Comic Review: Cobra Civil War: Cobra #4

Cobra Civil War: Cobra #4
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: David Williams, with colors by Kelsey Shannon
Cover B: Antonio Fuso, with colors by Arianna Florian

Written by: Mike Costa
Art: Antonio Fuso and Chee
Colors: Esther Sanz
Letters: Shawn Lee

ROLL CALL
G.I. Joe: Steeler, Breaker
Cobra: Tomax, Blacklight, Major Bludd, Serpentor, Headman

Major Bludd finally becomes a player in Cobra’s Commander contest, Blackout continues his escape from Panama, and a shocking revelation is made about the level of Cobra’s infiltration of the G.I. Joe team.

The book opens as Cobra has so far in the Civil War – with a Cobra Commander candidate thinking to themselves “I will never be Cobra Commander.” The series opened with Baroness having this thought, and Tomax also had a similar thought to open Issue #3. That repetition is a nice mechanic Mike Costa is using to establish the personalities of the characters participating in the contest. They’re confident in their own abilities, but at the same time confident that nobody else recognizes or appreciates their contributions to Cobra.

This is a setup story for Bludd, without a clear picture of what his method for gaining standing in the contest will be until a stunning conclusion that will remain unspoiled. Until that ending, Bludd has a spat with Serpentor, we get some flashbacks to establish his character in IDW’s universe, and we get to watch him oversee a drug acquisition operation, but that’s about it.

Bludd’s big reveal at the end gives him a significant advantage in the contest moving forward, particularly now that Khallikhan is out of the picture and we still haven’t been given a very clear picture of how the other candidates who have been featured so far stack up against each other. It seemed early on that Oda Satori’s destruction of the Pit gave him what could prove to be an insurmountable lead, but Bludd is now in a position to do some significant progress in a contest predicated on delivering pain to G.I. Joe.

We also get to meet a new Cobra agent and Major Bludd’s henchman, Headman, who has undergone a significant transformation from the masked, zoot-suited drug dealer who got a figure in 1992. There’s likely to be some interesting discussion about his new look, but it works for this version of the character. Suffice it to say, he has earned his nickname.

This is also the first of the three core G.I. Joe books to make reference to Max Brook’s absolutely excellent five-issue miniseries, “G.I. Joe: Hearts and Minds.” Fuso’s four-panel Page 3, showing some of Major Bludd’s background, is directly taken from Brooks’ Bludd story in “Hearts and Minds” #1. If you haven’t read that story yet, this is an excellent opportunity to backtrack and do so.

Finally, Blacklight gets a four-page interlude to show the completion of his escape from Panama.

ART
Antonio Fuso’s minimalist art in Cobra has been debated as both a strength and a weakness of the title from the beginning of the series. Early on, when the book was more of an infiltration story and political adventure, Fuso’s blocky style suited the book quite well. As more action has been introduced during the Civil War, though, it’s starting to not work so well; there have been times where it has been genuinely difficult to tell what was going on. On the transition from pages 6-7, Major Bludd says he wants an airplane at the bottom of page 6, to an airport shot at the top of page 7; but there was an un-telegraphed scene change – the airport has nothing to do with Major Bludd’s desire for an airplane. It took until page 8 for me to realize they’d changed scenes.

In this issue, Fuso’s on art for pages 1-10. Chee takes over for pages 11-21, and Fuso gets the final-page splash. In the past, when Cobra has undergone temporary artist changes, as was the case when Sergio Carrera handled art early in Cobra II during the storyline involving Scoop’s infiltration of Serpentor’s Coil organization, he made some effort to maintain consistency with the look Fuso had established for the series. The art was still obviously his own, and wasn’t an effort to directly mimic Fuso, but the book still felt like “Cobra.”

Stylistic consistency goes out the window for Chee’s 10-page insert here, and it’s jarring. His Bludd looks different – different hair, different chin, different mustache – and the style shift just doesn’t seem to fit the aesthetic that has been established for the series. The colors fall apart on Chee’s pages, too; they work for Fuso’s pages because he’s typically drawing smaller characters with the heavy, angular shadows that have been typical of this book so far. But for Chee’s cleaner, larger heads, it just doesn’t work. Look at Steeler on the first panel of Page 17 for a good example of this.

Cobra Civil War has had instances of artists sharing duties on an issue that have worked – Agustin Padilla drawing the mountain fight portion of Snake Eyes #3, for instance, while Robert Atkins handled the rest – but this isn’t one of those situations.

COVERS
David Williams’ Cover A is a menacing Serpentor seated on a throne, which is an interesting choice given that he’s not officially a Commander candidate and, rather than being at the forefront of anything, has inserted himself into the position of puppet master, gaining his power by exerting his influence over the official candidates. Particularly with the conclusion to this issue, Serpentor’s potential seems to be diminished for now.

Fuso’s Cover B has Major Bludd in a tux, holding a silenced pistol with money floating toward the floor around him. It’s a straight-up James Bond pose, and it’s an interesting look for a character we’re used to seeing in his armor. It works.

BODY COUNT
G.I. Joe: 1 (identity withheld; spoiler). Total: 33
Cobra: 0. Total: 53

CONTEST UPDATE
One of Major Bludd’s agents records a kill, which gives Bludd his first impact on the Cobra Commander scoreboard.

PREVIEW
The Terrordrome has a preview of Cobra #4 available here.

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