Comic review: Snake Eyes #12 (Cobra Command)

Snake Eyes #12 (Cobra Command)
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, April 25, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Robert Atkins, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover B: Andrew Griffith
Cover RI: Robert Atkins (uncolored variant of Cover A)

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Artist: Beni Lobel
Colors: Zac Atkinson
Letters: Neil Uyetake

For maybe just the second time in IDW’s G.I. Joe universe, we get a completely useless filler issue of one of the core books. G.I. Joe did it with the 13th issue in Season One, a one-shot telling a story about Beachhead and Tripwire escaping from a group of thugs by navigating through a Mayan pyramid. That was at least an entertaining story. Basically everything about Snake Eyes 12 is bad.

In terms of how the issue flows, it’s very similar to the Season One Hard Master stories; it’s a whole lot of the Hard Master sitting around and talking constantly about things the characters in the story already know. The monologues seem like they’re passing some vital information on to the other characters on the page, but really it’s just an information dump for the reader. It’s a bad storytelling device, because it becomes obvious pretty quickly that the characters aren’t talking to each other, but prattling on to the reader as a weak method for giving the back-story. There are so many more elegant ways to do this — see the first page of DC’s Animal Man #1 for a brilliant example of how to achieve the same thing in a way that doesn’t disrupt the book.

This issue pivots around a pretty ridiculous scene where Snake Eyes cuts open a peach as a grand metaphorical reveal to Hard Master of his reasoning for rejoining the Arashikage. Without giving it away, the scene assumes that a grocery store owner just has rotten fruit laying around on his dinner table; that the fruit is not only rotten but contains what Snake Eyes needs it to contain to pull off his little metaphor; that Snake Eyes can see through the peach to determine its contents before cutting it open; and that Hard Master is the greatest charades player of all time.

It’s a bad scene. Chuck Dixon has on several occasions gotten around the fact that Snake Eyes can’t speak by having him send text or instant messages to Scarlett. He can communicate, and we’ve seen it. While we have only seen him communicate in this way with Scarlett, it has not been inferred, directly or otherwise, that she was alone in her ability to communicate with him in that way. The only way a ridiculously contrived scene like this becomes necessary is if Snake Eyes has been shown to not only be mute, but completely uncommunicative through the entire series — which isn’t the case here.

If we are meant to believe Snake Eyes *only* communicates in that manner with Scarlett, and with no one else, that’s a detail we as readers need to have. If that is true, it adds an entirely new dimension to their relationship. It also is frustrating, as that would advance the Snake Eyes character by directly illustrating how his behavior and desire to communicate changes due to his relationship with Scarlett.

Instead, we see him as some cryptic lunatic who plays games with fruit instead of writing a note that says “Settle down and trust me.”

This scene is even worse when you realize that it’s the only reason this issue exists. The sole purpose of Snake Eyes 12 is for him to deliver that one message to Hard Master. However, there’s no indication of how Snake Eyes got from the jungles on Nanzhao to Brooklyn; no indication of why he needed to go in the first place (did Hard Master read on the Arashikage’s Tumblr that Snake Eyes had joined Storm Shadow? How would he have possibly known, necessitating the visit? The only other character in the entire Joe universe who we knew for sure is aware of this is Helix, and she’s gone all Obi-Wan Kenobi, “what I said is true, from a certain point of view.”); no explanation of why Storm Shadow would trust him to take a solo field trip halfway around the world immediately after rejoining the Arashikage — particularly when the end of the issue reveals that Storm Shadow knew where he was going… Somehow.

None of the events in this issue make any sense whatsoever; not on their own, and not as a part of the larger narrative of the fallout from the Cobra Command event.

To make matters worse, Dixon introduces a completely throwaway gang (albeit a gang with a pretty cool tag), a gang that we’ll probably never see again in this series, that exists solely so Snake Eyes has somebody to fight in this particular issue. He doesn’t fight Cobra. He doesn’t fight enemies of the Arashikage to solidify his renewed membership in the clan. Nothing advances his character or the storyline he’s on in any important manner. It’s just a group of thugs for him to punch.

Beni Lobel gets a solo art credit after having worked with Alex Cal on a few issues during the Cobra Command crossover. His work is stylistically very similar to Cal’s, but Lobel is not quite as proficient. Still, the art is solid. He does some of the same photo background tricks for texture that Cal did, but they’re not as intrusive, and his faces are a little more expressive. It seems unfair to compare him so directly to Cal, but the styles they’re using on this book are so similar that it seems clear IDW is using them to maintain continuity with the visual look and feel Cal established in Cobra Command. It works; if you weren’t paying attention to the book’s credits, you might not even realize that the book had changed artists.

Zac Atkinson handles colors for this issue; I’ll have to check, but I think this is his first work on G.I. Joe. He does a nice job, including some very subtle little things like purple bruises on Alondra’s face that you don’t notice until you really dig into the art.

Andrew Griffith’s Cover B is fantastic. It’s a typical cover for this series — Snake-Eyes in a menacing pose with sword drawn against a non-descript background, but the cover is well-composed on a strong diagonal, is well lit from behind Snake-Eyes, and the orange background allows the mostly-black Snake-Eyes figure to dominate the page. This is a really cool cover.

The duo of Robert Atkins and Simon Gough team up for Cover A, and it’s another very strong piece of work from them. In fact, these two getting to illustrate Snake-Eyes fighting the Bang Six is the only worthwhile thing about including the gang in this issue.

IDW is apparently taking some time off from their recent retailer-incentive covers; this issue’s incentive is simply an uncolored version of Atkins’ Cover A. This model was used on Snake Eyes during the first few issues, but since the fourth issue there has been a unique retailer incentive cover.

The Terrordrome has a preview of Snake Eyes #12 here.

Andy Bartlett

By day, I am the executive director of communications and marketing at Bemidji State University. The rest of the time, I'm a husband, father of three, and proponent of super heroes, lasers, space ships and explosions.

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1 Response

  1. Chris says:

    I agree, mostly… snickered at the “cryptic headcase who plays games with fruit” part. 🙂

    I guess I’m not so much put off by filler, by character-driven stories, as I am by the subtext here. This issue comes out at a VERY bad time to be glorifying vigilante justice… after all, that’s what the guy who shot Trevon Martin thought he was doing, right? I’ve already posted on the IDW boards about how I feel – I’ll need to look back, but the scenes that stuck with me were the two guys, clearly scared, NO WEAPONS IN THEIR HANDS, waiting for Snake Eyes to off them – and the killing of the guy doing nothing more than going to the fridge. That’s just… wrong all over.

    Snake Eyes, as Dixon writes him, is a fine example of the “wounded hero” archetype… but even a wounded hero doesn’t kill unarmed civilians, no matter how loathesome they may be. The Snake Eyes I know and love wouldn’t kill street kids. Yes, maybe that’s the Hamaverse Snake Eyes… but the good I saw in this issue was pretty much snuffed out by the bad.

    I did like his attachment to Alondra – that soft side. The way he initially reacted to her hug – “Omigodsheshuggingmewhatdoidonow?????” was priceless, in just that simple arm-out surprise; the body language throughout the issue was exceptionally well-done, and I appreciate the care taken in that detail.

    I think the purpose of the whole episode can be boiled down to, “No matter what it looks like, Snake Eyes is still a good guy and he’s trying to get to the heart of what’s wrong with the Arashikage.” Fruit ninja peach-slamming nonwithstanding.

    Eh. Not a good issue. Not a bad issue. Just… I’ve got issues with this issue, and THAT’S the issue.

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