Comic book review: IDW’s “Cobra” #10

Cobra Civil War: Cobra #10 (Cobra Command, Part 6)
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Dave Wilkins
Cover B: Antonio Fuso, with colors by Arianna Florian
Cover RI: Tom Whalen

Written by: Mike Costa
Breakdowns: Alex Cal
Finishes: Beni Lobel
Colors: J. Brown
Letters: Neil Uyetake

Fueled by some new, as-yet-unrevealed-to-the-reader information, Major Bludd begins lining up a group of like-minded allies to stage a coup against Cobra’s new commander. Meanwhile, that same Commander puts a new piece of his master plan into motion, consolidating his power with the aid of the Baroness. Meanwhile, the Joes continue their work to decipher what Cobra’s ultimate goal might be in Nanzhao, and in a stunning revelation call on an ally whose fate we thought was sealed years ago.

As has typically been the case, this issue of Cobra shows some of the sidebar stories that are taking place in parallel with Cobra’s invasion of Nanzhao. Here, we see Major Bludd’s displeasure with how Cobra Commander has handled the Nanzhao operation from a business standpoint boil over into a full-blown insurrection. Serpentor plays the opportunist and seems to be backing Bludd, although it’s difficult to tell if he honestly has the major’s back or if he’s just pretending to side with him for his own personal amusement while he’s scouring Nanzhao’s ravaged countryside rounding up new followers for The Coil. He voluntarily supplies Bludd with whatever piece of intelligence it is that pushes Bludd from disgruntled employee to leader of a mutiny, but it’s not really clear what his motivation is for giving him that information.

Mike Costa gives us another good look at Tomax, who continues to be the best character in this series. Of course he’s down with joining Bludd’s coup, because he seems to generally enjoy mayhem; and, it will give him a front-row seat for what he assumes will be Bludd’s ultimate failure. He doesn’t seem at all concerned with the thought of what even appearing to participate in this might mean for his future safety; mostly because as quickly as he seems to join Bludd’s cause, he appears to sell him out to the Cobra Council just as fast.

This leads us to the Baroness, who’s doing some very, very dirty work for the new Commander. Costa has written the Baroness brilliantly as a bad-ass hit woman, and she fills this role quite well here. It’s a complete 180 from the well-intentioned screwup the Baroness was throughout most of IDW’s season one. What happens here is basically the prototypical Baroness op – she uses sex to get in the door, then massacres everyone and blows up the building on her way home. She’s fabulous.

Unfortunately, though, the timing of this operation might have cost the Commander an opportunity to find out what Bludd is up to — it will be fun to watch that situation play itself out.

Meanwhile, the Joes are left scrambling on the sidelines to try and assemble all the clues and make sense of what Cobra’s ultimate goal is. As more data comes in, Mainframe decides they need some eyes in the field to help them solve Cobra’s puzzle. That leads to one hell of a cliffhanger as we find out who Mainframe’s agent of choice for this mission is; we close with a well-drawn full-page panel featuring a character who was thought to be long retired from IDW’s G.I. Joe universe. This character’s appearance throws into question one of the pivotal events in the entirety of the Cobra series so far, and how Mike Costa explains what’s going on here could turn this series right on its head. Depending on how this character’s appearance is handled, it could also serve to throw into question many other things we think we know about G.I. Joe’s status quo.

ART
Alex Cal’s work with the figures in his images continues to improve through his run on Cobra Command, but his use of photo backgrounds continues to be troublesome. In most instances, the characters are not anchored to the ground; Serpentor and Major Bludd are just floating over an obvious background layer on pages three and four, for instance. But, when he frees himself from those backgrounds, his work is starting to shine; he’s probably drawing the definitive Tomax in IDW’s universe so far, and despite her being wrapped in a towel that impossibly stays in place during a brief fight scene, he does a pretty good job on the Baroness in this issue as well.

Having Beni Lobel on finishes for the last issue or two has lightened up Cal’s work, also; he was going with some very heavy shadows on faces for a bit there, and he’s pulled back on that. It’s probably gone a bit too far in that direction, as the extremely dark characters were working for the tone of this storyline so far.

Finally, seeing Serpentor’s costume in this issue makes me want to go back and look at how he’s been presented in previous appearances; Cal has him wearing the most ridiculous boots that would be basically impossible to walk in under normal circumstances, let alone when meandering through the jungle.

COVERS
Cobra #10 is blessed with a fabulous trio of covers, probably as strong a group across all three variants as any single issue has had in the Cobra Civil War or Cobra Command storylines so far. A huge part of the reason this group of covers works so well this month is that in a rare moment of synergy, all three covers actually have some sort of relationship to what happens inside the actual comic. Far too often, IDW’s covers have had absolutely nothing to do with the content, and in some cases featuring events or situations that just flat-out do not occur in the book, or feature characters who aren’t in the book at all. Here, all three of these covers work as a lead-in to the actual story inside.

Dave Wilkins’ Cover A is just a solidly-illustrated piece featuring Mainframe and Scarlett in action above a very cool rendition of Serpentor, surrounded by flames.

Antonio Fuso’s Cover B succeeds because of his use of white space; it provides balance, but also puts a direct focus on Cobra Commander as he’s being attack in first-person shooter fashion by a foe at the reader’s point of view. The attacker’s dagger creates a powerful diagonal design element, and it helps draw the viewer’s eye directly to Cobra Commander’s head. This is simply a well-designed, well-executed illustration.

Finally, Tom Whalen’s illustration of the Baroness caps out the three and ends his run of retailer incentive covers for the number 10 issues of all three G.I. Joe series this month.

PREVIEW
The Terrordrome has a preview of Cobra #10 here.

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