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I’ve somehow fallen slightly behind in my reviews of the IDW issues as they hit local comic shops.  I’ve got a Newbury Comics right across the street that I hit every Wednesday, but work has kept me from it for a bit…so now it’s catch up time!
It would just figure that this is the week when my comic shop visit is delayed, too, because I was especially looking forward to picking up G.I. Joe: Origins #19, with Larry Hama’s return to the “Silent Issue” theme…add to that art by the incredible Joe Benitez, and this is one issue I did NOT want to miss.
How do I feel now that I’ve read it?  Well…  it was pretty awesome.  But certainly not perfect, especially for the series that it appears in.  Hit the jump to read the full review.

First of all, the main topic has to be the writing…  it’s a silent issue, so as usual, the storyboarding, progression of action, and clarity of the ongoing plot has to be crystal clear.  By and large, it is.  When it comes to the actual progress of panel-to-panel action, everything flows seamlessly.  Twenty-Five years after he did it the first time, Larry Hama still knows how to storyboard, and that fact is clearly evident throughout every single page of this issue.  Each event occurs as a step to the next event, and each panel and page are laid out so the action is perfectly simple to understand even with an utter and total lack of the written word.
However, one issue I do have is that while the action and events of this issue are very clearly laid out, I’m not entirely sure when, where, or why Snake Eyes is here doing what he’s doing.  Being as this is a G.I. Joe: Origins book, it would seem as if we should be learning something about the Commando’s origin, but we are not (as far as we know).  Sure, we seem him and Timber meet up, sort of, but beyond that, this just seems to be Snake Eyes going after some mysterious green-suited criminals, kicking ass and taking names.  Honestly, I don’t mind that, I just wish I had a better handle on where this story was taking place in the timeline, seeing as it’s a G.I. Joe: Origins issue.  Perhaps what I need to do is dip into the back issues a bit and see if I can’t figure out if anything led up to this.  Hama doesn’t  generally just write arbitrary action stories, so I gotta think this issue has its place, I’m just not certain where that is.
Really, that was part of the beauty of the early Silent Issue(s).  All three of the silent issues in the original vintage run (#21, Yearbook #3 and #85) all had very specific places in the continuity of the existing universe, and managed to retain the novelty of being silent, yet still progressed the overall story arc.  While this issue was certainly a blast to read, I just can’t quite find where it belongs in continuity.  Not a huge deal, necessarily, but being an origin book, you expect some sort of origin.  At least I do.
So, being a bit confused about this, I went directly to the source and spoke with Larry Hama about this issue, just to get some sort of idea of where he was coming from here.  This is what Larry Hama had to say:

“It wasn’t supposed to be part of the Origins storyline or continuity at all.   It was originally done as an issue of SPOTLIGHT.  The bad guys are not Cobra, and the wolf is not Timber.”

So it certainly appears that the issue was not initially slated to be a part of the Origins series, and is more of a showcase issue.  He also added this input, stating what the overall goal of an issue like this is:

“To me, it was an exercise in visual continuity and action choreography, and my reply to all those comics and movies I see where the ammo is endless and nobody deals with logistics. Also, it is about a sound wave weapon, which gives it a real reason to be silent.”

Looking at this issue from this new perspective, I am gaining a new appreciation for it.  Granted, it does seem odd to see it placed within the confines of an “Origins” series, but as an exercise of logistics and pure story-telling, the work is remarkable.
Now, we know what to expect from Hama’s crisp, easy to follow writing style, but what about the art?  Well, as soon as I heard the name Joe Benitez, I knew I had nothing to worry about.  Benitez is a fantastic artist with a very realistic style, and his art perfectly compliments Hama’s writing in this issue.  Snake Eyes looks extremely cool in this somewhat modified uniform get up, and he manages to walk a fine line between realistic styling and animated-action without ever crossing the line in either direction.  The weapons look exceedingly realistic, the action flows, the backgrounds are excellent.  An exceptionally solid work of art from cover to cover, and serves Hama’s crisp storyboarding to near perfection.
As a stand alone action issue, G.I. Joe: Origins #19 excels.  I can certainly understand folks who have a hard time with the “flow” within the Origins series, I feel the same way to a degree.  But taking the story on its own merit, the quality of the writing, art, and overall flow of the story was fantastic.

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