“G.I. Joe #1”

(w) Fred Van Lente
(a) Steve Kurth
IDW Publishing

I am going to admit that this was the first time I have ever read a comic book centered on G.I.Joe. Yes, I had the toys and watched the cartoon growing up in the ’80s, but I never got the itch to read the comics. I think some of that abstaining in later years is primarily attributed to my disdain for war comics generally. War comics in the history of the medium had a great impact on youth culture I believe during the Second World War and up till the early ’60s, when wars and conflicts we (America) were engaged in never fell into question of whether we should be involved or not. Vietnam changed all that (and really it was Korea that began to nudge us there), and subsequent conflicts across the globe in the last thirty years have raised many questions in the minds of the American people about where we should place our military men and women when it comes to being in the line of fire.

But what if the line of fire is suddenly on our shores? How does that scenario change the view of the military and possibly change tactics and strategies to engage an enemy? It is such questions that I think writer Fred Van Lente is getting at in this inaugural issue, and those questions hooked me into a genre of comic that I do not normally find interest in. The main story is that G.I. Joe moves out of the shadows and into the light as they are activated in the public eye by the military. The growing threat of domestic terrorism by Cobra, and their actual incursion into a city, has pushed the U.S. defense department to play a hand of going public with its operations. The idea of going public with this team is where Van Lente has the most fun poking at the history of the toy line and commercial property, displaying in one scene how ridiculous it would be to put a trained military killer in a sailor outfit and give them an easy to identify code name (i.e. shipwreck) for public consumption on tee shirts, toys, etc. But outside of the humor there is the dark uneasiness that a terrorist group is attempting to make an initial foothold on American soil, and the military must begin to weigh scenarios of the cost of what it might take to stop such an organization from growing within American borders even if that means playing some of their hand in the media.

Can the American public understand the complications, the losses, that may arise when American soldiers are there to protect American soil and its citizens from the threat of a terrorist incursion? That was a question that kept circling me when reading and what makes this issue in my opinion fascinating. In thinking about that question I could not help but think of the famous Colonel Jessup speech from A Few Good Men, which actually crystallizes the why of having a team, an idea, like G.I. Joe. In that famous speech that ends up sinking Jessup in his testimony his anger leads him to actually express an absolute about military defense, namely that there are walls, and those walls do need protecting, and who is going to do it if men like him, military-minded men, are not ensuring it gets done? Beyond the shiny veneer of the public side of the G.I. Joe team are those soldiers, and Van Lente showcases that side—those individuals trained by Jessup like men that somehow exist to rise to extraordinary circumstances to defend a country, a people, each other, doing the job day in and day out and almost always without question.

This comic is very entertaining, but also I think the reader should consider what this comic represents as important. Van Lente is reminding us that the real world U.S. military deals with protecting us from threats everyday, and there are men and women who die in doing so. I think before this story arc is over we are going to see the effects of combat on this group, and the emotional and physical aspects of what it takes to really defend home borders in times of crisis.