Cobra is winning. Much of the world has fallen under their power, including the majority of the United States. Only one force is left to carry out covert missions against Cobra, recruiting normal men and women to their cause: G.I. Joe.
This first issue of this reboot selectively ditches the old continuity, leaving in some fun nods to classic battles from the cartoons and comics, but pretty much starting from scratch. It’s ideal for new readers, who don’t have to have even the slightest familiarity with the franchise to know that Cobra are bad news. The result is a highly accessible and challenging new action story that has the potential to be a new high point for the franchise.
In just the first few pages, we’re shown a fully-realized and despairing world. Little corner stores have signs advertising that they have food rations and gas masks in stock. Men in armored cars are carrying out public executions as a scare tactic to keep the rest of the populace in line. The people have had enough, but almost everyone is too scared to act.
Chris Evenhuis’ artwork is fantastic, with clean lines and fluid body movements making even crowded action sequences feel completely easy to follow, even when the characters themselves are making rash and violent decisions. Brittany Peer’s colors make every drawing pop, from Tiger’s attire that appears to be somewhat inspired by Akira‘s Kaneda to the explosive scuffle toward the book’s end.
Speaking of which, the hook of this new series has our heroes joining the Joes to fight back against an invading army, positioning them as regular people who have become freedom fighters. As such, they’re more likely to make calls that are based in emotion rather than tactics. They’re school teachers or delivery men who have had enough and feel like they haven’t done enough to make a real difference in this war.
There’s a sense that things have gotten this bad because of the inaction of everyday people, so the idea of these “average joes” fighting back is a very powerful one. Kudos to writer Paul Allor for such a clever twist on the classic team, as well as a willingness to take major risks with such beloved characters. There’s a major event toward the beginning of this issue that I still can’t believe happens. Whether or not it’s a fake-out remains to be seen, but longtime Joe fans will likely be shocked.
Still, the beauty of this relaunch is that it should play just as well to folks who are unfamiliar with G.I. Joe. If you’ve ever been intimidated by the dense continuity of the Marvel or IDW comics, then this is the perfect entry point. G.I. Joe is the kind of no-holds-barred storytelling that we only dreamed of with our action figures in hand. It seems like there’s no going back, which means things should only get more intense as they continue.