Comics: G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #182

February 1, 2013

Darklon has escaped, and Outback, Muskrat, and Ambush pursue him through the Utah desert. But who is hunting who? Larry Hama teams up with artist Ron Frenz to bring us the latest issue of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

Now this is a return to the type of story that Hama excelled in the '80s. He's juggled five different plots that allows the issue to focus on an expanded cast of characters. Zarana and (a more cohesive than usual) Roadpig meet with Pale Peony to plan the acquisition of a greater piece of the action, while Zartan becomes a more integrated member of Cobra Command. Rock & Roll and Clutch follow Cobra's migration to their new base of operations, while Ambush, Muskrat, and Outback follow Darklon after his escape from The Pit. And Duke has secrets which places his men in jeopardy.

As I said, this seems to be a return to form for Hama: developing one plot thread (the Darklon escape), while sowing the seeds for two or three new potential storylines for the future. Duke's withholding of information and letting Darklon escape at the risk of his own men was reminiscent of Hawk's sending coded messages to Cobra back in Marvel's G.I. Joe #6. For the first time in far too long, I am genuinely curious and excited to see how a plot in A Real American Hero will turn out.

Undoubtedly, Hama's always had his favorite characters (Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Scarlett, etc.), but he usually does a good job bringing other Joes to the foreground to shine for a few issues. With the Blue Ninja storyline, it's been a while since he's let the second-stringers shine. This is why the prominence of Ambush, Outback, and Muskrat in this issue was a refreshing and welcomed change. These are three characters who specialize in wilderness survival, but we've never really seen interact together (conspicuously absent, by the way, was Dusky). As brief as their spotlights were in this story, their parts really were the heart of this issue, not only giving the book the tension and conflict it needed, but also adding human faces to the men that Duke was endangering with his gambit.

It would be tough for anyone to follow S.L. Gallant. Unfortunately, Ron Frenz does fall short. Overall, the art was uneven. The scenes in the Utah desert were pretty good in places, especially when inking was used to accentuate shadowing. The scenes with Pale Peony, Zarana, and Road Pig, on the other hand, were very cartoony and pulled me right out of the story. As a general rule, IDW has pretty strong art for their Joe books, but I felt this was an exception.

Clutch and Rock & Roll road-tripping? Talk about nostalgic…

Hama's brought us an engaging issue, and seems to have some big plans in store for the future. After months of lackluster issues, I am excited about the future of A Real American Hero. Recommended.

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