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When Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow team up, readers smile while the heavens (and Cobra) tremble – G.I. Joe #46

March 18, 2013

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There’s another G.I. Joe movie coming out in two weeks, after a bizarre delay that saw its release pushed back from last year’s natural summer window. Instead of coming out alongside other dopey “blockbusters,” G.I. Joe: Retaliation will have a spring opening, and we’ll see if the re-shoots and the promotional tie-in with the Rock’s upcoming Wrestlemania appearance will help. Color me skeptical for any number of reasons, mainly because the first one was so juvenilely bad. (That Duke and the Baronness and Cobra Commander were so personally intertwined made it feel like G.I. Degrassi High: The Motion Picture.) Couple that genetic coding with the odd, lengthy time in the can, and Retaliation has TRAIN WRECK written all over it. Yes, in bold caps.

That the cinematic Joe universe is so underwhelming is a shame. Why? Because there’s so much to build upon. Not just a venerable, multi-generational toy line, not just the colorful Sunbow cartoon so revered by boys of a certain age (who can quote its G.I. Joe is the code name for… mantra by rote), but also a classy Marvel comic book series. The last, though the least flashy of the bunch, was perhaps the best, as it brought a degree of veritas to the fantastical and consistency in the form of its beginning-to-end scripter, Larry Hama. A veteran himself, Hama grafted off the tough as nails reality of the original toy line and pasted it over the outlandish uniforms and tech of the new Joes, not to mention that Ruthless Terrorist Organization Determined to Rule the World. (This was a very good thing, because as much as we kids loved Shipwreck, a supposedly elite fighter wading into battle with a wise-cracking parrot named Polly on his damn shoulder would have stretched even childish credulity to its breaking point.) That he was there from pillar to post, 1-155, occasionally tackling the art duties as well (his silent issue (#21) remains an industry touchstone), brought long-term vision and stability that can be cherished in retrospect. Yes, new toys and new characters had to be incorporated from time to time to appease the Hasbro overlords, but it was done with a minimum of upheaval. Is it any wonder that it pretty much doubled the run of its corporate cousin, The Transformers? (Even I, an wild-eyed Optimus Prime partisan in my youth, can admit the superiority of the Joe comic.)

To coincide with the release of the new movie, it seems a fitting time to look at a comic, any comic, from that venerable run, and the one whose cover you see above seemed perfect. Two reasons: 1) Snake Eyes, 2) Storm Shadow. Really — when you put these ninja mofos, these erstwhile sword swinging, scissor kicking enemies side by side, how can you look away? They’re the very essence of what has made the 1980s version of the line last to the present day. Seeing the two of them together is like in the old days of the World Wrestling Federation, when uber-good guy Hulk Hogan teamed with the once uber-villain Macho Man Randy Savage to become the Mega Powers. Foundations were shaken, poles shifted, and everyone got the hell out of the way.

Well, same here. Snake Eyes never went rogue, but Storm Shadow was a bit more mercenary in his allegiances, and his code of honor allowed him to be on the side of good from time to time and hence align with his blood brother, Mr. Eyes. This happened more often in the comics — another plus in their category. And when they started swinging their swords and firing assorted projectiles in one direction, as they do in this issue, batten down the hatches.

Here, in the midst of a multi-comic arc, they infiltrate a Cobra base in search Zartan, the object of their ire and their revenge target (he killed Hard Master). How efficient are they as ninjas? Their silent-but-deadly skills get a much-valued Snake Eyes thumbs up! (Rod Whigham: Pencils, Andy Mushynsky: Inks):

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Eventually they ass-kick their way all the way to Cobra Commander, who was a bit tougher in the comics, instead of the oft-bumbling, RETREAT-bellowing cartoon coward who got replaced by nutcase Serpentor in a palace coup. But comic-CC isn’t so brave that he won’t hide behind Tomax and Xamot and immediately give up the goods:

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(Personal note: Never liked Cobra Commander’s Hate Monger hood. Mirror visor mask for the win.)

And there you are. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, together again for the umpteenth time. Do you really need more? And who knows if the latter will make a face-turn in a couple of weeks, instead of trying to kill his former dojo classmate. More importantly: Who cares? It seems like whatever we have in store will be just as insipid as the last installment. And could it ever hope to live up to the depth that Hama offered during his 150+ epic?

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