I haven't read a GI Joe comic in a long time.
For years, the franchise has been run by people who fundamentally do not understand the property. Here are the fundamentals of GI Joe for fans:
-It is action in nature
-As one comic critic has stated, it is essentially a loyalty fantasy.
-It is unapologetically patriotic
-Each character brings something unique to the table
-Snake Eyes is the most popular character.
From everything I've seen in the last few years, writers do not seem to understand this. That isn't to say that some very good stories have not been made. GI Joe: Cobra was an amazing story, but it was much more in the vein of 24 than GI Joe. GI Joe: Hearts and Minds was very well written, but it made the lives of the Joes look like hell and the lives of Cobra much more appealing. Lately, things have been worse. In a recent issue, Quick Kick beat up and humiliated Snake Eyes in a one-on-one fight for no apparant reason.
But Rob Liefeld has come to save the day.
If you are anything like me, my memories of Liefeld primarily focus on his work in the 90's with New Mutants, X-Force, and his Image comics. His style was very much of the over-the-top violence and costumes with dozens of unnecessary pouches. Modern readers look back on that time as being a lot of style and very little substance. For the most part I agree, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.
Liefeld is the Michael Bay of comics. He has a strong, visceral style that is interested in entertaining you with a fun and exciting story that does not try to weigh you down. His comics are the equivalent of popcorn movies.
And this is exactly what GI Joe needs.
The first thing he gets right is doing a story that focuses on Snake Eyes. The very first GI Joe comic I ever read was issue #26, which was the secret origin of this character. I read that issue over and over again because. it was endlessly fascinating. Snake Eyes is such a stoic and masculine character whose actions are so powerful that he doesn't even need to speak. He is in all ways a man of action. Liefeld gets this in his description of Snake Eyes. One of my favorite moments is where he is killing some enemies with his sword and it says (I'm paraphrasing) "Not an action is wasted. No one suffers more than is necessary." It is such odd an compelling mixture of cold and compassionate. He can kill without hesitation, but he is careful to minimize his enemies' suffering.
Leifeld also gets the loyalty and character elements correct. Roadblock, Tripwire, and Scarlett are pitch-perfect. Things aren't all hugs and kisses between them, but there is a palpable trust and camaraderie. And through it all, we have a strong sense of duty. The odds are always against Snake Eyes, but it is clear that even it it hopeless it wouldn't matter: Snake Eyes would throw himself into the jaws of death if it was the right thing to do.
The art is also pleasantly nostalgic. It is true that Liefeld over-idealizes the physiques of his characters but it works very well.
Like some of the best GI Joe cartoons, there is an odd supernatural element in play in this story. An ancient evil master of combat has arisen and it seems like it will be up to Snake Eyes to take him down. Their first encounter sets up the stakes and now the hunt begins.
I enjoyed this comic more than I expected and I am looking forward to how this story plays out.