G.I. Joe Classic Vol. 1-4
Written by Larry Hama with Herb Trimpe and Steven Grant
Art by Various
As much as I loved G.I. Joe when I was a kid, I never read too much of the comic series that Marvel released in the 80’s to tie into the phenomenon. And let me tell you, I loved the toys growing up, had a ton of them, and still have great memories of waking up before school to watch the show. Fortunately for me, IDW has set out to reprint the entire comic book series, and has done a great job with them. Having read the first four volumes that are out now, I realize that it’s kind of a shame I didn’t read these as a kid, because these are some damn fine books for readers of all ages.
The first volume is kind of weird, at least to someone more familiar with the G.I. Joe cartoon series than the comics, as these issues have a very different tone from the show. Gone are the goofy costumes (for the most part) and a lot of the classic characters. No, the series actually starts as a more or less straight war comic, with more focus on the regular soldiers than on any crazy technology.
Reading the first few volumes, you could almost forget that the comic was designed to sell the toys, but that does creep up more as the series goes on, with the Joe’s or Cobra getting a new vehicle every issue. Sure, there are bits of the stuff I remember; Cobra Commander and the Baroness are still the big enemies, Snake Eyes and Scarlett are hanging around, but a lot of the Joes I remember don’t start showing up till around volume 3. By volume 3 the comic series has taken on much more of the feel of the cartoon, and the cast starts becoming what we think of. I think I enjoy the later volumes more, but that’s just because I fondly remember the cartoon, and the later issues have the same level of fun that I’m nostalgic for.
You can’t talk about classic G.I. Joe without talking about the main writer for the series, Larry Hama. As the mastermind behind the characters, you never lose the feeling that he knows what he’s talking about when it comes to war. The characters are always tossing out authentic armed forces terminology, and the editors were always smart enough to give the explanation for those terms. As much as the cynic in me knows that the comic was just an excuse to advertise for the toys, Hama always made sure that the stories were about the characters, and he never lets the stories feel like a commercial. That’s certainly one of the things that make these comics so endearing to me. The art was never really the selling point of the series, although the numerous artists all do a good job of keeping the same feel to the art. Characters never look wrong or off model, and that’s to the series credit, as you never want these characters to stray too far from the cartoon models. The art isn’t going to blow your mind, but the story telling is simple and moves each page forward. You never get lost trying to read one of these stories.
The reproduction on these four volumes is really top notch. You get the same classic comics, but on some very nice paper stock which shows off the colors nicely. IDW made the smart decision to talk with Marvel and allow them to reprint the issues that contain some of Marvel’s super-heroes, such as the Hulk. This allows IDW to reprint the whole series from start to finish, so we as fans don’t miss a thing. These are the definitive reprints of this material. If you’re under the age of 25, you will not have the same connection to these comics that those of us who grew up with the show will have, and that’s not your fault. However, if you grew up on the show and the toys, and if you have good memories of reading these comics, or if you didn’t get the chance to read them the first time around, you will really enjoy these. Sometimes you just have to give in to nostalgia.