G.I.Joe: Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra #1
“Snake Eyes, Agent of Cobra, Part One: The Tin Man”
Writer: Mike Costa
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Colors: Joana Lafuente
Letters: Neil Uyetake
Cover artists: Villanelli (regular edition)/Drew Johnson (subscription variant)
Editor: Carlos Guzman
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Price: $3.99 US
I had some G.I.Joe action figures when I was a kid in the early 1980s, even a playset/vehicle or two; my brother and I shared them, as I recall. I also have a soft spot for the G.I.Joe cartoon of the 1980s, not for the stories or characters so much, but for the fact each episode advertised an actual Marvel comic book on network TV. Overall, I wasn’t really a Joe fanboy; I read few of the comics, and I wasn’t obsessed with collecting the toys. In any case, I don’t have the strong nostalgic connection with the property that a lot of guys my age have, but a couple of friends have urged me to check out some of IDW’s Joe comics, remarking in particular that the Cobra series was particularly good. I still haven’t delved into that title, but I had a chance to peruse this title, which I presume is something of a spinoff title. The ever-silent Snake Eyes was always the coolest of the Joes, and the character was ground-breaking in a couple of ways. In a lot of ways, Snake Eyes epitomizes the Kewl, edgy characters of the 1990s, and he was ahead of the curve on that particular trend. Furthermore, in the world of comics, the character is probably most noteworthy as the star of the wordless issue of Marvel’s G.I.Joe that made so many readers aware of the possibilities inherent in and strengths of the visual medium. Agent of Cobra offered a premise that piqued my interest and offered a chance to dip my toes in the waters of this world once again. Overall, the storytelling here is solid, but it didn’t ignite a newfound interest in these characters either.
Snake Eyes, the silent ninja assassin who’s always been at the heart of the G.I.Joe team for years, went missing some time ago, but he’s finally resurfaced. He intercepts the transport of a high-profile military prison — Destro, the notorious arms dealer and Cobra ally — and pulls the metal-faced villain from his capture. Destro assumes it’s to drag him to a harsher punishment at the hand of the Joes, but he’s surprised to find the one-time Joe is now working for Cobra. Destro quickly finds a new assignment for the quiet warrior, dispatching on a global hunt for another former ally who holds the secret to uncovering some vital information thought to be lost long ago…
Paolo Villanelli’s name is a new one to me, and his general style for the main action in the issue strikes me as something of a cross between the styles of Norm Breyfogle and Francesco Francavilla, with a clearly 1990s extremism and flare when it came to the depiction of the title character. I wasn’t all that taken with it, but it definitely suits the tone of the book. I had to double-check the credits to ensure he was the only artist on the interiors, as his style for the flashback to Destro’s childhood looked so different, I figured someone else had illustrated that sequence. It looks more like the work of Mike (Revival, The Sixth Gun: Days of the Dead) Norton, and I’m pleased Villanelli apparently made an effort to distinguish the flashback in this manner. I have to say the visual highlight for this comic book is Drew Johnson’s cover art for the variant edition, which offers a fun, classic espionage-genre image in the style of Jim Steranko.
Given the title character’s silent and mysterious nature, it’s really Destro who’s the star of this story. The narration is his internal monologue, and the plot seems to be more about his quest to regain influence and power in a highly militarized underworld. He’s struggling not only with rebuilding his empire but with the metallic metamorphosis he’s undergoing at present. He hardly comes off as a sympathetic figure, but he does present as being resourceful, brilliant and interesting.
As I understand it, writer Mike Costa has been crafting Joe stories under the IDW for years, and DC Comics even tapped him to bring the same sensibility to a retooled Blackhawks concept as part of its New 52 relaunch more than three years ago now. That flopped, but Costa is still ruling the roost with such comics at IDW, it seems. Given how long he’s been writing this property at IDW, I feared I’d be lost in whatever new continuity he’s built, but he does a good job of offering an accessible gateway into the world of G.I.Joe and Cobra. With my basic knowledge of Snake Eyes from the 1980s, I had little problem delving into this plot, and I didn’t need the particulars of what led to this point to follow along.
In the late 1980s and onward, super-hero comics adopted a darker tone, in part to capitalize on more mature stories crafted by Miller, Moore and others. Part of the reason for the trend, no doubt, was an effort to appeal to an aging fanbase, to give the formerly young comics readers of the Silver and Bronze ages something in keeping with what was perceived to be a more adult sensibility. I get the sense IDW, with these 21st century Joe comics, is trying to do the same. It didn’t work for me, but then, I didn’t really feel much of an attachment to these characters or this property. 6/10
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