Review: “G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War #0”

Here’s the review of IDW Publishing’s “G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War #0” that I posted for The Terrordrome tonight. I fell off the wagon doing these regularly for the ‘Drome last fall; this is the first of my efforts to get back to doing three of these a month for the site, one for each of the three G.I. Joe series IDW will have running starting in May.

G.I. Joe: Cobra Civil War #0
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Cover price: $3.99
Cover A: Tom Feister
Cover B: Gabriele Dell’otto
Cover C: Antonio Fuso
Cover RI: Javier Saltares
G.I. Joe #0
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art: Javier Saltares
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letters: Shawn Lee
This story serves to introduce us to Krake, one of the nine potential candidates to be the next Cobra Commander. Six Joes – one we know and five we’ve never heard of before – travel to Springfield to investigate a Cobra energy signal. Since there are five Joes in this story we’ve never heard of before this story, you can likely guess how this ends. Even the Joes need redshirts.
There was some message-board rumbling about Javier Saltares taking over art duties on the main Joe series from Robert Atkins, as he was known for his rougher style from “Ghost Rider,” and there was curiosity as to how his style would translate into the G.I. Joe universe. Ten pages isn’t much time to get a feel for how well this will come off, but with the short story everything was fine. He draws a good explosion and a fun bullet-riddled target, so the likelihood is he’ll fit in just fine. Krake likely would’ve gotten a full-page splash as an intro in a story longer than 10 pages.
Cobra #0
Written by: Christos N. Gage
Art: Antonio Costa
Colors: Arianna Florean
Letters: Shawn Lee
It’s good to see Costa back on art duties in “Cobra” as Vargas, another of the nine candidates to become the next Cobra Commander, is delivered to a meeting by Crystal Ball. We also meet Commander candidates Oda Satori and Khallikhan, as Baroness lays out the contest that will determine Cobra’s future leadership. This is all action-free setup; Baroness introduces us to the characters who’ll be participating in the contest, and little else.
Snake Eyes #0
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Art: Agustin Padilla
Colors: J. Brown
Letters: Shawn Lee
If you are one of the G.I. Joe fans who hated the 1992-1993 swords-and-neon explosion that was Ninja Force, this is a 10-page story you’ll enjoy. T’Gin-Zu, T’jbang, Nunchuck, Bushido and Banzai all make guest appearances for the Joes, and Snake Eyes sets out to discover the identities of the two mysterious Cobra agents who have slain them — agents who also turn out to be familiar to Ninja Force fans. The only things missing are Snake Eyes’ blue sword, Zartan’s orange mohawk, and Scarlett’s mile-wide hips.
Padilla’s art is nice here, although there are more trees in the Page 1 splash than exist in the entire real state of North Dakota. For some reason, he got a bum rap early in his work on the G.I. Joe: Real American Hero continuation, but his work here is just fine. He draws a good Snake Eyes, and nothing seems distracting or out of place.
This story raises more questions than anything, even though it sets up how the new Khallikhan character intends to pursue his candidacy for the Cobra Commander mantle. Why is Snake Eyes worthy of this kind of attention? There’s been a disconnect with the way Snake Eyes has been presented for nearly the entirety of IDW’s presentation of G.I. Joe; he has this reputation as an absolute bad-ass, but this still feels like it’s based entirely on how the character existed before IDW’s universe came to be. In the first iteration of the ongoing series, he was defeated by a single Viper so badly he vanished for six issues, then we were told he was going to train the entire G.I. Joe team to be more awesome – which we never saw. Then he goes on a commando raid with Helix in the last two issues of “season one,” and he’s what we expected him to be. It’s just an odd way for the character to have evolved in this universe. Hopefully this ongoing series will allow the character to take his rightful place at the forefront of the G.I. Joe universe. IDW claims that it’ll be obvious as to why he deserves it.
Overview
These 10-page stories offer an early look at each of the contenders for the vacant mantle of Cobra Commander, setting up what each of the three distinct IDW series will portray as the Cobra Civil War gets rolling. The contest itself seems a little hard to wrap one’s head around; it’s difficult to imagine an organization of the size and scope as Cobra would actually select its next leader in the fashion portrayed in the book. The contestants are all selected by the mysterious “council” that Baroness refers to several times in the Cobra story, which eliminates the possibility that, say, Road Pig might win, so there’s at least a baseline understanding that each of the nine candidates are ultimately qualified for the job on some level.
As with the “season one” of IDW’s run at G.I. Joe, there’s a large degree of “we’ll have to wait to see how this plays out” at work here. That didn’t work out so well with Season One, which came off its tracks when the writers seemed to put as much effort as possible into ignoring the MASS Device which, like it or not, was the central plot element to that series, until it had to wrap that storyline up as quickly as possible. Fortunately, the standalone Cobra series was so good it became easier to overlook the shortcomings of the main series.
Season Two looks to blur the lines between the three main titles, as this zero issue indicates they’ll be telling three different stories occurring as part of the overarching Cobra Civil War umbrella. There will still be an opportunity for a stronger series to carry a weaker one, but with all three series tied so closely together thematically there’s a chance for a weaker series to really bring this idea down.
Again, we’ll have to wait to see how this plays out. The ball gets rolling in May with G.I. Joe #1, Cobra #1 and Snake Eyes #1.

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