I shouldn’t have read the second volume of Larry Hama‘s A Real American Hero. Because now I’m gonna go broke. With Hasbro’s “Classified” G.I. Joe toyline taking the collecting world and wallets (and even Target employees) by storm, it was impossible to read the 120 issues of G.I. Joe: ARAH Volume 2 and not be like “I’ll take that one, and that one, and, oh, yeah(!!), that one, too! Army builders better pray for another stimulus check, straight up…
But getting back to the comic, it’s damn amazing what Hama’s been able to accomplish in the past decade, especially after a 16-year layoff from the special forces funnypages so many of us praised as kids. When IDW launched their Classic G.I. Joe paperback trades just over 10-years ago, I instantly splurged on them one by one from Amazon, and, around the same time I hopped on what IDW Publishing was trying to do with its mainline series. The art in the 2009 G.I. Joe definitely felt “graphic novel” and went onto ring more “Captain America: Winter Soldier” than what we think about with Joe. That noir subtlety definitely made the series an intriguing read. But yet while I dug what Chuck Dixon, Christos Gage and Mike Costa were doing with the modern take, I missed the consistency and nostalgic charm of the long-term narrative.
Enter 2011 and jump all the way to this week and Larry Hama is still finding his way between the cartoony 80s and current day comic style. Thanks to the likes of S L Gallant, Augustin Padilla, Gary Erskine, Robert Atkins and Netho Diaz (the artist of the newest issue is one I’ve come to really admire), among others, the second volume of A Real American Hero definitely has the visual flair of a modern Marvel book, very action heavy, and full of hyper-realized (but not over-stylized) action. Hama, thankfully, keeps things a lot less loquacious with the text — as chill as a G.I. Joe book with 824 characters can be — with timeless banter, no thought bubbles, and easter eggs o’ plenty (why, hello, Bongo The Balloon Bear Van from ARAH #37!).
Better, the longer this volume has run, the broader the scope of factional warfare plays out. By the time you get to issue #274, every gang/family/operation gets involved in the “Snake Hunt”, which only means that just about all of your favorite Joes and Cobras get involved in the search for the new Snake Eyes, Sean Collins. Although the name Kamakura (from Devil’s Due Publishing) is never mentioned since that series got the Dark Horse Star Wars Disney treatment, it didn’t take long for the relatively “OK” Throwdown character to become an arguably more dangerous version of the most famous Joe.
While purists may be put off by Dawn Moreno and Sean’s sub-story in the past 25-50 issues that places the pair into the figure of Snake Eyes (or in Dawn’s case, Snake Eyes into the figure of her— Yoooo Joe!), the rest of the IDW run of A Real American Hero has more or less played out as diehard Joe fans have always wanted…
- A near entire battalion, with Buses Full of Joes, infiltrate enemy quarters and wind up having a ferocious staircase scene with the Crimson Guard!
- A limitless number of Siegies/Troopers/Creepers/Vipers and Viper types (Heat/Laser/Night/Frag/Toxo/Techno) battle Dreadnoks and the.. Oktober Guard!
- Some insane air arrival from Destro’s Iron Grenadiers, and intense ground vehicular action (HISS vs. Thunder Machine!)!
- A New Arashikage invasion into Cobra’s Community Center’s secret tunnel!
And the further this tale has gone, the more Joes & Cobras from the original comic we see in action, and it’s easy to see why these beloved characters are “real to [Hama] and they basically write themselves.” Hama is like craftwork with the consistency and it just feels good to be home. Diaz, as mentioned earlier, plays his part and conjures up quite a playground for Hama’s mighty script to tear up.
If you can overlook (or even enjoy) a girl superninja dressed up as and implanted with the skills and memories of the legendary Snake Eyes and Snake Eyes not being Snake Eyes but a guy with a bad nickname spawned from a little known comic publishing company, I promise “Snake Hunt” and the other 120-semod IDW ARAH comics are well worth your time.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #274 = 4/5 Bibles
The Second Volume of ARAH So Far = 4.25/5 Bibles
Marvel kicks off a series of Hulk one-shots with writer/ illustrator dream teams. This first collaboration features Jeff Lemire and Mike “The Hip Hop Connoisseur” Del Mundo. So Lemire, of course, incorporates a child in the story. There are themes of anti-GMO food and loss of innocence via an abuse. It endeavors to be really dark but Del Mundo provides the juxtaposition with his vibrant graffiti inspired art. Bright colors, thick lines, and goofy faces take the edge off.
I rated this book highly for containing the craziest Banner-to-Hulk transformation scene. With Al Ewing putting the Hulk mythos through a metaphysical Green Door, Mike shows a disgustingly visceral, abstract , and sudden transformation that defies physical science. Del Mundo brilliantly captures the shock of witnessing the change. It was almost Lovecraftian as the observer could be driven to madness from trying to make sense of gruesome, painful, and absurd sight. If you’re a Hulk fan or a fan of werewolf transformations, I’d grab this book. The story is predictable but the art wins my blessings. 4/5 Bibles.
-Rob Deep Maldonado