Friday, December 22, 2017


Written by Tim Seeley | Art by Andrew Wildman | Letters by Brian Crowley
Colors by Wes Ozioba & Art Lyon | Edits by Mike Sullivan

The Plot: In the year 1978, as they trek through the Himalayas, adventurer Joe Colton and his team are attacked by mysterious humanoid beings from the lost civilization of Cobra-La, allied with a Decepticon named Bludgeon.

In the present day, Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy struggles to cope with the powers of the Matrix of Leadership he now possesses. When the Autobots summon him, Hawk joins them in stopping an arms deal between Destro and a Cuban nationalist. Destro escapes, but the deal is stopped -- however when a bizarre signal announcing "I return" is intercepted by Hawk's group, he summons Optimus Prime to Earth. The signal is traced to the Himalayas, where Hawk, Prime, and Flint, in response to Hawk's request for backup, travel to investigate. Meanwhile, Unicron jouneys toward the Earth.

The rest of Hawk's team is attacked by Decepticon Monster Pretenders, while in the Himalayas, Optimus, Hawk, and Flint are assaulted by Bludgeon and the forces of Cobra-La. Meanwhile, Autobot Cosmos rescues Hawk's associate, Firewall, from the Pretender attack and ferries her to the Himalayas, while inside Cobra-La's citadel, Joe Colton -- prisoner for decades -- frees himself upon learning Hawk is in the vicinity. While Firewall contacts Duke and G.I. Joe for aid, Hawk, Flint, and Prime learn that Cobra-La met Unicron when he visited Earth millennia ago, and convinced him to space the planet while they prepared it for his second coming. Then, as Bludgeon and his forces close in on them, the trio is approached by Colton, who instructs them to follow him.

Continuity Notes: A news report suggests that Cobra's attack on Washington D.C., seen in the initial mini-series, happened "last year" despite the second series stating a few years had passed since that first outing.

Since last we saw him, Hawk has resigned from G.I. Joe after charging that the government was running illegal weapons tests in Area 52. He apparently took Firewall with him, and she functions as his aide while he travels the world in a submarine with Prowl, Sideswipe, Skids, Cosmos, and Eject to wipe out all remaining Cybertronian technology they can find. Duke seems to be the commander of G.I. Joe now that Hawk is out of the picture.

When Optimus Prime leaves Cybertron, he places Ultra Magnus in charge, rectifying the prior series' mistake of showing Hot Rod giving orders to Magnus multiple times. (Hot Rod is standing right beside Magnus when Prime makes this command.)

Doctor Mindbender is still hanging out with the denizens of Cobra-La.

At G.I. Joe headquarters, a display shows several Joe enemies with statuses for some of them. Tomax, Overlord, and Darklon are all "In Custody", while the Baroness, Destro, Zartan, Firefly, Mindbender, and G.I. JOE EXTREME villain Iron Klaw -- who, recall from last time, most likely would've played a role in the non-existent fifth mini-series -- are all presumably still at large. Oddly, there's no entry for Cobra Commander, despite his being G.I. Joe's main enemy.

We get an entire history of Cobra-La and Unicron presented in sepia-tones. Unicron came to Earth, but Cobra-La threatened him with their special metal-eating spore. He backed off, and a deal was made: Cobra-La would go into hiding and cultivate the evolution of mankind, then would eventually summon Unicron back, at which point he would consume all life and technology, leaving the world fresh for Cobra-La to emerge and populate.

G1 References: Bludgeon states that he has mastered Metallikato, the same Cybertronian martial art he utilized in the Marvel series. On the same page, Prime uses his famous energy axe, originally seen in the G1 pilot episode, to fight Bludgeon.

G.I. References: Colton is seen leading the Adventure Team in the opening pages, an homage to the 1970s era G.I. Joe toyline.

As noted to end G.I. JOE VS. THE TRANSFORMERS II, Cobra-La debuted in Sunbow's G.I. JOE: THE MOVIE. Representing the group here are Pythona, Nemesis Enforcer, the Cobra-La royal guards, and the emperor of Cobra-La, Golobulus.

As Unicron heads toward Earth, he encounters (and eats) the three members of the Lunartix Empire, alien villains created to battle G.I. Joe's "Star Brigade" sub-team in the nineties.

Having moved out of Area 52, G.I. Joe now resides in an underground complex called the Pit, which was their headquarters in Larry Hama's original comics as well.

My Thoughts: First, the story: I love it. This is the most out-and-out, unabashed, totally insane installment in this universe. The Adventure Team! Cobra-La! The Lunartix Empire! Unicron! And Bludgeon, a favorite character from the latter days of G1. Plus a reappearance by Destro, who hasn't been seen since the second mini-series, and Duke's largest role in any of these series to date (which still isn't much, but he's my favorite Joe so I take what I can get). Tim Seeley is clearly having a ball in this continuity, and if he would've written the fifth installment, I'm really sorry it didn't happen.

(Y'know, if IDW and Hasbro were game, there's no reason this continuity couldn't continue... Though given it's been eleven years since BLACK HORIZON, it seems like if anyone ever wanted to revisit it, they would have by now.)

As for the artwork -- I loved Andrew Wildman's work on TRANSFORMERS. I loved his work on G.I. JOE. Seeing him draw both properties together -- and not get inked and colored into oblivion by a house style as happened in his WAR WITHIN assignment a few years earlier at Dreamwave -- should be great treat. Unfortunately, Wildman inks himself here, and a startling secret is laid bare: he's actually not a great artist.

He handles faces nicely, and he sticks religiously to the Sunbow animation models for the Transformers, which we all know earns him major points from me. Really, his Transformers look fine, aside from Optimus Prime's chest windows being positively massive in a number of panels. But his humans -- well, he does great, if sometimes overly elongated, faces, but it's clear now that his inkers (Stephen Baskerville on TRANSFORMERS and Randy Emberlin on G.I. JOE) must have been cleaning up his work. His backgrounds often look amateurish, too.

Add to that some apparent miscommunications between writer and artist -- namely that Destro keeps talking about the initial fight happening on a ship when it's clearly on dry land and that later, we're told his castle in in Trans-Carpathia, a mountainous country Wildman had drawn himself in G.I. JOE, but which is depicted here as a desert wasteland (perhaps he confused Trans-Carpathia and Trucial Abysmia?) -- and the artwork, while fun, is disappointing in many respects.*

Still, the sheer insanity of the plot is enough to keep this thing barreling along even in spite of some sub-par artwork, and I can't wait to read the wrap-up next week.

* I'm incredibly proud of this sentence. Read it again. It's huge and cumbersome with asides within asides, and I love it.

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