Comics: Snake Eyes #11

April 20, 2012

In this penultimate chapter of Cobra Command, Snake Eyes comes face-to-face with Storm Shadow and his Red Ninja. Meanwhile, the Joes call in some drastic measures to deal with four B.A.T.s left to occupy the post-nuked Nanzhao.

I generally enjoy Chuck Dixon's writing, but lately I've noticed a reoccurring problem with some of his plotting: after a captivating buildup, the endings tend to be anticlimactic. The last two story arcs in Snake Eyes exemplified this, and sadly this continues the trend.

Since the first chapter of Cobra Command, we've been slowly teased with what would have been IDW's first showdown between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. While we do get a rather lengthy (and puzzling) battle between Snake Eyes and the Red Ninja, I feel somewhat cheated about what occurs next: Storm Shadow asking for a truce and an alliance. True, it opens up a lot of potentially interesting plot directions, but it makes me wonder why I had to watch Snake Eyes and Helix run through the jungles of Nanzhao for the last seven issues.

The resolution of the Joes versus B.A.T.s didn't go much better. It was a variation of the ploy played in Springfield during Cobra Civil War. While I really appreciate B.A.T.s being portrayed as unstoppable juggernauts, being bailed out by a foreign military didn't seem to play for these elite special forces (no offence, Canada). The Joes have been depicted as passive, reactionary, and frankly ineffective, for much too long during IDW's incarnation.

This is a pivotal issue for Storm Shadow, as his alliances come into question. As some may remember, I count Storm Shadow as my favorite character in Joe mythos, mostly because of his history and depth. So I may be more critical of this character's development than normal. His decision to ally with Snake Eyes is unexpected, and not in the "I didn't see it coming" way but more from the "I don't understand it" hindsight.

Hints were strongly dropped that Storm Shadow was not happy with Zartan and the Cobra Commander over the death of his oyabun. But would a ninja need the permission of the Cobra Commander to avenge the murder of his oyabun? Why wait until the invasion of Nanzhao to broach that conversation? Why order your Red Ninja army to kill your future ally, which would only lead to the inevitable and unnecessary deaths of the ally or your army?

In other media, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes have become allies. I won't spoil the details of the Marvel or Renegades Storm Shadow, but in both cases it revealed the underlying nobility of his character. In IDW's case, Storm Shadow's nobility is still questionable. This leaves Dixon the freedom to take the character in any direction. While this is great for storytelling potential, it does frustratingly underscore the fact that, as many times as Storm Shadow has appeared in these last 8 issues, we still know next to nothing about the character.

In terms of art, this was not one of stronger issues in this arc. I actually had a hard time following the logic of some of the sequential art. In particular, the cliffhanger from the last chapter was Snake Eyes being surrounding by numerous Red Ninja was bows drawn. I've re-read the opening sequence of this issue three times with no clear understanding how he escaped the barrage of arrows. The rest of the Snake Eyes/Red Ninja fight was equally confusing.

The art throughout the entire books seemed muted. There was a much-too-heavy use of shadow, especially in the temple. Other panels had an overly-saturated, grainy quality that bleached out much of the detail. Initially, I thought the artists were trying to depict sunny parts of the temple, but since it was raining (and night), I now have no idea where this bright light was coming from and why it was included. Between the heavy shadows and the oversaturation, there was so much detail that seemed unnecessarily lost. I understand the use of light and shadow to convey realism and depth, but overuse of either, or both, can really derail the storytelling responsibilities of art.

As Costa rarely fails to deliver, having him write the last chapter of Cobra Command was a good move by IDW.

If you've been reading Cobra Command all along, this issue is Recommended, as it finishes two important plot points (albeit unsatisfactorily). If you have been (and plan to continue) reading Snake Eyes, this issue is Recommended for the redefined relationship between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, which will undoubtedly be critical for the next several issues. As a stand-along issue, however, this is Passable.

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