‘G.I. Joe Special Missions Volume 2:’ TPB Review

The second volume of G.I. Joe Special Missions is just as entertaining as the first, though in a different way.  Still written by G.I. Joe aficionado Chuck Dixon, there is a richer vein of humor being tapped for issues five through nine of the series that make up this collection, which includes a three-part arc involving The Dreadnoks and Zartan, followed by two standalone adventures.  The main story, titled Deadfall, takes place in an exotic and interesting locale, just like the first volume’s sea and underwater setting.  This time around, we find the Joes in the exact opposite type of location, the dry and dusty desert of the Australian Outback.  I love the idea of switching up where these stories unfold and am interested to see if Dixon can continue this idea of location as character into the third volume, if that was ever his idea at all.  He very well may just be following where the characters and the story take him, but I can still hold out hope for a snow setting and an appearance by Snow Job.

The plot of Deadfall is slight but provides enough of an impetus to bring us what we really want: a reason for the Joes and Dreadnoks to mix it up.  Out in the desert, The Joes are led by Spirit, who puts them all on horses, much to Roadblock’s dismay, which provides ample amounts of hilarity.  Dixon does a stellar job of taking the two unlikeliest of companions, the outdoorsy tracker Spirit and the much more urban Roadblock and turning them into a two-man rescue team to break the other Joes out of the Dreadnoks’ dicey desert compound.  Zartan brings the intelligent menace that I expected, but, overall, the Dreadnoks were not as outlandish as I’d hoped.  Instead, they are a bit more (just a bit, though, so as not to take all the fun out of their characters, or possibly their caricatures) realistic, with not as many one-liners, bickering, or zany antics as I was strangely looking forward to, thanks to my fond memories of them in the eighties cartoon.   I also would have liked to see them use their trademark weapons more, though the over-the-top chainsaw and blowtorch do make a welcome appearance.  The interactions between Spirit and Roadblock and between Roadblock and his horse are truly the selling points of this story, and not in a bad way.  Dixon crafts an entertaining adventure featuring a couple of Joes we desperately want to see succeed, and we have hopes they may even become friends by the end.

The other two standalone stories are fun, the last one featuring Bildocker and Dial-Tone easily the most lighthearted, as it starts with Bildocker showing off a very G.I. Joe-esque action figure he had made of himself.  The previous story pits technophiles Mainframe and Dial-Tone against a computer hacker who has been enlisted by Cobra to take out a U.N. diplomat.  While a fair amount of the action takes place over and between computer screens, the story surprised me with its ingenuity and sense of danger, keeping a breakneck pace from beginning to end.  It also featured my favorite artwork out of all the issues, done with detail and depth by S L Gallant, though some of that credit may need to go to inker Juan Castro, who worked on both of the single issues.  The art in the final issue is by James Igle, and Deadfall has art and inks from Will Rosado, with colors for all the issues provided by Aburtov and Grafikslava.  The look of Deadfall put me off a little, as it is appeared too light and glossy, with everyone looking kind of shiny and diffused.  As I write this, though, I realize that the story takes place in the desert, where with all of that open sky and sun, and even the moon, it would always be bright, with light reflecting off clothes and skin, so perhaps that look actually fits the location better than I originally thought.  That aside, I feel Rosado’s art has a somewhat stiff appearance, as if his characters were posing, even sometimes when they were supposed to be in motion, though that seems to fall away when the focus is more on Roadblock and Spirit.

G.I. Joe Special Missions Volume Two continues the action and entertainment of the series, even fleshing out a few of the characters beyond their respective Joe roles, while debuting some fun and interesting known and unknown villains.  The covers by Paul Gulacy are fantastic and active, and the various variant cover artists bring their own unique style and wit, making for a versatile book.  Part of what makes IDW’s collections of Special Missions such a treat are the art galleries at the end, and this collection is no exception.  The back is loaded with dime novel spoofs and character pin-ups, and those often hilarious pieces help to remind us that while the Special Missions team exists to protect us from the threat of Cobra, they can still have a good time while doing it.

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