Finished up #12 and #13. It was a shame back when I was younger that I missed out on these. Not knowing anything about comic books, and having a general lack of the concept of time, my weekly visits to our Circle K proved unfruitful. The interesting thing is #11 would be the only issue I ever bought at that Circle K. Across the street we had a car wash place where I used to buy my football cards. Well, it closed down some time the previous year and was abandoned for a while until construction started up in the fall if I remember correctly. It stopped during the winter but picked right back up. My friends and I were all very anxious to see what could be replacing our old secret hangout. It ended up being a 7-11, which would be our new and improved hangout for years to come, not to mention my main source of Joe comics until I got older and found a comic shop on the east side of town, close to the freeway. I have many memories of my friend Kent and I mowing lawns and then riding our bikes to Grand Central to buy new Joe toys. Then we would stop at the "Sev" on the way home and hope for the new comic to be sitting on the shelf. We checked every week for months, usually missing out on the month's issue, until the clerk realized what our ritual was and started letting us know when she got her shipments. That was an evil place. Every penny I earned that wasn't earmarked for Joe toys was spent there, either for Big Gulps/Slurpees or the arcade games (which Circle K didn't have) or the monthly Joe comic. It got to the point where we were on a first name basis with her and my mom actually grounded me from going there a few times as a form of punishment.
The first time I read about these issues was actually in Yearbook 1. I then was able to read the whole issue when the small digests came out. I actualy didn't get my hands on the actual comics until a few years ago. Well, enough of my trip down memory lane. On to the story itself.
This would be the first time we had a plot take multiple issues to reach it's conclusion. Personally, this type of storytelling is my favorite. Single self-contained issues are okay on occasion, but watching a plot unfold over six or more issues is just more enjoyable for me. Otherwise, most of the time the story just feels rushed, especially at the end. Mr. Hama paced out #12 and #13 masterfully, giving us a heavy dose of action sequences with some humor sprinkled in. I always enjoyed the humor elements, as long as they didn't overtake the story. Same with the sci-fi and mystical arts. It has been my experience in the Marines that it's pretty common to break up tense situations with a bit of humor, so I enjoyed those moments more as I got older.
How about Gung-Ho? Gets introduced in #11 and is already paired up with Snake Eyes as the BAMF team. This is also the first introduction of Scar-face, the much maligned COBRA Trooper, who throughout the next few issues you just couldn't help but feel sorry for. Venom returns and easily deduces who Stalker and Breaker are. Kwinn makes a surprise appearance, although the scene with him disarming the Joes with a burst of his .30 cal is a bit much. That bothered me the first time I read it and bothers me more now. Could have done the same thing with a pistol and it would actually be believable. Luckiest eskimo ever I guess. You know he isn't a good guy, but the way he carries himself and is so honorable in fulfilling his contract, you cannot help but like the big lug.
Interesting to see Venom get revenge on a tied up Snake Eyes, leave him for dead, and then correctly deduce that he is still alive. For some reason though he ends up relying too much on the island's defenses. Snake Eyes had already beaten death twice since he met him, but I guess he felt there were more pressing matters. I am not a big Vosburg fan, but the two panels of Gung-Ho breaking free of the ropes and then taking out the guards were very well done. Of course after praising him, I am going to tear him down a bit with his depiction of the island. It seems to me that from Baroness' comment - "Kwinn will stay on the island with Dr. Venom ferret out that insufferable Snake-Eyes!" - it would seem the island was supposed to be bigger than it was. From the art, there really is no place to hide, other than the other side of the bunker. Kwinn and Venom could have swept that in about 5 seconds. It also would seem to me that Snake Eyes would have been better off neutralizing the plane after sending his buddies off on the boat as it would be the only way off the island. If he succeeds, they can come back and pick him up, if he doesn't there isn't a way for COBRA to get off the island without exposing themselves to the Joes. Oh well, sometimes you just gotta tell the story. I will admit, that was one helluva cliffhanger at the end of #12. A shame again I never got to enjoy it.
The next issue though started off with a few groaners. First, while I appreciate Mr. Hama providing some good information about the indigenous reptiles, I just can't see a man being able to provide that kind of detail while wrestling with a croc. Would have made more sense if Stalker would have spouted all that out when he emerged from the water, while still on the adrenaline kick, before passing out. The next groan was the fire. I didn't have a problem with it when I read through it as a youngster, but once I went through boot camp I sure did. I can understand if Breaker built it himself after Gung-Ho left, being a simple soldier, but Mr. Hama made Gung-Ho out to be one of the stupidest Marines in the history of the Corps for doing that. Personally, I chose to believe that Breaker lied and said Gung-Ho did it to deflect the blame from himself.
Thankfully the rest of the issue was strong enough that those two things didn't end up bugging me. Too much. Another great teaching moment as Stalker gives us a lesson on how to properly defend a position. More of Gung-Ho being Gung-Ho. While I liked the scene of Hawk throwing a team together and the introduction of Torpedo (who was vastly underused in this series, although SEALs didn't nearly get the recognition back then as they do now), Scarlett's face upon learning Snake Eyes' fate was uncertain was just...weird. Same thing when she is deploying from the C-130. Vosburg's attention to detail was very hit and miss during his run.
I will admit that reading through CC's explanation of the true mission left me scratching my head this time around, which is a good thing as it means I am genuinely interested to see how this whole thing plays out. I know they were leading the Joes to find the micro dot, which I remember how that plays out, but the diversion from the research station hasn't clicked in my brain yet. Despite a few complaints, this story continued to be very enjoyable and I hadn't even gotten to the Joe's exfiltration yet.
Speaking of which, how impressive is that entire scene? The Joes securing the airfield and then defending it while the others worked their way there. Then they made their escape driving up the ramp of the C-130. That's tough. That's also a tactic that the Joes would perform again a few times years later. Then, as it was last issue, Mr. Hama dropped a doozy on us with the last few panels showing the sunken bunker and tapping from inside. If any of you picked up that issue when it first came out would share your thoughts on these two cliffhangers, I would really enjoy reading about it. Did you ever question whether or not Snake Eyes, Kwinn, and Venom actually survived? I read #14 long before these two issues so I knew they survived, although I wouldn't know the circumstances of them being in the bunker until a year or so later.
Again, these two issues were a great intro into what would come over the next few months. While these issues definitely were the beginning of what we like to term the "Golden Age" of the Marvel run, personally it wouldn't be until the most iconic issue ever came out when things really started taking off. For me anyway.
Next up is #14, my second issue.