Comic Review: Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #3

Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #3
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Robert Atkins, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover B: Agustin Padilla, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover RI: Robert Atkins
Cover RB: Jonboy Meyers, with colors by Chuck Pires

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Robert Atkins and Agustin Padilla
Inks: Juan Castro
Colors: Simon Gough
Letters: Shawn Lee

Iceberg, Helix and Alpine attempt to make their escape from the busted mission to infiltrate Khalikhan’s mountain base (Khalikhan, who’s back to being two-L “Khallikhan” in this issue after two issues and a cover appearance with just one L — come on, editors…) and Khalikhan raises the stakes against the imprisoned Snake Eyes in a continuation of what’s shaping up to be one of IDW’s better story arcs in its G.I. Joe universe.

The efforts of Helix and Iceberg to get their extraction and get Alpine to safety makes for a relatively uninteresting part of this issue; Vipers chase them, Helix kills them, Iceberg calls for evac, Helix predictably leaves them to go back for Snake Eyes, and we get a cliffhanger showing more Vipers going after the Joes. You could’ve called this as soon as Alpine got hurt.

Snake Eyes’ imprisonment inside Khalikhan’s fortress is where the book gets interesting. Khalikhan takes advantage of his captivity to tease and taunt Snake Eyes, reveal that he knows much about Snake Eyes and his past, and through Cobra’s intelligence network, the ability to learn much, much more in a short amount of time. Snake Eyes is meant to perform for Khalikhan, and the raja makes great effort to ensure his new plaything is appropriately motivated to deliver his A-game.

The finale that Khalikhan sets up for Snake Eyes is amazing. It’s a parallel to the end of Return of the Jedi, where Emperor Palpatine pits his ultimate hit-man, Darth Vader, against Luke Skywalker, the man being interviewed as his successor, for reasons basically boiling down to “because I can, and because I think it’ll be a fun test of the new guy.” Likewise here, Khalikhan pits Snake Eyes against Slice and Dice, clearly his main agents, because seeing Snake Eyes at his best amuses him. What’s missing is the “kill him and rule beside me in his place” aspect of the Palpatine/Vader/Skywalker triangle, but with Khalikhan having his sights set on leadership of Cobra, perhaps he is arrogant enough to think he can pull off what would be G.I. Joe’s ultimate heel turn.

Based on the events of the Cobra Civil War so far, Oda Satori clearly still retains the lead in Cobra’s commander contest. However, as a challenge even to close followers of this series – what does Satori look like? How does he talk? What sort of character is he? We have barely any idea; his lead in the contest is solely due to the stellar efforts of his agents, Zartan and Storm Shadow. Satori has appeared in the book, but not in significant fashion. In fact, his most notable appearance probably came in issue 25 of season one – more than six months ago.

Conversely, Khalikhan has been front-and-center throughout the Snake Eyes series so far, manipulating events to his whim and allowing certain actions to take place simply because he thinks it’s fun — all while brashly flicking sweat from his forehead, confronting Snake Eyes with one hand behind his back, talking trash and arrogantly pontificating. Satori may have a temporary advantage in the contest, but Khalikhan actually feels like Cobra Commander.

However, a rather serious plot difficulty seems to have sprouted up in this issue. Following the events taking place in the three concurrent series telling the Cobra Civil War, it has been challenging to establish a master timeline of events across all three series. Based on the finale to G.I. Joe #3, it seems as if the events in Snake Eyes must take place before Cobra’s incursion into the Pit. This issue attempts to eliminate some of that guesswork. On Page 20, in a sidebar to Scarlett while she’s carrying on two conversations at once, one with Mainframe and one with Iceberg, Mainframe says to Scarlett, “Flint says we have two intruders.”

This leads the reader to believe that the mountain mission is taking place concurrently with Zartan and Storm Shadow’s incursion into the Pit, as shown in the main G.I. Joe series.

However, this is impossible as Helix is a key player in both events, and she can’t be in two places at once. The call from Flint to Mainframe shown in this book doesn’t make sense either, as Scarlett was with Flint when the Joes first surmised that Zartan did not enter the Pit alone in G.I. Joe #3 (it was, in fact, Helix who said this).

There are some other nitpicks to be had with this issue – it’s difficult to imagine how Snake Eyes could walk with Mission: Impossible lock-picking kit hidden ingeniously on his body; Khalikhan calls Snake Eyes “the only Joe who’s given Cobra any trouble,” a statement I think Captain Vicuna of Cobra’s super-submarine would take issue with, etc. But they’re minor speedbumps in an otherwise excellent issue.

The creative team for Snake Eyes #3 remains constant from the previous issue, with one exception: Agustin Padilla provided pencils for the battle between Helix and Frostbite and a team of Snow Serpents on pages 8-9 and 12-15.

The effort Robert Atkins is putting into this series is blindingly apparent on the page 6-7 spread where Khalikhan is lording over an imprisoned Snake Eyes, who is lashed to a chair. Khalikhan is grinning or gloating in every panel, and at the top of page 7 even daintily has one hand behind his back; he’s not remotely threatened by Snake Eyes. And sans visor, Atkins gets four thin, horizontal panels to finally do some acting with Snake Eyes that isn’t relegated to body English.

He could’ve taken a shortcut and used duplicates of one or more of the close-up images of Snake Eyes’ eyes, but he did not. The differences between the panels amount to a millimeter’s worth of movement of his eyelids, but the subtleties tell a powerful story. With each minute shift, Snake Eyes’ disposition changes from “I have been in these situations before, I’m relaxed and I know I will kill you and escape” to “now you’re bothering me” to “now it’s on.”

Atkins is doing a simply fantastic job on this series.

I only have access to Robert Atkins’ Cover A this month, so a review of the other covers based solely on thumbnail-sized images isn’t fair.

G.I. Joe: 0 (Total: 31)
Cobra: 20 (12 Snow Serpents are seen in Page 2, Panel 1; they’re all killed by Helix. Snake-Eyes kills eight Vipers on Page 16). (Total: 38)

No Joes were harmed in the making of this issue, so Oda Satori retains his lead in the Cobra Commander contest.

IDW Publishing did not provide 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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1 Response

  1. Chris says:

    In fact, yes, I was very lost – but I’m glad I landed here!

    I’m thoroughly enjoying your reviews, as I’m a late return to G.I. Joe and have been playing catch-up. Looking forward to getting this issue into my own hands, feeling forewarned now that the timeline incongruities aren’t just me “missing something.”

    I found your review of #2 particularly interesting, as few reviewers take any time whatsoever to explore the Scarlett/ Snake Eyes relationship. Your comment that he “chooses not to” respond to her hit me like the proverbial 2×4 across the noggin – after all, Khalikhan himself notes that “even that face can register” emotion. Being behind on the IDW series leaves me uncertain how much backstory Scarlett and Snake Eyes have – in the past, I’d have said that she knows him well enough not to need a reply; now, however, I’m deeply sympathetic for Scarlett and, like you, more than a bit puzzled. From what I’ve seen of the IDW season one, Scarlett is ready to put her career and life on the line for Snake Eyes, who seems to avoid her at pretty much every turn – to the point of choosing to partner with Helix for missions.

    So I’m sitting here going, Dang, IDW turned my favorite Joe into a world-class jerk… but then, since his actions with Scarlett reminds me of more than one military fellow I’ve known when it comes to relationships, he’s also acting sadly typical.

    One Army friend put it to me this way – “It’s my country first, my family second. Work – duty – always comes before my heart. Any woman who can’t understand that shouldn’t sign on with me.” I’d have thought that he was just being an idiot, except that I’ve heard the same in various translations from others… so maybe the writers have decided to work that into the character?

    Anyway, I’m wondering if the Scarlett aspect of this may simply be foreshadowing – I’m not sure I wouldn’t put it past IDW to kill Scarlett off in favor of Helix, or use her as Khalikhan’s leverage against Snake Eyes (assuming that Khalikhan lives through #4). The whole flashback from #2 could explain the note in #3 (got that from someone else’s review), and I figure that the “human issue” wouldn’t be brought up quite so much unless the writers planned to use it, somehow.

    Sorry for the ramble… it’s hard for a 40something mom and wife to find intelligent conversation about comic books! Love your family pics, by the way.

    Best wishes, Chris

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