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Even after reading just the first issue of G.I. Joe: Cobra way back when, I knew we were in for something special.  A very gritty take on the G.I. Joe universe, it presented heroes and villains with the lines of their morality completely blurred and had Chuckles going way into the dark in order to get the job done.
When it was announced that G.I. Joe: Cobra would be an ongoing series starting this year, I will admit, I was a bit conflicted.  Would the series really be able to keep its legs as a monthly title?  How could the universe retain its darkness and complexity of personalities going month-to-month?  Well, to answer those questions…no, it can’t quite maintain the same level of darkness, but that doesn’t mean it gets any worse.  To read the full review hit the jump below.  Spoilers abound.

Where the first G.I. Joe: Cobra Special focused on Tomax and Xamot, the Crimson Twins, this second installment pay close attention to Erika Etiene, also known as “Chameleon”.  I know the first question I had come to mind was “huh”?  Especially because that female operative from earlier on in the G.I. Joe: Cobra series was also calling herself Chameleon.
Now, knowing Chameleon’s history in action figure form, that already starts placing Erika in a certain place in many fans’ heads, but the question still remained, would IDW hold true to that origin in this new universe?
As we begin the issue, Erika is a prisoner of the US Government, and they are working hard to turn her against her snake-themed masters.  We find out a bit about Chameleon’s backstory, and the government is planning to use her history against her, convincing her to operate against Cobra.  As it turns out, she doesn’t need all that much convincing, and is soon infiltrating a Cobra safehouse in Baltimore, disguised as The Baroness herself.
Throughout the course of the story, some doors and windows begin to open…we find out that yes, it would appear our preconceived notions about Chameleon’s backstory do hold true, and she is who we think she is.  Not only that, but The Baroness is aware of who she is, too, and has been “protecting” her within the Cobra cadre.  But how will she take Chameleon’s apparent betrayal?  That remains to be seen.
So, now that G.I. Joe: Cobra is nearly 9 months into it’s ongoing run, and we’ve seen a wealth of  Cobra characters come and go throughout its pages, how does G.I. Joe: Cobra Special #2 stack up?
It reads to near perfection…the dialog of the characters, the pace of the action, the suspense.  It’s all 100% intact and totally continues the legacy of terrific story telling that this title has maintained nearly without fail for over a year.  The universe that Gage and Costa are weaving is a fantastic one that seems so totally separate from the ongoing book, yet ties into it excellently.  If the main title is the flashy Hollywood action blockbuster, G.I. Joe: Cobra is the gritty, dark indy movie that doesn’t have the splashy special effects, but tells a much richer, deeper story.  Antonio Fuso’s simplistic, dramatic art style suits the writing very well, though from a technical standpoint, it certainly doesn’t match up to the mainstream titles.  I still really enjoy it, though, and I think it adds to the “back alley” mystique nicely.  Mike Costa appears to be handling the writing chores on this particular issue solo, and he handles the job remarkably well.
Chameleon’s interaction with the Government agent “Firewall” (no apparent relation to the DDP version) is terrifically done, and seeing her conflicted feelings in regards to her past, her family, and her apparent reluctance to fully embrace her new allegiance are all excellent facets to this great one-shot special, and sheds a whole new light on the Chameleon character.  I absolutely love this universe that IDW is building, even if it does contrast pretty heavily with the main title.  In a way, though, that makes sense…while G.I. Joe can concentrate on the bright, effects heavy world of the good guys, it only seems right that G.I. Joe: Cobra show the dark and ugly seedy underbelly of the terrorist organization.  This second G.I. Joe: Cobra One Shot only further examines that excellent world, and is a great comic to boot.
As an added bonus, IDW has also included an excerpt from an upcoming prose anthology, called G.I. Joe: The Cobra Wars.
This was a fantastic read featuring some great obscure characters, but I’m going to hold off on paying too much focus on that until another post.
Excuse the camera pics below, my scanner is on the fritz…

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