05 July 2008

G.I. JOE #109 (Marvel, 1991)

This was it. The issue where Larry "Da Hama" Hama went and actually killed seven Joes. Good guys died before in G.I. Joe but they were always the supporting cast: the Soft Master, the Hard Master, that girl who dressed up as a bear...Cindy something. But Joes? Joes were damn near immortals, man! You can throw them off a transport plane over Chernobyl without parachutes and not only will they survive and walk away with nary a scratch, they will come to your house and let Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow do their crazy ninja juju on your body while the rest of the Joes burn your comic collection and piss on your XBox. That's just how they roll. But Joes dying on the battlefield? That's crazy talk!

Well, #109 of the Marvel G.I. Joe was when the crazy came to town. In the real world at the time, the United States was in the midst of Operation: Desert Storm and Marvel thought that some of their comics should reflect world events as well. Personally, I hate it when that happens. Comics are fantasy books and should stay that way. If I wanted "real" stories, I go watch CNN. I read comics to escape from the real world for a few minutes. But Marvel thought it would be ridiculous for a book featuring an elite commando team not to address the events in the Middle East so off the Joes went to "Trucial Abysmia, somewhere in the Middle East". The Joes were there to kick COBRA out of Trucial Absymia but some of the Joes went and got themselves captured by evil twins, Tomax and Xamot. The twins however aren't sure what to do with the prisoners so they contact Cobra Commander in New York City (because that's where all despotic wannabes hang out).

Now here's where it hits the fan. The head snake tells the twins to "get rid of the Joes" and that is misinterpreted by Tomax and Xamot who thought that they had to kill the Joes. What the Commander meant was to release them...he wasn't being nice, he just didn't want the rest of the G.I. Joe team ultra-mad at him if the twins kept any Joes prisoner. Yeah, well, too bad the Cobras in Trucial Abysmia heard wrong.

First to go was Doc who volunteered to stick his head out of the pit to see if the coast was clear:

And Doc's death went on to confirm what African-Americans have long believed, that in fiction, a brutha is always the first one to die.

His death was quickly accompanied by three others: Thunder, Crank-Case and Heavy Metal.

The surviving Joes manage to climb out of the pit and subdue the big ass Cobra with the big ass gun. Resident Joe martial artist Quick-Kick even has time to go psycho bizzaro on the two Vipers left behind as token guards by Tomax and Xamot:

The remaining Joes climb on board a Cobra tank and try to head back to the Emirate of Benzheen (probably a stand in for Kuwait in the Marvel Universe) and just when you thought they could kick back and open a can of Yo Joe Cola, this happens:

Scratch out Quick-Kick, Crazylegs and Breaker. Only Lt. Falcon, Cross Country and old man Duke made it alive out of this mess. And this was the beginning of the end for G.I. Joe for me. Before this they had truly crazy awesome stories and while their Middle Eastern adventure still delivered, it was just too close to real life for teenage Khairul H. to appreciate it. This comic was cover dated February 1991 so it must have been out in January of that year and real life folks from both sides of the conflict were still being killed and shot at at the time. Though I'm neither American nor Iraqi, I still felt disgusted at the whole mess and reading a fictional story loosely inspired by actual events made me gradually turn away from the comic book as well. Looking back it was just as well. Just over a year later, the G.I. Joe comic became "G.I. Joe starring Snake-Eyes" and when an ensemble team book changes it title to feature its most popular character, that means the book's in trouble. Marvel canned the title soon after. By the way, Snake-Eyes did not feature at all in this issue. He's on the cover because he sells.

Check out when G.I. Joe was still cool here or the "silent" story from G.I. Joe Annual #3 or even an issue of its spin off title, G.I. Joe Special Missions.

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