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As a collective, Marvel G.I. Joe fans have been hotly anticipating this huge release for quite a while now, and finally that day has arrived!  Larry Hama and SL Gallant have teamed up to bring G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #200 to Joe fans everywhere, and it also marks Gallant as the longest running artist in the book’s history!  That seems unbelievable, but it’s true.

Personally, I couldn’t be happier.  Gallant has a great artistic style, and is able to infuse character and dramatic action, while also being very faithful in the representation of realistic elements like weapons and vehicles.  It’s a critical mixture of skills that not many artists can capture.  Gallant does it perfectly.  I couldn’t be more pleased that he now has this landmark to his name, and I am greatly looking forward to his continuing run on this great book.

Click read more to read my entire review.

G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #200
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: SL Gallant
Inks: Juan Castro & Marc Deering
Colors: J. Brown
Letters: Shawn Lee
Editor: Carlos Guzman

So where to begin with this amazing G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero run?  Should I mention how I first read the Treasury Edition of G.I. Joe back in 1982, and the fact that this universe is still going on here, over 30 years later is astounding?  Should I mention that somehow Hama still is able to grapple with characters, story, realism, and humor all in one effortless master stroke throughout each issue?

There are many nice things I could say about IDW’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero run, but I think the best compliment I could pay is simply that it feels like a continuation of the Marvel era.  It has the same style and spirit as the best days of the Marvel Comic, and while there are certainly some bumps in the road, it’s been a ton of fun to read, especially since Gallant has come on board.

Issue #200 has Cobra withdrawing from The Pit III in Utah just as the majority of the G.I. Joe forces are returning from Sierra Gordo.  We get Joe and Jane Colton back in the driver’s seats as they reveal plans for the enhanced and upgraded G.I. Joe Headquarters, meanwhile the Joes must finish the job that Snake Eyes and Scarlett started.  This leads to an awesome large scale battle featuring some terrific G.I. Joe and Cobra vehicle cameos including the Maggot, the Rolling Thunder, about every different kind of HISS Tank imaginable, and a bunch of other great action.  Gallant’s fluid art style translates the movement of gunfire and explosions to perfection.

Duke ends up going hand-to-hand with Cobra Commander (in a great looking Sigma 6 type battle suit), but the end result is Cobra withdrawing, and the G.I. Joe team apparently victorious.  However, even as the G.I. Joe team runs through the schematics for their new headquarters, feeling pretty comfortable about things, Cobra Commander reveals to Dr. Mindbender that they have a new plan hatching and “there will be blood”!

I’ll be honest, I was expecting a bit more of a massive battle in this issue.  Yes, there was a very fierce pitched armored battle in the Utah deserts, and Gallant’s artwork throughout that fight was impeccable.  There were a few identification quirks (Zap and Long Range dialogue bubbles seemed to have been swapped around in a couple of cases) but I’m not sure if that was a Hama issue, Gallant issue, or Lee issue.  If I have any complaints, the battle did seem rather one sided.  It wasn’t a fight as much as it was G.I. Joe just pounding Cobra, and I never felt like there was much suspense throughout.  That being said, it was still a full high-octane issue with great art.  The most intriguing twist of the entire issue, though, was at the end.  We get so used to the repeated mantra in these G.I. Joe titles (both the ARAH continuity and IDW’s main continuity) that they need to pare down the team, remove resources, force the Joes to go mobile.  Well, instead, at the end of issue #200, Hawk announces that the G.I. Joe team is getting more funding and more political support.  This was an interesting change and makes me excited to see what might be coming up in the future.

The fact that a toy licensed book that was given to Hama in 1982 simply because nobody else wanted it has now reached 200 issues is a testament to the power of Hama’s writing and the strength and longevity of the G.I. Joe brand.  Stories continue to enthrall us, characters evolve and grow, and Hama’s recent work with Gallant has brought the series and the continuity to a whole new great level.  Kudos to the pair of them for telling such great stories with such dynamic art and such fun stories.  I think that’s the biggest key to all of this, is that these stories are fun.  Yes, there is the right edge of seriousness, but when you come down to it, you’re talking about terrorist androids, laser shooting satellites, and top secret underground bases, while at the same time infusing some great hard-edged military action.  Issue #200 didn’t change the landscape of the Real American Hero universe like I thought it would, but it was an exciting, extra length story that also included some key bonus features.

First and foremost, we got the return of the Postbox: The Pit letters page, which was awesome to see, plus a fantastic interview with artist SL Gallant and a look behind the creation of the comic itself, with input from the artist, the inker, the colorist, the letterer…everyone involved!  It’s not often you get that much of a peek behind the scenes.

Kudos to IDW, kudos, to Larry Hama, and huge kudos to SL Gallant for reaching a new milestone in G.I. Joe history.  I’m very happy for him, and I’m happy for myself, because I love his art in this book and I’m thrilled that I’ve been able to enjoy it for so long, and hopefully for a lot longer to come!