Comic review: “Cobra” #14

Cobra #14
IDW Publishing
Street Date: Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Cover price: $3.99

Cover A: Antonio Fuso, with colors by Arianna Florien
Cover B: Joe Eisma and Juan Castro, with colors by Simon Gough
Cover RI: Joe Eisma and Juan Castro

Written by: Mike Costa
Art: Antonio Fuso & Werther Dell’edera
Colors: Arianna Florian
Letters: Neil Uyetake

STORIFY
Links to the solicit text and IDW Publishing’s official preview for Cobra #14 is up on Storify. More preview art and other assets will be added to the Storify story for this issue as I run across them.

THE STORY

The fallout from Tomax’s big reveal to the Joes at the end of Cobra #13 — that the pre-Krake Cobra Commander has a secret son named Billy — begins in earnest, as the Joes scramble to find out what that could mean for them in a strategic sense while at the same time wondering what it could mean for Cobra.

The Joes quickly reveal that they have a second, still-secret (to everyone, including Tomax) source of information from Cobra in the form of another captive; Flint shows that the Joes are able to use one to confirm intelligence from the other, and fill in some blanks that Tomax and the secret captive are unable to provide on their own.

The biggest splash of this issue is Firefly finally making his first appearance in the main IDW universe; his only appearance so far has been a half-page story in the five-issue Hearts and Minds limited series from 2010.

Firefly meets up with Blacklight, explosions ensue, and Cobra is set off on a Cannonball Run-type race to Zurich – the Joes and, apparently, two independent factions within Cobra all pursuing the same ultimate prize – Billy.

There’s a poignant moment early on when Lady Jaye is having lunch with Chameleon; they’re recalling the fight in the former Joe base in Maryland when Steeler was revealed to be the Cobra mole. After recounting the injuries they each suffered during that fight, Chameleon asks, “How do we survive this life?” Lady Jaye responds, “I don’t know. I don’t think we’re supposed to.” Then they sit in silence, not even looking at each other, for a moment before deciding to the spa to get a massage. It’s an exchange I read over two or three times; I found it interesting to watch these two characters confront their own mortality in a direct way, and respond by going off to relax.

And, the Firefly/Blackout fight has a couple of subtle little things that push it over the top and sell the reader on the nature and personality of the combatants rather than just showing “hey, punching.” These two guys are trying to kill each other, and yet when the police intervene, Blackout take steps to ensure Firefly isn’t killed by the cops. There are a whole lot of things you can read into that, and it makes the fact that this is occurring while these guys are both quite seriously trying to kill each other pretty engrossing.

Cobra #14 is one of those comic books you can put right into the hands of anybody who asks whether this series is worth their time and four bucks every month. It’s got a bit of everything that makes this series great – you’ve got a fun, kinetic action sequence that’s well-paced by writer Mike Costa and drawn really well by Antonio Fuso; you’ve got multiple groups of characters racing on separate paths toward the same prize; you’ve got an issue that concludes in a way that makes it very difficult to contemplate waiting for next month’s installment; and you’ve got two of the strongest female characters in this universe.

ART
I’m looking back now over the reviews I did for Cobra #12 and #13, when Antonio Fuso took back art duties on this series after the “Cobra Command” story arc wrapped up and Alex Cal’s nine-issue art sprint on that crossover came to an end. I’m not sure what else I can say about what Fuso’s done this month that I haven’t said the last two months. Having him on the art for Cobra has been an interesting transition — his style fit the dirty, ground-level espionage that filled the early parts of this series, but it wasn’t engrossing. It was just this look that Cobra had as a series. Now that he’s getting a chance to draw full-bore action sequences, his work is just coming alive. His action sequences are just fun, and the little things he does with page layouts and panel designs keep you guessing what you’re going to get on the next page. There’s one panel in the Firefly/Blackout fight that just sells the whole sense of motion and chaos in the fight; it’s a closeup of Blackout’s head, which would’ve been easy enough to just do in a straight mugshot-type panel. Instead, Fuso draws Blackout exactly as he might have otherwise, but tilts the panel 20 degrees or so toward the center of the book. It throws off the balance of the page, and the tilt makes you want to turn your head to follow the action. It pulls you right in to what’s happening on the page.

COVERS
Antonio Fuso’s Cover A features an airborne Ronin, doing a cartwheel high over the outstretched arms of the Vipers below her — who are presumably in the process of being killed. I really love this cover; it’s an expansion on a couple of the really outstanding panels from Cobra #13 showing Ronin battling a group of Vipers. It shows fluidity and grace in her motion, which is somewhat offset by her baggy cargo pants and enormous combat boots, and also clearly illustrates her dramatic physical advantage over the Vipers in combat.

Joe Eisma, who’s become a superstar for his work on the fantastic Image series Morning Glories, teams up with Juan Castro to provide Cover B — Ronin stalking Lady Jaye. Eisma’s aesthetic is very different from the typical gritty look of Cobra, but it provides a nice contrast to Fuso’s A cover.

This month’s retailer incentive is an uncolored version of Cover B.

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