May 23, 2016

GI Joe: America's Elite: War's End

GI Joe: America's Elite: World War III Begins
Part Three – War's End
Back Issue Ben
Ben Smith

Previously, Cobra Commander has taken over the world. After gaining full control of Destro’s M.A.R.S. technology, Cobra used it to arm extremist groups worldwide. With the U.S. military and G.I. Joe forces spread thin responding to those crisis all across the world, Cobra seized the White House, Ft. Meade, and New York City. Allied with Alexander Destro, they also took control of the United Kingdom. Now, Cobra Commander has control of nuclear arsenals stateside and abroad. The Joes have to strike back if they’re going to save the world.



This storyline was originally featured in G.I. Joe: America’s Elite, written by Mark Powers with art by Mike Bear, Mike Shoyket, and Pat Quinn. It was not written by Larry Hama, but we won’t hold that against it.

Can the Joes fight for freedom? Wherever there’s trouble? Will G.I. Joe be there?


CHAPTER NINE

Cobra Commander gives his estranged son Billy a choice, join him or die.



Longtime G.I. Joe comic book readers will know Billy from the original Marvel series, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, written largely by the legendary Larry Hama. Hama, along with Walt Simonson and Frank Miller, is a god among men and should be treated as such.)

Duke and Rourke are holed out in an apartment Rourke maintained in New York City. Duke asks Rourke how he got like this. Rourke promises to tell Duke his story if they make it out of this alive.



They head outside only to be immediately attacked by Cobra’s elite “the Plague” commando unit.

In Priest Lake, Idaho, Snake Eyes and Scarlett finally rendezvous with General Colton and Hawk. Colton brings them up to speed, on how they’re looking for Destro and Baroness to help neutralize the M.A.R.S. technology, and that Storm Shadow is on the case. In Prague, Storm Shadow is fighting the (freshly recruited by Cobra) assassin Dela Eden (who is previously responsible for killing Lady Jaye, apparently).




He, of course, gets the best of her, and it about to forcibly remove any information she has, before her hostage Dusan (friend of the Baroness) agrees to tell them what they need to know to find the Baroness. In New York, Rourke and Duke retreat into the darkened subway tunnels, where they almost take out the Plague with some well-placed explosives. In Detroit, Stalker returns home to find that the locals have allied themselves with gangbangers and criminals to stay alive. He’s not happy about that, but Cobra is the bigger enemy for everyone. In Fort Meade, Billy easily subdues his captors and escapes into the facility. (Billy trained with the Arashikage ninja clan, including Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.)

The Plague are searching for Duke and Rourke, when Spirit arrives out of nowhere and gets his Spider-Man on.




Wild Bill and Gung-Ho aren’t far behind, and as the Plague try to fight back, citizens of the city begin barraging them with bottles and projectiles until they’re forced to retreat, while in Tokyo, Japan, Storm Shadow has found the Baroness and Destro. After a brief skirmish, Destro halts the hostilities, and agrees to help the Joes find a way to neutralize the M.A.R.S. tech. Destro believes it’s only a matter of time until Cobra Commander comes after them, and their son.



Destro has only two conditions: they’re coming with, and Alexander must be shown mercy. Storm Shadow has only one condition, that after this is over, Destro will be taken into custody to pay for his crimes.

In Scotland, men dressed in Cobra uniforms knock out other Cobra soldiers and take control of a Night Raven jet. Back in Ft. Meade, Billy believes he is sneaking up on Cobra Commander and breaks his neck. Unfortunately, it was a decoy, and Billy catches a poison tipped dart to the neck. Cobra Commander needed to see if he could do what was necessary, now that he is master of all.



“I loved you once. Now, I feel nothing. My victory is complete.”

CHAPTER TEN

Major Bludd is shocked to see Billy’s dead body strung up a flag pole with a note that reads “nobody is untouchable.”



This was the scene that got the attention of, I want to say it was, Wizard Magazine. Which, subsequently, got my attention. People can rag on Wizard all they want, I read a lot of great comics primarily because they pointed me towards them.

In Priest Lake, Idaho, Storm Shadow delivers Destro and the Baroness straight to General Colton and the Joe team.



Outside, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow reconcile, finally together again as sword brothers.



I’m not sure if I like Storm Shadow more as ruthless villain, or loyal sword brother. They’re both such appealing concepts. I think we can all agree his original costume is the best.

Sparks, Firewall and Destro compare what they know about the reconfigured M.A.R.S. tech, but they’ll have to continue that conversation on their way to London. In London, Alexander watches as the city burns all around him. He wonders just how loyal his woman, Armada, is to him.



The Plague have moved on to Philadelphia, to squash an uprising, and are tearing the city apart. With new intel from Storm Shadow’s contact inside Cobra, the Joe team would be splitting into two groups and heading toward Antarctica and the Amazon jungle. Hawk address the Joes. The intel indicates that Cobra Commander is enacting something called Operation Jiao Tu, translated as “scorched Earth.”

Fans that only watched the cartoon might be surprised to learn that Hawk was the primary Joe leader from the beginning of the comic. As a kid, I always assumed the blonde guy leaping out front on that iconic cover to G.I. Joe #1 was Duke, but it was Hawk. Duke didn’t show up until around #19. Duke was always the lead guy on the cartoon, until they brought in General Hawk in the second season.

The main Joe team will split up and travel to those two locations, while General Colton and his team attempt to take back Fort Meade.

Destro and Sparks arrive in London, to meet up with Barrel Roll, who was able to commandeer a Night Raven disguised as a Cobra pilot. The Night Raven will give them an up close look at the Cobra upgrades to the M.A.R.S. cloaking tech.

The separate Joe teams prepare for their missions in the Amazon, Antarctic, and Wyoming.



In Fort Meade, Bludd asks Cobra Commander what exactly this Jiao Tu operation means.

“We’ve placed tactical nukes in the two most environmentally precarious regions on Earth. If I can’t have this world, no one will.”

CHAPTER ELEVEN

Duke and his team are ambushed by Snow Serpents in Antarctica. In the Amazon, Stalker and his team are surrounded by Jungle Vipers. General Colton and his team move in on Fort Meade, leaving Hawk behind (Hawk was paralyzed from the waist down in a previous story).

Duke tries to get the drop on the Cobra outpost by pretending to be captured, but the Serpents see through it. The disguised Rourke and Shipwreck are hit, but the body armor holds.

In the Amazon, Wild Bill is hit, but Storm Shadow and the rest hold off the rest of the Cobras while Snake Eyes tries to find the bomb.

In England, Sparks and Destro argue over if the virus they created to neutralize the M.A.R.S. tech is ready to deploy, but as they do, Baroness hits the button anyway.

All around the world, the M.A.R.S. cloaking technology fails on the Cobra aircraft, and the ordnance stops functioning.

At a new hidden location, Cobra Commander watches as his advantage begins to crumble. He orders Tomax to activate the nukes.



In the Arctic, the Plague start evacuating after the nuke is activated, but Rourke is able to locate the bomb.

In Fort Meade, Scarlett works on uploading the virus that will get the NSA intranet back online, while Colton, Jane, and Spirit cover her. The virus succeeds, and they have control of government communications again. Before they evacuate, Spirit insists that they collect the body of their brother in arms, Billy.

Cover Girl is able to successfully disarm the nuke in Antarctica, while Snake Eyes does the same in the Amazon jungle.



In England, Destro is refusing to surrender himself into Joe custody just yet, and instead wants to stop his son Alexander. The Grenadiers will listen to him, if he intervenes.

Cobra Commander and Tomax are on the move. After all the scorn and failure, today Cobra Commander was a God. Tomax asks him if the war is over now.

“…only God decrees when this conflict ends.”

CHAPTER TWELVE

Cobra Commander thinks back to his first murder, back when he was still a used car salesman. Yes, as longtime comic readers already know, Cobra Commander started as a used car salesman. That’s so absurd and yet perfect in every way.

Inspired by that, Cobra Commander returns to where it all began, in the Appalachian Mountains.

With the nukes defused, the Joes try to figure out where Cobra Commander will run to. Rourke believes he knows exactly where he’ll go.

In London, the Grenadiers throw down their arms and pay tribute when the real Destro returns. Major Bludd catches Storm Shadow’s undercover Cobra contact trying to contact the Joes. Instead of turning him in, he has his own ideas about reinforcements.

In Petra, Jordan, General Rey finds and secures the U.S. President.

Rourke thinks back to the day he abandoned Cobra. He had been seduced by the people of Cobra. Not the crazy ones in charge, but the normal people that were angry or disillusioned, that were easy recruits for Cobra. The day he was forced to shoot and kill his best friend, Tomas, was the day he disappeared from both sides.

Now, he and the Joes prepare to storm Cobra Commander’s Appalachian camp.

All around the world, the Joes are finally overwhelming the Cobra forces. This time, they cannot afford to let them escape. There will be no regrouping to attack again.

Once again, the paralyzed Hawk is left behind when the Joes move in to attack.

Cobra still has the superior numbers, but the sides are evened when Bludd’s reinforcements, the Dreadnoks, arrive to help the Joes.


I’m not sure why Bludd is helping the Joes.  I must have missed this. Maybe it was Billy, or maybe Cobra Commander just went too far this time.

In London, Destro is fighting his upstart son, when Alexander gives up. He removes his Destro helmet and walks away, no longer believing in the honor of it. Alexander’s girlfriend Armada, thinking that she will get back in Destro’s good graces, shoots Alexander from behind.

Destro, of course, is not pleased by this, but is above killing women. Unfortunately for Armada, the Baroness is not.

I love the Baroness so much.

The battle rages on in the Appalachian Mountains. Bludd gets the drop on Sparks, but is saved by the undercover Cobra soldier, revealed as Recondo. Lt. Bailey (remember him?) has the drop on Rourke, but Rourke is able to talk him down. Firefly and Snake Eyes face off in a deadly battle, but this time, Firefly falls.



Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow try to get their vengeance on Zartan, but he disappears into the forest before they can.

Inside, Colton subdues Tomax and demands to know where Cobra Commander is. Unfortunately, he finds him the hard way, by a gunshot to the back.

Cobra Commander is attempting to retreat, when Hawk comes flying in on a jetpack and saves the day. Even paralyzed, there was no way Hawk was letting him get away this time.




All over the world, G.I. Joe and military forces from multiple countries celebrate the victory. The conflict has brought them all together closer as people, a brotherhood born in the fires of battle.

The most dangerous Cobra operatives have been rounded up and returned to the Coffin. Wild Bill is recovering from his injuries.

Destro made good on his word, and turned himself in for trial.

The Dreadnoks escaped while the Joes were busy rounding up Cobra, but Zartan has left them, intent on making some kind of life change.

The Joes have earned some much needed leave, to rest and recuperate. Their families had been targeted in the Cobra attack, but thankfully, they all survived unscathed.

The U.S. President meets with General Colton and Hawk. As of now, G.I. Joe is fully activated, with no red tape, and no restrictions.



(I thought they already were activated, with a full green light. That was one flaw of the storyline. Every single chapter seemed to emphasize that “NOW, the Joes have full authority to do what was necessary.” I kept thinking, didn’t they already say that in the last issue? How can they have even more unchecked authority?)

In a familiar location below the Fort Wadsworth Motor Pool in Staten Island, New York, the G.I. Joes once again answer the call.

Some time later, Hawk meets with the captive Cobra Commander in his cell. Cobra Commander tells Hawk that he may think he’s won, but his legend will grow, and some day, war will break out again, and they will have him to thank.

Hawk responds, “Maybe, Commander. But understand this: no matter what happens… you won’t be taking part in any of it.”

The camera pans back to reveal Cobra Commander’s cell in a facility deep in the bottom of the ocean.

THE END

As usual, I love the buildup to the bad guys thoroughly taking over and having the good guys on the ropes, but that always leads to the eventual turn towards victory seeming just a little bit too easy and clean for the forces of good. I could have used a higher body count on both sides to really drive home how big and serious the conflict was this time too. It’s the blood thirst in me. All that being said, it was still a great story and some of the emotional moments really hit home for me as a longtime Joe fan.

This may not have been one of Hama’s storylines, but it was still really enjoyable, and it used Hama’s original continuity, which is the next best thing to the real deal. Cobra Commander was always much more of a threat in the comic, compared to the buffoon of the cartoon, but this was a Commander at the height of his strategic and ruthless capabilities. A father killing his own son is always a useful shorthand to highlight just how evil a character is, and it had that much more significance with Billy being such a longstanding Joe character.

I wasn’t that into any of the new Cobra special operatives, all of the Plague members looked the same to me. I didn’t have much interest in Agent Delta either, and he got a lot of “screen” time. That’s to be expected though, since nostalgia is a major factor in my appreciation of G.I. Joe and Transformers comics. Anytime they try to feature new characters, or characters I wasn’t familiar with as a kid, I stop caring. On the flip side, the featured Joes in this story could have used less Flint and Shipwreck, but really that’s just splitting hairs at this point. Overall this was a very enjoyable comic run, that could also serve as a satisfying ending to the series. Can’t ask for much more than that.

Next week, more robots or anti-terrorism task forces, probably.

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