Creators: Larry Hama (Writer), Chris Mooneyham (Artist), Francesco Segala (Colourist), Pat Brosseau (Letterer)
Plot: The G.I. Joe team is engaging in a two-pronged attack against Cobra Island – one group in the C-130 Hercules and another in the WHALE. Wild Bill and Duke are attempting to keep the C-130 from crashing as a missile had hit and damage some of the hydraulics. Within Cobra Island, Serpentor unleashes a Mutant Virus Bomb to turn everyone within the blast radius into cannibalistic monsters, against the suggestion of Dr. Mindbender. But Serpentor would rather do that than be captured by G.I. Joe. G.I. Joe is able to discover what’s going on and turn around to escape. The C-130 encounters the Cobra Cruise Ship with Revanche’s BAT’s on it, which attack the C-130 but they are able to escape. The WHALE also turns around and Laura and Wade Collins are guarding Cobra Commander but he’s able to overpower them and escape on the Jet Sled. The C-130 (after ditching the vehicles onboard) and the WHALE are both able to escape the blast zone and return to an air station in New Orleans, where the reality of what has happened hits the team.
Writing: G.I. Joe #301 is the first issue put out by Robert Kirkman’s Skybound Entertainment and published by Image Comics. This marks the fourth time in Hama’s G.I. Joe arc where it has moved publishers (after being with Marvel in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Devil’s Due Publishing from 2001-2008 (not written by Larry Hama but continuing the story from Marvel’s run) and IDW from 2010 to 2023 (written by Larry Hama again and making the Devil’s Due stories non-canonical). For fans of the series, this is good news as these are the same characters many of us read as kids during the 1980’s and 1990’s and not new versions of them (that tends to happen to reboots). The story starts off with a brief recap of G.I. Joe, Cobra, and some of the major characters and then gets right into the action. We don’t get a lot of time with any given characters outside of Duke, Wild Bill, Serpentor, Dr. Mindbender, Cobra Commander and Revanche Alpha-001. The other characters get a few lines here and there but that’s about it.
One thing that’s bothered me about G.I. Joe, as I’ve gotten older, is the idea that everyone on the team can do everything. This is shown here as Duke (an army first sergeant) being the co-pilot of the C-130 instead of someone else, like Lift-Ticket, Ace, or Slip Stream (to name some of the pilots from the franchise). Another piece about this issue that threw me off is the lack of any real background to what’s been going on previously. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but this is the first issue under a new publisher and readers who weren’t up-to-date on what happened under IDW’s run might be confused as what is going on. We do get two pages of general background information (who is G.I. Joe, who is Cobra) but another page or two of “what’s been happening recently” would have been nice. The story itself is pretty self-contained (which seems like it’s ending a small arc before beginning a new one) with some hints at future developments and some changes to the status quo.
Art: Mooneyham’s art is very “unpolished” looking here, compared to other, contemporary comics. Lots of shading and pencils lines throughout, even on the characters. And, that works. The art looks gritty and it should as this is a book about a military force that sometimes has to do grim and gritty things. He’s able to throw in a lot of classic characters into the book (characters we see “on the side” include Scarlett, Shipwreck, Stalker, Snake-Eyes, and even some Tele-Vipers). Most of the action takes place during sunset so the background colours have lots of red and orange tints throughout with. The Segala’s colours, combined with Mooneyham’s art, really drives home a gritty look for the book.
Final Thoughts: While the story and art are good in this issue, I think it would have benefited from a “Double Sized (Three-Hundred) First Issue!”. They could have used some more pages to give more background so new readers (as it’s now at a different publishing company) would have a better idea what’s going on. It would have allowed the story to be fleshed out more and we couldn’t gotten some “Order of Battles” in the back, instead of some quick bios of major characters we did get. The story is fast paced and engaging and the art really works for a military-themed comic. Overall, a decent start to Skybound’s G.I. Joe license.