May 9, 2016

GI Joe: America's Elite: The Plague

GI Joe: America's Elite: World War III Begins
Part One – The Plague
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

G.I. Joe comics have gotten a little confusing over the years, with numerous reboots across at minimum four different publishers since the original Marvel series. I mostly only stick to the official gospel in my heart and in my mind, which is Larry Hama’s original Marvel run (including his continuation of that series with IDW). If it’s not Hama’s comics, it should at least be in line with his interpretation of the characters, or his continuity, or else I’m just not that interested. However, there is one storyline that demanded my attention, and it may be one of the best examples of epic wartime storytelling the property has ever seen.



Before IDW, a company named Devil’s Due had the license to publish the G.I. Joe comics. One of their series was subtitled America’s Elite, and in issues #25 – #36 of that series, they presented a storyline titled World War III. Written by Mark Powers, with art by Mike Bear and Mike Shoyket, Cobra Commander implemented his most ambitious plan to date. For every kid of my generation that was poisoned by the incompetent Cobra Commander from the animated series, and all his nonsensical schemes, this story is the antidote. Instead, this is a ruthless and strategically brilliant Cobra Commander, that represents the ultimate test for the Joes. Just as he should be.

Now that you’re sufficiently intrigued, let’s get into it.

PROLOGUE

The story begins in a hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. An elite Cobra commando unit storms the hospital, and kidnaps a newborn baby on the orders of Cobra Commander. Turns out, this infant is the child of Destro and the Baroness. Cobra Commander’s operation “the Plague” has begun.



CHAPTER ONE

In Derbent, Dagestan, a G.I. Joe unit escorts a captive Major Bludd through the streets. Cover Girl and Gung-Ho get the drop on a Cobra sniper (Cobra Mortal) before he can fire on Flint and the rest.

In Joe headquarters (named “the Rock”) General Colton and communications officer Sparks discuss the current situation. Cobra Commander traded Destro’s child back to him in exchange for full control of M.A.R.S. (the largest manufacturer of advanced weaponry) and all its assets. The Joe team is spread thin after the President authorized an expansion of their roster, to proactively attack Cobra operatives before they can cause damage.

In Darfur, Cobra Commander transports a blindfolded Army Ranger named Lt. Nick Bailey. Despite his Ranger brother being left to die by the U.S. government (Cobra Commander’s interpretation) Bailey had followed in his brother’s footsteps anyway and joined the Army.

Back in Dagestan, Cobra Mortal jumps from the roof to evade Cover Girl and Gung-Ho. Flint and Roadblock try to secure Major Bludd when a different sniper opens fire on them.

At M.A.R.S. headquarters in Scotland, Destro’s heir Alexander is not too happy that Cobra is seizing all of their assets.

In Darfur, Cobra Commander convinces Lt. Bailey to help his men in stopping the Janjaweed militia that has been terrorizing the region for years (appealing to his latent lack of faith in the same type of bureaucracy that left his brother to suffer and die, instead of doing everything they could to retrieve him). Hours later, Bailey asks the Commander why he brought him here.

“Look around. They call me a terrorist. A criminal. A violator of laws. But what good are laws when they become an excuse to disregard injustice.”

Cobra Commander offers Bailey a chance to impose justice without the hassle of rules or laws.



In Dagestan, Cover Girl tracks down the second sniper, Ghost Bear, and after some hand-to-hand combat, takes him down hard.



I don’t recognize most of these Cobra characters. I’m going to assume Cobra Mortal, Ghost Bear, and all of these others were creations for the America’s Elite line. Or they were toys that debuted after I started caring about G.I. Joe anymore as a younger lad. I do remember Alexander Destro from the G.I. Joe comic that launched shortly after the success of Dreamwave’s Transformers comics in the early ‘00s, though.

Elsewhere, Cobra Mortal evades Gung-Ho, but is finally captured by Wild Bill and Shipwreck on the docks, nearby.

Apparently Cover Girl and Shipwreck are a couple, which might be something established in the old cartoon, I don’t remember. Regardless, Shipwreck was the herpes of the cartoon, you didn’t want him but you couldn’t get rid of him. I don’t have much of a history with Cover Girl, but she’s too good for him.

In Darfur, Cobra Commander confirms with Tomax that the Janjaweed have placed a very large order for M.A.R.S. weaponry. The Plague is complete.



At the Rock, Colton and Hawk address the Joe team. With Cobra now in control of M.A.R.S. technology, the President has given the Joes carte blanche to wipe them out once and for all.




In a South Boston church, a mysterious voice confesses his sins in the confessional. He tells the priest, “what would you do if World War III had begun—and you were the only one on Earth who knew it?”

CHAPTER TWO

Scarlett and Snake Eyes return to the Arashikage temple in Japan where Snake Eyes trained.



Unfortunately, they are greeted by Firefly, and an army of ninjas.




I’ve never really liked the need to make Firefly a ninja. Not everyone in a ski mask needs to be a ninja also. There’s far too many of them involved with G.I. Joe and Cobra as it is.

In Scotland, Cobra Commander meets with Alexander Destro, in an attempt to recruit his services. Elsewhere, Flint and Stalker finish delivering the captive Major Bludd to his new home, a military installation named “the Coffin” in Greenland.

Back in Japan, Scarlett and Snake Eyes are making short work of Firefly’s ninjas. Scarlett tells Snake she has the situation under control, and for him to take out Firefly.



In South Boston, the mysterious stranger finishes telling the priest all that he knows. The priest convinces him that, if what he says is true, it’s time for him to pick a side, for the sake of his own soul.

After a prolonged battle, Firefly gets the drop on Snake Eyes after he nicks him with a poison-tipped dagger. Before he can finish Snake off, Scarlett arrives and crossbows Firefly’s arm to a post, neutralizing him.



At the Rock, General Colton briefs Cover Girl and Shipwreck about their next mission. They are to locate and neutralize the Cobra range viper, Skull Buster.

A few days later, Snake Eyes and Scarlett enjoy a short downtime in her hometown of Atlanta. Her father, after years of apprehension, finally accepts Snake Eyes as a member of the family.



As far as I can tell, this series appears to have used Hama’s continuity as a foundation for this universe, which is the only way to go in my mind. I can take radical changes in books like Spider-Man and the Avengers, but I need my G.I. Joe the way I remember it. If Scarlett and Snake Eyes aren’t together, I’m not on board.

In the Rock’s communications hub, Sparks receive a coded message from a mysterious Agent Delta warning them that World War III has begun.

CHAPTER THREE

Shipwreck and Cover Girl are dropped into the turbulent ocean off the coast of Namibia. The strenuous swim to shore leaves both of them passed out, and easy prey for Skull Buster.

At the Rock, Sparks briefs General Colton on the lack of any record of this Agent Delta, however, Hawk has heard of him. Before the formation of G.I. Joe, when Cobra was emerging as a threat, an undercover operative was dispatched to infiltrate their ranks. After a few months inside Cobra, Agent Delta stopped reporting in and fell of the grid completely.

Duke and Roadblock are enjoying a game of pool, when Duke is interrupted by a personal matter that demands his attention.

In the Middle East, Clutch and Rock n’ Roll look on at the devastation after an attack by local extremists.

Shipwreck finally wakes up to find Cover Girl missing. She’s been taken hostage by Skull Buster. Skull Buster tries to convince her that he no longer has any interest in working for Cobra, that he just wants to be left alone.

In New York City, Duke arrives to free his father, after he was detained along with a bunch of others protesting an economic summit.

Shipwreck catches up to Skull Buster and Cover Girl, but it looks like he’s going to be outclassed hand-to-hand against the former Cobra ranger.

Duke returns with his father to their home in St. Louis. His father once again expresses his disappointment that Duke joined the Army instead of exploring his talent as an artist.

In Washington D.C., General Colton briefs the joint chiefs on the current state of affairs globally. There has been increased activity by extremist groups across the globe. Clutch updates them on the situation in the Middle East over satellite feed. The situation is getting worse, and they need reinforcements.

General Colton gets straight to the point. Based on the evidence at hand, Cobra Commander is using M.A.R.S. to destabilize every hotspot on the planet, by putting advanced weaponry in the hands of extremist groups.

This is the kind of global plan that kids of my generation could only have dreamed of growing up watching the animated series. I never read much of the Marvel series as a kid, but that Cobra Commander was much more competent than the bumbling idiot of the cartoon. Still, this is an excellent set-up for a global conflict that would actually require the existence of a team like G.I. Joe.

The President is convinced, he gives the Joes full authority to do what is necessary. If Colton thinks an operation needs to be undertaken, no need to wait for approval, he already has it. Meanwhile, he charges the Secretary of Defense with deploying every remaining military asset the United States has.

In Namibia, Shipwreck is on the ropes when he uses a spots a scorpion, and uses it’s venom to incapacitate Skull Buster. Despite Skull Buster’s garbled protests, they have a cell waiting for him back in civilization.

In South Boston, the mysterious stranger (most likely Agent Delta) is contacted by Cobra Commander and leaves suddenly.

Considering how much crap Rodimus Prime gets for ruining the Transformers, Serpentor really doesn’t get enough blame for similarly torpedoing the Joe cartoon. Which says a lot, considering how prominent Shipwreck was in the first season. Seriously, I’ve been watching a lot of those episodes again since they are on Disney Family Channel every morning, and the second season is mostly abysmal. Apparently they really really wanted you to buy the action figures for Wetsuit, Lifeline, Leatherneck, and Dial-Tone, because they were featured in every single episode. That’s definitely much better than Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Duke.

In St. Louis, Duke and his dad are surprised by a Cobra ambush, and are taken prisoner.



CHAPTER FOUR

In the North Atlantic, a mysterious saboteur covertly infiltrates a submarine as it floats topside. In Chechnya, Falcon and Vorona have been tasked with locating and requesting assistance from the Oktober Guard.

(I know most of my peers hate Falcon with a passion after the G.I. Joe Animated Movie, but I was a fan. I can’t even explain why. Lt. Falcon and Ultra Magnus, ride or die.)

Duke dreams, replaying a memory of him and his mother on her deathbed, saying goodbye. He wakes up to find he is still a captive of Cobra, and his interrogation is about to begin.

In Joe headquarters, Colton and Hawk look over the mission map. There are too many conflicts across the globe, and even with all the reserve military being called into action, they are still spread too thin. But with every extremist group in the world being outfitted by Cobra with M.A.R.S. weaponry, they don’t have many options left. It seems Agent Delta’s warnings about World War III may have been accurate after all.



In Scotland, Alexander Destro and his army of Grenadier’s remains at the ready, waiting for the word of Cobra Commander.

Most of the kids that only grew up watching the cartoon, probably never realized that Destro and Cobra were separate entities. That dichotomy played out really well several times in Hama’s comics, but was never a factor in the cartoon. That’s what makes Cobra Commander seizing control of M.A.R.S. so interesting here.

In the North Atlantic, the saboteur continues to make his way through the submarine, stealing and donning the uniform of everyone he neutralizes (Zartan maybe?).

Cobra, having failed to break Duke, tries to get at him through his father. Cobra attempts to appeal to the elder Hauser’s disappointment in Duke’s violent occupation, trying to convince him that his son has become unhinged and dangerous in the field. Meanwhile, Roadblock has tracked down the location of his missing First Sergeant. (How, I have no idea. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention.)

In Cairo, Egypt, Tomax hires an assassin named Rourke to kill the Prime Minister of Israel, which would send that region into absolute chaos. I wonder if Rourke is the civilian name of an established Cobra villain, or if he’s another new America’s Elite creation. I’m not curious enough to try and look it up, even though I have full access to the wonders of the internet.

In St. Louis, the Cobra interrogator once again tries to extract Duke’s knowledge of Joe counterintelligence operations in the Middle East. He drugs him, and forces him to recall all that his father had sacrificed to raise the money to send Duke to art school, but instead Duke betrayed him by joining the Army.

In the North Atlantic, the saboteur, Cobra operative Blackout (not Zartan, I guess) finishes his mission, knocking out the command room and launching the sub’s missiles into the sky.

Roadblock continues to infiltrate the Cobra facility. Now pressed for time, the interrogator holds Duke’s dad at gunpoint. His life, in exchange for Duke’s information on his unit’s Middle Eastern activities.



Roadblock comes busting in. The Agent fires, but Duke’s dad jumps in front of the bullet, saving Duke. Luckily the bullet only winged him, but the Agent escapes as Duke and Roadblock try to stabilize the elder Hauser. As he lays there bleeding, the Hausers finally come to peace with each other.



In Washington D.C., the President is interrupted at a gala with terrible news. Later, addressing the country live on television, the President reveals that a number of missiles have struck the city of Boston. The devastation and casualties are catastrophic.

“My fellow Americans, as of this moment… our nation is at war.”


We’ll pick this up next week as World War III continues.



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