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The idea of a “Yearbook” or “Annual” seems like almost a thing of the past, especially in the G.I. Joe world, and I was excited to hear that IDW was reviving the concept for the Real American Hero title.  Many of those old school yearbooks were some of the coolest stories going on in the Marvel days.

IDW really dives head long into the whole vintage concept here as well, as they comb the historical archives and pull out some really great art talents to bring this story to life.

The end results?  Well, you’re just going to have to click the Read the Rest of this Story link below for the full details.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Annual 2012

Writer: Larry Hama
Artists:  Ron Frenz, Ron Wagner, and Herb Trimpe (with Sal Buscema inking)

This issue is an interesting one.  Deviating completely from any type of ongoing storyline in the Real American Hero universe, we end up following a hapless American citizen and former Cobra Crimson Guard who dropped out, got a “real” job and faded from Cobra consciousness.  When he loses his job, his day goes from bad to worse, and he ends up “recruiting” some fellow Cobra agents to assist him in a devious mission.  Set off an explosive device, and blame Cobra for the tragedy.

Obviously this doesn’t sit well with either Cobra or G.I. Joe, and we end up with a fast-based three way chase for the rogue Crimson Guards and for the bomb.

The end result is… okay.  I know as an annual, this issue is supposed to be a one-off type of story that might not necessarily get told in the mainstream book.  I appreciate that mindset.  But in all honesty, the story didn’t captivate me.

I really love the concept of the Crimson Guard as Cobra sleeper agents, but this particular guy looks to be in his 50’s, overweight, and about as threatening as a peanut butter sandwich.  He does have some ruthless tendencies (brutally gunning down a comrade who was hesitant to go along with the plan) but ultimately almost came across a bit too much of the “bumbling” type for me to take seriously.  A very small cadre of G.I. Joe agents (Gung Ho, Mutt & Junkyard, and Scarlett) are the main focal point of the G.I. Joe side of the story which disappointed me slightly because none of those three characters are high on my upper echelon of favorites.

On the Cobra side, Zartan and the Dreadnoks get tasked with the mission to find this rogue Siegie so Cobra Commander can do horrible things to him.  I love Zartan’s portrayal throughout this issue.  Extremely true to his old school roots, twisting and turning at every chance, and actually winning the day in the end for Cobra.  He is shown as a nasty, but capable Cobra villain, and I love it.  The Dreadnoks end up very close to how they come across in the 30’s issues of the Marvel run, which are somewhat unintelligent, but well-trained and rotten to the core.  They end up dispatching some enemies in various disturbing ways, and don’t seem the least bit bothered by it.

I’m not sure what it was about the issue that failed to really impress.  It was a fun, soulless story that felt a bit predictable, a bit superficial, and ultimately had little lasting impact.  The artwork throughout was fascinating, though.  Fascinating just because it pulled some classic G.I. Joe artists back into the fold, and seeing that 25 year old style re-visited on a 2012 book was actually pretty awesome.  In a way, though, I felt I was so enraptured by the concept of the old school art and enjoying this returning style that I was almost taken out of the story a bit too much, which might have negated some of my excitement.

As cool as it is seeing Trimpe, Frenz, and Wagner work some of their vintage magic on a current title, their return almost became a larger part of the story, and I wonder if the narrative suffered a bit for it in my mind.

Certainly not a terrible issue.  Very typical Larry Hama fare, but I just didn’t feel fully immersed as I often do when it comes to these books.  Gotta admit I enjoyed the artistic showcase and every turn of the page was almost a flashback in itself.

A neat moment, but not necessarily a great story.

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