Review: “Cobra Civil War: Cobra” #1

I posted a new comic book review over at The Terrordrome this morning; “Cobra Civil War: Cobra” #1 is in comic shops across this fine land tomorrow, May 25. I’ve forgotten to repost the last two of these that I’ve done for The ‘Drome here, but I’ll start making a point to get them up here the same day I post them over there.

Cobra Civil War: Cobra #1
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A, B & C: Zach Howard with colors by Nelson Daniel
Cover RI: Antonio Fuso

Written by: Mike Costa
Art: Antonio Fuso
Colors: Arianna Florian
Letters: Chris Mowry

With Cobra #1, Mike Costa has delivered readers with what could well be one of the best Baroness stories to ever show up in a comic. In the first season of IDW’s universe, the Baroness was portrayed as somewhat of a screwup; coming close but somehow not quite able to deliver to Cobra the things she promised, and always in need of some manner of last-second reprieve to retain her standing with Cobra. Here, Costa gives us a look at a complex, determined character who will use sex, intelligence, ruthlessness and good old-fashioned schoolyard insults to get what she wants. This Baroness is brilliant, freaky and straight-up gangster.

In doing so, he seems to be the first writer to really take advantage of the loosened boundaries present in G.I. Joe universe IDW is constructing. Sure, characters are different from how they’ve been portrayed in the past; there are plenty of examples of that so far in IDW’s universe. But for the first time, it seems as if a character has not only changed, but matured. This is Baroness as we suspected she was all along; we’ve just never been allowed to see it. As a result, Costa’s Baroness not only feels like the “correct” version, but a version that would have been completely impossible to fully develop in the Marvel or cartoon G.I. Joe universes. Never in a hundred million years would you have seen Baroness working her way into a foursome with a drug dealer and a couple of hookers in order to get past his bodyguards so she could safely shoot his brains through the back of his skull. It’s not dirty or salacious; the situation she’s in is completely clear, but it’s also just as obvious that she’s only done this to complete the job.

This is the Baroness that has always lurked just beneath the surface of the other iterations of the character; Costa’s been given a chance to finally bring her to light, and it’s brilliant.

This evolutionary leap in the Baroness character is necessary in order for her to remain a viable candidate in the Cobra Commander contest. She’s resigned to a belief that not only will she not win the contest, but that she’ll not be allowed to win by the Cobra Council. On the way to whatever end awaits her, though, she intends to make things as miserable as possible for the other eight candidates; selling that with the weaker Baroness from earlier in the series would’ve been far more difficult.

Baroness quickly learns that any successes she’s able to muster during the contest are going to occur solely due to her own force of will; she’ll be getting no support from Cobra. As the nine candidates get divided out into sub-groups to allow the series’ writers to develop subplots, it seems as if Baroness will be pitted directly against Serpentor and Major Bludd. Her hatred for Bludd is apparent throughout the issue, as she clearly still harbors plenty of resentment towards him for allowing Destro to work him over during Season 1’s Section Ten prison break fiasco. She has an equal dislike for Serpentor, but one based fully in disrespect for his activities and his role in Cobra as she sees it, rather than raw hatred. It’s an interesting dynamic, and one Costa will hopefully develop further as the Cobra Civil War progresses.

Serpentor’s unique position as leader of The Coil also comes into play in a big way in this issue, as his chosen path through the contest is laid out with a shocking cliffhanger. Apparently not officially a candidate, Serpentor makes it clear that whomever wins his favor will have an inside track to winning the contest. It makes perfect sense that such a situation would occur, given the Coil’s reach, and the situation Serpentor has orchestrated would definitely seem to put him in an early position to inflict some serious damage on the Joes.

Most importantly, however, there’s finally a palpable sense that there may well be more to this contest than simply “get out there and kill.” We still know essentially nothing about the Council, and the reader surely shares Baroness’s uneasiness when she’s told to ignore the day-to-day operations of Cobra to focus on the contest. The contest now feels like a misdirection, which suddenly makes it exponentially more interesting.

Having Antonio Fuso back on art duties for Cobra is a treat. His style has been a perfect fit from the start, and colorist Arianna Florian, who also handled colors for the zero-issue Cobra story, carries the series’ trademark muted color palette well. She switches from oranges to greens to blues to reds help sell the location changes, and the sickly greens used for the Cobra interior locations are almost nauseous.

Zach Howard’s nine-cover extravaganza ends with Cobra #1, and as with G.I. Joe and Snake-Eyes, Cobra also features a centerfold poster of the retailer-incentive cover, drawn by Fuso. As a group this is probably the weakest three-pack of candidate covers, even though the Tomax cover is among the best of the nine – a simple composition of Tomax admiring his own reflection in the bullet-shattered faceplate of the former Cobra Commander.

G.I. Joe: 0 (TOTAL: 17)
Cobra: 1 (a Viper) (TOTAL: Technically 4, but I can see IDW not putting him on the scoreboard. So, 3)
Random other folks: at least 3 “on screen” deaths; total body count likely at least five.

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