Over the past few months we’ve been seeing some inkling of what this issue might shape up to be, and you can tell it’s something that will most likely be either loved or hated, depending on personal preference. When you go headlong with such a unique artistic style, you’re going to necessarily alienate some folks who aren’t fans of that style, but at the same time, you hope to latch onto folks who appreciate it and perhaps reel in some others who might not otherwise check out a “licensed toy book”.
From my limited exposure to the general comic populace, I think they’ve succeeded. I’ve seen many non-G.I. Joe focused comic sites and trade publications praising the work done in Transformers and G.I. Joe #0, which I think is a great thing for the brand at large.
But as a diehard G.I. Joe fan (who also dabbles a bit in Transformers) what did I think? My opinions after the jump.
Transformers & G.I. Joe #0 (Free Comic Book Day Special Edition)
Writers: Tom Scioli and John Barber
Art & Colors: Tom Scioli
Lettering: Tim Scioli
Production: Chris Mowri
Editor: Carlos Guzman
Okay, my mind was blown. Just a little bit.
Throughout the life of G.I. Joe in comics, there’s always been this hesitation (it seems to me) to dive too far into the wacky elements of G.I. Joe. There’s always been this preconceived division between “cartoon” and “comic” and if you’re doing a comic, you have to at least lean somewhat closer to the realistic and hard edged part of the G.I. Joe mythology and try to steer away from the more outlandish. Granted, some creative teams managed to walk that line previously, coincidentally enough, in other crossover titles, where Devils Due when whole hog into the Cobra La mythology with one of their G.I. Joe vs. The Transformers titles. Even then, though, they tried to make Cobra La work in a “real world” way and didn’t tip right over the line into zany fun.
This book doesn’t tip over the line, it takes a running start and leaps.
From the minute the first art was shown, it was obvious Scioli and Barber were taking a very distinct and very different approach with this book. From the retro style artwork to the large scale battles on almost every page, this isn’t your traditional “boots on the ground” G.I. Joe universe. It’s quite clear that while this isn’t based on the Sunbow continuity, there are some elements being pulled from that, with the JUMP jet packs all over the place, the creeper vines, and a healthy amount of laser fire back and forth. That’s not to say there aren’t serious elements, too, after all, we see some character deaths (a chunk of the Original 13 are gunned down by Cobra Commander himself) and heck, Snake Eyes gets his face blown clean off as well. But for whatever reason, this hard-nosed action is softened by the art style, which is pulled from many different sources, but has some obvious influence from the early silver age masters like Jack Kirby.
Interestingly, though, the art also seems to pull from examples like Mad Magazine or other parody sources, and I’m not sure that lends itself well to a story that’s trying to be taken seriously. I have a friend who was actually turned off a bit to the story because the art seemed to be designed to be a parody of itself, and his head couldn’t wrap around whether he was supposed to take it seriously or not.
My own opinion? I’m kind of on the fence, to be honest. I’m certainly not against a more “fun” G.I. Joe universe, and this seems to be headed that direction. I love the relationship between Scarlett and Snake Eyes here and how the “rookie” Duke keeps trying to interject. Snake Eyes cocky, self-assured nature was awesome, and I had no problems with him speaking throughout much of this first issue. It gave him a really unique and different personality that we haven’t seen before, which I love. I also enjoyed the crazy all encompassing battle between pretty much the entire G.I. Joe team and the entire Cobra organization. No small thinking here, they’re going for it all in one shot. We just get a mere hint of the Transformers connection in the first issue, which works for me, too, as it starts to obviously lead into something grander and more cosmic.
But I will admit, the art style is going to take some getting used to. I whole heartedly applaud IDW, John Barber, and especially Tom Scioli for fully embracing this new take on the G.I. Joe and Transformers universe, and I think Scioli is paying awesome tribute to his influencers and to both brands. His skills as an artist are immediately evident and fully realized on every single page, but as a relatively mainstream comic fan, my brain is still trying to wrap itself around this different take. That doesn’t make it bad, not by a long shot, I think it was really enjoyable, and I feel after a few more issues, I’ll be able to soak it in much better. At this point, though, it was such a departure that I need to ease myself back into it a bit.
The story was fast-paced, the action was easy to follow, and I think the potential for some awesome things is there. I think kicking this whole thing off with a Free Comic Book Day special was a fantastic idea, and hopefully we see some renewed interest in both comic universes. I’ll certainly be following along.