Friday, December 6, 2013


Since I just finished the first half of TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE, I figured I'd keep going with another Hasbro property, G.I. Joe -- here teamed with J. Scott Campbell's Danger Girl characters. This is a review of the DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE collected edition, released in 2013 and collecting the 2012 limited series of the same name. This review assumes some familiarity with both Danger Girl and G.I. Joe.

Written by Andy Hartnell | Penciled by John Royle | Inked by Philip Moy
Layout Assist by Jeff Moy | Colored by Romulo Fajardo, Jr.
Lettered by Neil Uyetake | Edited by John Barber & Scott Dunbier
Danger Girl created by J. Scott Campbell & Andy Hartnell

Art by J. Scott Campbell
Danger Girl has been a bit of a guilty pleasure for me since it first appeared, back when I was in college. It was the only series from the Cliffhanger imprint that I picked up, and I guess I made the right choice because I seem to recall it was the only Cliffhanger series to reach its conclusion (even if it did take something like two years to get those seven issues). The series is not high art, though it has never pretended to be. It's simply the comic book equivalent of a big, dumb summer popcorn blockbuster, which is something you just want to read once in a while.

On the other hand, I've been a G.I. Joe fan since I was a kid, and I've followed their comic book adventures through the decades from Marvel to Devil's Due (for a while), and now to IDW (eventually dropping their relaunch in favor of Larry Hama's continuation series). But while the comics are my preferred G.I. Joe continuity, the 80s cartoon series features the characterizations I like best -- and this story seems to feature just those Joes. It's a little more "grown-up" than the cartoon (there is some blood and characters die as in the original comics), but it's clearly made with a cartoon sensibility, fitting perfectly with the Danger Girl universe.

The Plot: As noted, it's basically standard cartoon fare: the G.I. Joe team has found some experimental World War II era vintage German missiles, which are promptly stolen by Cobra. Scarlett and Flint are captured as well, by Danger Girl Abbey Chase, working undercover within Cobra. Meanwhile, the president orders the Joes off of operational duty due to their loss of the missiles, but Lady Jaye, Cover Girl, and Jinx disobey the letter of the order by recruiting the aid of the rest of the Danger Girl team. The Danger Girls arrive and unmask "Madame President" as Zarana, attempting to keep the Joes' heads in the sand with her falsified orders.

From there, our heroes learn that two of the missiles are pointed at Moscow and Beijing. In classic G.I. Joe cartoon fashion, the combined Joes and Danger Girls split up -- two groups go to stop the missiles, while a third infiltrates Cobra headquarters to spring Flint, Scarlett, and Abbey. Action ensues, and in the end the day is saved. Naturally, Cobra Commander vows revenge.

My Thoughts: I enjoyed the story somewhat, but overall I was unimpressed. Inter-company crossovers are a tricky proposition for me to get on board with, and this is an occasion where I had some issues. Part of it I will admit is simply the unavoidable "Mary Sue"-ishness that you're bound to get when a group of creators teams their own characters up with a well-established property. Danger Girl has been around for about fifteen years now (!), but due to the limited number of issues they've featured in over that time, they still feel like a new creation -- and as a result this just seems like a group of guys writing fan fiction where their own characters meet the G.I. Joes they grew up with. The fact that the Danger Girls get all the biggest moments -- they unmask Zarana, they stop the missile launches, they save the U.S.S. Flagg from destruction, etc. -- only compounds this feeling.  On the plus side, we were spared the cliche of the Danger Girls (or their leader Deuce) being long-lost old friends of General Hawk or Duke or whoever else.

Art by John Royle & Philip Moy.
Note Abbey's "Lady Destro" get-up.
Also, and I believe I've noted this pet peeve in my TRANSFORMERS reviews as well -- what's with the title? The series is called DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE, but why is that the title of the story as well? Couldn't they have come up with something a little more creative? It irks me when writers can't be bothered to create descriptive names for their stories.

Before I wrap it up, I'd like to touch on the artwork. Royle and Moy do an outstanding J. Scott Campbell impression here. The Danger Girl characters are all easily identifiable, and the Joes are mostly spot-on as well. I question the utilization of several random character designs from over the years (most Joes look like their 1980s selves, but Scarlett is without her trademark ponytail, Flint is wearing a T-shirt and Cobra Commander has a billowing cape a la Devil's Due's comics, and Stalker has dreadlocks as seen in the recent RENEGADES cartoon series), but overall they look like the Joes I remember.

Besides the character design work, there are some great expressions and poses, the action is exciting, and the ladies are just cheesecakey enough to remind you that this is a Danger Girl comic. Even if the story didn't blow me away, the energetic artwork almost makes up for it.

Oh, and I do have one more criticism which was not immediately evident to me in reading the collected edition, but which I realized afterward: Apparently J. Scott Campbell could not be bothered to provide cover art for all four issues (which is fine; that's his prerogative). Bur rather than have Royle pencil a cover or two, IDW recycled old Campbell art from the Devil's Due G.I. Joe days -- art which was originally used on the covers of older comics a decade or so ago. Talk about lazy and/or cheap!!

Final Opinion: Excellent art, letters and colors and a serviceable script, but overall it's a story I could easily have lived without reading. And yet at the same time, I can't help feeling these guys would be great on a straight "cartoon throwback" Joe series. They have a decent handle on the Sunbow-style characterizations, and the Danger Girl-free parts of the story are just what I'd expect from a comic based on the old cartoon.

Combined variant covers by J. Scott Campbell. Why does Jinx have bare sleeves??

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