I jumped at the chance to review the second volume of IDW’s gritty G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files, and I was more than a little surprised, and even caught over guard, by the time I reached the conclusion. While the first volume dealt with emotional, militaristic, and counter-intelligence issues, this second volume deals more specifically with emotional complexity, philosophical discussions of right and wrong, and the sometimes very thin line between the two. Hanging over all of the characters and their actions is the theme of consequences. The consequences of choices, of giving in to emotions, of misplaced or refused trust. Crafted by writer Mike Costa, the Cobra Files elite team continues to be a simmering pot of secrecy, distrust, and moral ambiguity, just waiting to boil over.
Tensions are high and uncertainty about the future of the team and its murky purposes are on the rise here in issues five through nine, and I was unaware until later that issue nine was, in actuality, the final issue of the series, as opposed to the end of a single story arc. I thoroughly enjoyed the flashbacks to Clockspring’s and Flint’s pasts, the lighter color scheme refreshing and helping the story to easily transition from past to present, without hitting us over the head with narration to establish the time shifts. That being said, Costa handles his narration with an expert hand, using it to reveal his characters’ motivations and reasoning and to add gravity to their interactions as the story, and many of the relationships, unwind. It was interesting to see the differences and similarities in Clockspring and Flint’s journey to G.I. Joe, and to see the way that working in shadowy covert ops has affected both of them.
Antonio Fuso and Werther Dell’Edera’s art perfectly captures the moral quandary many of the characters find themselves in, trying to make sense of right and wrong when everything is swathed in shades of grey. Their hard lines and deep shadows represent a team that seems unable to truly trust one another, and, therefore, everyone is wary and suspicious of everyone else and plays everything close to the chest. The way in which Flint reveals a pivotal decision displays such sharp, tight, and lucid writing that you feel as if he is talking directly to you. And, since the story unfolds from more than one character’s perspective, even though there may not be an excessive amount of action, the story is always interesting, especially in the fallout of Flint’s decision, which you may or may not agree with. This is part of the fun of The Cobra Files, because Costa makes you think about the choices you would make and how you would react in the same situation. There are villains in this book, and Tomax is assuredly one of them, but it is the characters’ own emotional turmoil, specifically Clockspring, Chameleon, and Flint, that truly threaten to undo the team.
This second and final volume of The Cobra Files is about powerful, sometimes suppressed, emotions and slow-burning schemes coming to the surface. As Costa shows us some characters beginning to unravel and others showing their true colors, it is obvious that this team is a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. While the action is at a minimum and the climax seems rushed in its simplicity, there are some very interesting ideas raised here about the power of trust and mutual respect, about what it means to be a leader, about the danger of underestimating emotions, about what you are willing to sacrifice and do to get the job done, and about what happens when you walk that tightrope. Sometimes, trying to save the world comes at a price, and, sometimes, you don’t know that price until you are forced to pay it in full.