Sunday, August 3, 2014


I originally stated that, since I covered this series once already last year, I wouldn't do so again. But since it's a quick, light read, I decided to give it another go. My reaction this time was much the same as before -- it's an entertaining story, but the interaction between the Joes and Danger Girls feels a little too "fan-fiction"-ish. And my opinion that Hartnell and Royle should work on a straight adaptation of the G.I. JOE cartoon series, with no DANGER GIRL crossover element involved, remains the same.

Now, a reprint my original review, mildly revised and slightly spruced up to better fit in with my previous DANGER GIRL posts:

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

DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE is very strongly based on the G.I. JOE cartoon series of the eighties, right down to taking place over five "episodes" as did those original Joe mini-series. The plot initially follows the G.I. Joe team, who have found some vintage World War II era German experimental missiles, which are promptly stolen by Cobra. Scarlett and Flint are captured as well, by Abbey, working undercover within the Cobra organization. Meanwhile, the president (here a woman rather than the man seen in BACK IN BLACK) 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, who Cover Girl has heard of thanks to a shared plane flight with Johnny Barracuda sometime back. The Danger Girls, Deuce, and Johnny 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.

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 guy writing fan fiction where his own characters meet the G.I. Joes he grew up with. The fact that the Danger Girls get all the biggest moments -- Sydney unmasks Zarana, Sydney and Sonya stop the missile launches, Valerie saves 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 Deuce) being long-lost old friends of General Hawk or Duke or whoever else.

The artwork, on the other hand, is some of the best DANGER GIRL has ever seen. Royle and Moy do an outstanding J. Scott Campbell impression here -- the Danger Girl characters are all easily identifiable, looking closer to the original seven issues than in anything else since. The Joes are mostly spot-on as well, though 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 these 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. The hardware is terrific, too -- Royle has an excellent grasp on the various G.I. Joe and Cobra vehicles and equipment. 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 five issues (which is fine; that's his prerogative). But rather than have the extremely talented 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!!

I suppose I should also take this moment to note that I'm not as big a fan of modern J. Scott Campbell as I was his original late nineties material. His work has lost a lot of the tight cartoonishness it once had. It's still stylized, but in a different way. I've had similar issues with other artists in recent years, most notably Mark Brooks -- who was once a big favorite of mine, but whose more recent painted style lacks all the clean, bouncy energy of his older work.

So what we have in DANGER GIRL/G.I. JOE is some excellent artwork, great 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. I wonder if anyone at IDW shares my opinion...?

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  1. I didn't realize the interiors has Campbell-style art. That makes me much more interested in actually giving it a shot. I'd love to see IDW publish a regular Joe book in this style.

    1. Yeah, John Royle does an uncanny impression of late nineties Campbell. I really like his stuff. He's worked on a couple more DG series since this one, which will be covered here by year's end.