Cobra offers a clear case study of how to revive the Joe franchise and reinvent it for a new audience. The most important lesson being this – don’t be afraid to break the toys or subvert expectations. With G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero still trucking along, fans have their outlet for classic. The rebooted G.I. Joe needs to take more risks and veer farther from the beaten path. And that’s exactly what writer Paul Allor and artist Chris Evenhuis seem willing and able to do. Rather than lead off with a traditional tale of rival paramilitary organizations, the new series introduces a drastically different landscape where Cobra is in the process of conquering the US and the Joes are a ragtag band of resistance fighters.
The new direction feels fresh and engaging in a way not all Joe projects have in recent years. There are just enough of the classic trappings at play to justify the G.I. Joe name, but the tone is almost completely different. We’ve rarely seen the Joes this badly outmatched . And in its own way, the series manages to feel extremely timely. Allor and Evenhuis seem intent on using the new status quo as a critique of a complacent American public who keep going about their daily lives no matter how many existential threats come knocking. There’s a surreal quality to the way the protagonists fight a desperate battle for survival while bystanders barely acknowledge the chaos in their midst.
The series also succeeds in giving readers a compelling protagonist in the form of Tiger, a wide-eyed recruit joining the Joes at the worst possible time. He brings just enough humor and optimism to the page top offset an otherwise bleak and pessimistic universe. No amount of blue lasers will stop Cobra this time.
Evenhuis and colorist Brittany Peer give this incarnation of G.I. Joe a visually distinct style. Forget the musclebound heroes and villains in flashy, primary-colored costumes. This series applies a more grounded and sensible look, but one that also skews in a fairly cartoonish direction. It does just enough to capture the severe tone of the conflict while lending a bit of whimsy to the world. The heavy lines and stark color choices are vaguely reminiscent of Patrick Nagel’s iconic ’80s Deco art. There’ also a faint anime influence, particularly with tiger’s Akira-inspired character design. The figures do have a tendency to look stiff and overly posed, which can inhibit the action scenes, but the overall effect is still visually appealing.