Comic review: “Cobra Civil War: Cobra” #3

Cobra Civil War: Cobra #3
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: David Williams
Cover B: Antonio Fuso
Cover RI: David Williams
Cover RIB: Jonboy Meyers

Written by: Mike Costa
Art: Antonio Fuso
Colors: Arianna Florian
Letters: Shawn Lee

ROLL CALL
G.I. Joe: Steeler, Breaker, Firewall
Cobra: Tomax, Blacklight

RECAP
When last we saw Tomax, he was getting shot in the back like a punk by a pair of generic unidentified agents in G.I. Joe #3. He’d spent the entirety of Cobra’s commander contest thus far moping about and having Cobra not taking him particularly seriously; by the time the events of Cobra Civil War: Cobra #3 play themselves out, it’s clear that this was all part of his master plan.

This is a brilliantly-written issue by Mike Costa, focusing on Tomax incarceration after being shot and captured in G.I. Joe #3. The vast majority of the issue is Tomax’ inner monologue, and it’s almost all misdirection. For the first 13 pages of this book, it seems pretty obvious the direction he is taking. Costa even gives artist Antonio Fuso two full pages sans dialogue to play “Tomax Paoli, This Is Your Life” to hammer it home. Then in one stunning horizontal panel, Costa swings him 180 degrees in the opposite direction and Tomax becomes a scheming, cunning bad-ass.

Tomax starts the book in a cell, and ends it wearing a freshly-pressed suit in a Cobra helicopter. What Tomax has achieved is an incredibly complex and dangerous scheme for what basically amounts to an opportunity for him to look at the Cobra Council, stick out his tongue and say “neener neener, look what I did!” while throwing a huge Cobra-shaped pie in Hawk’s face. It really fits his character quite well.

It’s also clear that this is far from Tomax’ endgame, but the opening salvo in his campaign to punish the Joes. Above and beyond the motivations of the other contestants to succeed and assume the mantle of Cobra Commander, Tomax also seeks vengeance for the death of his brother. It’s clearly a powerful motivator.

The four primary characters in the contest so far – Baroness, Oda Satori, Vikrim Khalikhan and, now, Tomax Paoli – are each taking different paths through the “do the most damage to the Joes” challenge. With Satori having destroyed the Pit in glorious fashion, Baroness running a kill squad and Khalikhan currently having his fun toying with Snake Eyes in the mountains, it’s difficult to see how Tomax’s gambit will measure up. Tomax thinks he’s done something spectacular, however, and the way he explains it you can certainly see how his mind is working. His damage is psychological and political, and as we saw with Gen. Hawk’s dealings with the government in the main G.I. Joe series, this could ultimately prove to be an effective strategy — if the Cobra Council buys into it as well.

The two-page Blackout segue is odd; it provided a well-timed interlude to the Tomax story, but for it to last only two pages and then disappear made it seem a little jarring. However, the Tomax story benefited greatly from the interlude, as the pages interrupted by the Blackout story needed some distance to have the right impact. Even a little bug in the first panel of the Blackout segue that said “Panama” to let us know locations had changed might’ve been helpful here.

Elsewhere, Steeler recovers from the injuries he suffered during the Joes’ failed mission in Panama and in the issue’s cliff-hanger makes a shocking discovery about one of his teammates.

ART
A slight changeup to the art team for this issue; Arianna Florian is back on colors, and Shawn Lee letters Cobra for the first time since the civil war began.

Antonio Fuso continues to deliver as expected in this series. He’s developed a unique and consistent look for IDW’s Cobra series; nothing has changed here. There are a lot of fun things with the art in this issue; Tomax’s impossibly pointy chin gives him a Loki-like appearance that actually serves his character quite well; the “OK, things are not what we thought they were” panels that change the entire story to lead Page 14 are fantastic; and Tomax fretting about the fact that he had to temporarily wear an atrocious suit whilst surrounded by the brains he just blew out of a prison warden’s head is a great panel.

It looks like low-res art was used for the second page of the Blacklight feature on Page 8; the art is significantly fuzzier on that page than anywhere else in the book.

COVERS
David Williams’ Cover A captures the essence of the entire issue in one image; Tomax, a shattering event, a bad-ass Tomax left behind. The impact of the cover image really doesn’t take hold until you’ve read the story inside; once you realize what he’s done in the book, the cover couldn’t be a more perfect representation.

I don’t have access to the other covers as anything but the thumbnails on the inside front cover of the issue I bought; reviewing them based on the thumbnails wouldn’t be appropriate.

BODY COUNT
This is the first issue in the Cobra Civil War where no Joes or Cobras were killed.
G.I. Joe: 0 (Total: 31)
Cobra: 0 (Total: 38)

PREVIEW
IDW did not post a preview for this issue.

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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