Comics: G.I. Joe: Infestation 2 #2
The Old Ones have taken over a Cobra base, leaving only Crystal Ball, Storm Shadow, and Interrogator left to defend against the hordes of demons. Meanwhile, the investigating Joes unwittingly release the Old Ones' infection to the outside world. Plotted by Mike Raicht and art by Valentine De Landro, G.I. Joe: Infestation 2 #2 brings both the Joes and Cobra face to face with an ancient evil on the threshold of consuming the world.
I'm not sure why I was surprised I liked the first issue as much as I did. I enjoy Raicht's other work, including Stuff of Legend and his first G.I. Joe: Infestation series. Perhaps it was the gimmicky feel to the Infestation crossover, and my doubt that IDW could pull it off twice. Or perhaps it was the nature of the threat: a malevolent sentient AI stretches my suspension of disbelief, but Lovecraft-esque ancient gods breaks it beyond repair. Despite this, Raicht won me over with the first issue, and made me eagerly anticipate the second.
If the first issue was a home run, this issue was a grand slam. A beautiful combination of "slice-them, dice-them, burn-them" action, creepy and suspenseful horror, thoughtful and intriguing characterizations, and unexpected, deadpan humor: this had it all. The danger seemed palpable and unavoidable. Truthfully, when I first read this issue, I thought Raicht cheated in the resolution of the conflict. Thinking it over, though, I realize the conflict was never truly resolved; Raicht just magnified the scope and set it simmering on the back burner. In terms of the horror requirement for this series, Raicht nailed it perfectly.
There were a lot of great points I can talk about why I enjoyed this issue so much, but it was the humor of the issue that really stood out. I'd been excited about the "Cobra Crazies" joining the fight since the end of the last issue, mostly because I expected letting those Cobras loose on the demons would be a fun bloodbath. What I didn't expect was sharp dialogue among those Cobras, or Interrogator revealing his true talents as the greatest straight-man in the organization.
My love for this issue basically boils down to these words: it was a fun read!
Across the board, the characterizations in this book were outstanding, but the breakout character was undoubtedly Crystal Ball. A small nagging problem I had with the last issue was how Crystal Ball knew exactly what was going on and how to defeat the Old Ones. Boy, did Raicht explain that one nicely! Costa and Gage made Crystal Ball an interesting character; Raicht made Crystal Ball relevant. Whether IDW will continue this plot thread in the future is unknown (and perhaps doubtful), but the idea of a man with the desire, the knowledge, and soon the potential means to wipe out mankind in favor of ancient demons is a very scary prospect.
A special mention must be made for how Raicht handled to two ninja: Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. Both were treated as warrior supreme, able to handle themselves against overwhelming odds. (As an aside, it was interesting to see Storm Shadow cutting though the possessed Cobra soldiers without a second thought while Snake Eyes used non-lethal force against his possessed allies.) Both had superior mental facilities to withstand the Song of the Old Ones. And both ultimately failed their goals to stop the Old Ones: Storm Shadow when confronting Dr. Llund and Snake Eyes when confronting a suicidal possessed Scarlett. It was refreshing to see both these characters still treated as human against supernatural forces.
Valentine De Landro's art is a great improvement over last issue. And not just from a technical standpoint. The tiny-image/ low-detail/awkward posing problems that plagued the second half of the first issue seemed to have cleared up. If anything, De Landro's art improved as this issue went on. Possessed Scarlett talking to Snake Eyes is frighteningly beautiful.
De Landro also contributes his fair share to the humor of the issue, whether it's the deadpan face of Raptor as he explains he does his own dental work, or the many face-palms of Interrogator. Contrast that with panels depicting Dr. Llund exsanguinating sacrifices and brushing aside Storm Shadow as one would a swat away a fly. De Landro did a phenomenal job in setting the perfect tones for this issue.
Retractable metal claws in his arm. Unspeaking. Devoid of personality. Razor Claw seems like a bad rip-off of Deadpool from the Wolverine: Origins movie. There is absolutely no reason why I should like him, and yet... I can't wait until his next appearance.
Fun. There is no better way to describe this issue and this mini-series. Great action, great characters, and great humor. Raicht and IDW have hit on a perfect formula for those of you (like myself) who would normally like to avoid the surrealism of Lovecraft in your Joes. Enjoy the story for what it is within the realm of the IDW universe, and then feel free to ignore it when you return to the mainstream books... although you may find yourself asking why the mainstream books aren't as much fun to read as this was. Very Highly Recommended.