Review Date: 02/20/2009

Now that Congress has passed the Economic Stimulus Package, world-wide Heads of State can turn their attention back to include foreign and military affairs.  Good King Leonardo is very interested in negotiating with President Obama for a U.S.-Bongo Congo joint military pact, that would provide the assistance of America's G.I. Joe Team and The Haunted Tank crew to The Good Kingdom in times of need.  As such, the King has asked me to review both comics to check-out the preparedness of both military units:

    G.I. Joe #2
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Chuck Dixon: Writer
Robert Atkins: Artist
Clayton Brown & John Wycough: Inkers

Many readers of this column have expressed their fondness for the G.I. Joe comic line published by Marvel from the mid-1980's to the mid-1990's, and I was a big fan as a kid of Hasbro's G.I. Joe toy line, so I thought it would be of interest to review the new G.I. Joe comic line recently begun by IDW Publishing.  Issue #2 is scripted by Chuck Dixon with art by Robert Atkins, Clayton Brown and John Wycough.

     The G.I. Joe team is involved in two interconnected sub-plots in this issue.  The main storyline takes place in The Pit, the team's secret headquarters, as they examine a mysterious high tech box that the team captured on assignment in the first issue.  The team doesn't realize that the box has video capabilities that is allowing Scottish bad guy Laird James McCullen and his team to spy on The Pit and try to pinpoint its secret location.  This plot ends in a nice confrontation between McCullen and a female scuba member of the G.I. Joe team who has infiltrated his hideout.  The second storyline is more action-oriented, and focuses on team members in Manila trying to abduct a field agent of COBRA, a mysterious weapons smuggling group.

     I've never been a big fan of stories or shows based on toys or products, so I approached this comic with some doubt.  But happily, credit is due to the creative team for providing a first-rate story.  The characters are the key, here.  The G.I. Joe team members including Scarlett, Stalker, Leatherneck, Bankshot, Sparks and General Hawk have strong and unique personalities.  The military members work closely with civilian Research and Development folks at The Pit, including young genious scientist Ward Michaelmas, who is a main character of this issue.  The comic thus gives us a CSI-type setting, combining research and technology elements with military action in a realistic manner.  Add some humorous and up-to-date pop culture dialogue and we have an enjoyable comic that avoided the feared potential woodenness of evolving from a toy line.  No doubt the 1980's version succeeded well in providing this same story quality, given the number of readers who are still fans of that previous G.I. Joe comic line.

     I also got a kick out of the cover, both variant versions of which show the female team member who uses G.I. Joe scuba action to infiltrate the bad guy's Scottish lair.  Its got to be intentional that she's a dead ringer for recent Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin!  It's only a minor constructive criticism, but as a first-time reader, I would have liked a little more information about her, including her name.  So overall, an enthusiastic thumbs-up for our first military comic of the week.

    Haunted Tank #3
Publisher: DC Vertigo
Frank Marraffino: Writer
Henry Flint: Pencils & Inks
Lee Loughridge: Colors

     DC's more adult-oriented Vertigo comics line is currently at issue #3 in a five-issue mini-series of Haunted Tank.  For the uninitiated, The Haunted Tank was a classic silver age DC comic line that began in 1961 in G.I. Combat.  The premise was that the ghost of Confederate Civil War General J.E.B. Stuart acted as a guide and guardian to his WW II Tank Commander descendent Lt. Jeb Stuart, through the various WWII battle campaigns.  This was a very popular Silver Age war comic, second in longevity only to Sgt. Rock in the DC war comics line.

     The new mini-series has updated the war scene to the current Iraq warfront.  This time around, the General's ghost serves as guardian to a tank crew commanded by African American Lt. Stuart.  The plot of issue #3 focuses mostly on an angry confrontation and extended dialogue between Lt. Stuart and the General's ghost regarding the General's outdated Civil War-era racial prejudices.  The ongoing argument between the two is interspersed with a few brief confrontations between the tank crew, Iraqi rebels and Iraqi tank crews.

     I have a mixed reaction to this comic.  I like the fresh idea of updating the comics premise to today's wartime situation, as well as the element of changing the interaction between the ghostly Stuart and the Tank Commander Stuart to one of struggling to accept modern racial appceptence and equality.  However, the underlying premise of any war comic is just that, a combat-related story that needs to serve as the basis for the additional elements of the story. 

     The creative team tries to give us the Irag conflict as the comic base, but there's no real plot to that side of the comic book.  The comic is also set early in the war, in April of 2003, at an early point during which Saddam's army was still around.  That gives the Haunted Tank crew a chance to engage an Iragi tank battalion in traditional tank-to-tank combat.  However, given how for years now the war has slogged-down into a brutal hand-to-hand armed insurgency, the traditional, old-fashioned form of combat feels surreal and out-of-place, for me at least, in an Iraq war comic published in 2009.

     I give this comic a thumbs-up, albeit a mixed review, for its excellent modernizing of the Haunted Tank concept from its 1960's original to today's army and society, but hope that the remaining issues in this mini-series give us a better-quality combat element to this worthy effort of a combat comic book.


New Contest Announcement!

     Good King Leonardo has been watching reruns lately of his favorite television superhero shows, such as the old George Reeves Superman show, Batman, The Hulk and Wonder Woman.  The King suggested a new contest in which you give us what new superhero-based show you would like to see produced for t.v.  Give us some details such as the Superhero or heros, what actor/actress would be perfect for it, do you want a comedy (i.e., 1960's Batman) or drama (i.e., 1970's Bill Bixby's Hulk show) theme, a half-hour or full-hour format and any other thoughts you wish to suggest for your dream new t.v. show. E-mail us at Gordon_A@msn.com, and happy comic book reading for this week!


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