Reviewing G.I. Joe #35-45

Posted on Posted in Comic Books, Reviews/Commentary

The issues covered mirror what was included in IDW’s “G.I. Joe: The Complete Collection” Volume 4. 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.”

New Faces

 

#35 – “Dreadnoks on the Loose!”

May 1985 ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham, Mark Bright, Bob Camp, and Larry Hama

Characters –

Heroes: Breaker, Clutch, Rock n’ Roll

Villains:  Baroness, Buzzer, Major Bludd Ripper, Torch, Zartan

Civilians: Soft Master

Locations –An Unknown Air Force Base

Readers had to know that when Buzzer decided to tear out of Springfield on Zartan’s motorcycle without his permission that such a decision wouldn’t eventually end well.  Things start off fine though, with Torch and Ripper in tow.

By coincidence, Clutch Rock ‘n Roll, and Breaker were en route to California in a 1956 Chevrolet Nomad when they encountered the rampaging Dreadnoks.  A fight ensued that ended up damaging the car.  This initial fight spilled over into a nearby air base that the Dreadnoks began destroying.  Ultimately, the Joes stopped the rampage but were only able to capture Buzzer.

Unknown to readers, Zartan had spent the issue trailing his Dreadnoks in disguise as a bus driver, maneuvering a disguised helicopter that appeared to passersby as a passenger bus.  He was able to rescue Torch and Ripper, but was none too happy with the hijinks that had ensued.

While it might have seemed like a stand-alone story, certain threads would begin to unroll.  Firstly, Zartan picked up an elderly woman while impersonating a bus driver who ended up disappearing by issue end.  It was strongly implied that she was the Soft Master in disguise.

Secondly, easily forgotten amid many later events was Buzzer’s capture in this issue.  His moves under captivity would set off a domino of events in later issues that ultimately climaxed in issue #43.

This issue provided a reminder that Zartan was usually the smartest guy in a given room.  His impressive holographic technology was featured throughout the issue, stretching the limits that one might believe possible with such items.

Numerous pencils contributed to serviceable, if not overly memorable work.

 

#36 – “All the Ships at Sea!”

June 1985 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham, Mark Bright, Larry Hama and Bob Camp

Characters –

Heroes: Cutter, Deep Six, Doc, Torpedo, Snow Job, Snake-Eyes, Scarlett Cobra, Trip-Wire

Villains:  Fred Broca II

Locations – Cobra Atoll Base (South Atlantic), New York City

A Joe team, aboard the G.I. Jane, investigated a potential new Cobra base on an atoll in the Gulf of Mexico.  Torpedo and Snow Job (of all people) took the Joe W.H.A.L.E. vehicle on a reconnaissance mission and ended up engaging Cobra at the atoll.  A lengthy sea battle on two fronts then ensued as the W.H.A.L.E. cross-crossed the atoll while Cobra Rattlers located the nearby G.I. Jane.

Under Rattler attack, a fire broke out on the G.I. Jane, while the W.H.A.L.E. tried to avoid being encircled by Cobra artillery and hydrofoils.  Both crises came to an end, but not in ideal manners.  The G.I. Jane actually sank and made its final appearance in this issue.  At the same time, the W.H.A.L.E. victory in eventually clearing the atoll was tempered by the revelation to readers that Cobra had a larger plan afoot.

Intercut with the action in the Gulf of Mexico, Snake-Eyes and Scarlett went on a Staten Island ferry ride together.  Cobra agents – led by Fred II – tried to kidnap Scarlett and instead provoked Snake-Eyes.  A struggled ensued throughout the ferry, with Snake-Eyes eventually stopping the Cobras.  He also saved Fred II from death, while inadvertently revealing his hideous true face to the Crimson Guardsman (but not to readers).

This was overall a nice, multi-threaded comic that was mostly self-contained in nature while also moving forward a larger narrative.  Interestingly, the resolutions were not entirely victories for G.I. Joe.  In particular, Cobra seemed to give up their atoll base due to a large plan being hinted at that wouldn’t become apparent until around issue #40.

With the final appearance of the G.I. Jane, as the U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier would take center stage on the seas for the Joe Team.  That was obviously the well-known toy playset that was release around the same time as the comic’s publication.  That vehicle debuted, along with Cobra’s new A.S.P. trailer-based artillery and their impressive Moray hydrofoil vehicle.

Keen-eyed readers might wonder why the scaffolding all around the statue of liberty during the Snake Eyes storyline.  The Statue of Liberty was undergoing renovations at the time that didn’t complete until July 4th weekend 1986.

 

#37 – “Twin Brothers!”

July 1985 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Frank Springer

Characters –

Heroes: Blowtorch, Duke, Flint, Footloose, Gung- Ho, Lady Jaye, Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Wild Bill

Villains:  Destro, Tomax, Xamot

Civilians:  Candy Appel (Bongo the Balloon Bear)

Locations – Arbco Brothers Circus

Rip Cord, Blowtorch, and Gung-Ho volunteered to help Candy with a fairgrounds job, everyone seemingly believing this to be a civilian activity.  The location’s name alone – Arbco Circus. – would have tripped off sharp-eyed readers though.

In fact, it turned out to be a front for the Crimson Guard commanders – Tomax and Xamot – to use as a way to capture these Joe team members.  The brothers report the situation back to Cobra headquarters in Springfield, but are told that they are on their own.  Readers learn that the brothers appear to have an unusual connection, but its extent isn’t immediately clear.

After the brothers proceed in capturing the Joes, chaos breaks out, with carious skirmishes around the fairgrounds.  Amid those struggles, a Joe Dragonfly happens overhead while transporting the new Armadillo tank from a test range.  Flint and new Joe Footloose get dropped off and join the fight.

After a thrilling roller coaster-based fight, the brothers are ultimately stopped when it became apparent that they were physically linked and harm to one resulted in harm to the other.  The pair managed to escape their defeat.

The romance between Ripcord and Candy was further developed at the end of the issue.  Candy admitted frustration about not knowing Ripcord’s real name.  Ultimately, she decided that she couldn’t date someone who she didn’t trust and who was always in danger.

As with the prior issue, it was clear that a new wave of toys was appearing on store shelves at this time.  From a character standpoint, readers were given the first appearance of Tomax, Xamot, Flint, and Footloose.  In terms of vehicles, the Armadillo Mini-Tank and the Cobra Ferret 4-Wheeler were both featured.

 

Cobra  Island & Back to Sierra Gordo

 

#38 – “Judgments”

August 1985 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Blowtorch, Cover Girl, Duke, Flint, Footloose, Gung-Ho, Hawk, Junkyard, Lady Jaye, Mutt, Recondo, Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Snake-Eyes, Stalker

Villains:  Baroness, Cobra Commander, Destro, Firefly, Major Bludd, Professor Appel, Storm Shadow, Ripper, Tomax, Torch, Wild Weasel, Xamot, Zartan

Civilians: Dr. Adele Burkhart, Candy Appel (Bongo the Balloon Bear), Billy

Locations – Sierra Gordo, Springfield, The Pit

The crazy events in Springfield around Billy’s failed assassination tempt in issue #34 were finally followed up on in this issue with Billy’s ‘trial.’  To get to the bottom of what occurred, Cobra Commander has Billy hooked up to the brain wave scanner machine that was used on Snake-Eyes back in issue #10.  In doing so, readers learned about the rise of Cobra Commander from the relatively ‘normal’ guy who was Billy’s father.

After Cobra Commander decided that the memories were getting too personal, he called for a break in the interrogation.  Storm Shadow used this opportunity to free Billy and essentially recruited him to be his mentee as the pair fled Springfield.

At the Pit, Ripcord was still agonizing over his relationship with Candy when he was assigned to a mission with Stalker and Roadblock in the fictional country of Sierra Gordo.  They had to rescue Dr. Adele Burkhart, who had previously been rescued by the Joe team in issue #1.  In this case, she was held captive by political opponents in Sierra Gordo.  That rescue effort was halted as soon as the team landed and ran into a group of armed Tucaro Indians.

Had Ripcord stuck around back at the Pit, he would have been in for quite a situation.  The Joe team set out to investigate a lead on a house in Staten Island.  That investigation turned into a firefight in which a Crimson Guardsman fled the home.  Just as the fight was concluding, Candy pulled up in her van and announced that the home belonged to her father.

This was quite a series of cliffhangers to begin this arc of stories.  As readers would learn in the next issue, Candy’s father really was in league with Cobra.  The question of how trustworthy she might be would then appear.

The revelation about Cobra Commander’s small-time past was relatively jarring and unexpected, but oddly grounded.  In rescuing Billy, Storm Shadow ended up formally betraying Cobra, but it wasn’t clear that his allegiance was going to suddenly turn to the Joe team.

 

#39 – ” Walk Through the Jungle”

September 1985 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Cover Girl, Duke, Gung-Ho, Lady Jaye, Recondo, Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Stalker, Wild Bill

Villains:  Baroness, Cobra Commander, Destro, Professor Appel, Storm Shadow

Civilians: Dr. Adele Burkhart, Candy Appel (Bongo the Balloon Bear), Billy

Locations – Sierra Gordo, Springfield, The Pit, New York City

The Tucaro Indians who Stalker, Ripcord, Recondo, Roadblock, and Gung-Ho had encountered at the end of the last issue turned out to be allies who helped the Joe team break into a former Cobra bunker where Dr. Burkhart was being held.  The group was able to extract her, but then found themselves stuck at a riverbank.  After successfully creating a rope bride across, the team has a harrowing escape onto a plane at an airfield.  Waiting aboard the plane were Wild Bill and Cover Girl, who plan to take them to New Orleans.

That was a good thing, since activity around New Orleans was mounting.  At the Pit, the Joe team continued learning about Candy’s father’s Cobra ties.  She denied any knowledge of his involvement, but charts in his home indicated something major occurring south of New Orleans in the Gulf of Mexico.

Readers learned that that was precisely the case, as Cobra Commander departed from Springfield to personally supervise the secret operation.

Perhaps most surprising of all was what Storm Shadow and Billy had been up to in New York.  In rapid fashion, Billy has been trained in the ways of the Ninja and passes a test of sorts while confronting a street gang.  While an undeniably cool character turn for Billy, the rapid training that Billy apparently underwent, presumably within only mere days, stretched the boundaries of plausibility.

Note that some commentators have pointed to a similarity between the man named Gregor who was holding Dr. Burkhart captive in this issue and also back in issue #1.  It is possible that they were the same person.

One glaring production error in the comic was the fact that Footloose appeared on the cover in Sierra Gordo despite not being part of that mission in the story.

 

#40 – ” Hydrofoil”

October 1985 ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Ace, Airborne, Barbecue, Cutter, Doc, Deep Six, Duke, Gung-Ho, Hawk, Keel-Haul, Mutt & Junkyard, Recondo, Roadblock, Shipwreck, Snake-Eyes, Snow Job, Spirit, Stalker, Torpedo, Tripwire, Wild Bill

Villains:  Buzzer, Cobra Commander, Lampreys, Professor Appel, Tomax, Xamot, Zartan

Civilians:  Candy Appel (Bongo the Balloon Bear)

Locations – New Orleans, Gulf of Mexico, The Pit

While readers were given a brief update to the situation with Candy, not much transpired at the Pit this issue.  If readers had forgotten about Buzzer’s capture back in issue #35, they would have been reminded of the situation when he was escorted into the Pit.

Much of the action too place down in New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico.  They Joe team used their new Tactical Battle Platform, which resembled an oil drilling platform, to investigate last issue’s leaked Cobra plans.

The plan that Cobra Commander had indicated last issue was formally sprung.  Candy’s father, Professor Appel, ran the situation with Cobra Command and the other top Cobra operatives from a nearby submerged freighter.  They planted a decoy device that killed fish in the area.

The Joe team ended up destroying the device by using the conventional explosives equivalent to a nuclear bomb.  The repercussions of this choice play into Cobra’s plan, as the blast disturbs a nearby underwater fault line.

One could convincingly argue that using explosives equivalent to a nuclear bomb might have been overkill to destroy a mischievous Cobra device.  Of course, it served the plot that would play out next issue and set up a reoccurring point for Cobra.

The already huge cast of characters featured in this issue included some first appearances: Barbecue, who had memorable comedic lines, the fan favorite Shipwreck, and the U.S.S. Flag captain pack-in figure Keel-Haul.  The Transportable Tactical Battle Platform toy playset was mentioned at length this issue and the same would be the case in the next issue.

 

#41 – ” Strategic Diplomacy” (November 1985) ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Ace, Barbecue, Cutter, Doc, Duke, Gung-Ho, Hawk, Keel-Haul, Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, Recondo, Ripcord, Roadblock, Shipwreck, Snow Job, Stalker, Tripwire

Villains:  Cobra Commander, Professor Appel, Tomax, Xamot, Zartan

Locations –Cobra Island (Gulf of Mexico), Washington, D.C., New York City, Havana (Cuba)

The aftereffects of the prior issue’s climactic explosion caused the seabed within the area to rise to the surface.  In effect, this created Cobra Island.  Cobra forces rode the land mass up to the surface inside their undersea freighter and then displaced equipment and troops to guard the new landmass.

Understandably, the Joe team tried to clear Cobra forces from the new island, but a ticking clock played out while they worked at that effort.  Cobra had planned ahead and dispatched lawyers to grant them amnesty on the newly claimed island.

Complicating the battle at sea were tidal waves that had been caused by all of the oceanic activity.  The U.S.S. Flagg was barely able to launch Ace’s single Skystriker into the air.  His impact on the battle was negligible as he was eventually hit by Cobra fire and forced to crash land on Cobra Island.

The battle on the island reached a finale when the W.H.A.L.E. faced off against Cobra forces led by Cobra Commander.  Victory seemed to be near for the Joe team, but then news came that hostilities had to cease due to Cobra having been granted amnesty on the island.

Although the catalyst for its creation took place in the prior issue, this was the first official appearance of Cobra Island.  The island’s legal status was dubious at best.  Fans familiar with the plots of the films “Superman: The Movie” and, even more closely, “Superman Returns” might appreciate similarities in the land-raising master plan.

The idea that Cobra Island would be granted amnesty seemed like a downright ridiculous plan, given Cobra’s crimes against the United States.  However, a wink and a nod to the frustrations that readers might recognize from cunning lawyers helped smooth over the ridiculousness.

A mainstay on the Cobra battlefield, the iconic Stinger jeep, appeared for the first time in this issue.  Its design was based on the Joe V.A.M.P.

 

Spotlight on Billy & Candy

 

#42 – “Ties That Bind”

December 1985 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Doc, Duke, Gung-Ho, Hawk, Recondo, Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, Stalker

Villains:  Buzzer, Fred II (Wade Collins), Storm Shadow

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

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

As one might expect from the prior issue’s finale, chaos ensued back at the Pit.  Buzzer managed to escape with Candy.  He took her with him as a hostage while en route to Springfield.  Meanwhile, General Austin had a sudden heart attack after learning the fiasco at Cobra Island and berating Hawk.

In New York, Billy and Storm Shadow continued their training.  By the end of the issue, Billy will decide that his training is complete and leave Storm Shadow a note announcing his departure.

Also in New York, the Broca family was in for a surprise as Fred II returned him, having survived his encounter with Snake-Eyes back in issue #36.  He then explained that he was not a clone of Fred, rather just another man who had undergone plastic surgery to have a similar face.

The Soft Master – whose location had last been hinted at in issue #35 – was picked up by a hitchhiker near Springfield by a semi-dunked driver.  They headed into town together.

Not far away Candy managed to get free of Buzzer, but her choice to take his stolen truck with her seemed ill-advised given Buzzer’s reaction.  As with the Soft Master, she was headed for Springfield.

Stalker and Snake-Eyes ended up driving Hawk down to Washington D.C. to visit General Austin in the hospital.  They were followed by Fred II.  Eventually, Stalker and Snake-Eyes were confronted by Fred II at the Vietnam Memorial.  He announced to them that he was actually their fallen Vietnam comrade Wade Collins.

Most of the repositioning of characters would lead to resolutions in the next issue.  With Billy’s hyper charged ninja training seemingly at an end, he appeared potentially poised to be skilled enough to try to again confront his father back in Springfield.

The Joe V.A.M.P. Mark II first appeared in this issue and readers caught their last glimpse of Snake-Eyes’ original commando suit that he’d worn since 1982.

 

#43 – “Crossroads”

January 1986 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Snake-Eyes, Stalker

Villains:  Buzzer, Firefly, Fred II (Wade Collins), Scrap-Iron, Storm Shadow

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

Locations –Springfield, Arlington National Cemetery, New York City

Further details were relayed by Wade Collins regarding the pivotal firefight that was first covered back in the ‘Snake-Eyes: The Origin’ issues #26-#27.  Wade Collins is upset that Stalker and Snake-Eyes assumed him dead in Vietnam and relates how he was actually simply injured.  He became a P.O.W. and returned to an unwelcoming United States after the war, eventually falling in with cobra.

By issue’s end, Wade had decided to leave Cobra and convinced Fred I’s family to escape into peaceful obscurity with him.  To say the least, this was an odd turn of events, particularly by his ‘wife.’  However, it gave the characters a seemingly happy ending as they exited from relevance in the series.

The most memorable events in a memorable issue occurred around Springfield.  Candy’s escape vehicle had broken down and she was picked up by the same semi-drunken man who had given the Soft Master a lift into town.  After noticing that the Soft Master had forgotten his suitcase inside the car, the pair ended up doubling back to Springfield.  En route they picked up Billy, who was hitchhiking along the road.

The Soft Master had been busy in Springfield, where he created a siege in the town police station while trying to find information in Cobra’s computer system about who had killed the Hard Master.  He retrieved the information, seemed surprised by it, and didn’t share it with readers.

In the madcap events that followed, Cobra forces chased the Soft Master to the outskirts of Springfield.  The Soft Master ended up being killed by his pursuers.  At the same railroad crossing where this event occurred, the car with Candy, Billy, and its semi-drunken driver ended up crashing into a freight train.

Readers were left to assume that Candy, Bill, and the Soft Master had all died at the end of the issue.  That wasn’t necessarily the case.  While Candy and the Soft Master never reappeared in the series, Billy would soon be found in a coma and his story would continue.

This issue featured the first appearance in the comic book series of Cobra anti-armor specialist Scrap-Iron.

For clarity’s sake, the flashback sequences contain references to Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes via their code names.  This seemed a bit odd, but they would have been otherwise confusing to a general audience.

 

Fresh Recruits

 

#44 – ” Improvisation on a Theme”

February 1986 ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Airtight, Bazooka, Crankcase, Heavy Metal, Lady Jaye

Villains:  Baroness, B.A.T.s, Cobra Troopers, Destro, Dr. Brain-Wave

Locations –Nevada

This was a low-key single issue that introduced four new ‘prospective’ Joe team members – Bazooka, Crankcase, Heavy Metal and Airtight.  They were being evaluated by Lady Jaye in the Nevada desert.

At the same time, Cobra forces led by Destro, the Baroness, and Dr. Mindbender were conducting tests of their own.  They sent the new Cobra Battle Android Troopers (B.A.T.s) to deliver mutant plant sports to the Joe trainees.  This plan succeeded in limited fashion.

The action eventually moved to a scrap yard confrontation between Joe and Cobra forces.  The B.A.T. army continued to try to deliver further applications of the mutant plants after Destro remains skeptical of their use.  During a prolonged chase, a tanker full of the spores is destroyed when car batteries from the scrap yard started a chemical fire.  Destro and Dr. Mindbender managed to escape the scene via a F.A.N.G. helicopter piloted by the Baroness.

As should come as no surprise, the ‘trainee’ Joes were made full team members by Lady Jaye.

Another wave of toys was clearly being released for 1986, as this issue marked the first appearances of Airtight, Bazooka, Crank-Case and his vehicle the A.W.E. Striker, and Heavy Metal, who drove the Mauler M.B.T. (Manned Battle Tank).  Lady Jaye also showed of the new Silver Mirage motorcycle.

On the Cobra side, Dr. Mindbender was introduced along with the B.A.T.s.

Curiously, the spelling of two characters’ names changed throughout the story.  Dr. Mindbender was originally called “Dr. Brain-Wave,” but was referred to by his proper name during the second half of the story.  Similarly, the spelling of Lady Jaye’s name went from ‘Lady J’ to “Lady Jaye” midway through the story.

 

#45 – ” In Search of Candy”

March 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Ace, Airborne, Alpine, Flint, General Austin, Hawk, Quick Kick, Ripcord, Snake-Eyes, Spirit, Wild Bill

Villains:  Cobra Commander, Professor Appel, Storm Shadow, Zartan

Locations – The Pit, Washington, D.C., Cobra Island, New York City

This ended up being an unexpectedly Zartan-centric issue.

The central mystery regarding ‘Who killed the Hard Master?’ was finally resolved for readers, as they learned that Zartan had been the man behind his murder.  Snake-Eyes brought the news to Storm Shadow and the duo headed to seek revenge on Cobra Island via a ‘borrow’ Rattler from a hidden New York City location.  Storm Shadow’s information about Cobra was still valid enough to get them past security.

Ripcord defied orders while searching for Candy’s whereabouts and took the opportunity during a routine flyby to sneak into Cobra Island.  Given that he didn’t know that she’d been killed near Springfield in the prior issue, he assumed that Buzzer had taken her to Cobra Island.  Ripcord’s presence was immediately noticed and he ended up being hunted by Zartan.  The issue actually ended with Ripcord having been defeated and Zartan having assumed Ripcord’s identity.

Also of note in the issue was Hawk learning that he was being promoted to full Joe commander, as General Austin was forced to step down amid his health problems.  Sharp-eyes readers would catch a reference to then-president Ronald Reagan during that conversation.  Hawk seemed eager to covertly attack Cobra island, but he didn’t have the opportunity until Ripcord’s disobedience created the opportunity to send in an extraction team.

As with the prior couple of issues, new characters from the toy line continued to appear.  This time, it was first appearances Alpine and Quick Kick.  Snake-Eyes’ commando suit from his 1985 figure also finally showed up inside the comic book series.  Cobra’s Terror Drome also debuted, having been installed on Cobra Island.  This headquarters was mentioned a couple of times throughout the issue, but not explicitly by name.  Unlike in the cartoon series, the Terror Drome would be treated more as an installable battle base that would eventually be mass produced.

The letters page gives readers the interesting information that the main animated show was about to begin.  This came after two mini-series over the prior couple of years.  It was amazing to consider that the Marvel Comics series was nearly a third of the way through its run by this point, yet the Sunbow series had not had more than two mini-series produced.

 

 

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