I’ve been enjoying the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series that IDW has been publishing for the past couple of years. The main drawing point has, of course, been the return of writer Larry Hama to the characters he made such a phenomenon in the 1980s.
(I previously did a review of the first two IDW trade paperback collections on Yahoo Contributor Network, but that’s no longer online. One of these days I should re-post it on this blog.)
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero has continued to be enjoyable. The recently-released 2012 annual was definitely a highlight. Hama took a break from the monthly storylines to present a stand-alone tale focusing on a rogue Cobra Crimson Guard unit attempting to carry out a terrorist plot, with both the Joe team and Zartan’s outlaw Dreadnoks racing to thwart them. The writing may not have been nearly as strong as Hama’s work on the monthly book, but it contained an abundance of his trademark dry wit & deadpan humor.
(I don’t think Hama likes the term “deadpan humor” but I’m not quite sure how else to describe it. Well, whatever you want to call it, it works very well.)
The main selling point for me was the line-up of artists. Ron Frenz, Ron Wagner, and Herb Trimpe shared penciling duties, with Sal Buscema inking the entire story. In service of the multiple artists, Hama cleverly structured his storytelling to shift focus between the three groups. The Guardsmen pages were penciled by Frenz, the Cobra and Dreadnoks pages by Wagner, and the G.I. Joe pages by Trimpe. Buscema’s inking gave the overall book a certain uniform feel, so that the transitions back and forth between the trio of pencilers were not jarring.
The annual was something of a mini-Marvel Comics reunion, both in terms of the G.I. Joe title and in a broader sense. Each of the four artists produced a large body of work at Marvel in the past. In regards to G.I. Joe, Trimpe was the book’s original artist in the early 1980s. Even though he has drawn numerous covers for the IDW series, this annual features his first interior work for the revival. Wagner also worked on G.I. Joe, penciling the book in the late 1980s.
Additionally, both Herb Trimpe and Sal Buscema had momentous, nearly-uninterrupted runs penciling Marvel’s Incredible Hulk series. Trimpe was the artist on the Hulk from 1968 to 1975, while Buscema drew the Hulk between 1976 and 1985. So you have two men who are almost universally regarded as the definitive illustrators of one of Marvel’s most recognizable characters. And, as far as I am aware, they have only worked together on a handful of occasions in the past (I believe Trimpe was inked by Buscema on a few issues of Incredible Hulk way back in 1971). So, for a long-time Marvel fan such as myself, it was a thrill to see the two collaborating on this annual.
Of course, I would be even happier to see Trimpe & Buscema together again on a Hulk story. I don’t know if Marvel would even be interested in such a project. But occasionally they do publish a “retro” special or flashback sequence, so it’s not entirely outside the realm of possibility. Until that happens, this G.I. Joe annual serves as a nice reunion between the two comic book legends.
In any case, considering the very unfortunate tendency of Marvel (as well as DC) to offer less and less work to older artists such as Trimpe and Buscema, or even to such talents as Frenz or Wagner, who both had regular monthly gigs as recently as the 1990s, I certainly appreciate them being given the opportunity to produce new work. For that reason alone, the 2012 G.I. Joe annual is well worth picking up.