Although technically we’ve moved on from the Death of Snake Eyes arc, with this new arc being entitled COBRA Rising, the threads of Snake Eyes’ demise are still fully entwined throughout this second installment.
It makes for a surprisingly poignant next step in the Marvel G.I. Joe history where we’re looking towards the future, but still paying fond remembrance to the past. All while another silent, disfigured guy in a Snake Eyes uniform is milling around. Kinda odd, but in a way, it fits that “death of a major comic character” template we’ve grown so used to over the past several years.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #217
Writer: Larry Hama
Artist: Paolo Villanelli
Colors: J. Brown
Letters: Neal Uyetake
Editor: Carlos Guzman
It’s clear we’re building towards something with this issue, and another thing is clear…it would certainly appear as though Storm Shadow still isn’t aware of Snake Eyes’ death. The first few pages focuses on him as he silently moves through the Arashikage compound, remembering his past life. He runs into Zartan there and has a very frank face-to-shifting-face with the Master of Disguise, apparently taking steps to tie off their conflict with a bow. It would appear that the Devils’ Due Storm Shadow series has its canonical place even among the Marvel continuity (Pale Peony’s existence should have been some link to that as well, I suppose) and Zartan and Storm Shadow appear to resolve their differences, once and for all.
I’m glad of this, but part of me is still a bit disappointed that a great villain like Zartan appears so close to redemption here. He was one of the best enemies Hama devised, I would love it if he could be continued to be used as such.
Throughout the next chunk of issue, we see two Crimson Guards who are talking about COBRA’s latest endeavor in placing their elite undercover troopers in strategic locations throughout the United States government, while Duke and Psyche Out go through training protocols and hypothesize about what COBRA just might be up to. In Malta, Hawk and his team of international operatives that he convened are being spied on by The Baroness, but he turns the tables on her, threatening to bring her in. That table turning does not last long, however, and soon Destro and his Iron Grenadiers make their own presence known, pushing Hawk away and retrieving his lady love.
As Scarlett takes the Sean Collins version of Snake Eyes through the G.I. Joe headquarters, we get some pretty emotional reactions from Sneak Peek (which I really enjoyed) and somewhat comical interactions with some of the other team members as well. A bit strangely, none of them seem to really be offended at someone else taking the Snake Eyes moniker and running with it, but I guess when orders come from on top, they obey as they’re trained to do.
The issue ends with Scarlett and Throwdown/Snake Eyes visiting the Staten Island ferry in a fantastic scene reminiscent of the classic Marvel issue #30 (??) where Scarlett and the original Snake Eyes ride that same ferry, and we get a real nice show of emotion between the two as she helps him with his latex mask. That scene is almost mirrored here, as Scarlett helps Throwdown in the same way, and then asks him to stand still for just a moment as she thinks back to the original scene and remembers the life of the man she loved. I thought it was a very poignant scene that was incredibly well executed without being cheesy, something that is extremely tough to accomplish. It’s a razor thin line between those things, and in this case, Hama walked it perfectly.
This issue was enjoyable, for sure. I’m glad the impact of Snake Eyes’ death is still having a ripple effect so many issues later. It’s quite clear that Hama is taking the event seriously and means for it to really mean something, not to be a “one and done” event and move on to the next. I can see a storm brewing as well, as there doesn’t seem to be an indication that Storm Shadow is aware of the death yet, and one must wonder how he will react once he finds out…and how he will react to someone else so quickly stepping in to fill his shoes.
The pacing of this issue, even without much action, was nice and gradual, taking a lot of the lingering plot threads and carrying them along well. I’m interested to see what’s going on with the Crimson Guard (and their wives), and it was good seeing Destro and the Baroness at least dipping their toes back in the pool again. The Zartan and Storm Shadow reconciliation worked as well.
From an art perspective, anyone would be hard pressed to match up with SL Gallant in my mind, though Paolo Villanelli comes close, he’s not quite there. Gallant seems to have this built-in skill to tweak classic G.I. Joe uniforms in just the right way, so they may not be 100% toy accurate, but they’re pretty darn close, and the details he washes over doesn’t take me out of that aesthetic. Villanelli doesn’t quite have the same ability. He makes some pretty broad stroke changes to the look and feel of characters in this issue like the Iron Grenadiers, Alley Vipers, Psyche Out, and Sneak Peek, but the results come across as mixed. The lack of straps with the Iron Grenadier, or the different texture on Sneak Peek’s pads, or Duke’s webgear instead of bandolier doesn’t work as well for me. I don’t mind changing the look of a classic character (Devils’ Due actually had a nack for doing this really well) but the changes in this issue just seem like forgotten or overlooked details, not a conscious decision to make an aesthetic change. It’s okay, I suppose, and I could tell who each character was, but the beauty of Gallant’s work on Real American Hero over the past several years was his faithful adherence to classic details. It was a bit jarring to see that shift with this issue.
Beyond those aesthetic quibbles, I really do enjoy Villanelli’s artwork quite a bit. The fluidity of his action sequences are especially striking, though we didn’t see a real example of that in this issue. He does very high quality work, but I do see some more modern influences here (like with the Pack Rat as well as the Alley-Vipers) and it left me just a little bit cold, especially surrounded by the exceptional way Gallant seems able to walk that classic and modern line.
As a whole, though, this was a great issue. Lots of good dialogue, some good plot movement, and I feel us pushing forward to the Cobra World Order. Promises to be a fun ride.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #217
Story (General Plot and Themes)
Writing (Dialogue and Specific Elements)
Not a whole lot of action, but some good story progression and a few poignant moments surrounding not just Snake Eyes’ death but other events in the past three decades of G.I. Joe history. We cover a lot of ground, and cover it pretty well, though Paolo Villanelli’s art is a bit of a departure from the SL Gallant norm.