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With all of the excitement surrounding IDW’s big G.I. Joe relaunch, a title has been a little lost in the shuffle, mostly because it’s the one title that isn’t changing at all.  That’s right, 188 issues into it and still going strong, Larry Hama and SL Gallant’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero hits us this Wednesday (that’s today!)  in comic stores everywhere, and as we’ve come to expect every month, does a terrific job continuing on the legacy of a Real American Hero.

Check out the full review after the jump.  Be warned… spoilers afoot!

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #188

Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: SL Gallant

With the whole Darklon and Trucial Abysma story somewhat resolving itself in issue #187, it was a bit of a mystery as to what the next big adventure would be for the G.I. Joe team.  Hama doesn’t waste any time in throwing us right into the stormy ocean with a hijacked freighter and the return of old school G.I. Joe supporting character Adele Burkhart!

As pirates threaten the freighter crew, a small team of Joes including Scarlett, Torpedo, Gung Ho, Stalker, and Beachhead draw closer in a small raft, actually planning a combat assault on a freighter full of enemy pirates.  What this small team does not know is that the pirates are not alone…they are joined by infamous Red Shadows leader Black Major and a whole platoon of Red Shadow troopers!  Yes, this issue marks the first time ever that the Red Shadows have been introduced into this Real American Hero universe (no I’m not counting the Devil’s Due stuff in that).  I have to say that both Hama and Gallant do flawless work on them.  There are minor cosmetic updates on Black Major, which has him wearing a trenchcoat rather than his familiar European dictator uniform, but all in all things look spot on.

The Joes land on board the ship and gunfire breaks out, introducing the anti-terrorist troops to the Red Shadows for the first time, and even the engimatic Muton makes an appearance!  There is no shortage of action with bullets, crossbow bolts, and grenades all finding numerous targets throughout the ship, troops falling on both sides of the gunfire.  It’s an exciting adventure from start to finish…and speaking of the finish, I think most folks know what to expect simply by the cover of Issue #189, and I’ll say the ending does not disappoint.

This issue was pure Larry Hama combat-oriented G.I. Joe at its finest.  Military terminology cast around like you would expect.  Gunfire rattling on every page, with Red Shadows, pirates, and even G.I. Joe troops themselves falling pray to the scorching lead.  By all accounts, the Red Shadows and Black Major are handled amazingly well.  The Shadows have a kamikazi “sacrifice themselves for the mission” mindset that is somewhat apart from some of Cobra’s adventures.  Gallant’s artwork is fantastic as usual as well.  You can easily tell who is who, and vehicles like the Tomahawk and WHALE are translated with almost love and emotion to the paper pages.  I cannot get enough of Gallant’s artwork throughout the entirety of this title.  He is so faithful to the vintage aesthetic, and translates the right G.I. Joe artistic style to the page every single time.  I will always love Larry Hama, of course, but with0ut Gallant I’m not sure I would appreciate and enjoy this book nearly as much as I do.  His style, deeply reminiscent of Whigham, Wagner, and Neal Adams from their old school “naturalistic” days really suits this book perfectly.

The character selection is decent.  I do find myself wishing that Larry would dip into somewhat more obscure characters sometimes.  Instead we get folks like Scarlett, Stalker, and Gung Ho which seem to be Hama’s “go to” folks in many cases.  Still, we do get some appearances by Shipwreck and Cutter as well.  And really, who can complain about an American book with such a heavy dose of Red Shadow action.  It is truly awesome to see.  Dare I hope that Action Force might end up making an appearance as well?

One can hope.

Lost in the shuffle of the big IDW G.I. Joe re-tool and re-vamp, I truly hope G.I. Joe fans are not sleeping on this book.  It is excellent.  A true “old school” reminiscent adventure story, faithfully and effortlessly translated to the modern day by Hama and Gallant.  It doesn’t get much better.

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