Comic review: “Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #4”

Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #4
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Robert Atkins, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover B: Agustin Padilla, with colors by Simon Gough
Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Robert Atkins
Inks: Juan Castro
Colors: Simon Gough
Letters: Shawn Lee

RECAP
Snake Eyes’ incursion into Vikrim Khallikhan’s mountain base comes to a bloody conclusion, the Cobra Commander contest loses its first candidate, and the Joes must quickly regroup and change their focus to the mysterious virus that felled Duke in G.I. Joe #4.

This issue dives right in to the battle between Snake Eyes and Khallikhan’s agents, Slice and Dice, previewed in the previous issue, and that fight rages on for fully half of the book. It’s a quality fight, with Khallikhan watching from afar via his base’s security cameras, talking trash over the intercom the entire time. It’s a strong conclusion to what has been an outstanding first story arc in Snake Eyes’ standalone book; there has been plenty of action, and plenty of opportunity to learn more — and question more — about Snake Eyes’ nature and his relationship to his teammates and enemies alike.

Since this is Snake Eyes’ book and we know the book continues, the outcome of his battle with Slice and Dice isn’t necessarily a surprise. The fact that Vikrim Khallikhan is shot down in the blink of an eye, however, was.

Khallikhan’s death is a serious letdown. It goes down like this — Helix basically appears out of nowhere and guns him down; there’s no buildup or suspense involved in the killing whatsoever. In one panel, he’s talking trash on Snake Eyes as he has been for the bulk of four issues, promising his death and the death of Scarlett, and in the next panel Helix shows up with guns-a-blazin’ and apparently shoots him in the back (more on this in a minute…). It was an all-too-abrupt end to a non-toy Commander contestant who had been fabulously developed over the course of this title.

Still, there’s plenty to love about what’s going on in this issue. Chuck Dixon elevates the relationship between Snake Eyes and Scarlett to a whole new level, and through the comforts of modern technology we’re treated to what may well be the first-ever actual conversation we’ve seen between the two. It’s a fantastic scene (which could have been improved only had Atkins drawn Snake Eyes with an iPad instead of some generic tablet :), and does much to solidify the special relationship between the characters. The questions about their relationship from earlier in the series are all answered here; Snake Eyes clearly cares deeply for Scarlett, to the point that knowing he has her support provided him extra motivation to win his battle in Khallikhan’s fortress. In fact, the talk between them essentially swings the pendulum back in the polar opposite direction; after reading the exchange between the two, it seems legitimate to wonder why Scarlett had concerns about their relationship. Perhaps Snake Eyes just needs to spend more time on Yahoo Messenger to reassure her.

Iceberg’s successful escape with the injured Alpine is almost relegated to sidebar status; it’s a solid action scene, but is overshadowed because its bookended by the Snake Eyes fight and the strong relationship-developing scene between he and Scarlett.

The ending of this comic is pure G.I. Joe cartoon throwback craziness. Somebody we thought was dead is actually not dead, finds something completely ridiculous and gives us a hint that we’re in for what could be a pretty entertaining revenge tale coming in the future. This ending is the kind of thing that makes G.I. Joe fun, and keeps it from being just a straight military comic.

ART
The creative team for Snake Eyes #4 remains basically the same as it has been for the entire series so far; Robert Atkins provides pencils for the entire issue after Agustin Padilla provided some backup last time out. With this group having been together for awhile, it’s becoming apparent that they’re hitting their stride with this book. Robert Atkins’ work on the fight scene between Snake Eyes and Slice and Dice can only be summed up as “fun” – starting from Slice’s improbable airborne attack on the opening splash page and running all the way through a fantastic off-screen kill shot delivered by Snake Eyes to end the battle. Then, Snake Eyes gets a completely over-the-top six-kills-in-a-single-panel shot during his escape from the mountain that’s just enjoyable to look at to pick out the different details in each part of the shot.

Khallikhan’s corpse shot is odd, though; he’s standing when Helix enters the room, hunched over the monitor where he’s watching the fight, and turns to look over his right shoulder to see Helix coming before she guns him down. But his body’s slumped over the table like he was sitting and shot in the back. It’s an exceptionally minor nitpick, but the sequence seems a bit off.

Atkins also provides some nice background details to give us a hint at what may be coming in the future; there seems to be a lot of construction on the G.I. Joe ship Stennis, and a “99” in the background of one panel indicates that it may not be called the Stennis for long.

Simon Gough’s colors are great, especially during the ninja battle. He uses a lot of red and orange to highlight weapon strikes, and it helps provide focus to the action. There are a lot of other little details that Gough helps sell; spittle flying from Khallikhan’s mouth, flecks of blood around tears in Helix’s uniform, etc.

COVERS
Only two covers this month – Atkins’ Cover A and Padilla’s Cover B. There is no retailer incentive.

Atkin’s Cover A is solid; a spent clip falls away from Snake Eyes’ Uzi, still smoking, giving an indication that somebody was just on the wrong end of a firefight.

Padilla’s Cover B is awesome; it’s a moment-in-time captured from Snake Eyes’ fight with Slice and Dice. Lots of nice detail here; ink spatters to provide grit, some tears in Snake Eyes’ uniform, the dragon detail on Slice’s sword. Padilla has been doing strong cover work on the B covers for this series so far, and this is no exception.

BODY COUNT
G.I. Joe: 0 (Total: 32)
Cobra: 14 (Slice; 6x Snow Serpent; 6x Viper; Vikrim Khallikhan) (Total: 53)

CONTEST UPDATE
No Joes were harmed in the making of this issue; Oda Satori presumably retains his lead in the Cobra Commander contest with 11 kills and destruction of The Pit. Vikrim Khallikhan has been whammied and is the first candidate eliminated from the contest.

PREVIEW
Newsarama has a lengthy preview of Snake Eyes #4 at http://www.newsarama.com/php/multimedia/album.php?aid=44000.

4 Thoughts on “Comic review: “Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #4”

  1. Hey there… well, here’s another long Chris-ramble for you. Still loving your reviews, but I don’t want to post this out on the Terrordrome; I’m not sure if I’m safely caught up enough with the series to be speaking with any authority on a fansite.

    For the most part, I agree entirely with what you’re saying. I felt the death of Khalikhan was wretchedly anticlimactic; he’s a worthy villain and deserves to be around a while, even as a minor character. Which makes me wonder if he is, in fact, dead – after all, he’s got a full medical lab in there, and deep pockets. Wishful thinking, maybe.

    The action scenes I don’t really feel qualified to judge – I liked them for what they were, had to wonder a bit about the logistics (if Snake Eyes can take a guy’s arm off at the elbow under glacial water against a current, he is one scary strong ninja), and overall, found the fight a bit too easy for Snake Eyes. Slice and Dice took out an entire band of his apprentices; granted, they were disguised, but you only have the element of surprise for a moment. And are these two really less lethal than the Viper who gave SE so much trouble in Springfield? It just didn’t sit right, entirely. He’s a ninja and commando, not Superman – even if he did have that edge, knowing that if he died, Scarlett would go down with him. I suppose that has to count for something.

    The whole relationship thing is one I’ve been mulling over since your comments on #2. On my first read-through with the current issue, I really did not see the conversation scene as terribly redemptive – though it was fabulous actually being party to both sides of the conversation for the first time since I started reading Joe back in the 80s. I found some of it a bit superficial – and found myself being a bit creeped out by Mainframe lurking outside in that last panel. What’s with THAT?

    On a very surface level, Snake Eyes is doing that male bravado thing I really hate… “I’m fine,” “bumps and bruises?” Okay, I agree that he wouldn’t want to go into detail over an open channel – but I was left initially with the feeling that the “personal” side of the chat was just filler for what he’d really been after: his next orders. After all, he really didn’t reciprocate any of Scarlett’s concern – she says, AGAIN, that she just wants him to know he has someone who cares; instead of “I know” or “You, too”, he goes with “Thanks.” Even the sign-off felt wrong… “See you?” I joked about it on Twitter – there’s a dozen better ways to sign off when you are going into off into a seriously twitchy situation; I’d have chosen a softer “Take care” or “Stay safe” or something that wanted to be humorous – “Don’t lose another base until I get back, okay?” It just felt very one-sided, and I felt great empathy for Scarlett. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt.

    Comparing the two scenes (Issue 2 vs. 4), I think I’ve decided that the face to face scene in the Pit was more telling in regards to Snake Eyes’ true feelings for Scarlett – yes, she did all the talking, but she did correct herself upon entering and ask him to LISTEN. She probably needed to just get what she had to say out, and felt incredibly awkward doing so – but he had to let her in, and be willing to have her there; I don’t think IDW wants to portray her as so desperate that she’d be sitting there talking to a totally bland visage. Obviously, he was giving her some sort of nonverbal message, even if it was mixed, that it was okay for her to be there. And in retrospect, I don’t think the parting hug was forced or just a way to get her off his case; she was on the way out. I think it just took a while for him to get his head around the fact that this gorgeous woman is clearly crazy about him, and with his own emotions all roiled up from all he’s been through, he probably can’t figure out WHY… unless he worries that she cares for him out of guilt, which would, of course, make him reluctant to reciprocate.

    (And if you can explain what on earth Scarlett was referring to, ‘way back after Snake Eyes got back from his time with the Hard Master, when she said that she knew they were just friends now, I’d appreciate the insight. I went over the early issue summaries and the issues I’ve got, and I didn’t see any sign of a relationship there… nothing more than friendship, anyhow.)

    BUT – and this always happens to me – I go back over a scene and pull out things I hadn’t caught before. In the current issue, there IS some credence to the conversation being more than what I initially got from it. Not to generalize too much, but aside from “being a typical military guy” when it comes to his heart, and being a bit confused himself (as aforementioned), there were a few little things that touched me on the second read-through.

    Snake Eyes did want to know, immediately after giving her the important intel, if Scarlett was safe. Just to get his head into the right place so he can go off on mission again, perhaps, but clearly he still needed to hear it from her. I think it’s also foreshadowing that Dice will be coming after Scarlett, possibly soon, and it will catch Snakes totally off-guard as he thinks the guy is dead.

    Glomming onto a very small detail, I liked how Scarlett touched the screen, showing how much she wished they were having this conversation in person – and how, as he signs off, he appears to be reciprocating the gesture; it’s a very small detail, but the shading of the fingers and the angle of his hand don’t seem to match a wave as much as a caress. And the dialogue I had initially read as being superficial could very well speak to the fact that these two are good friends, as well as potentially more. I don’t think they’ve even kissed yet, let alone explored a committed romantic relationship. They’re both scouting unfamiliar territory, and it WOULD be logical for them to fall back on their friendship when circumstances prevent them from speaking more freely.

    I have to admit that I didn’t really get the whole “For Duke?” “For me.” interchange, but it seemed sweet – implying that he wouldn’t go full out for Duke, perhaps, unless it was to avenge his death; he would, however, put it all on the line for Scarlett. I imagine this is what it might have been like when they were planning his rogue operation – that understanding that they were both risking everything on what the other could provide; I find that sort of complete and utter trust very appealing.

    Going over the solicitations for the next few months, I’m not sure if I trust the phrasing of “suicide mission” – after all, this issue promised “Helix at her most deadly” – though Scarlett’s reaction post-conversation does seem to imply that she realized that she could very well lose both Duke, who I think she would still like to have as a friend and comrade, AND Snake Eyes.

    And then there’s that Mainframe thing. But I’ll have to get my thoughts together on that and make a stab at putting the pieces together in another note. Toodles!

  2. Hey Andy,

    Wow, another in depth review, thanks for the effort an time to put these up, it means alot to the creative team on the book. I can scarcely find a review anywhere else that covers so much and in such depth.

    Khalikhan dying, that was a shock to us all I think, but who know’s… a man that rich and powerful must have more body doubles than Saddam supposedly had (and a hefty cctv systme which could maybe have prewarned of Helix’s arrival… though that cave fight would have taken a fair bit of his attention!), it was left pretty obscure i’ll admit, but it leaves it open to possiblilities later on I think (I have no insight, i’m only 2 issues ahead :D) I hope that he makes a reappearance by some stroke of luck/genius.

    How cool was the final page with the sword of Genghis? I loved getting to do those pages… pure awesome on the half of Robert and his magic pencils, then Juan and his solid inks. They make me look good 😉

    Keep up the good work Andy, i’m sure i’ll catch you around 😀

    As Chris above said… toodles!

  3. I absolutely loved the Genghis Khan page, Simon; *loved* it. I audibly giggled when I saw it. It was just one of those perfect, totally unexpected moments where I realized that you guys doing this book just “get” G.I. Joe. The fans that want a gritty, hyper-realistic hard-core military action book without any of the science fiction, ninjas or combining DNA from ancient world leaders to make Serpentor are simply mistaken. A one-armed ninja finding Ghengis Khan’s sword to go on a Kill Bill-esque revenge spree? Perfect. 🙂

    The Cobra series that Mike Costa put together in “season one” was fantastic, but what you guys are doing is really giving that book a run for its money, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve really, really enjoyed what you guys are doing.

    I’m not surprised that Khallikhan (at least now that he’s dead, I won’t have to complain about him going back and forth between Khallikhan and Khalikhan 😀 ) let Helix sneak up on him – as much as he’d been looking forward to seeing his boys kill Snake Eyes, he probably wasn’t very susceptible to distractions. 🙂 I just wish we’d have gotten some warning she was coming. It really only would’ve taken one panel — even an over-the-shoulder shot of her looking into the room on him so we’d know she was there — or some radio traffic back and forth between she and Iceberg. This was an issue where you could tell things were restricted by only having 22 pages, though, and I get why that was left out – the Snake Eyes / Slice/Dice fight felt like it was over pretty quickly as it was, and the other action needed the space.

    I’m thrilled that you’re reading these; it’s making me take writing them a whole lot more seriously than I otherwise might!

  4. And now, to Chris’ mega-comment! I loved reading this. It’s fun to have somebody to talk with who’s probably more into this than I am. 🙂

    I liked the fight scene; it’s a ninja fight, so pretty much right away I start thinking back to 1980s movies like “American Ninja,” or “Ninja 3: The Domination” (where, at the end, the lead bad guy ninja had a wrist-mounted weapon that was *lasers*). When ninjas fight, I just turn off the part of my brain that pays attention to physics. This fight scene definitely played right into that; Slice hovering almost vertically six feet in the air on the Page 1 splash just said “yep, this is gonna be crazy.” So I’m willing to

    Your comment about the solo Viper in Springfield is something that has bugged the crap out of me about the way Snake Eyes has been portrayed in IDW’s universe for a *long* time. I *get* why that happened – at the time, G.I. Joe didn’t know much about Cobra, and I guess the thought was that having one Viper beat the crap out of Snake Eyes would indicate how lethal the organization was. But I think it really weakened Snake Eyes; a better solution would’ve been to have a “named” Cobra – like, say, Firefly – have a cameo and be the guy to beat Snake Eyes down. Granted, in going to back to that scene again, that Viper did have to shoot at Snake Eyes with a rocket first… Even so, his recovery from that encounter wasn’t well-defined, either – the six issues when he was working with the Hard Master back in New York were supposed to make him a bad-ass again, and the Joes had enough faith in him that they put him in charge of their “retraining” efforts to toughen them up to fight Cobra – but we never saw *any* of that. We only saw him training with Helix — who beat him, coincidentally — right toward the end of the series when they needed to introduce her for the Section Zero attack.

    The Mainframe-creeping-in-the-hallway thing was, I thought, a pretty nice touch — without going into too much detail, like you said with Scarlett, I could relate to being in that situation. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. 🙂 It was just a scene that really resonated with me, to have it hammered home that despite your best efforts you probably don’t have a chance with the girl.

    This weekend, I think I’ll go back and read the scene between them in Issue #2 again and then immediately read the conversation in this one again, to see how they work together now.

    As for IDW’s solicitations for the future, I don’t put must stock into those – you’ve read them regularly, so you know that they’re basically hyperbole that can be boiled down to “OMG YOU GUYZ! SOMEBODY GONNA DIE!” They’re pretty silly.

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