Comic book review: Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #5

Cobra Civil War: Snake Eyes #5
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, Sept. 28, 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: Danny Cruz, with colors by Esther Sanz

Written by: Chuck Dixon
Pencils: Alberto Muriel
Inks: Juan Castro
Colors: Esther Sanz
Letters: Neil Uyetake

Rodrigo Vargas observes the results of his retrovirus experiment as we get our first extended look at the character and personality of this Cobra Commander contestant. Like Vikrim Khallikhan, he’s arrogant and a talker. His appearance is limited to four pages, but he monologues almost constantly – explaining the details of the deployment and impact of the virus, and a particularly disturbing two-page spread showing that Vargas has other pet projects — and isn’t afraid to test them.

Chuck Dixon uses an interesting device – literally – to allow Vargas’ ongoing monologue to fill the reader in on the details of the plot; he speaks to a hovering ball, which transmits it as a log entry to Cobra High Command.

The issue is relatively evenly split between two main story lines – the mission in Europe for Snake Eyes and Helix to track down the source of the virus that infected Duke in G.I. Joe #4, and the effects of the virus on the village in Zimbabwe where Vargas has deployed it. Snake Eyes and Helix are able to successfully complete their mission, which leads to a cliffhanger as Snake Eyes and Duke (you’ll see how Dixon pulls this off…) fly off to Africa to seek an antidote.

Vargas’ virus leads to a situation we’ve seen many times as a plot element in other stories — African villagers becoming infected/turned into zombies/etc., and then contained by the military. It makes sense on the surface for Vargas to test his virus in a remote area, but it would’ve been an interesting change of pace for the test to have taken place in South America or Australia. And it would’ve been far more Cobra-like to have tested it against a larger population center instead of a small village that is insignificant on a global scale. Vargas isn’t characterized as a person who would doubt his creations would have the desired result; in fact, he reveals that he himself is impressed at how well it works. He didn’t need a test run in an out-of-the-way location. What Dixon has done makes sense on the surface; it just seemed like the easiest possible way to script a test of the virus, and as a result it isn’t particularly compelling.

Finally, there’s a sidebar story that gives us an interesting revelation of Alpine’s future, as he recovers from his injuries suffered during the Himalayas mission.

This issue is dense, and a throwback to the season one G.I. Joe series, with Dixon weaving multiple plot lines through a 22-page issue; he neatly wraps up Snake-Eyes’ mission to Europe, follows Vargas’ test of the virus and take some time to develop him as a character as well, brings Duke’s recovery from infection into play and also finds time to update the reader on Alpine’s recovery. It’s part of the reason his script for last week’s G.I. Joe #5 felt so fresh – other than the intro showing Zartan’s meeting with the Baroness, that was a one-location, one-event issue. This felt more like Season 1, with a lot of things taking place and not much time to get any of them a significant amount of attention. The next issue should be more focused, with Snake Eyes and Duke fully in pursuit of Vargas.

It has taken awhile to shift the focus to Vargas as a Cobra Commander candidate, but he’s making the most of his opportunity. He shows High Command his ability to deploy civilization-destroying biological weapons cheaply and effectively, and even provides his virus with a suitable Cobra name. While he hasn’t yet been directly responsible for any losses by the Joe team, it’s easy to see that he now has the capability to significantly damage whatever target he chooses. Whether he is able to deploy his weapons against the Joes could play a huge part in the outcome of the Cobra Commander contest.

Over the last two months, the Joes have had it relatively easy – only three Joes, total, were killed in the six issues spanning the No. 4 and No. 5 issues of the three series. With only nine issues remaining in the Cobra Civil War — three issues across each of the three ongoing series — that is sure to change soon. Each of the five candidates remaining in play have revealed their hands as to how they intend to pursue the mantle of Commander; the pressure is now squarely on G.I. Joe to survive the coming onslaught.

ART
Alberto Muriel has “mission impossible” here – fill in Robert Atkins, who has spent the previous four issues of this series turning in some fantastic work. The creative team was stable for each of the first four issues, and you could get the sense that they were really starting to hit their stride. Muriel does a good job; there are a few panels where a character’s eyes aren’t both looking at the same thing that is a little distracting, but the main characters are drawn consistently enough where they can be recognized just by flipping through the issue. He draws good action sequences; the opening sequence with Snake Eyes extracting a source of information on Vargas’ virus from a building is a fun scene, and the “crazed villagers” scenes in Zimbabwe are well-represented also. Muriel’s also on art duties in next month’s Snake Eyes book.

COVERS
Robert Atkins’ A-cover is an isolation shot of Snake Eyes, striking at an off-screen foe, leading with the Cuma-Tak-Ri fighting knife Atkins has established as one of Snake Eyes’ signature weapons in this series so far. Agustin Padilla captures a different interpretation of Snake-Eyes’ extraction of the pharmaceutical executive from the second page of the story; the biggest difference is the cover is at night, which gives colorist Simon Gough a chance to have some fun with the light source from Snake Eyes’ Uzi.

COVER RI — The last of the three “Days of Future Past” tribute covers done for this month’s No. 5 issues of all three G.I. Joe titles; this time featuring Snake Eyes and Helix, by Danny Cruz, with colors by interior colorist Esther Sanz. The theme cover across all three books is a fun idea for a retailer incentive cover, and one we’ll be seeing more of from IDW in the future.

BODY COUNT
No G.I. Joe agents or Cobras were harmed in the making of this issue. My body count remains G.I. Joe 35; Cobra 78. You can find an issue-by-issue recap of how my body count is calculated right over here.

CONTEST UPDATE
No change; Oda Satori and Baroness tied with 11 kills; Satori’s destruction of the Pit presumably keeps him in the lead, but Baroness could close the gap depending on the outcome of her ongoing mission in Maine. See the body count thread, linked above in “Body Count,” for the scoreboard.

PREVIEW
The Terrordrome has a five-page preview of Snake Eyes #5 here.

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