It was (cover-date) January of 1984! What were you doing? Newsarama editor Lucas Siegel was two, likely hitting the bottle and making lots of noise when displeased. Kinda like now. Newsarama Note: I'd take this out, if it wasn't true... For my part, I was ten years old, and thoroughly enjoying the beginning of a crazy year in pop culture. Really, think back to all things ’84. Stuff was happenin’! ESPN.com columnist Bill Simmons covered this in totally awesome detail a while back here, but it’s sufficient to say that it was a big year on all levels of entertainment.
Into that environment came a wacky Marvel stunt, recently replicated: Assistant Editor’s Month. While many titles skewed comedic, one title certainly kept its eye on wrapping up nearly a year’s worth of storylines from Joe uber-scribe Larry Hama. In fact, as other books got funny, G.I. Joe got deadly serious. You have to recall that the Joes were among the most popular toys in America. The first animated mini-series was on the books, and fans were Joe-crazy. The comic, frequently advertised on TV in those days, was selling huge.
This particular issue, “Joe Triumphs”, wrapped up the arcs of several characters that had been introduced in the comics, but not the toyline. There was Kwinn, a mercenary that first appeared in G.I. Joe #2; though named as a pun on the Bob Dylan tune, the Eskimo hardcase actually had a thoughtful demeanor, and became a true friend of Snake-Eyes. There was Dr. Venom, a truly evil Cobra scientist. There was Scar-Face, a Cobra trooper with a pair of facial lacerations that leant him his nickname. And there was General Flagg, Hawk’s commanding officer that oversaw the G.I. Joe team.
The action in this one turned on the fact that Cobra had finally located the Joe’s base, The PITT. Woven in the background were the remainders of other plot pieces, including the fact that the Joes had believed that Snake-Eyes had been killed as the close of issue #12. The issue also introduced the SNAKE Armor; Dr. Venom goes so far as to trap Snake-Eyes and Kwinn in suits, and use them as part of the front line offensive.
With The PITT under attack, the Joes pull the trick popping up their pre-fab “Battle Fortress” from beneath the ground. It looked just like the toy version, which was conveniently on sale now! I mean “then”. Snake-Eyes and Kwinn got free of their suits, but Kwinn was fatally wounded. Falling at Dr. Venom’s feet, Kwinn died, releasing a grenade. Ka-boom, and exit Dr. Venom.
Inside the fortress, Major Bludd rescues the Baroness (prisoner since nearly dying in #16’s “Night Attack”). However, his little operation ends up taking the lives of Scarface, and, in a big twist, General Flagg. Though not a main team member, Flagg had been present since the first issue. Doc tried to save him, but to no avail.
Eventually, the Joes drove off Cobra on the surface, and Cobra left thinking The PITT was destroyed. Of course, they didn’t know that the Fortress was a façade, and that the real PITT was still underground. Hawk, unaware of some of the goings-on, begins to tell everyone to be happy for their “major victory”, but his face falls as he sees Snake-Eyes holding out Kwinn’s distinct ammo belt, and Doc holding out General Flagg’s dogtags.
Overall, this was a pretty gripping issue at the time, well-rendered by Mike Vosburg, and quite shocking for the amount of death. It was a crucial moment in the history of the Joes, overall. The next issue was a stand-alone Clutch story, but issue #21 was the famous “silent issue” and #22 would introduce mainstays Duke and Roadblock. Clearly, bright days were still to come for the Joes.
What’s your take, readers? Did this one surprise you at the time? Are you youngsters stunned to discover that Duke wasn’t an original Joe? How about that movie? Regardless, this is issue for which I have a definite degree of fondness, and it’s your Friday Flashback.