Cobra, in its various incarnations from IDW Publishing, has probably been my favorite title in the franchise. From its beginnings starring undercover G.I. Joe operative Chuckles to showing the inner maneuvering of Cobra’s lieutenants, I’ve found it to be the more compelling book with the strongest level of three-dimensional characters. The previous issue, calling back to Chuckles’ story, was probably the best issue. This issue, however, leaves me wondering if it will remain my favorite G.I. Joe book. Mike Costa and Antonio Fuso embark on a new direction for the title, and the premise leaves me with a few concerned questions. One of them is whether this can still even accurately be called Cobra.
With major budget cuts and restructuring underway, a new black ops G.I. Joe unit is formed using a couple of Cobra defectors and the front of a Las Vegas casino. It’s not entirely clear to me what this unit’s mandate is, though. Flint, the one charged with running this show, dismisses the idea tha tit will be a new undercover operation. So, what are they doing? That lack of definition hurts the premise. I don’t really get what this new set up is for. This also makes the series about a G.I. Joe unit rather than Cobra, which furthers my confusion about where this book is going.
I guess the fact that this cast now includes two Cobra defectors, Chameleon and now Tomax, is the justification for the title. Tomax has been a the closest thing to a staple character that this series has had. That seems a bit strained to me, though. Cobra has always maintained a strong presence of... well... Cobra. It either starred Cobra characters or a G.I. Joe posing as a Cobra operative. This issue stars mostly G.I. Joes. Don’t get me wrong. This cast does seem potentially interesting. Are two Cobra defectors are quite different from each other, and it will be interesting to see how they relate to the Joes.
Well... most of the cast seems potentially interesting, I should say.
Because there is also Ronin. You know her character. She’s the one with the katanas. She’s the badass who can take on men with guns with her sword. Am I the only one who stopped finding this cool years ago? Because it only induces eye-rolls from me nowaways. If it isn’t Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow, don’t bother with this kind of thing anymore. You can only get away with it with so many characters, and that quota has been reached. G.I. Joe really does not need to become all about ninjas again. Or samurai in the case of Ronin, I guess. Seriously, I’m not interested in the Asian stereotype characters anymore, and Ronin doesn’t seem to have much to offer beyond that.
Fuso’s art leaves me feeling conflicted about it. There’s a distinct style to it that I think could really work for this book, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s quite there. He does an excellent job with the Ronin scene and her extended battle with the Vipers. Then, it kind of falls flat. It really seems like action scenes inspire him, and that flare is lacking in other scenes. That may mean he’s not well suited for this book, which has always dealt a lot more with drama between characters and only short spurts of action. The way he draws most of the cast isn’t very appealing, especially not when their eyes seem to be completely closed half of the time. Honestly, the coloring doesn’t do much to improve it. The use of black shading is a little too much, and the colors are so dull and flat.
The saving grace of this issue is the note it ends on. It’s the one piece of setup that really leaves me interested in seeing where things may lead. I’m glad the old Cobra Commander is not being forgotten. I always found him to be a very interesting take on the character. Hopefully, this will lead to us getting to learn more about who he was, even if it comes post-mortem. This should also help justify the book’s title, if it’s played like I’m hoping for.
This issue of Cobra is all setup for the new status quo, and unfortunately, it leaves me with more concerns about it than enthusiasm for it. The art struggles to hold my attention. The addition of a seemiingnly cliched character like Ronin to the cast is a drawback. The new premise feels like a stretch for a book titled Cobra. Normally with all these factors, I would strongly consider not reading any more. Fortunately, it ends on a very interesting note that gives me some optimism for the book’s potentialy. Also, Costa’s excellent writing so far earns him more of a chance to win me over.