VOL. 1
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #1-10

2 stars out of 5A disjointed start to the series, there's plenty of introductions for the Joe team and their facilities in here, as well as a surprisingly peripheral role for Cobra. It's all very weird ground for a military title, with lots of insane technology on show. Most of the issues in this collection are self-contained capers of minimal interest, forgotten just about as soon as they're read.

Hama's dialogue is laughable for the most part, while some of the characterisation (Stalker's blaxploitation speech patterns, Clutch's flirting with Scarlett which makes him sound like a sexual predator) is dire too. There are a few embers of promise within, like the generally well-done action sequences and the debut of the Oktober Guard, but overall you'll miss little skipping this volume.


VOL. 2
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #11-20

3 stars out of 5Hama begins to find his niche a little bit with this batch of issues. The introduction of Destro adds intrigue within Cobra and adds depth to the Baroness in spades, while the storylines are getting more interesting. There are some awkward introductions for new characters, but after that they're generally incorporated into the line-up nicely enough.

There's still a tendency for Hama to rub his research in the reader's face (an interminable, jargon-filled escape in a Lancaster bomber is the biggest offender), but it all builds nicely to a battle at The Pit which tidies up a lot of the loose ends accumulated in the early scattershot phase. Not a bad read, but still some rough edges.


VOL. 3
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #21-30

Most of this selection is good stuff. Hama can't resist awful jokes (for example, Tripwire tripping over repeatedly), but the storylines are decent, mixing the ongoing Cobra intrigue with some fine action scenes, notably the capture/escape of Cobra Commander and a running swamp battle during the introduction of Zartan. Plus this one leads off with the superb "Silent Interlude", the stylish dialogue-less issue.

However, Snake Eyes' convoluted origin straddles two whole issues, which it really doesn't deserve to do, while Duke and Roadblock receive possibly the most ham-fisted, laugh-out-loud inept introduction in comics history. On the plus side, the introduction of the Dreadnoks provides a much-appreciated lighter side to the book.


VOL. 4
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #31-40

There are some very good character introductions (Flint, Lady Jaye, Blowtorch, Spirit, the Crimson Twins) as Hama balances the growing cast well, and a number of fine stories - including my personal favourite of the whole run, "Shakedown", a no-holds-barred dogfight between Ace and Wild Weasel. It's very good stuff on the whole.

However, the various Cobra leadership struggles have sadly began to morph into pure soap opera, especially with the introduction of Billy, conveniently randomly chosen by the Baroness and Major Bludd to assassinate Cobra Commander, and revealed in the most hilariously melodramatic fashion possible by Destro. Thankfully, it's not yet a major factor in this generally smart, snappy collection.


VOL. 5
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #41-50

There's still some good stuff (like Zartan's infiltration of The Pit, and a surprisingly respectable introduction for Serpentor), but many of the trademarks of the book's flabby later form are already emerging - a growing obsession with Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and the murder of the Hard Master; dire introductory stories for characters which are then barely used; Vietnam flashbacks narrated by Stalker; a respectable storyline for Rip Cord involving his girlfriend Candy that then never really goes anywhere...

Hama's getting overwhelmed by both the volume of new toys to show off and by the weight of all the little plots he's cracked open without thinking through to their ends. Even the Battle of Springfield falls a bit flat.


VOL. 6
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #51-60

The main thread running through this collection is the power struggle between Cobra Commander and Serpentor for command of Cobra, and it's generally very interesting stuff. Serpentor's not my favourite character, but the style with which he pulls strings here is a great thing for the narrative. It's backed up with some great action issues, though character-wise by now scores of characters are just being thrown at the book in the hope something will stick - here, the likes of Thrasher and Slip-Stream are given grand intros and then relegated to the background, though there's a fine issue centring on Mainframe and Dusty.

Elsewhere other problems are beginning to mount up - Cobra Commander's disguise, adopted for no reason other than farce, quickly becomes irritating, the hero-worship of Snake Eyes by the writer and thus all characters within is beginning to take over, and, yes, there's Stalker narrating Vietnam flashbacks. Christ. On the plus side, Destro really starts coming into his own from this point onwards.


VOL. 7
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #61-70

This is roughly the point bad ideas began to outnumber good ideas. The collection is dominated by an incredibly dull story about Stalker, Snow Job and Quick Kick (but mainly Stalker, who has ten lines to each of those received by the other two) being held in a Gulag in Borovia, requiring top secret ninja rescue by, yes, Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow, Scarlett, Billy and the Blind Master. Sigh.

The Cobra power struggle descends into soap opera once more, with the shock removal of Cobra Commander a brave decision undermined by the impostor Fred idea running out of steam almost immediately. In and around all this there's an incredibly poor space storyline and a Hell of a lot of dross - new characters are now disappearing into the established plot abyss at an alarming rate, making very little impression on their way to crowd-scene oblivion.


VOL. 8
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #71-80

The Battle of Cobra Island forms the meat of this collection, and marks a real return to form (and is arguably one of the best Marvel storylines full-stop), resolving a lot of issues along the way as, for once, Hama is able to put the large number of characters available to good use and pull out a few unexpected twists.

The rest isn't as strong, notably the disappointing realisation of the fallout from the battle (though this does at least give Destro a cracking little cameo), which wastes a good scenario (and sees G.I. Joe suspended for different reasons in successive collections) with a lame anticlimax, and the book is then capped off by a brace of rather forgettable actioners. Still, the main arc alone is good enough to justify investment.


VOL. 9
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #81-90

Hama is definitely burning out here. The ninja rubbish is now completely dominating the book, notably "SFX", a desperate attempt to recreate the style of the famous silent issue and the tacky way Zartan's pulled into the whole Arashkirage clan mess.. Elsewhere there's more soap opera due to the arrival of Billy's mother, who jumps through hoops so as to not mention Cobra Commander's real name, plus more characters even more risible than the last lot, the prime offender being the cheap joke gone too far that is Roadpig.

Oh, and an introduction for the original G.I. Joe in an issue so full of clunking in-jokes you want to track Hama down and return the sledgehammer blows in kind. There are some good points, notably the growing independence and depth of Destro, while the use of the Python Patrol range in fiction is really rather neat - plus it's good to see Flint and Lady Jaye getting some development to balance out Hama's ninja fetish a little. Best avoided nonetheless.


VOL. 10
Collects G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero #91-100

Any pretence about the book not being about Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow is basically dropped at this point, with pretty much everyone else reduced to supporting players whose lives revolve around the ninja duo - the most obvious offender being the melodramatic revelation that the reason the Baroness turned to terrorism in the first place was, yes, because of a Vietnam-era Snake Eyes.

There's also time for a dramatic and completely implausible return for the original Cobra Commander (it turns out when Fred and Raptor shot and buried him they didn't bother to check if they'd killed him, like they would in that situation, and he's built a new Cobra using the same front companies since without anyone noticing) and the complete anticlimax of showing us the real face of, you've guessed it, Snake Eyes. Tacky soap rubbish not worth the time it takes to read.