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EDIT – I’ve been informed by IDW that there was a slight shipping error, and the book will actually hit local comic shops on September 30th, NOT the 23rd.

The G.I. Joe: COBRA Special is officially released tomorrow September 30th, but GeneralsJoes has the exclusive advanced copy review for you right here!  Check it out in all of its minor spoilery goodness at the “Read the rest of this entry” link below.

Receiving wide critical acclaim and fandom raves, it’s no surprise that IDW elected to continue it’s amazing G.I. Joe: COBRA Limited Series, but they didn’t just continue it, they really took it in a whole new direction, focusing this time on specifically the COBRA side of things as told from the perspective of the infamous Crimson Twins, Tomax and Xamot.  But this isn’t the Tomax and Xamot that we’re all used to.

No circus act acrobats who can read each other’s minds.  No flamboyant businessmen finishing each other’s sentences as they flip gracefully through the air, taunting their opponents.  These versions of the Crimson Twins are violent, malevolent, evil mercenaries, who are also deeply layered, conflicted, and have characters unto their own.  Instead of each character merely being an extension of the other, Mike Costa manages to write each one with their own indellible identity, and two identities not at all similar to each other.  There is an amazing dichotomy in this issue, which of course centers around each brother.

The execution of the comic itself is flawless.  Based off of the “mirror image” storytelling device first used in Watchmen #5, each half of the comic is just that…a mirror image, each half told from the perspective of each twin, with wholly different looks on the world after the events of the G.I. Joe: COBRA limited series.  It’s obvious after this issue that these two brothers aren’t the “attached at the hip” morally ambiguous characters that we’ve known for over twenty years, they have definite morality, personalities, and perspectives all their own.

Sprinkled throughout the comic are peeks inside the history of COBRA, and how they came to be.  Mr. Costa does fantastic work writing a mythology that seems infinitely plausible, while all at once, defying all notions of realism.  You could see this happening in the real world, secret cabals of terrorists, quietly profiting off the various conflicts worldwide, and building an entire corporation and society under the nose of the world, while amassing enough profit to do pure evil.  We find out quite a bit about Tomax and Xamot’s motivation, and it’s fascinating to see just how different the two brothers are, all the while, hearing a very similar story told from their perspectives.

The art in this book picks up right where the mini-series left off, and doesn’t let up at all.  It’s a very unique “film noir” take on modern comic art, with a very distinct and appreciated style that feels dark and gritty, without looking too dark and gritty.  There is an element of a cartoon style mixed in, there is a lack of hard, fast, and intense detail work, but the tightness of the story and dialogue allows you to be dragged deep into the story without worrying about a somewhat flat artistic canvas in front of you.  In fact it almost works better that way, as the real magic is in the story and the characters.

If this particular comic has any flaws, I’m certainly having a hard time coming up with them.  It was a gripping and fascinating read, and it really tackles two of my favorite characters who have never been more interesting than they are now.  Bravo to Mike Costa, bravo to the art team, and bravo to IDW for weaving such a fantastic story with an already captivating COBRA history, even before much of COBRA has shown its face.  Buy this book as soon as you find it.  It is worth every penny of the cover price.

GRADE: ***** (out of 5)

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