“G.I. Joe” Issues 25-34 by Larry Hama

The issues covered mirror what was included in IDW’s “G.I. Joe: The Complete Collection” Volume 3. It reprints material from the Marvel Comics “G.I. Joe” series from the 1980s and early 1990s that was largely written by Larry Hama. This article is part of a larger series of reviews on Larry Hama’s “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.”

Introducing Zartan

#25 – “Zartan!”

July 1984 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Frank Springer

Characters –

Heroes: Airbourne, Deep-Six, Cutter, Duke, Gung-Ho, Junkyard, Mutt, Roadblock, Torpedo, Wild Bill, Zap

Villains: Baroness, Buzzer, Cobra Commander, Destro, Firefly, Ripper, Storm Shadow, Torch, Wild Weasel, Zartan

Locations – Alcatraz (San Francisco), Chokoloskee (Florida)

The captured Storm Shadow was taken to Alcatraz Prison by the Joe team.  Storm Shadow eventually escaped from his cell, apparently disappearing.  However, Snake-Eyes learned of Storm Shadow’s initial capture and gave pursuit.

At the same time, Cobra Commander travelled to Florida to meet up with his newest employee, Zartan.  The Joe team closed in on the Commander, but the Cobra forces seemed to barely manage to keep the Joes at bay.  The issue ended on a cliffhanger, with the Joe dog Junkyard about to be shot by Zartan.

This issue marked a number of first appearances by several key characters.  For the Joe team, readers met Cutter, Mutt & Junkyard and Deep-Six.  Mutt wore an odd muzzle that seemed to serve a mask-like purpose.  Deep-Six, piloting his SHARC underwater vehicle, was unusually quiet and regarded as extremely anti-social by his teammates.

For Cobra, this issue featured the first full appearances of Zartan and his Dreadnoks: Buzzer, Ripper, and Torch.  Zartan’s ability to ‘absorb’ the look of anything to camouflage his skin was also revealed, although readers didn’t see it much in action yet.

 

Origin of Snake-Eyes

#26 – “Snake-Eyes: The Origin”

August 1984 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Larry Hama

Characters –

Heroes: Snake-Eyes, Hawk, Stalker, Scarlett, Mutt and Junkyard, Torpedo, Tripwire

Villains: Destro, Zartan, Baroness, Cobra Commander, Firefly, Wild Weasel, Storm Shadow (Tommy Arashikage)

Civilians: Soft Master, Hard Master

Locations – Spanish Harlem (New York), Chokoloskee (Florida), Arashikage family estate (Japan), Southeast Asia, The Pit

At Zartan’s hideout in Florida, Junkyard managed to get out of last issue’s cliffhanger jam due to Destro deciding that he might be useful.  As the issue went along, Mutt thought that Junkyard was leading the Cobras to the Joe position, but in fact he led the villains to quicksand.

At the Pit, Scarlett and Hawk learned about the connection between Snake-Eyes and Tommy (Storm Shadow) from Stalker.  It turned out that Stalker had served with both in the Vietnam War, before they became costumed ninjas.

In modern-day Spanish Harlem, Snake-Eyes was shown visiting an older man at a non-descript store.  The man would be revealed to be the Soft Master, an uncle of Storm Shadow’s from Japan.  In flashbacks, readers learned that Tommy had offered Snake-Eye the chance to join his family ‘business’ in Japan.  Upon returning from the war, Snake-Eyes learned that his family had been killed in an automobile accident.  Thus, he went to Japan to accept Tommy’s offer.  Snake-Eyes excelled in the ‘business’ – really Ninja training the Hard Master and Soft Master while Tommy appeared to grow envious.  One day during an exercise, the Hard Master was killed in a manner that seemed to use Storm Shadow’s talent for hitting targets with an arrow on the opposite side of a wall.

This was a landmark issue in that it answered a number of questions about the background of Snake-Eyes, while also raising several new questions.  Not only did this issue flesh out the Snake-Eyes helicopter accident that was portrayed in issue #10, but it also filled in the time period after that point while Snake-Eyes was in Japan.

While Storm Shadow might naturally be considered a villain, readers would learn in the second part of this story that such an assumption wasn’t entirely correct.

As with issue #21, Larry Hama again handled the pencils on what was another Snake-Eyes centric story.

 

#27 – “Snake-Eyes: The Origin Part II”

September 1984 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Frank Springer

Characters –

Heroes: Snake-Eyes, Timber, Hawk, Stalker, Scarlett, Mutt and Junkyard, Torpedo, Tripwire, Rock ‘n Roll, Grunt, Wild Bill, Clutch

Villains: Destro, Zartan, Baroness, Cobra Commander, Firefly, Wild Weasel, Storm Shadow

Civilians: Soft Master

Locations – Spanish Harlem (New York), Chokoloskee (Florida), Arashikage family estate (Japan), Snake-Eyes’ cabin (High Sierras in California), The Pit

The trapped Cobra leadership got out of the prior issue’s quicksand jam quickly enough by Destro’s use of a wrist rocket to down a tree trunk that was used to get to land.  Admittedly a bit convenient, especially given the wittiness of the ploy and resultant cliffhanger.

Back at the Pit, Scarlet’s association with Snake-Eyes was further revealed.  It began after he’d been recruited into G.I. Joe, when he let her win a sparring match in order for her to save face.  She seemed romantically interested in him, but regarded her as a ‘sister’ at first.  During a mission, Snake saved Scarlett during a helicopter mishap that left his face burnt.

Storm Shadow arrived in Spanish Harlem to confront Snake-Eyes.  After a high-profile fight in the streets, Storm Shadow revealed that someone within Cobra had been the real killer of the Hard Master. Storm Shadow had joined Cobra for the purpose of finding that killer and exacting his revenge.

A minor footnote for readers in this issue was the first appearance of Snake-Eyes’ dog Timber, which was seen while flashing back to Snake-Eyes’ cabin in the High Sierras.

Frank Springer handled the pencils in this issue and, unfortunately, wasn’t as compelling as Hama had been in the prior issue.

 

Cobra in Florida

#28 – “Swampfire!”

October 1984 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Marie Severin

Characters –

Heroes: Duke, Roadblock, Steeler, Breaker, Clutch, Deep-Six, Cutter, Torpedo, Mutt and Junkyard, Trip-Wire, Wild Bill, Doc

Villains:  Cobra Commander, Destro, Baroness, Firefly, Wild Weasel, Zartan, Buzzer, Ripper, Torch

Locations – Florida Everglades, Gulf of Mexico, Springfield

The situation in Florida took center stage, with members of the Joe team regrouping back on the Joe freighter G.I. Jane.  Back on land, Breaker and Steeler were bringing a M.O.B.A.T tank to the fight, but ended up being chased by local law enforcement.  Overall preparations for an attack on Cobra’s Everglades base were taking place.

Cobra was repositioning as well, with Zartan and his Dreadnocks fleeing the situation.  Cobra Commander was left to mind the base with Firefly while Destro and the Baroness went off to receive a shipment of Cobra Rattler planes.  While Destro and Wild Weasel flew back to join the impending fight, the Baroness ended up departing for Springfield.  She intended to strike a deal with the still imprisoned Major Bludd.

The battle at the Cobra base came together with the Joe team also breaking out with W.H.A.L.E. hovercraft vehicle and the M.O.B.A.T amid comedic police pursuit.  Cobra Commander fended off the attack for a while using robotic H.I.S.S. tanks and Cobra robots that Zartan had installed in the area.  Eventually, Cobra was forced to retreat.  That retreat set up an awkward situation though, as Cobra Commander departed with Wild Weasel.  With other aircraft disabled, he made a decision to leave Firefly and Destro behind.  This forced the pair to get out of the area on their own.

The iconic G.I. Joe W.H.A.L.E. (“Water-borne Hovercraft Assault Landing Experimental”) hovercraft vehicle first appeared in this issue.  Note that the naming convention in the comic books series differed slightly from Hasbro’s definition on the toy (where it was “Warrior: Hovering Assault Launching Envoy”).  The W.H.A.L.E. launch ship G.I. Jane also made an unnamed appearance.

 

#29 – “Beached Whale”

November 1984 ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Frank Springer

Characters –

Heroes: Duke, Roadblock, Deep-Six, Cutter, Wild Bill, Trip-Wire

Villains:  Cobra Commander, Destro, Firefly, Wild Weasel, Fred I (Fred Broca)

Locations – Ehrlinger’s Cove (Florida), Florida Everglades, Springfield

Following the battle at the end of the prior issue, the W.H.A.L.E. hovercraft was beached for repairs in Ehrlinger’s Cover in Florida.  Elsewhere in Florida, Firefly and Destro tried to get to safety on their own, both still mad at Cobra Commander for essentially abandoning them in the wild.

Firefly and Destro ended up stealing the repaired W.H.A.L.E., causing a wacky chase to ensure with both a Joe Dragonfly helicopter and the G.I. Jane shop-turned-hydrofoil giving pursuit.  Destro and Firefly manage to escape after abandoning the W.H.A.L.E.  They eventually secured transportation back to Springfield.

Over in Springfield, Cobra Commander had arrived ‘home’ and introduced Fred Broca, a crimson Guard member tasked with civilian infiltration and observation.  His family left town on their first assignment

This was the first appearance of the Crimson Guard, elite Cobra soldiers who also possessed high-skill civilian training in professional job.  Specifically, it was also the first appearance of Crimson Guardsman Fred Broca, who would later play a key role in the series.  Those keeping a sharp eye on smaller details would also note the first appearance of Yo-Joe Cola, a favorite soda of the Joe team.

The use of the G.I. Jane as a hydrofoil was a bit ridiculous, but the appearance of such a vehicle would foreshadow the later introduction of the Cobra Moray in 1985.

 

#30 – “Darkness”

December 1984 ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Frank Springer

Characters –

Heroes: Hawk, Doc, Clutch, Wild Bill, Scarlett, Ace, Deep Six, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Short Fuse, Spirit

Villains:  Cobra Commander, Baroness, Major Bludd, Destro, Firefly, Zartan, Buzzer, Ripper, Torch, Fred I

Civilians:  Sean Broca (Sean Collins), Billy

Locations – The Pit, McGuire Air Force Base (New Jersey), Springfield

Crimson Guardsman Fred settled into a home near Fort Wadsworth, not realizing that it was home to the real Joe headquarters.  A running gag began whereby Fred kept being distracted by Cobra Commander – in this case being recalled to Springfield – and missed seeing evidence of the Joe team being housed at Fort Wadsworth.

Over in Springfield, there was a minor interlude in which the Baroness and Major Bludd caught the child Billy from issue #10 rooting through secret files.  They recruited the boy into their conspiracy to kill Cobra Commander.  They weren’t the only people plotting against the Commander, as Firefly and Destro were still en route to Springfield and had plans to keep their own revenge plot a secret.

Much of this issue centered on a ploy by Zartan and his Dreadnoks to infiltrate McGuire Air Force Base in New Jersey.  Zartan gained access to the base by impersonating Hawk.  He had a chance run-in with Wild Bill, who later met up with the real Hawk at the Pit.  The real Hawk then realized that something involving Cobra was afoot back at the Air Force base.

Cobra Commander then ordered an attack on the Air Force base under the false impression that it was a complete surprise.  Between the Dreadnoks too quickly calling too much attention to themselves on the base and the eventual arrival of Joe forces, this attack plan was destined to be thwarted as quickly as it was.

Readers at the time would have had no idea that Fred’s son Sean (later known as Sean Collins) would someday find his way into the Snake-Eyes mythology.  But that relationship would not occur for quite some time.

The art in this issue was notably unattractive, despite having regular penciller Frank Springer. The problem might have arisen in the use of a different inker than normal.

 

Snake-Eyes’ Cabin

#31 – “All Fall Down!”

January 1985 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Snake-Eyes, Spirit Iron-Knife, Airborne, Hawk, Ace, Wild Bill

Villains:  Destro, Firefly, Cobra Commander, Baroness, Major Bludd, Zartan

Civilians:  Billy

Locations – The Pit, McGuire Air Force Base (New Jersey), Springfield, Snake-Eyes’ cabin (High Sierras in California)

What should have been a quiet vacation for Snake-Eyes was anything but when the new Joe team members Spirit and Airborne were tasked with trailing him as ‘bodyguards.’  Snake-Eyes caught on to their observation quickly enough though.  Not to be left out, Destro, Firefly, and the Crimson Guardsman Fred were also ordered to trail Snake-Eyes.

The Cobra group had initially assembled at Fred’s observation home outside of Fort Wadsworth.  For a second straight issue, Fred managed to miss obvious signs of Joe activity there while taking a call from Cobra Commander.

While the Cobra team was crossing the country en route to Snake-Eyes’ cabin, Major Bludd and the Baroness continued to plot the assassination of Cobra Commander with Billy in Springfield.

Snake-Eyes was surprisingly easy for Cobra’s operatives to find, as locals at a gas station seemed to know where he was staying.  One downside of not being neighborly was that he seemed to be viewed as a local weird (‘werewolf’).

When the Cobras did reach the cabin, Snake-Eyes was ready for them.  A massive firefight broke out, with Snake-Eyes and Timber eventually pinned down inside the cabin.  A huge explosion that was caused by the Cobra forces ended up burning the cabin to the ground with Snake-Eyes and the dog trapped inside.  In the midst of the melee, Airborne and Spirit both joined the fight, with Airborne being shot in the leg.

This issue featured the first full appearances of Spirit and Timber.  It was also notable as being frequent penciller Rod Whigham’s first issue.  He would become the regular penciller on the series for several years to come.

 

#32 – “The Mountain!”

February 1985 ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Frank Springer

Characters –

Heroes: Snake-Eyes, Timber, Spirit Iron-Knife, Airborne, Hawk, Duke, Clutch, Recondo, Blowtorch, Scarlett, Rip-Cord, Lady Jaye

Villains:  Destro, Firefly, Cobra Commander, Fred I, Storm Shadow, Baroness, Major Bludd, Zartan, Buzzer, Ripper, Torch, Fred II (Wade Collins)

Civilians:  Sean Broca (Sean Collins), Billy

Locations – The Pit, McGuire Air Force Base (New Jersey), Springfield, Snake-Eyes’ cabin (High Sierras in California)

The bulk of the issue was spent on the aftermath of the battle at Snake-Eyes’ cabin.  Adding to the already crowded cast of characters was the Soft Master, who initially appeared as a hiker.  He offered assistance to Airborne and let Destro carry the inured Fred away with Firefly.  The Soft Master eventually located a safe room under Snake-Eyes’ cabin that contained the unconscious Snake-Eyes and Timber.

With everyone still recovering, a vengeful Fred stormed back to the cabin remains but ended up dying from his injuries rather than following through on any plans for further violence.  Destro and Firefly escaped after aside skirmish with Spirit.  The brief fight was odd in that it ended amid explosives apparently killing a large bear.

Drama continued to build in Springfield, as the final preparations were made for Billy’s planned assassination of Cobra Commander.  Zartan and the Dreadnoks returned to Springfield, although Cobra Commander ended up re-hiring Storm Shadow as his personal body guard.  It was obvious that Storm Shadow wasn’t very interested in the role, but Cobra Commander hoped to keep him in line by stating that he would soon reveal who had killed the Hard Master.

The issue’s most eerie moment took place at the very end, as Fred seemed to arrive home to his observation location outside of Fort Wadsworth.  However, his children immediately recognized him as not being their father.  He chillingly informed them that “I am now.”

A major error appeared to have occurred in continuity between this issue and the prior issue, as the landscape around Snake-Eyes’ cabin is show to have snow on the ground.  In the prior issue, there was no apparent snow.  An explanation was put forth by some that the snow was knocked loose from neighboring trees by the battle in the prior issue.

This issue featured the first appearances of several new characters, most notable Lady Jaye and also Blowtorch, Recondo, and Ripcord.  Lady Jaye originally had her name spelled with just the initial as ‘Lady J.’  Her first meeting with Scarlett.  Fred II – also known as ‘Wade Collins’ also first appeared.  His role would later tie in with the longer-term story around the original Fred’s son Sean.

 

Fallout

 

#33 – “Celebration!”

March 1985 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Frank Springer

Characters –

Heroes: Snake-Eyes, Timber, Spirit Iron-Knife, Airborne, Hawk, Duke, Clutch, Recondo, Blowtorch, Scarlett, Rip-Cord, Lady Jaye

Villains:  Destro, Firefly, Cobra Commander, Fred I, Storm Shadow, Baroness, Major Bludd, Zartan, Buzzer, Ripper, Torch, Fred II (Wade Collins)

Civilians:  Sean Broca (Sean Collins), Candy Appel (Bongo the Balloon Bear), Billy

Locations – The Pit, Springfield, Island Mall (Staten Island)

This issue contained a surprising amount of character repositioning.  At the Pit, the original Joe team members learned that they were being promoted.  The downside of the promotion was that they would be stuck at headquarters in more strategic roles.  In many ways, one could suspect that this move was a way to clear room for the next annual wave of new toy-related character introductions.

The Joes who had been injured at Snake-Eyes’ cabin were all recuperating in the Pit’s infirmary, except for Spirit.  He’d snuck out of the Pit with Ripcord and Blowtorch in order to get plants for a traditional Native American medicine at a nearby mall.  The Broca family, still adjusting to the new Fred in their lives, happened to be at the same mall where they were spotted by Spirit.  A madcap chase ensued with the Broca family narrowly escaping.

The big draw of the issue was the execution of Billy’s mission to assassinate Cobra Commander during the Commander’s big rally speech to the people of Springfield.  There was a nice tension leading up to the climax of Billy’s mission, although he didn’t really get too close to accomplishing his assignment.  Both Storm Shadow and Destro ended up breaking up any potential harm that he might have faced.  That said, the revelation that he was Cobra Commander’s son was a stunner for readers.

Not to be lost in all of these events was an interesting scene in which Destro and the Baroness reunited.  They seemingly regained trust with one another after Destro took off his mask in front of the Baroness and she immediately fainted.  Whatever she saw must not have turned her off too much though, as the pair worked together throughout the rest of the issue.

While chasing the Broca family, the Joes commandeered used of a van owned by Bongo the Balloon Bear.  The van turned out to be owned by a woman named Candy Appel, who would factor into other stories in the near future.  She asked Ripcord to take her to dinner, with a romance hinted at having begun blossoming.

 

#34 – “Shake Down!”

April 1985 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Ace, Lady Jaye

Villains:  Baroness, Wild Weasel

Locations –McGuire Air Force Base (New Jersey), Springfield

This could largely have been considered a ‘fill-in issue,’ as none of the ongoing plot threads were at all referenced.

Ace and Lady Jaye happened to be taking a newly-upgraded Skystriker on a flight test at the same time that Wild Weasel and the Baroness were testing an upgraded Rattler.  Coincidences being what they were, the two aircraft end up in a dogfight against one another.  A cat and mouse game ensued, with both planes using up all of their missiles while Ace needed to remain cognizant of potential harm to civilians on the ground.

The dogfight wound down as the depleted aircraft eventually only had guns to use against one another.  After both Ace and Wild Weasel used up the last of their respective ammo, they saluted one another during a flyby and went back to their home bases.  Both Lady Jaye and the Baroness were left outraged by the apparent truce.

The tiny cast featured in this issue was considered the smallest number of characters in an issue for the entire series.  Like the stand-alone “Silent Interlude” issue, this focused tale has been remembered as one of the better issues of the series.  Whigham’s art was very well done and perfectly suited the story.  The ending was perfect, even if the silent treatment the pilots gave their female counterparts on the final page seemed oddly aloof.

 

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