This issue goes a long way toward easing the reservations I had about the new status quo established last month. Mike Costa introduces a new element that really helps makes this seem like more seamless transition from what Cobra was about before, and the story of the former Cobra Commander’s son is doing its part to make this feel like a book that does actually deserve the Cobra title.
Last issue really caught me off-guard. Cobra suddenly being about a covert G.I. Joe unit using a Las Vegas casino as a front just didn’t sit right with me as being what I should see in this book. Fortunately, Costa wasn’t done setting this new status quo up. This issue reads a bit more like a second half of a first issue than the second issue of an ongoing story. I say that because there’s really not a lot in the way of plot progression here. Instead, it continues to put the pieces together for the book’s new setting and cast. And that’s just fine, because it does a really good job of it.
The best thing this issue does is justify why this story is being told in Cobra. As it turns out, the knowledge of the former Cobra Commander’s son was the secret that led Tomax Paoli, Major Bludd and Menasian knew when they decided to make a move on the new Cobra Commander. That attempted coup failed, and now, that information is being used as the basis for this new covert G.I. Joe unit. The little piece of continuity really helps make ths read like a more seamless transition into a new status quo.
That is not the only thing Costa gives us in that regard, because it turns out we have another cast member. As it turns out, Tomax Paoli is not the only longstanding member of this book who is still around. Another high ranking member of Cobra still has a role to play here, and I’m really glad to see it as he has surprisingly been one of my favorite characters in this series.
Costa fleshes out his takes on some of the other cast here. I really appreciate how he is handling Flint. He manages to get that balance of making Flint seem intelligent and competent but not a natural when it comes to the intricacies of playing the spy game. That’s a tricky balance to pull off, but Costa really breezes through it. He also positions Chameleon as a foil for Tomax in the cast. She has calmed down from shooting him in the previous issue and has now settled on engaging him on a more intellectual level. Lady Jaye also gets some attention, but she doesn’t yet come off quite as defined as Flint and Chameleon.
Ronin officially joins the cast in this issue too, but I made my feelings on this character clear in last issue’s review. Generic ninja characters bore the hell out of me, and that’s all Ronin seems to be so far. She comes off as out of place in this cast of three-dimensional characters.
Besides Ronin, I remain unsold on the whole casino thing. Having a casino as their base of operations comes off as so unnecessary and tacked on. It’s kind of a distraction. This issue does play with it a little but doesn’t do so in any way that actually justifies it.
Antonio Fuso gets some help on the art from Werther Dell'Edera in this issue, but it really doesn't help my problems with it. Again, I'm not saying the art is bad. That's not something I like saying since I can't draw worth a damn. But I don't feel the style of the art suits the tone of the writer at all. There are also some really distracting qualities to it as well. There's a lot of talking in this issue, but you almost never see any character drawn with anything but a tightly closed mouth. Even worse, there's something clearly going on with Fuso and eyes. He seems to go to lengths to draw characters' eyes as little as possible. If they aren't closed, they're obscured by inexplicably dark shadow or something else. So not only are characters constantly talking with closed mouths, but they constantly have closed or squinting eyes too.
Now, this book feels like Cobra again. The addition of another major Cobra informant besdes Tomax and the chase for the former Cobra Commander’s son less like just a book about a covert G.I. Joe team and more like a G.I. Joe team wading deeper and deeper into the world of Cobra. It almost has that same feeling the early issues did with Chuckles starring as an undercover G.I. Joe infiltrating Cobra, but it manages that without rehashing that premise. It’s actually the reserve as we have Cobra members working with G.I. Joe against the current Cobra regime.
So Cobra is Cobra again. Plus, Costa shows that the book is not going to lose its strong sense of character development. My doubts on the new direction have been put to rest by this issue.