G.I JOE: Cobra #4A comic review article by: Dan Hill
To paraphrase a recent ad campaign, “This isn't your childhood G.I JOE." Right from the start of this series writer Christos Gage has taken the familiar elements of G.I JOE (Cobra Commander, the Crimson Guard, and, of course, Chuckles) and placed them firmly in a realistic setting, one to which we can fully relate. This is a world of advancing military technology, Blackwater-esque private military contractors, torture, and underground terrorist organizations.
The series so far has dealt with an embryonic Cobra, one whose power and reach is slowly growing. Amidst all of this, planted deep undercover is G.I JOE agent, Chuckles. We've watched as Chuckles gets deeper and higher into Cobra itself. In the last issue Chuckles was faced with a horrible dilemma that tested his cover to the full. This issue takes place in the aftermath of that event.
The issue itself serves as both an action packed conclusion to the mini-series but also something of a character study into the effects the events of the last issue have had on Chuckle's psyche. Not only must he deal with the event internally, but he is also reminded of it by his co-workers at Cobra (with one worker, Semyon, showing some kind of sick admiration for him over it). Throughout the issue Gage really sets Chuckles up as man beyond caring, beyond fear. The harrowing events of the last issue have served to catalyse Chuckles into a man hell-bent on revenge, with no care for his own safety. Towards the end of the issue Gage delivers a sucker punch regarding Chuckles cover that puts events in the previous issues in an entirely new (and horrible) light. By the end of the issue Chuckles is a man with nothing left but the mission.
Gage handles the elements a book like this needs and weaves them together effectively. He crafts some great character moments, with the narration really getting into Chuckles mindset and his motivations, but then in the same breath Gage will unleash a great action sequence, as the back half of this issue attests.
Artist Antonio Fuso is equally adept, rendering character moments and the high octane moments with great amounts of skill. Towards the end of the book there is a moment where Chuckles comes to a point of no return. He knows that once he follows through on what he is about to do, everything will come crashing down, likely costing him his life. There's a great page where Fuso shows Chuckles thinking this through and then accepting his fate. You can almost see the weight being lifted from him, the acceptance of what he must do. Fuso's scratchy linework really lends itself to the dark and gritty atmosphere Gage has established for the book and is evocative of similar artists such as Jock and Michael Gaydos. The art is complemented nicely with the muted colours of the book-- tones of blue, grey and brown that really establish a sense of mood and place.
Overall this is a series which, to me at least, has been something of a sleeper hit that came totally out of left field. Gage and Fuso have produced an intelligent, mature treatment of the material and this is a great capstone to the series as a whole. Espionage comics of the highest order.