On The Cheap: Get All Of ‘Snake Eyes: Agent Of Cobra’ For Five Bucks
If you went to Comixology yesterday to check out the week's new releases, you wouldn't have seen a GI Joe sale featured on the main page, but there's one going on right now that features a whole lot of great comics. The main attraction here is probably the six issues of Tom Scioli and John Barber's senses-shattering Transformers vs. GI Joe on sale for a buck each, but let's be real with each other: If you are the kind of person who takes this site's recommendations on what comics to buy, there's a good chance that you've already got those.
What you might have missed, though, is one of the best Joe stories in recent memory: Mike Costa and Paolo Villanelli's Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra. It's compelling, character driven, features one of the best fight scenes of the year, and, perhaps most importantly, it has Destro and Snake Eyes teaming up to take on the world. If you haven't read it, you should pick it up --- even if you've never been a fan of GI Joe.
I don't want to say that Costa's stories are GI Joe for people who don't like GI Joe, because I've loved that stuff for coming up on thirty years now, and I think he's arguably the second-best writer in the history of the franchise, coming in right behind Larry Hama --- and coming in second to the guy who created the whole thing and has been the major architect of it for the past three decades isn't exactly coming up short. His work has been consistently innovative and compelling, providing some of the sharpest --- and frequently funniest --- Joe stories that IDW has published.
He's also been one of the most consistently great writers they've had, too. The IDW continuity for GI Joe has been all over the map in terms of tone, from the relaunch as a more military-focused series under Chuck Dixon, to Fred Van Lente and Steve Kurth pushing it in a more over-the-top direction that incorporated stuff from the cartoon, to the re-relaunch under Karen Traviss and Kurth that jumped ahead five years with a direction that was built on more realistic action. Through it all, Costa has been working on books like Cobra Files, which approached the book as an action-adventure built around espionage, secrets and lies, and he's been quietly killing it the entire time.
And when he paired with Paolo Villanelli for Snake Eyes, the result was no exception.
Costa has always worked really well experimenting with the format --- the first moment I knew he was really great was when he did the Tomax/Xamot special that was built like Watchmen #5, with the center pages of the twins looking into a mirror and the pages on each side reflecting each other in both layout and content --- and here, he takes a pretty interesting approach to writing a character who never speaks. There's no narration for Snake Eyes, and Villanelli doesn't have a face to draw to handle the acting, so instead, we see him through the eyes of other characters.
Until the final issue, the series is essentially Snake Eyes Team-Up, with Destro, Chameleon, Billy, and Ronin taking turns as the characters handling the narration, and the effect is great. The obvious effect is giving us insight into those characters, ones that haven't had as much time in the spotlight as Snake Eyes has had in his long and storied career as an uzi-toting ninja commando, using that five-year gap to flesh out their characters in really interesting ways. But on top of that, it makes Snake Eyes seem remote and frightening in a way that's really hard to pull off for a character who's as popular as he is, and resulted in one of my favorite descriptions of him, ever:
Along the same lines, the fight against Storm Shadow was telegraphed early in the series --- heck, it was probably telegraphed by the title, since it's pretty hard to have a Snake Eyes series without pitting him against his sword-brother and opposite number at least once --- but it's actually every bit as good as you want it to be, which is something of a rarity. The immediate setup for it at the end of #4 is one of those perfect dialogue moments that'll make you jealous of how obvious and effortless it seems, but the actual fight lives up to it. Villanelli's work in the rest of the series is good, don't get me wrong, but the way he choreographs this all-out fight and builds naturally to an amazing climax made me want to see a whole lot more from him and Costa working together.
The entire series is on sale for 99 cents each, and I can't think of a whole lot of comics that would be a better buy for five bucks --- especially since the last issue is still new enough that it's listed for full price at Comixology. It's self-contained, character driven, action-packed and rewarding for both new readers and long-time fans. Check out that first issue, but don't be surprised if you find yourself barreling through all five as fast as you can.