Wow. A lot happened in that! I’m not sure exactly what John Barber and Tom Scioli are going for in their psychedelic mash-up of Jack Kirby and Herb Trimpe, but it sure isn’t boring!
The madness opens in space, where Starscream is chasing Bumblebee towards a backwater planet. The Cybertronian dialogue all shows up like wavy lines of static, with helpful translations from the editor in the bottom of the panel. This odd presentation immediately drills in the alien-ness of the Transformers. That’s hard to do with properties we know this well. It’s an effective tactic that holds up as the point of view switches to the residents of that backwater planet. The G.I. Joes on Earth.
There are a lot of Joes in this issue, but the spotlight is a bit more focused. Hawk, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and Duke are the leads, but they aren’t exactly the versions we know and love. Hawk carries a tomahawk. Snake Eyes is a trained ninja, but he’s a handsome blonde with no mask. Duke is a rookie hitting on Scarlett during combat. Of the group, only Scarlett has consistent characterization (as a butt-kicker) from other Joe comics I’ve read. The cast is a lot more expansive, with Stalker, Heavy Metal, Bazooka, Roadblock, Doc, Ace, Wild Bill, and more all getting little ID cards. We also see Cobra Commander shoot and kill Zap and Short Fuse along with a few unnamed Joes. I guess it doesn’t pay to wear a generic green costume in this book; Steeler, Grunt, and the rest of the originals had better get some fancy new gear quick!
Things turn out a bit rough for the heroes in this. After the battle between Autobot and Decepticon clashes into the Joe/Cobra conflict, things get confusing, with the two battles combining, but no one really realizing just what’s going on. In the end, Bumblebee has lost his head and Snake Eyes might have some scarring to blame on Cobra Commander.
I’m honestly puzzled on how to grade this book. Scioli’s art is dynamic, fun, and anatomically creative. The action is always clear, even if it isn’t exactly clean or realistic. I love that this will clearly be a book with a lot of cameos from old favorites. If this was my only option to read about the Joes or Transformers, I’d be all over this. But with IDW already publishing so many excellent books like Real American Hero and More Than Meets the Eye, I’m hard-pressed to find this required reading.
I’m not sure how the plotting and scripting split out either, since Barber and Scioli discuss their process in the back material of the book, it seems like this is pretty much a team effort. This is a FAIR comic, and an entertaining one. But the fact that it isn’t the best place to find the Joes OR the Transformers means I will probably stick with the books I’m already buying.