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Officially announced during NYCC last year, this next generation of G.I. Joe comics from IDW promised to shake things up and go in some different directions.  Numerous interviews with series writer Fred VanLente promised some out of the box ideas and a significant evolution to what has been going on in years prior.

Previously a top secret special missions force where the members were officially deceased, the G.I. Joe team was to become a publicity darling, taking the battle to Cobra in front of TV cameras, and even in front of an embedded blogger.  How exactly was this going to work?

Well, we’re all about to find out!  G.I. Joe #1 hit comic stores this Wednesday, and with the hubbub surrounding it, I wanted to get the review done pronto.  Click the Read the Rest of the Story link below for the full review.

Be warned, with the comic hitting stores tomorrow, there will be some spoilers below.  I tried to keep them to a minimum, but I do reveal some story details.  Proceed at your own risk!

G.I. Joe #1 (Season 3)

Writer: Fred VanLente
Penciller: Steve Kurth
Inker: Allen Martinez
Colors: Joana LaFuente
Letters: Neil Uyetake
Editors: Carlos Guzman & John Barber

As the previous season was wrapping up, Cobra had revealed the existence of the G.I. Joe team via the familiar “WikiLeaks” technique, so that concept spirals into this next iteration of G.I. Joe very well.  We spend this issue getting some background on this new direction as Joe Colton (yes, that Joe Colton) gives Duke a run down of the new duties and new expectations for this team.   Colton is written as a gruff, no nonsense leader and former operative for the Adventure Team, who were all in the public eye back in the day battling against evil.  The tie in to the Adventure Team is interesting, and I look forward to seeing how VanLente weaves these varied timelines together.

Introductions are brief for the Joe team as we meet Cover Girl and Shipwreck, and get introduced to the next generation Doc (who appears to be the daughter of the previous version who already appeared throughout the IDW universe).  We also get our first look at Aruna Singh, code-name “Hashtag” the controversial new member of the G.I. Joe team.  As an embedded journalist (who has her own website and spends some of the first issue Tweeting the adventures of the Joe team) the character is immediately scoffed at by fellow soldiers, and I would dare say may end up getting the same treatment from some fans.  I think the character is written well within the confines of this story, but I do hope to see her evolve beyond spouting the same “OMG” lingo and stopping mid-mission to Tweet on her smartphone.  I think there is some potential there that goes beyond comic relief.  It’s an interesting dynamic with the other team members, especially as early on in her adventures, she ends up neck deep in a firefight with one of her teammates injured beside her.

The first multi-part arc, entitled Homefront begins with a bang as Cobra supposedly invades a small town within the United States border, a very daring act even for them.  Colton sends the G.I. Joe team immediately and they take off in a modified Skystorm aircraft, piloted by Windmill.  Members of the team are Duke, Cover Girl, Tunnel Rat, Quick Kick, Doc, Hashtag, Roadblock, and the aforementioned Windmill who quickly descend upon the town, which has been victimized by Cobra W.O.R.M.s, their heavy armor specialists.  The Skystorm is brought down with extreme prejudice, separating the team members and bringing them down in the midst of a firefight.  Turns out Cobra hasn’t just invaded the town… Cobra is the town.

I’m very happy to say the story moves at a brisk pace and feels a lot like a G.I. Joe book of old.  There is a good mixture of military lingo and humor, and the issue doesn’t seem to try to take itself too seriously.  There were moments in the Dixon run where everything was so tactical in nature, it felt more like a generic spec ops military book than G.I. Joe.  Early on, VanLente is able to perfectly capture the “adventure” of the book aside from the pure military aspects.  Don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of good old fashioned fire-fighting as well, but mixed in with the right amount of personality, familiar banter, and next generation technology.

As I suspected it might be, the art is a bit mixed.  When Steve Kurth worked on the original Devils’ Due title, I felt his work was extremely inconsistent.  Some dramatic, exceptional two-page spreads one moment, and characters looking about 35 years older than they should the next.  The artwork in this issue is much more consistent and the quality (at first glance) is dramatically better than his work with Devil’s Due.  It’s not perfect, and I do hope along the way Kurth takes some more time with the normal sequences rather than just the one or two page spreads that he does so well.  There were some very cool classic touches; I loved seeing the Maggot translated very faithfully, and the Easter Egg for Shipwreck’s uniform (and his “bird) were neat nods as well.  Stuff like the unrealistic laser weapons (specifically Tunnel Rat’s monstrous lpistol) seemed a bit out of place, though.  I love the “10 minutes in the future” technology, but for some reason, I want my weapons real.  That was one thin line that Hama and even the toys manage to walk.  Certainly there’s futuristic aspects, but the characters were at least toting around actual military hardware in most cases.  The inclusion of the Skystorm as a transport vehicle was cool, and I’m glad both VanLente and Kurth are going back in time a bit to uncover some obscurities.

All in all, I think it was a great first issue.  The story goes in a new direction, yet manages to tie very nicely back to existing IDW continuity.  There is plenty of character written throughout, and VanLente is already doing a great job building tension, drama, and most importantly, personality.  Immediately I find myself wondering where the Adventure Team angle might go, and kudos to IDW and Mr. VanLente for thinking outside the box and doing a great job of it thus far.  I found it interesting that Colton was very specific about the team line up being for this particular mission, so I’m hoping maybe we’ll see some more characters added or removed down the line as the mission dictates.

Kurth shows great potential, and as I said, is a far improved artist from his Devil’s Due days.  The shot of the familiar Cobra character on the final page was exceptionally well done, I would just like to see a bit more consistency throughout the normal stages of the book.

I think G.I. Joe fans will find lots to enjoy here.  Comic fans will enjoy the hard-edged military action, and VanLente isn’t shy about shedding blood.  However, the Sunbow fans should find things to enjoy, too, with a bit more over-the-top adventure and humor injected throughout.  Some nice classic influence.  I’m on board.

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