Comic review: “Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes” #2

Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #2
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, June 15, 2011 (delayed in some markets until Wednesday, June 22, 2011)
Cover price: $3.99
Cover A: Robert Atkins, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover B: Agustin Padilla, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover RI: Robert Atkins
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Robert Atkins
Inks: Juan Castro
Colors: Simon Gough
Letters: Shawn Lee

Snake Eyes and Alpine’s infiltration of Khalikhan’s base in Rajahistan continues, and a series of flashbacks to events prior serve to further flesh out the complicated relationship between GI Joe’s silent assassin and Scarlett. We really see two sides of the Snake Eyes character played out in this story – the warrior, who’s amazingly impressive, and the man, who upon deeper examination really isn’t.

Snake Eyes, the warrior, is the force of destruction fans of G.I. Joe expect. He charges into combat situations in which he is gravely outnumbered and outgunned without a second’s hesitation, dispatches Vipers with ease, and in one particularly amazing panel flies through the air with the greatest of ease — while on fire. He’s a one-man army, and goes out of his way to let the rest of the Joes know that he neither wants nor needs their help when it all hits the fan. He’s got it covered — or so he thinks.

Snake Eyes, the man, seems deeply flawed. He fights with no regard for the safety of his teammates, first leaving Iceberg and Jinx behind so he could use Alpine as bait to infiltrate Khalikhan’s base, then leaving Alpine alone on a couple of different occasions once inside the base so he can charge headfirst into superior numbers of Cobras. This recklessness eventually leads to Alpine suffering life-threatening injuries, and to Snake Eyes himself being badly injured and, ultimately, captured by Khalikhan. His selfish pursuit of Khalikhan, for reasons not yet revealed, very nearly got he and Alpine killed.

His relationship with Scarlett is also a train wreck. She approaches him and basically begs him for some sign that he returns the feelings she has for him, sadly telling him at one point “God, I wish you could answer me.” Well, he could if he wanted to. He can’t speak, but he could easily pick up a pen and a piece of paper and write an answer. He simply chooses not to answer, using his inability to speak as a crutch, an all-too-convenient stiff-arm to deflect Scarlett’s efforts to have an emotional relationship with him. It’s a moment of intense emotional weakness from a character readers typically view as the ultimate embodiment of strength. He later hugs her, giving some indication that he “gets it,” the concept of needing someone to come home to that she tries to hammer home to him early in the issue. Yet, by the time the hug is shown, he’s spent the entire book acting in such a way that you can’t help but think that no, he certainly doesn’t get it.

It makes you wonder why Scarlett obviously pours so much emotional capital into Snake Eyes when nothing is being returned. He can’t speak, chooses not to otherwise communicate with her, and his incredibly scarred physical appearance clearly reflects his similarly-scarred psyche. What is it she sees in him that she’s trying to keep ahold of? Was the hug a ruse to get Scarlett off his back, or did it serve to illustrate a clear line between two separate and distinct Snake Eyes — the warrior and the man, with neither able to influence the other? His motivations for behaving in this manner toward someone who obviously cares for and loves him remains unexplained, but it’s clear this will not be the last we see of Dixon’s exploration of this complex relationship.

We also get our first extended look at Khalikhan (he seems to have settled in at one-L Khalikhan after being two-L Khallikhan in GI Joe #0; this is why books have editors…), who actually turns out to be a pretty interesting character. He’s suave and charismatic, he wears a pimped-out gold-trimmed smoking jacket and there’s something inherently cool about seeing Vipers refer to him as “Raja Khalikhan.” He also doesn’t like to sweat. He seems like “the most interesting man in the world” from the Dos Equis commercials brought to life as a member of Cobra, which is all kinds of awesome. So far, the main G.I. Joe series has been about Krake; the Cobra series about Serpentor’s behind-the-scenes manipulations of Baroness, Major Bludd, Tomax and Vargas; but Khalikhan firmly owns the Snake Eyes series. This could end up being the most interesting of the three series to watch. The relationship between Snake Eyes and Khalikhan certainly extends beyond the confines of the contest, and the affiliated characters in this book certainly seem to have more at stake than the outcome of the contest.

In Daniel Long Miller’s 1898 book “Girdling the Globe: From the Land of the Midnight Sun to the Golden Gate. A Record of a Tour Around the World,” he speaks of meeting a conjurer named Khali Khan in India. This conjurer is said to perform many wonderful feats, causing balls and coins to disappear and reappear in strange places, magically filling empty baskets with singing birds, and causing small mango trees to grow and bear fruit in a manner of minutes. It is a similar Khalikhan that readers seem to be receiving in this series; a man drawing power from beyond a normal realm of understanding to perform feats average people are unable to comprehend  – such as capturing and imprisoning a warrior like Snake Eyes.

It’s still early, but through seven issues of the Cobra Civil War, Khalikhan is the first contestant we’ve seen in Cobra’s contest who actually feels like Cobra Commander.

Robert Atkins-drawn issues were the highlights of the 27-issue Season 1 run of IDW’s core G.I. Joe series, and his efforts on the Snake Eyes book continue to be stellar. Through his social media outlets on Twitter, or at his blog or on DeviantArt, he’s never shy about admitting Snake Eyes as his favorite character, and he’s clearly putting all of his talent to work on this book. Very subtle things sell this book — Snake Eyes’ limp wrist as he collapses to the floor in a lifeless heap on page 19; the feet dragging behind his unconscious body and Khalikhan using a single finger to flick sweat from his forehead on page 15. They’re very small details, but they serve to completely sell the panel.

The second panel on Page 3 may well be the most bad-ass picture of Snake Eyes in action to ever show up in a Joe comic. To recap what happens in this panel: A HISS Tank explodes. The explosion propels Snake Eyes into the air. It sets his jacket on fire. But he still maintains control of his body and his sword, flying through the air, on fire, with his katana in both hands above his head. So, just to repeat: Snake Eyes. Flying. On fire. With a sword.

Robert Atkins provides Cover A and, in an uncolored version, the retailer incentive cover, while Agustin Padilla provides Cover B. Padilla’s cover is a pretty straightforward representation of Snake Eyes – sword in left hand, Uzi in the right, surrounded by a cloud of recently-spent 9mm shells. It’s a nice image. Atkins’ Cover A has the more dynamic pose, showing him equipped with his katana and short fighting knife that he uses throughout most of the issue against a variety of Vipers. However, the black-and-white background makes this cover a lot more interesting, particularly if you buy into the warrior/man conflict aspect of the Snake Eyes character that unfolds inside the book. It’s also interesting that the black and white segments of this cover aren’t divided equally; black only gets about a third of the page. Which, then, is black and which is white? Warrior or man?


G.I. Joe: 0 (TOTAL: 19)
Cobra: 7 (7 Vipers) (TOTAL: 14)*
* This body count assumes the original June 15 release date for this book. If you got the book today, the count is now up to 24-18.

On page 16, there’s an reference to “six dead Joes,” deaths attributed to Khalikhan, which makes it safe to assume that Bushido is confirmed as killed in action in G.I. Joe #0, even though he’s referenced as gravely injured yet “still alive!” in that issue.

As an aside, IDW’s scoreboard bug for Cobra doesn’t seem remotely accurate right now. I’ll go back through everything again and see if I can figure out where the discrepancies may be. IDW may have retroactively fixed some things that probably shouldn’t be in the body count, like the Viper Baroness executed in Cobra #1.

No Joes were killed in this issue. If you got this issue on time last week, Khalikhan and Krake were in the lead with six kills each after reading this book. If you got this issue today along with Cobra #2, Baroness remains in the lead with nine kills.

The Terrordrome has a five-page preview of Snake Eyes #2 here.

Comic Review: Cobra Civil War: Cobra #2

Cobra Civil War: Cobra #2
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: David Williams, with colors by Kelsey Shannon
Cover B: Antonio Fuso
Cover RI: David Williams
Written by: Mike Costa
Pencils: Antonio Fuso
Inks: Arianna Florian
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.

Letters: Chris Mowry

G.I. Joe: Steeler, Breaker, Firewall, Sawed-Off
Cobra: Baroness, Major Bludd, Serpentor
While The Coil got a five-issue story arc to introduce readers to the concept of Serpentor and Cobra’s religious aspects, the first two Cobra series in IDW’s G.I. Joe universe were focused squarely around Tomax and Xamot. Cobra Civil War: Cobra #2 serves notice that this series will very much be focused on Serpentor.
We get a great recap of IDW’s version of Serpentor with a pair of no-text “day in the life” pages on Page 3 and 4 — we see the charismatic Dr. Menasian, the public face of The Coil who makes television appearances and meets with high-ranking government officials, and Serpentor, holding underground ceremonies and blood rituals as the religious leader of Cobra.
Serpentor isn’t a candidate in the Cobra Commander contest, and this is just the way he likes it. He made it clear in Cobra #1 that the winner of the Cobra Commander contest would likely be the candidate who recruited Serpentor as an ally; this time, his preference to remain in the background working all possible angles is explored through his dealings with the Baroness, Major Bludd, Tomax and Dr. Vargas. Serpentor finds his power in manipulating the players from behind the scenes, building his personal power and influence to the point that, regardless of the outcome of some silly contest, he’s working to secure a place as the reassuring, supportive voice in the back of the head of the winner.
The Joes also seek payback for their losses in Panama at the hands of Blacklight in the previous issue, sending a team down to search for the sniper. As has been the ongoing theme of the Cobra Civil War so far, this doesn’t go well for the Joes. Croc-Master makes a surprise appearance (well, perhaps not much of a surprise, considering he’s on the cover), and deals the Joes yet another group of mostly “never had a toy” casualties.
Croc-Master was last seen in “real time” being shot in the neck and head in Cobra II #3; his appearance in Cobra II #7 was entirely via origin-story flashback. We get no explanation as to how he survived those injuries, which is honestly for the best; his swamp-stalker freakshow persona in this universe is well-served by this dose of Michael Myers-esque invincibility, giving him a slasher movie villain quality that fits perfectly in this book. It serves to reinforce the completely over-the-top villain personalities that make Cobra unique and serves to separate G.I. Joe from being just another boring action story featuring strong guys with guns. The fact that these absurd characters not only fit in this universe, but *work* without seeming out of place, is a testament to the job Mike Costa has been doing as the scribe (along with long-time co-scribe Christos Gage) of this book for the last couple of years.
Croc-Master’s success – acting on intelligence from Serpentor while working for The Baroness – serves to ingratiate Serpentor with the Baroness, a relationship that was anything but pleasant. So, success – Serpentor once again positions himself as a necessary member of the supporting cast for another participant in the Cobra Commander contest, thus securing his place as the behind-the-scenes manipulator of the next iteration of the Cobra organization.
Fuso’s art is steady and up to the standard he’s established for this series – regardless of any opinion on that standard one way or another. Mike Costa gives him a lot of leeway to tell the story in this book, as he gets a significant number of dialogue and text-free panels (including three entire text-free pages) to tell the story on his own. For the most part, he succeeds admirably. The only breakdown comes as Blackout sets up his departure from Panama on Page 8 – there’s no explanation as to why he cut his own arm in Panel 2, and it seems pretty unclear what is happening in Panel 3.
There was a slight changeup to the creative team from Cobra #1; Ariana Florian handles inks this time after getting a color credit in issue #1, and Romulo Fajardo, Jr., handles colors. Shawn Lee lettered the issue. The art style for Cobra has been well-defined for a long time, and the artists working this book have done a great job of keeping the art consistent. Love it or hate it, you know you’re reading “Cobra” when you look at this book.
David Williams provides Cover A, showing Croc-Master and his crazy glowing red eyes straddling a crocodile; very cool image. It’s Williams’ third cover for GI Joe; he last provided covers for issues 13 and 14 in the first season. Antonio Fuso drew Cover B, showing a very up close and personal view of a croc about to attack Steeler; this is a great composition, and a really clever camera placement. The retailer-incentive cover is Williams’ Cover A with no colors.
G.I. Joe: The Joe body count in this issue is difficult to add up; “redshirt” Joes Knuckles, Slammer, Sawed-Off and Leadfoot are part of the team ambushed and killed by Croc-Master and his Lampreys, so that makes four. Breaker and Steeler are also part of this mission; Steeler is mentioned on Page 10, and Breaker calls for evac on Page 19 after things go horribly awry. However, “Breaker” on Page 19 looks like Steeler, a blonde; Breaker is shown on Page 6 as having dark hair and glasses.
Leadfoot is killed on Page 12; Slammer on Page 13; Sawed-Off and Knuckles on Pages 16 and 17. On Page 20, however, Croc-Master tells Baroness “Got five of them.” Steeler is shown on page 22 getting treatment for a leg wound suffered midway through the battle with the Lampreys and Croc-Master, so he’s alive. Breaker was then apparently killed somewhere off-screen, and a mistake was made on Page 19 identifying Steeler as “Breaker.”
So, according to Croc-Master and IDW’s scoreboard, the Joe body count in this issue is: 5 (Knuckles, Slammer, Sawed-Off, Leadfoot, Breaker). (Total: 24)
Cobra: 4 (4 Lampreys) (Total: 11)
The events of this issue give Baroness the lead in the Cobra Commander Contest after seven issues of action. She and her agents are responsible for nine dead Joes, giving her a three-Joe lead over Khallikhan (6) and Krake (6).
The Terrordrome has a five-page preview of Cobra Civil War: Cobra #2 here.

Bookmarked sites for Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Resume is Dead, the Bio is King, at Behance’s The 99 Percent.  Advocating a strong personal biography in lieu of a resume in certain circumstances. I’m interested in this mostly for the exercise of writing the biography.

33 Ways to Stay Creative. Another list of “Things I Intuitively Know But Have Yet to Figure Out How to Do In My Daily Life.”

You can visit everything I’ve bookmarked at Delicious.

X-Men: First Class

I caught “X-Men: First Class” tonight, and honestly didn’t think much of it. The word of mouth I had read going in was overwhelmingly solid, and I thoroughly enjoyed the trailers; combined, I had relatively high expectations going in. Coming out, I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it either. It was just OK.

If you’ve never seen an X-Men movie before, you get a lot of introductions to a lot of different characters. This felt like the movie’s biggest flaw; there were so many characters to introduce and provide some level of background for that there wasn’t much time left for story. If you have seen the previous X-Men movies, there’s a straight repeat of the Magneto origin that was shown in the first movie, just the first in a series of events that really gives you a sense of “why are they showing me this again?” I know it’s a difficult balancing act with a two-hour movie to not alienate people who are new to your franchise while at the same time not completely boring people who have watched every other movie; that pendulum seemed to be swinging firmly in the favor of new viewers this time.

The need for such a significant amount of origin – here’s Xavier, here’s Magneto, here’s Moira McTaggart, here are the five X-Men, here’s Cerebro, here’s the first Danger Room, etc., etc., etc. – didn’t leave a whole lot of time for action. There really are only two significant action sequences: Sebastian Shaw’s assault on the X-Men’s first CIA headquarters, and the final battle that’s wrapped up around the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are some brief fight scenes here and there elsewhere in the movie, but they didn’t feel like enough to lift the movie.

The one character who probably *needed* more background – January Jones’ Emma Frost – got absolutely nothing.


* Jennifer Lawrence is pretty solid as Mystique. There were some scenes where she got to cut loose a little bit, but for the most part it seemed like director Matt Vaughan held her back, which was too bad – with the way the writers established her character, which actually was pretty interesting, she should’ve been one of the central figures in the film. But it just didn’t come off that way. Her character was begging for a bigger role, but it just seemed like she was being forced into a sidebar.

* The movie’s two principal leads do a nice job. James McAvoy does a good job as Xavier, and I thought Michael Fassbender was fantastic as Magneto. If the next couple of X-Men movies are set in this particular timeframe, those two guys will be able to carry these characters; I’d absolutely be willing to pay money to watch Fassbender play Magneto again. I felt he was the best thing about the movie. He even manages to not look absurd in the helmet.

* The Wolverine cameo is brilliant, as is the way that Rebecca Romijn got an appearance as Mystique. There’s also an amazingly brief Storm cameo if you pay attention.

* January Jones. She is so awful she almost brings the entire movie down. The pictures you have seen of Jones in the Emma Frost getup make it seem like she looks the part, and if this were a sequential picture book and she didn’t have to move, she’d be fine. She does look the part; physically, she’s a fantastic White Queen (but she needed radically different makeup; she was boring). But once she had to move and talk, everything just came crashing down around her. She’s absolutely terrible. She has no energy or emotion on screen whatsoever, and she could not have possibly had less chemistry with Kevin Bacon. They literally could have replaced her with a cardboard cutout and a voiceover, and there would’ve been absolutely no difference whatsoever. She was just awful.

* Kevin Bacon overacts basically every second he’s on the screen. And he gets a *lot* of screen time, so it gets old in a hurry.

* The origin of Magneto’s helmet is a little odd.

* The physical makeup is pretty shaky on Mystique and Beast. The Beast makeup is, in particular, not so great. I’m not even sure how to pinpoint what I didn’t like about it; it just looked weird. I think they made a mistake in not altering Nicholas Hoult’s voice after he underwent the transformation into the blue Beast. In the scenes where Lawrence was in full-on Mystique mode with no clothes, it seemed like there was significantly more Mystique parts and far less actual Jennifer Lawrence painted blue. I seem to remember it being mostly opposite when Rebecca Romijn played Mystique in the previous movies; more Romijn, less latex. It just didn’t come off as well as it could have.

* As good as Mystique was in the movie, I think the writers missed an opportunity to focus the movie around her. Making the movie about her instead of the Xavier/Magneto relationship, which we’ve seen in the other X-Men movies, might have made for a more interesting story. We know where Xavier is going in the end before the movie starts; likewise with Magneto. But Mystique was the one character with a choice to make (well, all of the X-Men did, but hers was more interesting because of her existing relationship with Xavier), and I think the movie would’ve been far better to focus on that choice than on a the dynamics of a relationship with a predetermined outcome. This would’ve allowed the movie to play up the Mystique/Beast relationship as well, which didn’t get nearly enough attention.

DC Comics’ August reset

On Tuesday, DC Comics announced that on Wednesday, Aug. 31, they’re going to do a hard reset on their entire DC Universe line of books – 52 series, all reverting back to Issue #1, with everything in their library being available digitally the same day as the print version. You can read DC’s complete announcement on their blog, The Source.

In comic book circles, this is the definitive Really Big Deal (TM).

I’ve never been more than a casual DC reader. Even during the few years that I was a pretty hardcore comic book collector ($50-$75 a week back when books were a buck and a quarter), I didn’t dabble in DC much beyond keeping up with a variety of Batman books. Even now that I’ve dipped my toes back into the waters as a regular on about 6-8 things a month, I still find I’m sticking to old habits — licensed stuff from toys I loved as a kid, like G.I. Joe and Transformers, and Marvel hero books (although whereas in my previous life as a comic collector I was primarily into Marvel’s mutant books, X-Men, etc., this time around I’m pretty Avengers focused – Thor, Iron Man, Capt. America, etc.). The only DC book I pick up at all is Birds of Prey, and that’s mostly because I like the writer.

Comics is a very different beast than it was 20 years ago when I was into it. There are a comparatively insignificant number of active, regular readers of books compared to what there used to be, and it seems to me like there are significantly more titles released every month. Marvel and DC combine to publish about 200 comics a month, which is just an avalanche of material; the biggest stumbling block I faced when wanting to get back into a few things was “where the heck do I start?”

Plus, I love digital comics; I could care less about collectability any more, I mostly just want to read the stories and look at the art. I’ve got a bunch of comics on my iPad, and I love reading comics on it. Sitting on my bed in the dark flipping through pages on my iPad is great. But, up until now, very few things have been released digitally the same day as they came out in print, so if you wanted to follow a particular story I had to wait for a month or more for it to show up digitally. So what happened was, rather than wait, I just didn’t bother.

What DC’s doing with this August relaunch seems to be exactly the way I’d want to collect, though. Comics available in print for certain things that I would have an interest in buying and keeping and having on paper (and, to be sure, there are certainly going to be things like that). But, having the ability to just open up an app and tap a button to buy a comic digitally the same day it’s on the shelves is going to lead to a lot more purchases, I can guarantee that. Our comic shop in Bemidji is *small*. They put out maybe 20 comics a week, total; if you don’t tell them in advance you want a certain thing so they can order it for you and set it aside for you to buy, you may never see it.

Now, I don’t even have to bother with that. I’ll continue to have them pull a few things for me, because I want to support the shop and some things I just want to have the paper version of. But with what DC is doing, if a book that I haven’t given any previous thought to looks interesting, I can just pick up my iPad and push a button and get it. Immediate delivery, no storage issues with ever-expanding piles of comics, no “damn, I didn’t pre-order and they sold out but I want to read it, so now what?”dilemmas. Just open an app and get it.

What DC is doing is exactly how I want to collect. Hopefully the implementation is smooth and, ultimately, the stories are good enough that I’m compelled to want to read them. There are a lot of questions to be answered, but on paper this is something that I really want to see myself being on board with.

The great thing about what DC is doing is that I hope it forces Marvel to follow suit. That can only be a great thing for readers and collectors alike.


Comic review: Cobra Civil War: G.I. Joe #2

Cobra Civil War: G.I. Joe #2
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Javier Saltares
Inks: Christopher Ivy
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letters: Chris Mowry

Cover A: Tom Feister
Cover B: Javier Saltares with colors by Andrew Crossley
Cover RI: Javier Saltares

The second issue of Cobra Civil War: G.I. Joe focuses on Storm Shadow’s assault on The Pit, teased at the end of the previous issue, and illustrates some of the misdirection Cobra used to set up the attack. In concert with the attack on The Pit, Gen. Hawk and Dial-Tone are ambushed after a meeting in Washington, D.C.

We learn in this issue why Cobra’s attacking the Pit; Storm Shadow and another unnamed Cobra agent (more on that later) intend to assassinate the Cobra Viper who was captured by the Joes way back in volume 1, #23. The issue ends with Storm Shadow about to make his presence known as the back half of Cobra’s Pit incursion team, and Hawk and Dial-tone on the run.

None of the Cobra Commander candidates are seen in this issue, but we know from earlier in the series that Storm Shadow is aligned with Oda Satori; as the ambushing of Gen. Hawk had to have occurred in concert with the Pit attack, it’s a safe bet that assault is the work of Satori as well. The Pit assault would seem to infer that Satori’s making use of Serpentor’s mole as well; add it up and he’s the first Commander candidate to make a significant move against the Joes. And if he is indeed working with Serpentor, he’s positioning himself to be an early favorite.

There’s solid action here as the unknown Cobra agent makes his way through the Pit hunting for the captive Viper, and we get some rare Hawk brawling which is fun to see; he and Dial-Tone make a good team. Mostly, this issue is setup for the payoff coming in the next issue, when Storm Shadow gets unleashed on the Joes and we see how Hawk and Dial-Tone manage to make their escape from DC.

New in this issue is a “Roll Call” on the inside front cover, calling out the main characters who will appear in the issue. This issue’s lineup featured Gen. Hawk, Dial-Tone, Scarlett, Agent Helix and Flint on the Joe side and Storm Shadow as the lone Cobra agent. It’s not everyone who appears in the issue, or even everyone who plays a significant role, but it’s a fun addition to the inside front covers and nice preview of what’s to come.

The shot of “Some Buddy” on Page 9 gives a hint of what I think people might have been expecting out of Javier Saltares upon hearing he was taking over the title.

However, the consistency just isn’t there.

There’s only one Cobra sigil in this book, on Storm Shadow’s chest in the second panel of Page 2, and Saltares still drew it wrong; it’s consistent from how it was misdrawn in Issue #1, so somewhere along the line he must just got ahold of some bad reference material. At some point an editor needs to correct this.

The “National Postal Museum” building used as the location of Hawk’s secret meeting is also notably different between its Page 7 appearance and its Page 18 appearance; the Page 18 building is significantly larger and many of the exterior details are different. The Joe who Zartan hits in the head with a meat cleaver gets blasted squarely in the forehead when he’s attacked on Page 5; when being treated on Page 16, he’s shown with a bloody nose and mouth but no head wound. Helix’s hair in Panel 1 of Page 20 is… who even knows what that is. And in that panel it looks like she’s armed with a hair dryer. There are many little things like this throughout the issue that on their own don’t really matter. But once these things and others like them start popping up again and again and again in a 22-page book, then the art starts becoming a distraction to the story as you start digging for more of them, or backtracking to a previous page when the art makes the reader stop and say “OK, wait a minute…” — and that brings the book to a screeching halt.

There are also two panels – one on Page 14 and one on Page 15 – where colorist Romulo Fajardo, Jr., resorts to using halftone dot-fills for shadows; they only appear in a few other panels in the book, and he didn’t use any in Issue 1 that I could see. It looked like Saltares just didn’t do the kind of linework to define the shadows on those two panels like he did elsewhere in the book, and Fajardo tried to compensate for it with the dot-fills.

Saltares also missed a big opportunity to show Zartan shapeshifting; as it is, Zartan just looks like one guy in one panel and like a similar-looking but different guy in the next panel. Honestly, had Tom Feister not put classic Zartan on the cover, it would’ve been pretty easy to have a “what the hell is going on here?” sense about the Pit attack.

The final-page cliffhanger is a fun image, though, even with the Joe on the far right having an oddly squished-looking head.

With the exception of Chris Mowry on letters, this is the same creative team that was in place for Issue #1; Shawn Lee lettered the previous issue.

Tom Feister’s Cover A is ridiculous. His cover work on the G.I. Joe: Origins three-parter covering the Zartan origin was fantastic, and he’s turned in another prize-winner here; there must be something about the Zartan character that brings great work out of him. The little things sell this; the texture on Flint’s gloves and the detail in the woodland-pattern MARPAT camouflage in his pants; the highlights on Zartan’s face and his reddened eyes; Flint holding Zartan’s hand in place with his boot. It’s a great image.

However, after reading the issue there’s a question as to why Zartan’s on the cover. He’s not included in the “roll call” banner for Cobra on the inside front cover, and as mentioned earlier there is never a clear view of him shapeshifting; it almost seems like Chuck Dixon is intentionally avoiding letting on that it’s Zartan, perhaps saving a reveal for later? But again, since there’s absolutely no other explanation for the Cobra agent’s shapeshifting, Feister putting Zartan on the cover is the only way the events inside make any sense. It’s a bizarre situation.

Saltares’ Cover B (and the retailer-incentive uncolored alternate) is OK; it’s basically an alternate-angle shot of a scene that occurs in the back third of the comic.

G.I. Joe: 2, possibly, on Page 17; Winchester and one unnamed Joe (Total: 19 if those two died; 17 if not)
Cobra: 1 (Total: 5)

At press time, there was no preview available for this issue online.