“G.I. Joe” Issues 46-53 & Special Missions 1-2 by Larry Hama

The issues covered mirror what was included in IDW’s “G.I. Joe: The Complete Collection” Volume 5. 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.”

Yearbook #2 – “Triple Play”

March 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller:  Michael Golden

Characters –

Heroes: Airtight, Alpine, Bazooka, Blowtorch, Breaker, Cutter, Deep Six, Duke, Footloose,Flint, Grunt, Gung-Ho, Mutt & Junkyard, Recondo, Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Scarlett, Shipwreck, Snake-Eyes, Stalker, Torpedo, Zap

Villains: Baroness, Destro, Firefly

Oktober Guard: Colonel Brekhov, Horror Show, Diana, Schrage, Stormavik, Dragonsky

Locations – Afghanistan

While “G.I. Joe Yearbook” #1 had merely provided readers with a reprint of the first issue of the main series, the second yearbook featured an all-new story that was drawn by fan favorite artist Michael Golden.

The Oktober Guard was featured in the story while flying aboard a helicopter that contained a new laser canon.  That helicopter ended up becoming ensnared in a Cobra trap that resulted in Cobra taking possession of the laser canon.  Guard members who weren’t captured mounted a counter-assault on Cobra that resulted in the recapture of the cannon.

This entire situation happened to be monitored by members of the G.I. Joe team.  The Guard’s ultimate goal was to take the laser canon from Afghanistan to the Port of Gavader in Iran where it would be picked up by a Russian submarine.  They did so by putting the canon on a train but that train ended up being a target for both Cobra and the Joe team.  A three-way battle ensued with the train being diverted but the Joe team ultimately gained the upper hand as it pulled into a port.

The Oktober Guard had not been seen since back in the two-part story between issues #6 and #7 of the main “G.I. Joe” series.  Since that time, the Guard had evidently picked up a new member named Dragonsky.  In all, this story provided a welcome return of the Guard since they had been underutilized by Hama over the prior several years.

Besides the new story, the yearbook featured articles on various “G.I. Joe” cross-media topics.  It also contained a cover gallery of all of the main series covers through issue #44, as well as recaps of the prior year’s issues.  In short, this yearbook would have been a nice resource in the pre-internet days.

 

A Sea Scuffle at Cobra Island

 

#46 – “Who’s Who On Cobra Island”

April 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Alpine, Bazooka, Clutch,Flint, Gung-Ho, Hawk, Quick Kick, Recondo,Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Scarlett, Shipwreck, Snake-Eyes, Snow Job,Spirit, Storm Shadow

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

Locations – Cobra Island, The Pit

Having learned in issue #45 that Zartan had killed the Hard Master, both Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow ventured to kill Zartan on Cobra Island.  At the same time, a team of Joes led by Flint had arrived on Cobra Island with the goal of rescuing Rip-Cord.  The stage was also beginning to be set for an eventual invasion of Cobra Island by the Joe team.

Only readers actually knew that Zartan had switched identities with Rip-Cord back in issue #45.  Rip-Cord had come to Cobra Island in search of his girlfriend Candy Appel but was beat up by Zartan, who then pulled the identity switcheroo with him.  Rip-Cord’s unconscious body ended up being later found by Candy’s father, Professor Appel.

During ensuing confrontations on Cobra Island, Flint’s group ‘rescues’ Zartan as Rip-Cord but Spirit later noticed that wounds on the faux Rip-Cord’s uniform didn’t match the wounds on his body.

Meanwhile the team of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow caused all kinds of destruction on Cobra Island, ultimately confronting Cobra Command and killing Professor Appel.  They ended up nearly mistakenly killing the not-coherent Rip-Cord, who escaped the scene in a Firebat that had been previously programmed for travel by Professor Appel.

This issue contained some rather-iconic toy-inspired introductions, with the SR-71-inspired Night Raven peeking out from under a tarp alongside the swift and small Firebat plane.    The story also featured the first reference to the name ‘Terror Drome.’

More significant to the G.I. Joe comic book continuity, this story marked the death of Professor Appel.  He died in rather tragic fashion, with neither he nor Rip-Cord being aware that his daughter Candy had died back in issue #43.

 

#47 – “Sea Duel”

May 1986 ~ **

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Ace, Bazooka, Barbecue, Beach Head, Breaker, Clutch,Cutter, Doc, Hawk, Flint, Lady Jaye, Quick Kick,Rip-Cord, Scarlett, Shipwreck, Snake-Eyes, Spirit, Storm Shadow, Wet Suit,Wild Bill

Villains: Baroness, Destro, Cobra Commander, Dr. Mindbender, Firefly Dreadnoks: Zartan, Buzzer, Ripper, Torch

Locations – Cobra Island, Springfield

 

Rather than focusing tightly on tying up the prior issue’s story, Larry Hama spent most of this issue introducing an array of new toy products.  One couldn’t help but assume that pressure from Hasbro necessitated this diversion.  Unlike with the prior issue’s more-restrained introductions, the story in this issue suffered from the crush of new toys.  To be sure, the plotlines did progress but simply not very quickly.

Right at the opening of the story, one had to question Doc not trusting his own intuition when he briefly saw that Zartan was impersonating Rip-Cord.  Zartan reverted back to Rip-Cord and Doc dismissed what he had seen as being a figment of his own imagination.  At the same time, no one took notice of a Firebat that flew the unconscious Rip-Cord away from the entire battle scene.

Meanwhile, Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow had a heck of a time trying to get off of Cobra Island.  An air-based departure was thwarted when a helicopter containing Destro, Dr. Mindbender, and the Baroness crash landed on the Cobra Island airport runway.  The action then switched to a sea-based escape, with an ultimate confrontation between several of the new Joe Devilfish and a small fleet of the larger Cobra Hydro-Foils.

Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow were in a stolen Cobra Hydro-Foil when they nearly ended up as victims of friendly-fire.  In the end, they both seemed to be saved by Beach Head but the Baroness did manage to shoot Storm Shadow for betraying Cobra.  She then made off with his body.

The story’s coda featured Rip-Cord’s Firebat landing in Springfield.  He was rushed to a hospital by the Dreadnoks since they mistake him for Zartan.  At the same time, Zartan as Rip-Cord was transported to the Pit with the Joe team still oblivious to the fact that they had a traitor in their midst.

As mentioned, this issue contained a number of first appearances by water-based characters on both the Joe and Cobra teams.  Of particular note for the Joe team was the first appearances of Beach Head, and Wet-Suit, along with the Devilfish vehicle.  Cobra had the first appearance of their scuba soldier Eels and their impressive Hydro-Foil vehicle.

 

 

Invading Springfield

 

#48 – “Slaughter”

June 1986 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Barbecue, Blowtorch, Breaker, Clutch, Crank-Case, Cutter, Duke, Doc, Gung-Ho, Heavy Metal, Quick Kick, Recondo, Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Scarlett, Sgt. Slaughter, Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Stalker, Steeler, Tripwire, Torpedo

Villains: Baroness, Destro, Dr. Mindbender Dreadnoks: Zartan, Buzzer, Ripper, Torch

Locations – Cobra Island, The Pit, Washington D.C., Springfield

Storm Shadow continued to appear dead at the beginning of this issue but the Baroness planted a seed of doubt by suggesting that ninjas could slow their respiration.  Dr. Mindbender hinted at a planned use for Storm Shadow’s body when ordering it sent into cold storage.

Over in Springfield, the Dreadnoks remained oblivious to the fact that Rip-Cord was disguised as Zartan.  They couldn’t understand why he became so upset after learning that Candy had died.  Rather, the Dreadnoks’ most immediate concern was on not letting Cobra know that Zartan had seemingly lost his mind.  As such, they smuggled Rip-Cord as Zartan out of the Springfield area but then later returned to the area after Zartan appeared to be stable.  Rip-Cord was able to make a brief call to The Pit though.

The Joes at the Pit couldn’t have been overly surprised to learn from Rip-Cord that Zartan was in their midst since he wreaked havoc to the base while disguising himself as Snake-Eyes and a number of other Joe team members.  Once everything was sorted out, Zartan managed to escape from The Pit by using his invisibility power.  He only made it out of the facility itself though, as he was caught on his way out by Gung-Ho and Sgt. Slaughter.

Any success that the Joes experienced was tempered by news out of Washington D.C. that Cobra had begun negotiations with the United States government.  A group of high-ranking United States generals known as the Jugglers informed him that Cobra Island had been deemed off-limits to the Joe team.

Sgt. Slaughter had a well-timed first appearance in this issue.  The Jugglers group that Hawk met would become a bureaucratic problem for the Joe team and get into the team’s business in issues #77, #78, and #103-108.

This issue put a heavy focus on Zartan’s transformation and invisibility powers, with the brief suggestion that they were derived from chameleon DNA.  This would make him a mutant, which would make more sense than to suggest that his holographic imaging contraptions were somehow used by him.  A brief scene where the Joes were shown coming up with ways to track an invisible Zartan with fire extinguisher foam was witty.

 

#49 – “Serpentor”

July 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Alpine, Ace, Airborne, Airtight, Barbecue, Bazooka, Beach Head, Blowtorch, Breaker, Crankcase, Deep Six, Duke, Flash, Flint, Footloose, Gung-Ho, Hawk, Heavy Metal, Junkyard, Lady Jaye, Leatherneck, Lift-Ticket, Mutt, Quick Kick, Recondo, Rip-Cord, Roadblock, Rock ‘n Roll, Scarlett, Shipwreck, Short-Fuze, Slip-Stream, Snake-Eyes, Spirit, Stalker, Steeler, Storm Shadow, Torpedo, Tripwire, Wild Bill

Villains: Baroness, Buzzer, Cobra Commander, Cobra Troopers, Destro, Dr. Mindbender, Firefly, Ripper, Scrap-Iron, Serpentor, Torch, Tele-Viper, Tomax, Xamot

Locations – The Pit, Washington D.C., Springfield

Issue #49 opened with Dr. Mindbender finishing up the collection of corpses from ten of history’s greatest military commanders.  He took those bodies to a lab in Springfield where he mixed their DNA with a dash of Storm Shadow’s DNA while also adding in his own mental thoughts regarding allegiance to Cobra.

Rip-Cord managed to relay the location of Springfield to the Joe team but his phone call was traced and he was soon confronted by Cobra leadership.  An amusing twist occurred during Rip-Cord’s attempted escape from capture when he tried to steal a Cobra officer’s Corvette.  The officer’s young daughter happened to be in the vehicle and she pulled a gun on Rip-Cord.  After being captured, Rip-Cord was taken to Cobra’s command headquarters where the Cobra leaders learned that he had told the Joe team about Springfield’s location.

The Battle of Springfield that resulted from the sharing of this information dominated much of the issue with the Joe team cutting the power to Springfield and taking over the airport.  A strike team was led by Hawk and they seized the airport with the intent of later taking Cobra headquarters while Stalker led an assault team in taking over the Springfield police station.  A security team that was led by Duke was tasked with closing off access out of Springfield.  On the Cobra side, Serpentor took command of a ‘holding’ force that would buy time for Destro and the Baroness to lead most of Cobra’s forces out of Springfield.

Obviously this issue featured a massive number of characters, with a mix of old and new.  Serpentor’s introduction was rather brief compared to the five episodes that were devoted to him at the start of the “G. I. Joe” Television show’s second season.  Larry Hama has stated that he never liked the character and many fans disliked the loose science fiction aspects involved in the character’s origin.  The character’s creation process was interrupted  with a clumsy bit of plotting where the Dreadnoks used the brain scanner machine on Rip-Cord and that move hinted at a back door of sorts of Hama to use later on.  Just the same, Hama did what he could with Serpentor, giving him more depth than the television counterpart by making him more of a schemer than a raving lunatic.

Other important first appearances included the new Joe Tomahawk helicopter with its pilot, Lift Ticket.  The new fighter jet pilot Slip Stream also appeared, as well as the ground trooper Leatherneck.

 

 

#50a – “The Battle of Springfield”

August 1986 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Beach Head, Breaker, Doc, Flint, Hawk, Heavy Metal, Lady Jaye, Leatherneck, Quick Kick, Recondo, Rip-Cord, Rock ‘n Roll, Scarlett, Shipwreck, Snake-Eyes, Spirit, Stalker, Storm Shadow, Zap

Villains: Baroness, Buzzer, Cobra Commander, Cobra Troopers, Destro, Dr. Mindbender, Eels, Firefly, Ripper, Serpentor, Torch, Zarana

Locations – The Pit, Washington D.C., Springfield

The Joe assault team mentioned in the last issue was shown taking fire from Serpentor’s forces in the opening of this milestone fiftieth issue.  Stalker was then revealed as being in command of the assault team at the Springfield Museum of Antiquities where Serpentor’s forces were based.  Stalker’s forces were told to hold out until Duke could arrive at the airport with support from the security team.  At that point, Hawk would move his strike time to help back up Stalker’s team against Serpentor.

Springfield was shown being evacuated, with the odd implication being that some of the local citizens weren’t necessarily aware of the massive Cobra presence in the area.  That made sense in terms of how Cobra kept their operations secret from the outside world but the non-Cobra residents in the town must have often been very confused or naïve.  One particularly shocking moments in that evacuation involved a father getting ready to shoot the family dog after Destro announced that no pets should be taken from Springfield.

The situation was a mess at Cobra headquarters in the Museum of Antiquities, with the Dreadnoks still torturing Rip-Cord and Storm Shadow coming back to life with the fuzzy memories of ancient military leaders stuck in his head.  Stalker’s team eventually gained access to the museum and recovered Rip-Cord while also realizing that the Cobra headquarters was abandoned.

The Battle of Springfield came to a conclusion at the airport as the Joe teams all met up to deal with the very last of Serpentor’s forces.  Cobra successfully fooled the Joes into thinking that they were interested in re-taking the airport while Destro and the Baroness actually snuck their Cobra operatives out of Springfield via helicopters that launched from the town’s high school.  The helicopters had been smuggled out of the airport via a vast underground tunnel that Cobra dynamited.

Destro, the Baroness, Serpentor, and a helicopter fleet full of Springfield’s Cobra loyalists then headed for safety on Cobra Island.  Reader might wonder where Cobra Commander had been during all of this action and he finally showed up late in the story on Cobra Island.  Upon hearing about Serpentor’s creation he immediately zeroed-in on the fact that Serpentor would likely challenge his rule of Cobra.

Issue #51’s change-of-pace focus on the Dreadnoks was set up on the final page of issue #50.  The Dreadnoks and Storm Shadow arrived at Zartan’s gas station hideout in the New Jersey swamplands that had been featured back in issue #30.  They were surprised to find Zartan’s sister Zarana waiting for them.

The issue’s notable first appearance involved Zarana, but readers wouldn’t learn much about her until the next issue.  Longtime readers might have noticed a parallel between the cover design of this issue and the cover of the Springfield-centric issue #10.

“The Battle of Springfield” contained some hints of the future with the Joe team likely facing consequences regarding their failure and the smooth-talking Serpentor seeming to challenge Destro for the affections of the Baroness.  Obviously Cobra Commander had reason to be concerned about his own position as well since Serpentor was so effectively shown rallying the Cobra troops.  In total this was the perfect way to mark the first fifty issues of the series since a number of new plot developments were unleashed on readers.  Change was in the air.

 

 

#50a – “Best Defense”

August 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Herb Trimpe

Characters –

Heroes: Beach Head, Flint, Hawk, Lade Jaye, Stalker

Villains: Meryl, Roger, Wesson

Civilians/Additional: Carlisle Anderson, Colonel Koldunov, Lieutenant Jim Abbott

Locations – San Francisco, Russia

This second story in the landmark issue #50 included a “Special Missions” preview.  Many fans of the Marvel “G.I. Joe” comics applauded the creation of “Special Missions” since it provided Larry Hama with a way to get back to the more-grounded stories that the series contained during its first few years of existence.  As the cast of characters and number of toys in the toy line grew, that cast became difficult to manage and “G.I. Joe” generally trended toward science fiction-heavy plots.

“Best Defense” focused on an airliner bound for Russia from San Francisco being hijacked by the ‘Leon Trotsky Brigade of the Fourth International,’ an obscure terrorist organization with an office in San Francisco.  A small Joe team managed to get aboard the airliner when it refueled in Alaska while Hawk and Stalker led a raid on the group’s office.  That raid resulted in the discovery that the hijackers planned to crash the airliner into a Russian chemical weapons base.

The Joe team on the plane then had to take control of the situation by eliminating the terrorists before they could crash the airliner.  They managed to do so while dealing with complications such as a terrorist having a ‘dead man’s stick’ that would trigger an explosive vest if he were to let up off of a trigger.

This preview of “Special Missions” was billed as having ‘realistic’ plots and this preview of that series made that point by focusing on an obscure terrorist group rather than Cobra.  The violence was also more-pronounced than in the main series since readers witnessed both a stewardess being killed by a terrorist and a terrorist being killed by Flint.

The logic behind why that stewardess was killed during an ugly publicity-seeking scene was not entirely clear since the terrorists were trying to keep up an appearance that they were hijacking the plane with plans to ransom it in some fashion.  The actual plan that was later revealed was obviously quite different and more-closely resembled plans like those used by the terrorists in the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.  The terror group’s motive around avenging the suspected murder of Soviet revolutionary Leon Trotsky was amusingly obscure though.

 

 

Springfield Aftermath

 

#51 – “Thunder Machine”

September 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Alpine, Cross-Country, Flint, Crank-Case, Hawk, Heavy Metal, Lade Jaye, Roadblock, Sgt. Slaughter, Scarlett, Shipwreck, Storm Shadow, Thunder, Tollbooth, Wild Bill

Villains: Zartan, Zarana, Zandar, Buzzer, Ripper, Torch, Thrasher

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

The story picked up from the last page of issue #50 with Zarana introducing herself and her brother Zandar to the Dreadnoks while at Zartan’s New Jersey swampland-based gas station hideout.  Thrasher also appeared, having outfitted the new Dreadnok Swampfire and Thunder Machine vehicles.  Zandar’s running gag was that no one ever noticed him, a tip of the hat to his sharing the same sort of chameleon powers as Zartan but also simply not being as memorable as his brother or sister.

Zartan’s siblings used disguises and the Swampfire to break into The Pit, intent on getting Zartan free so that he could let them in on a secret cache of stolen gold.  After weaving a web of impersonations and lies, the siblings had soon freed Zartan and were on the run from Sgt. Slaughter and Cross-Country.

Zartan and most of the Dreadnoks piled into Thrasher’s Thunder Machine while Zartan’s siblings created a diversion in the Swampfire.  Some other members of the Joe team gave chase in a Mauler tank and an A.W.E. Striker but they were soon defeated by the Thunder Machine.  Sgt. Slaughter and Cross-Country were the only remaining Joe pursuers, giving chase in a H.A.V.O.C., but they were eventually outsmarted by the consolidated Dreadnok forces.  The issue ended with the disguised Dreadnoks sending Sgt. Slaughter on a wild goose chase not long after they had retreated to Zartan’s gas station hideout.

The fact that the ‘bad guys’ seemed to win at the end of this issue confounded me as a child.  Hama’s apparent intent around featuring the Dreadnoks in a somewhat light-hearted breakout tale made sense though and the need to free Zartan from The Pit made sense in the context of what Hama had planned next.

First Appearances case quickly and were plentiful.  On the Joe team, readers first met Cross-Country and his H.A.V.O.C. vehicle along with Tollbooth and Thunder.  The Dreadnoks provided a debut of the Swampfire and the Thunder Machine as well as new team members Thrasher and Zandar.

Eagle-eyed readers would notice that the oil refinery where part of the vehicle chase took place was an “Axxon” oil refinery.  That was likely a reference to the real-world oil firm Exxon.

On a personal note, this was my first “G.I. Joe” issue as a child.  I re-read my eventually-coverless and tattered copy a number of times, trying to make sense of the hints about the then-recent Battle of Springfield that the issue referenced.

 

 

Special Missions #1 – “That Sinking Feeling”

October 1986 ~ ****

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Herb Trimpe

Characters –

Heroes: Airborne, Cutter, Deep Six, Hawk, Roadblock Shipwreck (Polly), Torpedo, Wild Bill

Villains: Baroness, Destro, Firefly

Oktober Guard: Colonel Brekhov, Diana, Horrorshow, Schrage, Stormavik

Civilians/Additional: Captain Bulgakov

Locations – The Baltic Sea

The Oktober Guard, using a helicopter, investigated a Swedish fishing boat that was seemingly minding its own business in the Baltic Sea.  Their interest in the boat came after hearing rumors that a United States submarine had sunk in the region and it didn’t take long for the Guard to identify the G.I. Joe personnel who were manning the ship.  Before the Guard could take action, their helicopter was attacked by Cobra and the Guard was forced to retreat to their own ship.

Meanwhile, the Joe team had sprung into action with Deep Six using his S.H.A.R.C. to hunt underwater for the lost submarine.  The Russian ship where the guard landed was commanded by a Captain Bulgakov, who would later play a key role in the story’s resolution.

Cobra and the Oktober Guard continued to distract themselves by fighting amongst one another while also trying to engage the Joe team.  Both the Guard and Cobra forces eventually figured out that the notion of a lost submarine had been a hoax.  The Joe team had planted that story as a way to lure the Russian forces into the Baltic Sea and then brought in Cobra to inadvertently create a diversion.  The entire point of the operation became clear when Wild Bill and Hawk flew into the area with a C-130 transport plane to ‘skyhook’ the Russian Captain Bulgakov.  Bulgakov had decided to defect after the death of his wife had caused his loyalty to the Communist Party to wane.

The various combatants eventually went their separate ways and the Joe team members congratulated themselves for having won the fight without firing a single shot.

This story provided a typical example of “Special Missions” style, with a single mission focus and a twist ending all within a single issue.  Some later issues in the series would diverge from this formula though.

Captain Bulgakov had not previously appeared in any “G.I. Joe” comics.  Polly, a parrot companion of Shipwreck who was frequently seen on the television series made HER first appearance in the comics with this issue.

The ‘skyhook’ system that was featured in the acquisition of Bulgakov had been extensively used by the U.S. military in covert operations.  It involved a harness that was worn by the person being extracted and that harness had a rope attached to it that was floated into the air by a balloon.  The passing transport plane then used a hook that was hanging from beneath the plane to grab the end of the floating rope.  As the rope was hooked, off went the person wearing the harness system.

 

#52 – “Snap Decisions”

October 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Alpine, Air Tight, Barbecue, Cover Girl, Crank-Case, Doc, Flint, Hawk, Heavy Metal,Leatherneck, Quick Kick, Roadblock, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Scarlett, Sgt. Slaughter, Shipwreck, Snake-Eyes, Stalker, Steeler, Storm Shadow, Timber, Tripwire, Wild Bill

Villains: Baroness, Buzzer, Cobra Commander, Destro, Dr. Mindbender, Firefly, Ripper, Serpentor, Thrasher,Tomax, Torch, Xamot, Zartan, Zarana, Zandar

Locations – Cobra Island, The Pit, Washington D.C., Snake-Eyes’ cabin (High Sierras in California)

The first five pages of issue #52 provided a prologue that covered Serpentor’s arrival on Cobra Island in the aftermath of the Battle of Springfield.  Cobra Commander had planned to have Serpentor assassinated after the helicopter transporting him had landed on Cobra Island.  Serpentor figured out Cobra Commander’s plan though and ended up outsmarting the Commander by staying close to him, preventing a sniper attack.  Serpentor also delivered a masterful speech to the Cobra troops that further complicated future plans for assassinating him.

The remainder of the issue then took place in the aftermath of issue #51 and that portion began with several Joes practicing their martial arts skills at The Pit.  Storm Shadow broke into The Pit amid that scene and took on those Joes before having an audience with Snake-Eyes.  He recapped the events of the prior few issues and explained that he had stayed alive after the Baroness had shot him via a trance known as the ‘Sleeping Phoenix.’  Storm Shadow was no longer focused on revenge and Snake-Eyes gave him access to his cabin in the High Sierras.

Back on Cobra Island, Zartan and the Dreadnoks returned to Cobra Commander’s service in secret.  Cobra Commander again plotted to kill Serpentor, this time by having Zartan and his crew dress as G.I. Joe team members.  Their later attack on Serpentor at a dinner event was foiled when Serpentor’s supporters rushed to his aid, having intercepted Cobra Commander’s initial communications with Zartan prior to his landing back on Cobra Island.  A plan was then hatched by Serpentor to have Cobra Commander lead a raid on The Pit.

The issue’s major revelation near the end involved Hawk returning from Washington D.C. to announce that the ‘Jugglers’ had decreed that the Joe team was being suspended pending an investigation of the Battle of Springfield.

After the lighter issue #51, the ongoing storylines were all firmly back on track thanks to the somewhat disjointed cleanup that took place in this issue.  Storm Shadow’s story seemed to be at a peaceful conclusion for the time being while Serpentor continued to be used by Hama in impressive fashion when compared to his television counterpart.  Note that Lady Jaye, Snow Job and Torpedo all made appearances but only via disguises used by the Dreadnoks.

 

 

#53 – “Pit-Fall”

November 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Rod Whigham

Characters –

Heroes: Beach Head, Cross Country, Flint,Gung-Ho, Hawk, Lady Jaye,Leatherneck, Quick Kick, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Sgt. Slaughter, Spirit, Wet Suit

Villains: Cobra Commander, Destro, SerpentorDreadnoks: Zartan, Zarana, Zandar, Buzzer

Civilians/Additional: Cecil, Clarence, Admiral Dyson, General Hollingsworth, Percy, General Ryan,

Locations – The Pit

 

“Pit-Fall” featured Snake-Eyes in a portrait as part of Marvel’s 25th Anniversary cover promotion and the action inside was appropriately eventful in spite of the fact that the series had just had an eventful milestone issue with #50.

While the Joe team being forced to clear out from the pit and live elsewhere amongst Fort Wadsworth, Hawk led General Hollingsworth, General Ryan, and Admiral Dyson on an inspection of The Pit.  That inspection was interrupted when Serpentor and Cobra Commander led an attack on the base.

Flint and Lady Jaye were the first of the Joes to notice odd activity with their discovery of a platoon of Cobra Eels.  Flint tried to hold back those forces while Lady Jaye went to warn the rest of the team.  The couple’s storyline included Flint trying to ignite a romantic spark with Lady Jaye but such business would have to wait.  The majority of the Joe team eventually ended up engaging Serpentor’s forces and made a good a run at the defense of the Fort.

The group inside The Pit found themselves under assault by a truckload of the robotic Cobra troopers known as B.A.T.s.  Those troopers weren’t overly effective but they did drive the Joe team’s high-command staff deep into the lowest levels of The Pit.  A series of high-stakes results ensued with Admiral Dyson sacrificing himself to stop a B.A.T. that was rigged with explosives.  General Ryan also perished while detonating an explosive charge that brought The Pit down onto Cobra Commander and Destro.  Hawk and General Hollingsworth were able to make their way to safety via an escape tunnel that ran up and out of The Pit.

After Serpentor made a quick escape with his remaining forces, General Hollingsworth announced that the Joe team would become a roaming unit that was no longer suspended.

This issue contained amusing touches of humor with the Joe team eventually trying to convince the chaplain assistants who lived at Fort Wadsworth that they were indeed the G.I. Joe team.  That light tone was balanced with the selfless sacrifices of Admiral Dyson and General Ryan.

This issue contained the first appearance of General Hollingsworth along with the first and last appearances of General Ryan and Admiral Dyson.  General Ryan sported an eye patch that might have reminded some of Nick Fury from the mainstream Marvel Universe, a character who had played a part in the original proposal for the re-launch of the 1980s “G.I. Joe” concept.  Cobra Commander and Destro were also presumed to be dead, a turn of events that would lead to major consequences in the coming issues.

 

 

Special Missions #2 – “Words of Honor”

December 1986 ~ ***

Writer: Larry Hama | Penciller: Herb Trimpe

Characters –

Heroes: Airtight, Alpine, Breaker, Clutch, Dial Tone, Hawk, Lift Ticket, Roadblock, Recondo, Snow Job

Villains: Doctor Otto Von Totenschadel (Nazi Doctor), Firefly, Hans (Nazi assistant), Ibraham (Mossad Israeli Intelligence)

Locations – Greenland, Argentina

The Joe team responded to worldwide news that a German bomber from World War II had been found crashed on a glacier in Greenland.  As that news spread, a Nazi Doctor who was hiding in Brazil came forward to strike a deal to deactivate a nerve toxin that was aboard the plane.

One set of Joes was then sent to retrieve the plane itself in Greenland and ran into Cobra resistance.  At the same time, another set of Joes went to Brazil to meet with the Nazi Doctor.  That second group ran into complications with Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service, also getting in on the action.

Airtight ended up defusing the toxin on the plane in Greenland and the deal with the Nazi Doctor fell apart due to no longer being necessary.  The real story behind the Nazi Doctor was revealed with him having betrayed the bomber crew and stolen Nazi gold that he used to live on in Brazil.  The Doctor ended up being gunned down by his fellow, in-hiding Nazis.

Readers were given a glimpse into real-world topics in which the Nazi Holocaust and modern-day Israeli reactions to it were presented.  Cobra played only a diversionary role in the story and came across as perhaps more cartoony than expected in contrast.

“Special Missions” wasn’t without new Joe character introductions, as Dial-Tone made his first comic s appearance in this issue.  The Israeli figure Ibraham also first appeared.  Finally, Roadblock’s familiar second costume made its debut.

Religion found its way into the series with a significant mention of Clutch’s Jewish heritage.  A reference by him to his childhood and the television show “Hogan’s Heroes” proved to be rather chilling.

Fans of language translation might be interested in knowing that the Nazi Doctor’s last name was “Totenschadel,” a German word for “skull.”

 

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