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Anybody growing up in the 1980’s will recognize the title of this article as one of Hasbro’s most popular toy lines. A slew of action figures and vehicles filled the closets and rooms of countless kids in those days. For most of us, these toys represent a nostalgic period of pure imagination and a culture of consumerism custom built for a 10 year old. However, looking back on the G.I. Joe phenomenon, I’ve come to realize that it represents one of the most cunning and brilliant franchises to ever grace the market.
It all started with one man who goes by the name of Larry Hama. Granted, the original idea for G.I.Joe had been around since the 60’s, but it was Larry Hama who turned it from a new version of the classic Army Man into a special forces extravaganza filled with eccentric bad guys and colorful heroes. For years, Hama’s G.I.Joe comic book series not only created a whole universe of fantastic stories and outrageous characters but designed his creations right from the start to go from comic page to toy shelves. Hence the genius of the Hasbro/Marvel alliance that forged the G.I.Joe name into a money making force. Not only could you read the comic on a monthly basis but you could bet that your favorite new vehicle, headquarters or character was waiting at the local retail store, ready for you to re-enact the stories at home. I have loads of memories, as do many of you I’m sure, of getting that new figure and being amazed at how close it resembled what I saw in the comic.
Sadly, like the fate of so many of it’s 80’s brethren, the kids grew up and the toys stopped flowing off the shelves in great numbers. The comic audience shrank and despite their best efforts to keep readers with shocking stories, G.I.Joe-A Real American Hero finished it’s run with issue 155 in 1994. There have been a few attempts over the years to resurrect the G.I.Joe line, most notably in 2001 when Devil’s Due Publishing rebooted the series. With IDW’s acquisition of the G.I.Joe comic property in 2009, the Joe’s were once again rebooted with a new comic series simply titled G.I.Joe. While being a fantastic book in it’s own right, I’ve always felt that something was missing. Some magic was lost from this world that I always attributed to not being 10 anymore. However, after perusing my extensive collection of 80’s classic G.I.Joe comics, I still felt that special connection to those characters and world. Larry Hama, the father of modern G.I.Joe was the heart and soul of the comic and without him, the series just wasn’t the G.I.Joe I remembered. You can imagine my surprise and glee when it was revealed earlier this year that Larry Hama would be returning to the G.I.Joe franchise.
Better yet, he’s picking up right where he left off over fifteen years ago.
G.I.Joe-A Real American Hero #155 1/2
Picking up where the series ended in 1994, the Joe’s have been disbanded by the government and are loose and alone all over the globe. Meanwhile, the machinations of Cobra Commander have born fruit as a group of Cobra funded terrorists stage a series of public actions that have the American government running scared. Before long, martial law is declared and in an ironic and unbelievable move, Cobra is hired as an independent contractor to provide additional security for the struggling U.S. Military. It is revealed that a secret cabal of U.S. military generals, called the Jugglers, are aiding Cobra Commander in this endeavor.
Meanwhile, Cobra Commander’s son Billy is sent to the Brainwave Scanner (one of my favorite and hilariously cheesy 80’s Hama devices) in order to counteract the insubordination he’s been recently showing his father. This leads the Baroness to question whether she too will need a “refresher” after undergoing treatment years ago. The popular Cobra Ninja, Storm Shadow, overhears this and begins to plot as he is also a Brainwave Scanner veteran. The equally popular shape shifter, Zartan, having overheard the Baroness confronts Storm Shadow and once again the scheming of the Cobra higher-ups is in full swing.
The end of the comic has Dr. Mindbender coming across an apparent virus inside the Brainwave Scanner that was left behind by it’s creator, Dr. Venom. This worries Mindbender as its effects could have made their way to Billy, a possibility he’d rather not clue Cobra Commander into. The final moments of the book show a series of phone calls being made across the country to various “sleeping” agents in the government. In a move very reminiscent of the old Springfield storyline from the 80’s issues, these agents are woken up and told to begin infiltrating and influencing the government on behalf of Cobra.
This issue is all Hama and his mark is stamped on it. It’s got everything I want in a G.I.Joe comic. The villains are scheming and bold, the plot is thick and filled with not only classic elements from 15 years ago but mixed with a vibe that is very current. Cobra is presented as a very modern terrorist group and the plot Hama is taking really seems to take into account the post 911 climate we live in.
This issue was given out free as one of the Free Comic Book Day gifts. As such, you can find it in most of the digital applications that sell IDW books for free. Give this one a look, if for no other reason than nostalgia.
It’s great for a guy like me to see this series return and under the banner of it’s main creator. There is something about this series that really speaks to me and it’s nice to have the original voice back.