Comic Review: “Cobra Civil War: G.I. Joe” #4

Cobra Civil War: G.I. Joe #4

IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Javier Saltares
Inks: Christopher Ivy
Colors: Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Letters: Chris Mowry

Cover A: Tom Feister
Cover B: Will Rosado, with colors by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.

G.I. Joe: General Hawk; Dial-Tone; Scarlett; Brainstorm; Flint
Cobra: Storm Shadow; Zartan; Tomax

G.I. Joe’s Team Alpha, led by Duke and Roadblock, uncovers a deadly new Cobra plot in Africa while the Joes attempt to recover from the devastating loss of the Pit at the hands of Storm Shadow and Zartan.

This is a slow issue action-wise, especially compared to last month, as the Joes deal with the aftermath of the loss of their headquarters. As part of the recovery effort, two new bases of operations are identified – a long-abandoned Army base and a massive submarine.

Two groups of Joes are working to set up the two bases; Flint and Scarlett have taken the Pit refugees to the abandoned Army base to set up operations there, while Hawk and Dial-Tone are freed after their Issue #3 arrest on the train and reunite with the Joes on the submarine. The Joes are licking their wounds, but are quickly trying to reorient themselves after being punched in the throat and plan their retaliation against Cobra.

The Africa event is setup for what should be the next main story arc in the Cobra Civil War. It isn’t revealed which Cobra agent is responsible for the event, so it could be that one of the sidebar players in the contest – Major Bludd or Vargas, perhaps – is finally making a move. It’s a significant event, and whomever is doing this could potentially take the lead in the contest based solely on body count in relatively short order. The vendor solicitations for upcoming issues of this series give away some of what’s going on here, so avoid those if spoilers bother you.

Zartan and Storm Shadow complete their getaway after destroying the Pit in one of the more entertaining action sequences to appear in this series so far — the Cobra duo takes advantage of a target of opportunity to shoot up some Joes while escaping in a Mamba, which turns into an air-to-air confrontation with a pair of F-22s. They escape by the narrowest of margins, which leads into a potentially game-changing cliffhanger at the issue’s conclusions, as it’s revealed that the identities of the Cobra agents participating in the contest might not be as clear as we’ve believed so far.

We don’t get any more information about the two Federal agents who captured Tomax and arrested Hawk and Dial-Tone; with Tomax’s escape from prison in Cobra #3 and the apparent end to that plotline in this issue as Hawk is back with the Joes, we’re probably not going to get more on that. We can infer from Cobra #3 that Tomax revealed himself to the feds somehow as it’s clear his eventual capture was part of his plan, but that’s just left for the reader to assemble based on the clues in the book. It’d make a fun sidebar story at some point to see how this happened (this is where the existence of G.I. Joe Origins was good; it allowed an outlet for stories like this), but we probably won’t see it. Tomax is in the roll call but never appears in the issue.

There’s a factual error (or simply a bad typo) on Page 12; the Joes call in air support to pursue Zartan and Storm Shadow’s Mamba and say the chopper is flying a “map of earth course”, indicating that it’s flying low to the ground under radar cover. The correct term for that kind of flying is “nap of the earth.”

The creative team for G.I. Joe #4 is unchanged from last month.

Javier Saltares has drawn the entire G.I. Joe series in an amorphous style so far; things change from one panel to the next, faces and heads change shape, hair styles and clothing vary in consistency from panel to panel, page to page. Buildings get bigger, windows on helicopters appear and disappear. Basically any inconsistency you can think of that could occur in a comic book has probably shown itself in some way or another in G.I. Joe so far. I had this idea that I’d look at some of Saltares’ other work and see if some of the other things he’s doing now or has done recently have the same kind of style. I quit when I found this statement on his DeviantArt page (edits are mine):

“I have never developed a polished style, or however you might want to describe it; too lazy to fiddle with something twice. I like to simply capture the “idea.” This is probably why editors are leery about me inking myself.”

I read that this way – Saltares isn’t concerned with how characters or objects appear throughout the course of a book, because by his own admission he’s not interested in doing the work needed to ensure consistency. He takes the script and generates an image to support that script on a panel-by-panel basis; “capturing the idea.” OK, fine, I can go with that. And honestly, sometimes this not only succeeds but works very well — he’s drawn some really nice panels in this series so far, including several in this book.

But in this issue, this style led to a breakdown in my ability to clearly follow Chuck Dixon’s story. G.I. Joe #4 ends with a potentially game-changing reveal as far as the Cobra Civil War goes. Because of the way Saltares has drawn this book so far, and given the quote I found on his DeviantArt page, I had it in my head to not worry about changes in characters from panel-to-panel when I read this issue – to ignore the inconsistencies and focus on whether he “captured the idea” enough for me to enjoy the story. This mostly worked for me, until this reveal absolutely required that I be paying attention to those inconsistencies – because this one time, they mattered.

I read the last two pages of this book three or four times before I even got it. It’s one of the first legitimate “oh, holy crap” moments in the Cobra Civil War so far, and had I just read this book once I’d have totally missed it. In fact, had Chris Mowry’s lettering change in the dialogue not helped guide the reveal, I probably still wouldn’t see it.

Here’s a link to Saltares’ quote on DeviantArt, from Nov. 2010, where he’s showing off two panels from this issue.

There are some great panels in this book. I really liked the exploding jeep on Page 11 (Romulo Fajardo’s colors on this panel are great, too), and the Gyro-Viper on Page 13 and the Mamba explosion and Zartan’s reaction to it on Page 14 is just great. Then the way Duke is drawn on Page 3 and 4 makes him look not even human.

Cover A is another Tom Feister piece that gave me an immediate “I would buy a poster of that” reaction. The lighting on the two F-14s is great, and the use of the explosion to create white space on the top half of the page was a nice visual trick. It leads well into the interior, as well, since this issue has a lot of white space.

The hinge in the wings of the Firebat are a bit too blatant; he clearly drew it straight off the toy, but that’s a nitpick. This is a great cover; not surprising, since every cover he’s drawn for this series so far has been really fun to look at.

I only have the thumbnail image on the inside front cover by which to judge Will Rosado’s Cover B; no review.

G.I. Joe: 1; Brainstorm is officially KIA, as per Roll Call, although he’s never seen in this issue. Total: 32.
Cobra: 1 (Gyro-Viper). Total: 39.

Brainstorm’s death brings Oda Satori’s body count to 11 dead Joes and destruction of the Pit; he retains his lead in the Cobra Commander contest. Baroness remains in second place with nine kills.

The Terrordrome has a five-page preview of G.I. Joe #4 available 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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