G.I. JOE #1
Written by Karen Traviss
Art by Steve Kurth
Published by IDW Publishing
Release Date: September 24, 2014
G.I. JOE returns for a new volume with a new writer and a somewhat carried over direction for the squad. While this first issue won’t have you yelling “Yo, JOE!” by the end, it does set up what could be an interesting series going forward.
Karen Traviss is no stranger to writing elite commando units in a licensed universe, and it shows here. In this first issue she sets up the current state of G.I. JOE for readers, and gives incoming readers a glimpse within Cobra’s operations. Rather than start completely fresh this volume picks up where the last one left off and so there is some explanation required to catch readers up to speed. Traviss does this in a way that doesn’t feel heavy handed, though there is a fair amount of information thrown at readers. Setting up the political climate drags the pace of the issue down quite a bit and those looking for an explosive military romp aren’t going to find it here.
Long time JOE readers will find a series similar in tone to Cobra and The Cobra Files, with dark political undertones simmering below the surface of the story at all times. It gives the story a very real-world feel, rather than the JOES appearing as super heroes they are what they are supposed to be: an elite military unit that is trapped by the current political landscape. From start to finish it is obvious that there is a huge powder keg set to explode any minute now, and Traviss handles that tension very nicely. Traviss writes these characters well and I believe she’s setting up the foundation of what could be a very solid G.I. JOE run with this first issue. The pacing will need to pick up and a little more action couldn’t hurt, but considering Roadblock is on the cover of the next issue, I’m guessing his presence alone will help with that.
Steve Kurth’s artwork is more subdued than his previous time on G.I. JOE with Fred Van Lente, and it suits this story. While there aren’t any jaw dropping pages in this first issue, Kurth handles the storytelling just fine and he drives the tone of the issue home well. There are a few moments with some awkward angles for Scarlett, at times her neck is so thin it hardly looks human, let alone like the neck of a soldier, and with Scarlett as the principal character this tends to stand out. The true test will if he is given the green light to cut loose on action sequences going forward, as that is typically what can make or break a G.I. JOE issue.
The colour work from Kito Young nails the tone of the story perfectly, keeping the issue muted and in shades of grey that highlight the political situation perfectly. This isn’t the flashiest book by any estimation, but it fits the story perfectly. Cover artist Jeffrey Veregge delivers a highly stylized take on Scarlett that I am surprised editorial gave the green light. As you can see in the image above, there is an awkward emphasis on Scarlett’s posterior that diminishes the strength of her character and sets a poor tone for the issue. I don’t mind a stylized cover at all, but put Roadblock or any of the male JOE characters in that same pose and you’ll see exactly how ludicrous it is. While I try not to judge a book by it’s cover, this one does not set the tone for this series (or even respect the primary character in the book) well at all.
Traviss and Kurth have built the framework for a strong series going forward with G.I. JOE #1, and I recommend giving it a shot to see if the tone is right for your tastes. Fans of Mike Costa’s G.I. JOE/Cobra work will be right at home here and I look forward to reading more.
The Verdict: 7.0/10