As much as I gushed over and praised Snake Eyes: Declassified, it just cannot replace the magic of #26-27. While #21 is the greatest single issue in Joe history (I used to believe #155 was, but with ARAH back I will admit it's lost a bit of its allure), #26-27 is the best two-issue story in Joe history, even when you include the mediocre Everglades story. Love or hate Snake Eyes, these two issues are the keystone of the entire mythos. Not only because of the flashbacks that fleshed out this mysterious silent man in black, but also because we got our first glimpse of how the team came together.
Probably the most ingenious thing Mr. Hama did though was after #27, for the next year and a half both Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow would take a back seat, allowing the other characters time in the spotlight. Only in #31 would one of them be featured prominently. Coincidentally, this period of time is what I consider the high point of the mythos. The size of the team hadn't gotten unmanageable yet and the stupid ideas from Hasbro were yet to come. We just had high quality stories and incredible art to go along with it.
These two issues would be the last two (until I dropped the title outright years later) I would miss out on. Could I have been more unlucky??? Thankfully, about six months later I would get a back issue order that would include #27, but that would only frustrate me as I would have to wait until the digest comics came out much later before I could enjoy reading all the pages of #26. I was able to get a few panels from the recap in Yearbook #2, but that didn't help all that much considering all that I did miss.
In #26, I didn't particularly care for the Everglades story. I didn't like the fact that Junkyard was running loose the entire time and the things he did were pretty ridiculous. First off, how would a dog be able to differentiate between Joes and COBRAs, especially after how nicely Destro treated it? More importantly, how would a dog know how to find quicksand and lead the COBRAs into it? While we are on the subject, why on earth would an elite counter-terrorist team even have a need for a dog handler in the first place, especially one who couldn't even control the dog he had???? It seemed to me that these scenes, and especially Mutt & Junkyard and Tripwire, served no other purpose than to provide a few moments of comedy relief, at the expense of a better story. Sure Mr. Hama was showcasing new figures, but Torpedo would have benefitted much more if he was teamed up with Gung-Ho and either Grunt or Rock 'N Roll.
The scenes I couldn't get enough of were those that had Soft Master in them. Especially the very first scene with the punk kid trying to rob him. It was great political commentary on Mr. Hama's part about the REAL issues with gun control. It is something that really made an impression on me back then and has stuck with me ever since. Actually, most of the teachings we got from Soft Master I really took to heart. I was pretty impressionable back then and outside of my family I would say Mr. Hama played a pretty big part in molding me as a youth to become the man I am today.
Even though I just spent the past few days reading through a comprehensive story of Snake Eyes' origin, it still wasn't as good as the flashbacks Mr. Hama provided us in #26. From the Joes detailing his time in Vietnam to Soft Master recapping his time in Japan, it was all woven so masterfully and still moves you today as it did back then.
The first thing I noticed about #27 was a change in the art. I do enjoy Springer's style overall, and he had some panels in #27 that were eye-popping good, but to me it suffered in comparison. That said, the art in #27 was very good and better than anything we got prior to #24, with the exception of #21 of course.
The Everglades story continued on its mediocre way, with more silliness like Tripwire doing a header, and ridiculousness like Junkyard being able to recognize a trap and spring it itself. I will admit this storyline would at least become a little more interesting in #28, but to this point the entire plot seemed to do nothing but take away from the brilliance of the flashbacks into Snake Eyes' past.
Reading the first of the flashbacks I noticed I may be off on the time line between when Snake Eyes came home from Vietnam and when he joined the unit. Hawk confirmed that it was six years from the time he met Snake Eyes at the airport until he and Stalker recruited him for the team, including only three years in Japan. I had erroneously figured 4 years. That's quite a crunch though for Snake Eyes to become the level of a ninja master, but we know his dedication is unparalelled and he had prior training too so it's not that much of a stretch I guess. This also caused me to rethink Billy's age. Putting him at 15 or 16 in #38 could work. Still, even if we push #38 out to 1985, that means he was born in 1970, still before Snake Eyes came home. I looked at Jim's site (http://www.myuselessknowledge.com/joe/i ... e&Itemid=1
) and reviewed his Chronology of events prior to #1 (http://www.myuselessknowledge.com/joe/i ... &Itemid=59
) and he is under the assumption that Billy is born in 1974 since it is assumed Billy is in his late-teens around #84. Not sure I can agree with that since if you apply real time to the comic, it would have been early 1989 at #84, making Billy only 15 at the time. I don't like the thought of real time being applied to comics as it ages the characters far too quickly. I can agree with Billy being 14 or 15 around #33-38, which actually fits better than my original thought of 17-18, but I don't think I can go any younger than that. I would think he would need to at least be growing physically in order to be able to handle Tommy's training that would start shortly after #38. What do you guys think?
There is a continuity issue between #27 and #144/Snake Eyes: Declassified. In #27, Scarlett recalled that the Huey they were in was the one with the mechanical issue, while in #144/SE:D it was the other one. Personally, I went with #27 since Scarlett's memory was a lot sooner then Hawk's and it also has such an emotional connection to her she would remember a lot more accurately than Hawk, who wasn't even there. Plus, #144 has other problems with it like Doc being there, COBRAs in Viper uniforms, COBRA HISS tanks, Snake Eyes wearing a white shirt, and Hawk meeting Snake Eyes while there were still others there. Seriously, did the aviation fumes affect Hawk's brain or what?
Best part of the issue though were the panels with Soft Master, Snake Eyes, and Storm Shadow. The chase down the street in Spanish Harlem was epic! "Aw, mom. I never get to see anything!" Then the comments from Sid and his buddy. Now THAT is how you interject comedy into a comic without hurting the story, unlike the use of Junkyard and Tripwire. There is one thing about the exchange between Tommy and Snake Eyes that I found odd. Once they were both on the train, it felt as if Tommy was accusing Snake Eyes as being the one who killed the Hard Master. If Tommy was spying on the two at the diner long enough for him to hear Soft Master refer to Snake Eyes by name, surely he would have heard the part where Soft Master speculated about Tommy being the killer. Of course seeing Snake Eyes yielding his Uzi he might have figured he stumbled on Snake Eyes trying to take out Soft Master as well, so nevermind. Just needed to think through that a little. One thing I am still left wondering though is at what point does Tommy learn of Snake Eyes' accident and the fact he cannot speak. I don't think there was enough time there for any kind of explanation, unless Tommy is well versed in sign language. I am trying to remember off the top of my head as to their next meeting, which I believe is #45. It will be interesting to see if that is covered at all within the pages, or we just assume at some point it is covered off panel.
All in all, despite the Everglade story silliness, these two issues are simply superb! Makes me wonder how much of this Mr. Hama already had put together and what parts just happened to flow with the natural progression of the storyline. If he had this gem from the beginning, I am impressed with the intestinal fortitude it took to hang on to it for two years! Knowing me, I probably would have revealed it after issue #3.