G.I. Joe Declassified #1 Review
It’s interesting that this came out the same week as Paul Jenkins’ Civil War Front Line #1, as Larry Hama is slightly more conservative than most comic writers out there, while Jenkins is fairly liberal (although I don’t know where I would place him compared to other comic writers, who tend to skew liberal as a whole). And, like Jenkins, I think Hama has a moment where he goes a bit too hyperbolic while making a political point. Luckily, unlike Jenkins, Hama’s bit is an isolated incident in an otherwise excellent comic book.
Larry Hama’s G.I. Joe series was a major hit for Marvel during the 80s, drawing in what appeared to be an audience beyond the standard comic book audience, mainly as the comic was drawing off the popularity of the cartoon show and the toy line, but man, the stories, too, were quite nice. Hama’s revisited the characters since Devil’s Due has taken over G.I. Joe comics, but never have they been as good as this comic. Hama really does a nice job here, and I think it may have to do with the concept – stories surrounding the original thirteen G.I. Joe members, back in the days when most of them wore basically the same outfit. However, BECAUSE they wore basically the same clothes, Hama had to do a lot more work on their characterization as opposed to later G.I. Joe characters whose personalities pretty much went along with their outfits, and there was a lot more artistic shorthand going on. For the first thirteen, Hama had to go real in-depth, and a result, I think the original members have a special place in his heart, and that of other G.I. Joe readers. And it is that attention to detail that makes this comic such a lush and evocative issue.
Artists Pat Quinn and Valentine De Landro do not do anything spectacular, but at the same time, they get the job done. Which, to be honest, reminds me of pretty much every penciller (save McFarlane and Garney, I suppose) that Hama worked with on G.I. Joe. That was always the interesting thing about the G.I. Joe comics – they were popular without ever really having a “hot” artist working on the book. Mainly because Hama’s stories were so appealing. This story, too, is quite appealing.
The conceit of the comic is to tell stories about the original members of G.I. Joe set BEFORE the first issue of the Marvel comic from the early 80s. In addition, while telling the stories, Hama treats us to flashbacks showing how the various members were recruited. Hama also shows an early meeting with a later member of the Joe Squad, a fan favorite (and you can tell a Hama favorite, as well), Chuckles.
There are thirteen cast members, so it is very difficult giving everyone something to do, but Hama does a good job basically DOING so – as the members are split up among different missions and day-to-day duties. The 48 page format certainly helps (the book will be bi-monthly).
The political hyperbolic moment I spoke of earlier is regarding a scene where Hawk, then a Lt. Col., takes the blame when a lower-ranked officer tortures a terrorist to find out where a bomb is that was going to kill a whole camp-full of young children. The hyperbolic bit is Hama showing how outraged the media is at a “Torture Atrocity,” presumably (I cannot expressly say what Hama was intending, of course, only how it appears) as a bit of a “You have to give soldiers leeway for what happens out there. They are right in the middle of it, so to second guess them later is poor form.” Which is not a terrible argument or anything, but the way he makes it too hyperbolic, I think. Specifically, in the instance described in the comic – a man walking around with a detonator dressed as a civilian – would the media REALLY freak out that much over the reaction? I say no way.
Still, that’s, what, a couple of pages out of forty-eight action-packed, detail-oriented in-depth look at the G.I. Joe squad, which is an interesting cast of characters.
So I would recommend this comic, with the only reservation being that perhaps, if you’ve never read a G.I.Joe comic, the book may be a bit off-putting. I think Hama does a good job with making it accessible (and Devil’s Due even gives a duty roster at the front with names and job descriptions of each member of the team), but I may be a bit biased.