First and foremost, there has been a massive paradigm shift in the G.I. Joe universe, mirroring that of the movie canon. The public perception of COBRA in the ‘legitimate world’ is changing. Once viewed as a terrorist organisation, it’s image is now one of a powerful geopolitical force for good, thanks to the Machiavellian machinations of master manipulator, Cobra Commander (try saying that when you’re drunk!). A new recruit (later dubbed ‘Siren’ in the book), is tasked with further shaping the perception of the organisation, this time in the eyes of the world’s criminal fraternity in a pre-emptive move to prevent any interference by such types in the group’s global activities. Siren’s son, Isaac, has been kidnapped by a human trafficking ring, and seeing no plausible alternative, accepts the Commander’s offer of help in return for her commitment to COBRA’s cause.
The book’s first two chapters form a kind of meta-narrative, following Siren and her handler, The Baroness, as they meet the heads of various criminal groups, from Somalian Pirates to the Japanese Yakuza. Each meeting is ostensibly an intel gathering exercise, whilst Siren recounts stories designed to depict COBRA as a hidden hand, who have been orchestrating criminal activity for centuries in an attempt to shape the geopolitical landscape. The most interesting example uses Dante’s Divine Comedy as an allegory for COBRA’s evolution from a terrorist organisation to a legitimate political presence.
In chapters three and four the focus shift to the Joes, and is viewed from the perspective of Siren’s opposite number, Hashtag. There is a real shift in tone, switching to a more action orientated story, which culminates in an assault on a COBRA training camp. We also bear witness to the genesis of a possible future Commander.
Although art duties on the first two chapters are shared, there is a consistent feel throughout; not necessarily a good thing. I’m unsure if it was a conscious decision, perhaps to highlight the contrast between both factions, i.e., dark vs. light, but the inking and shadowing looks heavy and overdone, as such the level of detail is reduced. The second half by comparison, drawn exclusively by Kurth, is more defined and dynamic, aided by a richer, more vibrant colour scheme which helps accentuate his work.
Paul Allor has crafted an intriguing, slow-burning meditation on COBRA’s motivations as an organisation, and the ideologies that underpin those motivations. Furthermore, it’s a fascinating insight into the Cobra Commander figure, detailing the ruthless and single-minded dedication to an ideal required to be worthy of the title.
Oh hai, G.I. Joe! Pleased to make your re-acquaintance!
The writer of this piece was: Martin Doyle