The original Marvel G.I. Joe series is at once incredibly silly, surprising, thrilling and frustrating. I didn't quite grow up on this series in the same way a lot of my peers did, but I did cross its path more than a few times in its lengthy, 13-year,155 issue run that ended in '93. So while it is a nostalgia trigger, it's not nostalgia for the comic itself. Even though I also wasn't an avid fan of the toys (I was more of a He-Man guy), I had a few, but never did get too into the Cobra vs. Joes adventure of it all. I very much like discovering the rich history and diversity of the toy line and its characters through these 200+ page collections (started by Marvel back in the late '90's, and continued by IDW in more recent years. They take me back to childhood but with a freshness (not competing with existing memories).
That its entire run was produced under the auspices of one man, Larry Hama, is incredibly impressive despite what I sometimes think about him as a writer. As I've gotten deeper into the series, I have gained an appreciation for Hama's storytelling, particularly under the impetus of having to continually promote new toys, of which more and more were produced in every year the series ran, up until its cancellation year. It's hard to establish characters when your roster keeps growing. But Hama picked favourites early on (particularly Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander) and new guys each year were frequently only seen in the background or minor mission roles (perhaps they were given bigger roles in the also long-run GI Joe Special Missions series?)
Some of Hama's stories are utterly silly while others are fully "comic-book action" or "comic-book drama". He frequently vacillates between them. For instance, the big set piece which closes out this volume finds 10 Joes captured and a sit-com ready miscommunication between Cobra Commander and Tomax and Xamot has them slaughtered by a Saw Viper instead of set free (''He popped caps on the Doc!!"). The increasingly intense ordeal for the remaining Joes continues as they attempt to escape only to find themselves outnumbered and outgunned and their numbers dwindling. Their backup is on the way via a lower orbit space shuttle, dropping a "mobile battle bunker" which faces all sorts of wacky, seriousness-of-death-undermining high-jinks as Wild Card keeps goofing up.
There's an interesting, if oversimplified, Civil War going on in a made-up country, with Snake Eyes in the middle of it all, alongside a European circus down and dwarf (and that's actually the serious part). In the end Snake Eyes takes a little girl (orphaned since Snake Eyes refused to help her father, a nominal member of the outgoing regime, be killed by a vengeance hungry mob) home with him to America ultimately giving her to a retired Grunt to adopt, because that's how immigration worked in the '80's.
But it is the dialogue that is the biggest challenge in reading the series. Exposition is delivered excessively, often repeated 2 or 3 times over within the same issue. I realize the necessity for exposition in a long-running series like this with a huge cast and multiple ongoing stories, so I tend to give it some leniency. But some of the other dialogue is... woof.
Still, in spite of its drawbacks it remains, 20 years after its cancellation, a continually enjoyable series. I've lasted 11 volumes and am still going back for more.
"They kilt the Doc, man! They kilt the Doc..."
"Yeah, they sure did. And Thunder, Crank-Case, and Heavy-Metal, too."
RIP: Doc, Thunder, Crank-Case, Heavy-Metal, Braker, Quick-Kick and Crazy Legs.