REINSTATED!
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #1-4

G.I. Joe's return feels a bit like a mixture of a TV movie sequel and a cartoony fanfic. Josh Blaylock's scripting is generally awful, and the rather clumsy attempt to create intrigue within Cobra comes across as pure melodrama, as does the attempted tension with Scarlett and Snake-Eyes. The ugly art doesn't help with taking things seriously, as does the all-too-obvious bigging up of Kamakura, Armada and Zanya.

Neither the action sequences or the shallow splashes of characterisation come off particularly well. Quite why DDP decided to overcomplicate the return by recalling twenty-plus characters (most redesigned, often dreadfully - what the Hell is Mainframe wearing?) and then adding more to the mix I don't know. The good thing is you can just skip this one easily.


RECKONINGS
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #6-9

While the second DDP storyline takes a while to get going as it picks over the debris of the opening issues, it picks up speed. Storm Shadow, relatively decluttered after the mess Larry Hama made of the character, is good value, and the simple assassination storyline allows for some fine action scenes.

Even the overexposed Snake Eyes' predictable appearance isn't a big problem, though once again Blaylock's desperate attempts to make Kamakura cooler and awesomer than everyone else ever is rather irritating. The art's settling down nicely, a lot less deformed. It's still difficult to get excited about the second-hand Cobra infighting, which seems especially stupid as they've only just reformed - why bother if they're just going to argue with each other?


MALFUNCTION
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #10-15

The bulk of this collection is taken up by a flabbergasting four issues about a rogue B.A.T. mixed in with the dreadfully boring Blaylock take on the Dreadnoks. Again there's an attempt at conspiracy intrigue that just doesn't grab the interest, though meaty roles for some under-used characters (Heavy Duty, Mainframe and - best of all - Firefly) redress the balance a little bit.

There's just not much mileage in a super B.A.T. beating people up. The book's filled out with a rather boring two-parter concerning an off-duty Mutt, Bazooka, Alpine and Rock 'n' Roll stumbling on a Springfield-style Cobra settlement, and feels like even more of a retread, even if it is nice to revisit these particular Joes.


ALLIANCES
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #17-20

Wow, where the Hell did Blaylock pull that from? A streamlined cast of characters deployed in a common sense fashion; timely and well-crafted returns for October Guard survivors Daina and Gorky; superb characterisation for the DDP-neglected Flint and Baroness; Destro back on form; crackling action sequences, and a great plot.

Lots of great little scenes (such as the Twins picking sportscars at the end) really help this along, and it feels like a different part of the series, with the tangled Cobra power-struggles almost put on hold, and no new characters being crammed down the reader's throat. The Russian setting makes a nice change too, and the marvellous colouring really gels with the excellent artwork. Sadly, there's a poor second story in the book, a rather tired attempt to return Storm Shadow to the Joe side, full of brainwashing, ancient ninja techniques and all the boring stuff Larry Hama drowned the Marvel title under. Shame, but not enough to overshadow the tight opener.


THE RETURN OF SERPENTOR
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #16 & #22-25

Opening with a very interesting story featuring an unusual detective-style assignment for Spirit, Cover Girl and Snake Eyes, this continues the upturn in quality. Serpentor's return is actually well-handled and quite inventive, and the story forefronts a few more neglected characters, such as Mindbender and Zandar.

The roles for the Joes are divided up nicely too, while the whole assault on Cobra Island is nicely done, harking back to the Marvel Cobra Civil War storyline while remaining its' own beast. It's a shame Serpentor comes and goes in the space of four issues, but it does allow for a certain amount of housecleaning. Plus a big round of applause for omitting #26, Brandon Jerwa's debut which wasted time introducing the derivative Scanner, who then went on to do basically nothing.


PLAYERS & PAWNS
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #28-33

A real mess of a story from Jerwa. The book is dominated by the need, either by DDP's choice or a Hasbro mandate, to cram the book with newer characters and newer designs, the most leaden aspect being a desperate attempt to convince us Barrel Roll is the best thing since sliced bread, when he's actually doing the same basic thing Rip Cord did a decade before in the Marvel book, and in a better uniform to boot. Trying to get us to care about Firewall is a similarly doomed endeavour as well. There is a cracking ending to the arc, but it's not enough to redeem the balance.

There's also the heavy intro for the DDP-devised Wraith too, which is basically a dozen or so pages going on about how great this new stealth-capable armoured nutter is, and it feels rather empty - it would have been much more interesting watching someone like Firefly using their skills for the jailbreak rather than some vac-formed awesome badass. In general, the book's regressed to about where it was at the start, which is a real shame considering the promising direction it was heading in a couple of arcs back.


UNION OF THE SNAKE
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #36-41

Skipping a rather boring two-parter covering the back story of Black Out (another new character who never went anywhere), this one is still too centred on new toys, and does use a few old staples, such as the Joes being suspended and the old ninja team going rogue.

However, it somehow manages to generate some energy, while the decision to drastically slim down the roster really works - it's especially nice to see Mercer being given a chance to shine. The Cobra politicking really clicks for the first time in a long time as well, and a lot of loose ends get tied up here - for one, Jerwa seems to realise how pointless Scanner is, and butchers him at the first opportunity. He might not be a great writer, but at least he realises what his mistakes are. Phillip Rey is less of a success, but does give the regulars something to bounce off, while the low-key reintroduction of Joe Colton really works due to the guy being treated as a character rather than walking meta. Not great, but certainly good pulp fun.


THE RISE OF THE RED SHADOWS
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero (V2) #36-43

The seeds of the Red Shadows plotline had been laid for a while in the preceding issues, but the actual storyline is something of a damp squib. Putting aside the missed potential of actually using the Battle incarnation of the Red Shadows, the problem is that the group don't really seem to do much.

Sure, there's one major, major character death (and several minor ones which don't seem to fit in with the rest of the plan very logically) and some serious plot boiling from the Red Shadows, but despite the Joe team being in utter disarray they never quite congeal into an tangible threat - best illustrated by the way they're taken down by half-a-dozen Joes in a very anticlimactic fashion. A bit of a mess all in all, and you can see why DDP went with the deck-clearing America's Elite relaunch after this.


THE NEWEST WAR
Collects G.I. Joe - America's Elite #0-5

The closest the comics have ever come to the decluttered Resolute cartoon, Joe Casey's first arc isn't a breath fresh of air in the grand scheme of things - the format cribs heavily from Mark Millar's Authority/Ultimates work, but it's nice to see the approach used on G.I. Joe.

The stripped down cast largely covers old characters (the exception being Joe Colton, excellent throughout and properly integrated with the book now), but there's a certain clean-brush freshness to him - gone are the ridiculous ninja plots, thankfully. Even guys like Roadblock and Shipwreck are a revelation by contrast with what's gone before, even if neither are radically revamped. Good, solid widescreen entertainment.


THE TIES THAT BIND
Collects G.I. Joe - America's Elite #6-12

Casey's fresh, punchy style continues to revitalise G.I. Joe. Few of the elements here are new, but they're remixed enough ton seem to much fresher - the Snake Eyes/Scarlett relationship, the Red Ninja clan, ninja programming... All filler in the old days under Hama, but all used well in a series of kinetic set-pieces here.

Colton is really coming into his own, while the main team continues to impress (there's also the very wise decision to take Flint about as far as he can go), while there are well-crafted and surprisingly welcome returns for Kamakura and Major Bludd. Only Duke's special ops solo mission against a rogue Crimson Guard doesn't really come off, but it's an easy to ignore subplot.


IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING
Collects G.I. Joe - America's Elite #13-18

A crackerjack pulp plot-boiler full of vaguely implausible but highly entertaining twists. The return of Cobra Commander is beautifully handled, for once giving the character the leverage to really be a danger, while the return and subsequent humiliation of General Rey raises a smile. Duke gets to ride in as the cavalry, and the Baroness comes back into play wonderfully.

The paranoid atmosphere once again throws light on the strong central cast, this time joined by the smart, capable Spirit. Colton grows in stature with each issue, while even Kamakura is edging away from the reject pile. And has there been a better sight in a G.I. Joe comic than Snake-Eyes back in his original commando gear after all this time? Whip-crack fast action, and this is only the build-up.


TRUTH AND CONSEQUENCES
Collects G.I. Joe - America's Elite #19-24

Casey's departure threatens a massive wobble as the first two-part story is a convoluted house-cleaning exercise, addressing loose ends from numerous old DDP threads, and it's not much of a trade-off for finding out the real deal about General Rey when surely no-one cared anyway.

Thankfully, with that out the way, Mike Powers' "Sins of the Mother" is another breathless slice of twists, turns and power plays, the last round of saber rattling before the big event. The rogue Baroness gets to show just how dangerous she is, while Cobra Commander is once again given a real tactical mind. The Joes themselves are relative passengers in the story (though the skills of Spirit and a well-handled return for Flint are both positives), but it's rather fitting. Superb stuff.


WORLD WAR III
Collects G.I. Joe - America's Elite #25-36

DDP signed off their work on the Joe licence with this pulsating epic, the sort of story G.I. Joe was built for. First off, it's huge - the title isn't an exaggeration or a play on words, this is it, a world war between G.I. Joe and Cobra. The concept is convincingly done as well - Cobra's ingenuity actually makes their resources a viable world-wide threat.

Just on the off-chance that the basic concept isn't enough, there are subplots everywhere, ranging from newly opened seams to unfinished business from older DDP (and even Marvel) storylines, most of which get a surprisingly natural resolution here. And in the midst of all this there's some outstanding characterisation (Wild Bill, for example, is a standout), not to mention some fantastic cameos. It feels like we've been waiting for this conflict since 1982, and it doesn't disappoint.