Comic review: “G.I. Joe Retaliation” Movie Prequel #1

G.I. Joe Retaliation – Official Movie Prequel #1
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Salvador Navarro with colors by Esther Sanz
Cover RI: Salvador Navarro (uncolored variant)
Written by: John Barber
Art: Salvador Navarro
Colors: Esther Sanz
Letters: Carlos Guzman
A list of characters and visuals that tie back to 2009’s “Rise of Cobra” film, a few elements from the trailers we’ve seen so far from “G.I. Joe Retaliation” and some surprising toy characters combine to bring the first chapter of IDW’s “Retaliation” movie prequel tie-in to life.
This opening issue is mostly character introduction as writer John Barber gets the group of Joes who will be the key players in this miniseries onto the page, along with their Cobra adversaries. We also get some insight into Roadblock, presumably to help provide some background development for the movie-universe version of the character who by all indications is the focal point of this summer’s Retaliation film. This prequel is going to be his story, as he’s supported by Snake Eyes and, we can anticipate, a few other Joes on a daring mission to rescue another Joe who may be held captive by Cobra — or who may have been killed in captivity.
Storm Shadow’s appearance in this issue places in question how this series fits in with “Rise of Cobra” on a timeline for this universe. The immediate assumption when hearing that this is the “official movie prequel” would be that this series takes place between “Rise of Cobra” and “Retaliation.” However, the Joes are still making their home in the Pit in Egypt, although it’s described in this comic as being “under construction.” Storm Shadow is presumably killed at the end of “Rise of Cobra,” but will be brought back in Retaliation. The events seen here almost have to take place before “Rise of Cobra” — Zartan wouldn’t be taking a break from his undercover role as Cobra’s stand-in for the President of the United States in order to essentially perform a job interview for Storm Shadow’s Red Ninjas. Zartan also makes reference to “the organization I represent” which, if the timing of this series does place it before “Rise of Cobra” would be MARS and not Cobra. It’s going to be interesting to see how this series unfolds, and whether its place in the movie-universe timeline becomes more clear, or whether Cobra even exists yet (early indicators seem to suggest that it should not).
Charbroil and Flash make appearances in their “Rise of Cobra” action figure outfits, which is awesome — some of those “off-screen” character designs that showed up in the movie toy line were pretty good, and it’s nice to see that IDW is creatively finding a way to give some of them an expanded role.
There’s enough here to hold interest in where Barber might be taking this prequel series, if only to see how or if he works in the other Joes we’ve seen in the Retaliation movie trailers. “G.I. Joe Retaliation” continues on March 1.
ART
Salvador Navarro gets the call from IDW to provide the pencils for this movie prequel. It is, I believe, his first work on G.I. Joe for IDW. For the most part the art is fine; the hardest part of doing a movie tie-in is that everyone is going to read this issue and see The Rock for Roadblock; sometimes the Navarro gets the likeness pretty close, sometimes it’s not even in the same ballpark.
There are some other oddities too – Red Ninjas seem to be moving through the spinning rotor blades of a Blackhawk on a two-page spread on pages 2-3; there are some bizarre inconsistencies on Roadblock’s two pistols between panels on pages 9 and 11 (strange revolver-semiauto hybrids with enormous vertical slits for barrels in panel 2; straight semiautos in panel 4; then back to the weird hybrid on page 11). It’s also difficult to figure out what’s going on with the VTOL that has been called in for an evac — it looks like it’s supposed to be transforming into something else, maybe, but the shapes just aren’t right.
These are little annoyances; again, for the most part, the art here is just fine. You usually don’t expect A-list creative teams on a sidebar movie tie-in series, but Navarro’s work here is better than some of the fill-in work that showed up in the trio of main series toward the end of the Cobra Civil War storyline, by far.
Colorist Esther Sanz has worked on G.I. Joe for IDW in the past, and she does a good job here. She’s got a tough job in the early going, with the number of Red Ninjas (covered in black shadows) in action in what seems to be a night setting, but she keeps the backgrounds light enough to keep them from vanishing.
COVERS
Interior artist Salvador Navarro also drew the cover for this issue; it’s a pretty straight-forward action pose of Snake Eyes in his movie costume with his katana. Colors are provided by Esther Sanz. It’s an interesting opportunity to see the colored cover side-by-side with the uncolored version (the retailer incentive); Sanz does some interesting things with the background lighting to give Snake Eyes a “glow” and make him pop against the background. It’s a nice touch for this image.

The retailer incentive cover is an uncolored version of Cover A.
PREVIEW
The Terrordrome has a preview of G.I. Joe Retaliation #1 here.

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