Reviews

A Walk Down Memory Lane: "G.I. Joe #3"

Steven Romano

If anything, incoming G.I. Joe vol. three writer Fred van Lente not only honored outgoing industry star Chuck Dixon's vision of the Joes, he expanded on it…


G.I. Joe #3

Publisher: IDW Publishing
Length: 22 pages
Writer: Fred van Lente, Steve Kurth
Price: $3.99
Publication Date: 2013-06
Amazon

When longtime G.I. Joe writer and esteemed industry veteran Chuck Dixon dropped the reins of the IDW series’ third volume, now penning its sister series G.I. Joe: Special Missions, it was difficult not to feel a sense of fan anxiety over who would pick up the torch of his five-year legacy. In some respects this trepidation was natural when considering—in addition to Dixon’s tenure alone—the accomplishments he made over the span of G.I. Joe’s 48 issues: ushering an iconic ‘80s intellectual property into the 21st century and building a multifaceted mythos. Would another writer very shortly be taking a proverbial wrecking ball to the grandiose structure Dixon had built?

Current writer—and certainly no stranger to comicbook enthusiasts everywhere—Fred Van Lente had his work cut out for him when tasked with defining G.I. Joe’s new role, especially in a world where their existence is now general public knowledge. Now, here we are on the third issue of Van Lente’s grand plan for Duke and his handpicked assemblage of Joes; the distinct voice he has given the comic franchise’s flagship title has come into its own. Van Lente further integrates the classic G.I. Joe Adventure Team property of the 1970s into the modern canon as a crucial element to the story.

I’ll be honest, having General Colton—the original G.I. Joe—take Hawk’s place as the unit’s new commanding officer in the first issue definitely carried that nostalgia factor, no doubt eliciting a grin on the faces of toy history buffs and those who grew up in the ‘70s. Regardless, it was hard to tell early on whether or not his appearance would be integral to the changing face of the series or become a popculture reference overstaying its welcome. Fortunately, G.I. Joe #3 puts those uncertainties to rest showing how much of an impact—whether overtly or subtly—Colton had on Duke’s life during his formative years all the way to his special forces commencement ceremony. This also ties in seamlessly to Cobra agents Baroness and Dr. Mindbender probing a semi-conscious Duke’s mind for the counter-sign to lure the Joe team into a trap. When reading through the story at first, there was no indication of these aspects coalescing together, as they all seemed so disparate from one another. And it wasn’t until the very last page that Van Lente was able to tie these threads into a greater, relevant whole.

For a seasoned writer such as Van Lente—though calling him “seasoned” may be an understatement since this is the same man who skillfully redefined obscure Marvel characters like Hercules, Taskmaster and Alpha Flight—this merging of separate elements may not be the daunting challenge some would make it out to be. But juggling that alongside a sequence of key moments in Duke’s life is worthy of merit and a credit to his writing talents. Van Lente had stated in numerous interviews, most notably with series publisher IDW, that he would be using the third volume of G.I. Joe as a vehicle to shed a spotlight on the individual members that comprise the anti-terrorist unit; a close description of the canceled G.I. Joe: Origins series that served the same storytelling function. I can say after reading the third issue that in light of some similarities, what Van Lente has planned is in part removed from Origins since Duke’s past was pertinent to the situation at hand and didn’t come off as a story that can be read as a standalone.

Origin stories can be unwieldy in the hands of neophyte writers. At times unseasoned writers can mistakenly work origin stories into an arc that detracts from the rising action and inadvertently acts as a roadblock toward the climax. Those of a more pragmatic mindset tend to err on the side of saving such revelations for issues taking place in between major stories. But unseasoned is something Van Lente is not. It was a risky move taking the opportunity to answer the questions surrounding Duke’s methods and personal convictions—in the middle of a dire turn of events no less—and yet these reveals served to add more to the present story and provide an idea of how he will likely interact with the close friends he has under his command as things develop. We’re seeing a softer side to a character that, for as long as we knew, was a hardened, no-nonsense soldier, daring to never take his obligations lightly. With a distrustful public breathing down his neck and bearing a greater burden of responsibility proving G.I. Joe’s value in the face of Cobra’s global ascendancy, it’s exciting to find out if he’ll be able to maintain the integrity of his beliefs.

The only complaint I have about this month’s installment of G.I. Joe was perhaps Van Lente’s tendency to be a tad verbose in his dialogue, noticed during the exchange between the Baroness and Dr. Mindbender. This does nothing to dampen his turn of phrase and grasp of military expressions rivaling that of Dixon, yet it was still tedious having to read through it all. To be fair, however, there were plenty of constraints in this issue, chiefly space limitations, that necessitated the need to place so much dialogue on one page. This, at least, makes the wordiness understandable.

Comicbook store shelves are rife with fierce competition, each individual book vying for the attention of a prospective reader. IDW, in my experience, delivers some of the greatest titles while standing in the shadows of industry titans Marvel and DC, meaning that some actually overlook quality works like G.I. Joe for the sake of turning to something more familiar. The series has consistently demonstrated its ability to stand among some of the best IDW’s rivals have to offer, and I hope that an open-minded few will be willing to shed a scant $3.99 for a comic featuring characters as memorable and Americana as G.I. Joe.

8

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Award-winning folk artist Karine Polwart showcases humankind's innate link to the natural world in her spellbinding new music video.

One of the breakthrough folk artists of our time, Karine Polwart's work is often related to the innate connection that humanity has to the natural world. Her latest album, A Pocket of Wind Resistance, is largely reliant on these themes, having come about after Polwart observed the nature of a pink-footed geese migration and how it could be related to humankind's intrinsic dependency on one another.

Keep reading... Show less
Film

Victory Is Never Assured in ‘Darkest Hour’

Gary Oldman in Darkest Hour (2017) (Photo by Jack English - © 2017 FOCUS FEATURES LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. / IMDB)

Joe Wright's sharp and only occasionally sentimental snapshot of Churchill in extremis as the Nazi juggernaut looms serves as a handy political strategy companion piece to the more abstracted combat narrative of Dunkirk.

By the time a true legend has been shellacked into history, almost the only way for art to restore some sense of its drama is to return to the moment and treat it as though the outcome were not a foregone conclusion. That's in large part how Christopher Nolan's steely modernist summer combat epic Dunkirk managed to sustain tension; that, and the unfortunate yet dependable historical illiteracy of much of the moviegoing public.

Keep reading... Show less
7
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image