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Yesterday was a somewhat rough day for reviews…  with the Pursuit of Cobra Storm Shadow, I was pretty disappointed in the entire package.  I thought maybe diving into Hama’s normally fun Real American Hero series might end the day on a high note.  Unfortunately, I felt pretty underwhelmed about Issue #160 of that series as well.
Not willing to accept defeat that easily, I decided to jump right into Issue #161 of the Real American Hero title, as I was pretty impressed by what I saw in the 5-page preview.  You know what?  I’m really glad that I did.  The last issue left a bad taste in my mouth, but the series redeemed itself in a very big way with issue #161, and I hope this is the start of a new trend and not simply an exception to the rule.
You can read the entire spoiler-rich review by clicking the Read the Rest of this Entry link below.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #161
Written by: Larry Hama
Art by: SL Gallant
Throughout the run of the American Hero series so far, I’d rationalized the crazed artwork of Agustin Padilla as being a fitting tribute to the 90’s style, and I still feel that way.  But let’s face it, the art in the 90’s certainly wasn’t the high point, and was far from when the series was great.  Sure, Phil Gosier had his own unique style, but following up in the tradition of Rod Whigham, Ron Wagner, and MD Bright, perhaps the comparison wasn’t really fair.
Well, if the first run of issues had that distinct 90’s art style, SL Gallant has managed to give this issue an extremely effective follow up to the 80’s art style.  I am absolutely thrilled with the artwork in this book.  Where Padilla was very liberal with uniform designs (much in the same way Gosier was way back when), Gallant seems to treat each detail with intricate accuracy in the drawn pages.  Cobra Vipers have all the right gear…  Stinger Drivers are driving the Stingers, the Toxo-Viper looks exactly as he should.  Though the VAMP looks a bit squished, I was thrilled to see an updated Pursuit of Cobra HISS Tank in these pages, and translated with incredible accuracy.  Something about seeing my favorite toys represented accurately in the comic pages just makes it for me, and this issue did that very well.
But it’s more than just the refined, cleaner art style that makes this issue so much better than the last.  Hama’s writing here has placed a stronger focus on the military angle, featuring machine guns, rockets, and grenade launchers rather than swords and ornate ninja dialog.  Unlike Padilla’s art, Gallant’s has a very realistic tilt, very well choreographed action, and a much more effective feeling of “impact”.
From an actual story perspective, even though this picks up right where we left off with a brainwashed Snake Eyes and a non-brainwashed Storm Shadow, there has definitely been a shift.  The Joes are no longer on the run, Cobra has been discovered for what they truly are, and we start seeing the G.I. Joe team get back to status quo.  The PITT is back online in the Utah desert, equipment is out of mothballs, and the Joe team is back to establishing a very familiar foothold that we were used to seeing back in the Marvel days.  I welcome this return to familiar grounds, and yes, the initial issues did feel like a nice continuation of the 90’s, I feel like issue #161 made terrific strides to kind of “reset the clock” so to speak, and get us freed from those crazed 90’s adventures and set back into a more familiar late 80’s style universe that worked so well back then.  Of course, this is just one issue…things might change drastically in issue #162, but I certainly hope this becomes the trend.
Throughout the issue we are also treated to numerous cameos of familiar faces, some of them a bit obscure.  Chuckles plays a lead role here, as does Psyche Out.  We see Outback and Spirit, both in very familiar roles.  Law and Order, Mutt, and Mainframe also pop their heads up.
All in all, while Issue #160 left me disappointed and already growing a bit tired of this continuation of the Marvel universe, issue #161 has totally and completely reversed that.  This issue really felt like I was immersed back in the “good old days” and I hope this is an environment that continues on throughout this run.  Certainly, it would appear that the whole brainwashing angle is still unfortunately present, but maybe we can work around that and get some good military action going again.  It would be terrific if we did.

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