Comics: Snake Eyes #12
With the Joes believing he's dead, Snake Eyes joins forces with Storm Shadow and the Arashikage to take down Cobra and Zartan. First, though, he visits a friend from his past, the Hard Master.
All three of the Cobra Command: Aftermath issues have been the quiet after the storm. Little action, but plenty of plot movement and introspection. In this issue, Snake Eyes visits an old acquaintance, Hard Master, and small amounts of Snake Eye's past, especially related to the Arashikage, creeps through the conversation they have.
Of course, no issue of Snake Eyes would be complete without ninja action, and on cue, Snake Eyes single-handedly take down a gang to avenge a female friend. What is interesting about this sequence is the brutality of its execution. This was not Snake Eyes attacking nameless, faceless Red Ninja; this was Snake Eyes executing American citizens on American soil, many of them unarmed, without the right to a trail. This was not Snake Eyes, American soldier, but Snake Eyes, Arashikage assassin. And that subtle shift has been the most interesting thing to happen to Snake Eyes in the past 12 issues.
Hard Master plays such a critical role in the Arashikage mythology of the Marvel series that one cannot help but to speculate what his role will be in the IDW universe. From his first appearance in this issue, we learn quite a bit. He is Korean and former member for the Arashikage clan. Apparently, like in the Marvel universe, he, along with Soft Master, helped train Snake Eyes. However, the subtext of Hard Master's dialog with Snake Eyes implies that Hard Master was not the clan leader of the Arashikage, and that indeed, Snake Eyes helped Hard Master escape from the clan. He's not quite portrayed as the "best of the best" in this issue (after being clocked in the head with a tin can and his less than graceful dismount off the shelving). Interesting, the name of the Soft Master had been brought up and purposefully glossed over a couple times, suggesting that Dixon has a deeper history in mind that he still plans to explore.
I quite enjoyed the art in this issue. Much darker in tone and color palatte than the previous issues of Snake Eyes, Beni Lobel's style worked very well for this darker story. Lobel does interesting layouts, with irregularly sized and spaced panels, like photographs scattered over splash-page backgrounds. The characters sometimes spill over the borders of their respective panels, especially during action sequences. The end results are beautifully illustrated and dynamic works. Lebel's been contributing to several Joe books for the past couple months. He is definitely someone I'm keeping an eye out for in the future.
Next month, the title gets remained as Snake Eyes & Storm Shadow. Better yet, we'll get the return of the definitive Joe artist: Robert Atkins!
A surprisingly enjoyable issue, with plenty to think about, both in terms of Snake Eye's past and what direction he will take in the future. Recommended.