into this even larger saga.

This story is friggin’ massive. I got the compendium version that collects every issue from every title that pertains to this story and then organizes them chronologically. Compared to Cobra – The Last Laugh, this book is twice as big, coming in at nearly 600 pages.

The premise itself is a spoiler to Cobra – The Last Laugh, so if you want to read that book first, you might not want to continue reading this review beyond this paragraph.

This massive compendium is about finding the replacement for the murdered Cobra Commander, who was killed by Chuckles. Cobra decides to hold a contest. Whoever is able to cause the most crippling damage to G.I. Joe will be selected to be the new Cobra Commander. So the Baroness, Tomax, Major Bludd and several others compete to murder as many G.I. Joes as possible while also trying to destroy their infrastructure.

The story follows all of these Cobra agents and their individual plots. It also puts a big emphasis on Snake Eyes, who plays a major part in this series.

This tale comes with some good twists, as there are characters that are moles or that sabotage other operations for their own personal gain. It is really chaotic but that also works against the book in a way too.

The biggest negative is that the story sometimes feels disorganized but this is also a collection of three different comic titles that crossover to tell the story. But when you do get to the end, I feel like the winner to Cobra’s contest was supposed to be a big surprise but it didn’t come off as a shocker because the character was barely in the story and not developed in any way. He’s sort of like the old Cobra Commander, just some unknown guy in a mask. Which I guess is fine but they had the chance to do something really different and this whole big event just lead to hitting the reset button while killing off a lot of characters. IDW has never been afraid of taking risks since they took over G.I. Joe but they kept all the core members alive and gave us 600 pages that, while wonderful, didn’t seem to have the gravitas and weight that the story sort of guaranteed by the nature of its subject matter and epic scale.

The writing was decent and the art was beautiful. The book looks absolutely incredible and made for a very fun read for this longtime G.I. Joe fan. Although, I really missed Destro not being a part of the competition, as he was locked away throughout the story.

The real highlight for me though, was the Baroness stuff. She was entertaining and intriguing; plus, she’s always been one of my favorite characters in the franchise. The Snake Eyes side of things were fun too but I never really got the showdown I had hoped would take place between him and Storm Shadow. I also liked how much time they devoted to Major Bludd with this story, as he sort of gets brushed to the side in favor of other Cobra officers. He’s always been a pretty one-dimensional baddie but we get to know him quite a bit here.

Cobra Civil War was a heck of a major event and a pretty ambitious one at that. IDW did a good job of bringing this all together and making it work really well. I prefer Cobra – The Last Laugh but this was a much larger story that stretched to every corner of the G.I. Joe universe and felt like it was worthy of standing alongside the G.I. Joe I grew up with thirty years ago.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: Other IDW G.I. Joe releases but Cobra – The Last Laugh should be read before this and Cobra Command should be read after, as the three big events sort of work as a trilogy.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe: Cobra – The Last Laugh

This is the story that serves as a setup for the massive Cobra Civil War mega event that IDW Publishing did to shake things up in their G.I. Joe universe. It works as the first part of a trilogy of big stories with Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command. I have all three collections now, so I am reading them in order.

This story is smaller in scale than a typical G.I. Joe tale, as it really just features one Joe primarily: Chuckles. This is Chuckles time to shine, as he’s mostly been an afterthought character over the years. This taps into his modus operandi, where he is a great secret agent that is able to blend in with any situation and complete his mission. Here, he infiltrates Cobra but it isn’t that simple. This story has many twists and turns and leads to a pretty incredible and surprising end.

Chuckles is pushed to his moral limit several times. In order to not blow his cover, he has to commit several incredibly horrible acts. He is focused on the job at hand and anyone else with a conscience probably wouldn’t be able to do the heinous things he does. But these things do take a toll 0n him and he questions his actions. But his decisions, regardless of what he’s trying to accomplish, make it really hard to like or relate to him. But that’s also kind of the point. These aren’t the cartoon G.I. Joe stories that many of us grew up with. This is something much darker and realistic. And really, it shows you just how evil Cobra truly is.

The book also focuses on the twins, Tomax and Xamot. It gives their origin story, shows their relationship over the years and how things have changed since Chuckles came into their lives. We also spend some quality time with the Baroness and get to meet Cobra Commander, after he had been held back in an effort to make his reveal mean something.

We also meet new characters that were created for this story. They have their own interesting personalities and backstory and each contributes greatly to this story arc.

To be frank, this is the best G.I. Joe story I have ever read that wasn’t written by the maestro, Larry Hama. This book goes to darker places than one would ever expect from G.I. Joe but it works surprisingly well and doesn’t just feel like some run of the mill “gritty reboot”.

This is written by people who grew up with G.I. Joe and who are now writing it for others who also grew up with the franchise. Except now they are writing it for that same audience, who are all at least in their 30s.

Cobra – The Last Laugh is phenomenal. And I must now immediately jump into its followup, the massive and nearly 600 page Cobra Civil War – Compendium.

Rating: 9.75/10
Pairs well with: IDW Publishing’s Cobra Civil War and Cobra Command.