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Okay, I’ll admit, I’m as fired up about new concepts in G.I. Joe as the next guy, but initially I was not sure exactly what to think about this idea.  I’ve never really been enamored with the whole Manga concept, though I do know it has its share of fans.  Devils’ Due actually tried this experiment as well with the Arashikage Showdown trade paperback when they had the license, and that particular issue didn’t really resonate with me.
Is Future Noir any more successful?  Click the “Read the Rest of this Entry” link below to see my opinions.

G.I. Joe: Future Noir #1
Written by: Andy Schmidt
Art by: Giacomo Bevilacqua
Future Noir is written in a purely manga style, using a black and white artistic format, and takes place in an unmentioned time and place.  It’s fairly obvious from the atmosphere (not to mention the title) that the story is meant to take place in a cybernetic future, pulling many influences from “Future Tokyo” types of environments.
Donning much more “super hero” type gear and much less military influenced ones, the G.I. Joe team consists of Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, Sci-Fi, Roadblock, and Agent Helix.  They all appear much younger than they might in the real world, and do battle with futuristic weaponry infused with their uniforms.  Sci-Fi appears to be genetically and technologically altered, a fact that he isn’t all that comfortable with.
The Joes in this timeline don’t battle Cobra Commander, they battle “King Cobra” and his cadre of Vipers, some very nicely designed trenchcoat wearing psychopaths, that all seem to have this genetic alteration lurking just under the surface.  The artwork within the Cobra operatives is very sinister and gives them a very snakelike feel.  Along with Cobra human operatives, there are some other genetically created creatures like flying bats, and even “Nemesis Enforcer” a demon-like creature with tentacles, claws, and fur.  It’s a pretty drastic departure from the malevolent undercurrent of Cobra within the mainstream G.I. Joe title.
There’s a lot going on here, as can be expected with a 55 page issue.  From recent interviews it would seem that Andy Schmidt and the guys at IDW initially planned a 4-issue mini-series, but evolved into a large scale 2-parter, so obviously this first issue needs to capture a lot of energy and story into one single issue.
I find myself somewhat conflicted.  I don’t really care about the manga influences.  That won’t tempt me one way or the other, or really impact my love for this particular format or series.  To me, it’s about the characters and the spirit of the story.  From a personal perspective, I like what Schmidt is doing with Cobra’s history.  They’re a very cult-like organization here, using mystical energy as well as genetic alteration to create a band of followers, which makes a certain amount of sense.
But as much as I love how they’ve built Cobra up in this series, the infusion of creatures rather than more human troopers really makes it suffer.  Nemesis Enforcer just comes out looking ridiculous in my opinion, and goes a bit too far overboard to really blend with a G.I. Joe title.  My suspension of disbelief is pretty strong when it comes to the G.I. Joe universe…much stronger than many fans out there who only want the most gritty military realism…but when it comes to the Joes battling flying killer bats and a huge tentacled monstrosity, I just have a hard time getting into it.
It’s kind of a shame, because I love King Cobra, I really like the looks of this alternate universe Dr. Mindbender…but ultimately, the flood of creatures instead of humans, and a somewhat distracting manga style keeps me from becoming fully invested in this title.  I really like the way the Joe team is built, and especially Sci-Fi (who oozes some cool character and conflicts about his genetic “differences”), but in the end, I just couldn’t get fully into this first issue.  It’s very frenetic, very frantic, and as someone who doesn’t really have an attachment to the concepts of manga, the issue doesn’t really do anything for me.  Perhaps fans of the manga format will enjoy it more.

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