Bizarro Back Issues: ‘The Corps!’ And The Comic That Never Was (2008)
I've been writing about weird old comics on the Internet for well over a decade now, and there are two things that you really need to take away from that. First, I am old, and never have I felt the inexorable march of time grinding me to dust more acutely than when I think of it in terms of back issues. Second, I've learned a lot about all the different ways that a comic can be weird. Sometimes it's that they're tackling a bit of strange subject matter, or throwing together two (or three) genres that don't quite mesh together. Sometimes it's the approach, the bizarre swerves that drag a character out of their normal comfort zones. And sometimes, it's the fact that it's a comic that exists at all, in defiance of all logic.
2008's The Corps #0 is one of those last ones.
So here's the backstory. If you've ever walked down the toy aisle at your local Walmart --- and since you're currently reading this on a comic book news and opinion website, I'm going to to ahead and take that as a given --- then you've probably seen The Corps warming the pegs somewhere between the Power Rangers and the Transformers. It's a line of 3.75" military fantasy action figures, themed around the idea of a daring special missions force full of elite soldiers known only by codenames, dedicated to stopping their evil counterparts from conquering the world.
And if that sounds a little familiar, there's a reason for that.
The Corps is, and I say this with zero judgement, a complete ripoff of GI Joe --- and it's one that's so shameless and thorough that it loops back around to being kind of admirable with how far they've gone with it. But while they've got the codenames, the factions, the vehicles and playsets, there's one piece of the puzzle that it was missing: Despite having some pretty solid designs to work with, The Corps never had comics.
GI Joe, of course, has had considerable success in that particular medium, and in 2008, they'd most recently been published by Devil's Due, a company that, in all honesty, picked up the series when interest was at an all-time low and did a pretty solid job at reviving it. When they lost the license to IDW, though, they were left with a hole in their schedule, and to fill it, they decided to take their cue from the choice made by toy-buying children who really loved tanks: When you can't get GI Joe, you get The Corps.
Except that they never really made it that far. The actual series never came out --- the only thing we got was a 99-cent #0 from Rick Remender and Michael Penick that was designed to lead into a six-issue series that never happened. It did, however, give us one of the single greatest lines of dialogue in comic book history. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Back when this was solicited, I distinctly remember an interview from Remender that ran in Preivews where he specifically mentioned that he wanted to write something that was a little more grounded in realism than the stories of HISS tanks and ninja mysticism that you'd get from other military fantasy comics. Even the issue itself has a blurb declaring that it features "the ugly wartime realism of Band of Brothers."
So naturally, the first thing that happens is that a sexy lady kills a bunch of dudes with throwing knives that she pulls out of her stockings before stripping down in the middle of a jungle.
In all fairness, I have never actually seen Band of Brothers, so for all I know, that might be in there.
This is Dusk, and she'll be our focal character for the evening. She's part of a unit of covert operatives sent into Rio De Janeiro to infiltrate a mansion being held by a drug cartel, along with her teammates, Ravage, Plague, and Vulture. As you can probably guess from those names, they're not exactly the good guys, although Dusk doesn't quite know that yet.
The infiltration goes off without a hitch, more or less: Plague poisons a handful of guards, Vulture sneaks in as one of their own, and before long, the team has taken out all of the enemy soldiers, acting with an efficiency so ruthless that even their dying words have to be recycled:
I didn't edit those together, by the way. The first and second appearances of "Yeagh!!" and "Gha--!" are separated by only one panel on the same page.
With the guards taken out, the mercenaries are free to complete their mission of rescuing the mayor and his family from the drug lords that are holding them hostage. There's only one problem: Dusk is the only one who thinks that's the mission. For everyone else, it turns out that their services have been bought by a higher bidder than whatever do-gooder wanted the local government restored in one piece, and they're here to assassinate the mayor. Which they do.
To her credit, Dusk does attempt to save him, but the damage has already been done. Not only does the mayor's tenure end courtesy of a poisoned dart to the neck, but the rest of the team has already decided that Dusk, with her squeamishness about murdering people for money, is a liability. With that, they decide to kill her, and that's when it happens: the most amazing line in this comic, and possibly the most amazing exchange of the entire decade:
I'm not kidding or being ironic about this in the slightest. If every issue had a line that good, this would've been the comic of the year. Unfortunately, despite plans for a series that would explore the complications when a cell of a private military company went rogue, it never got the chance. The Corps #0 was all that ever existed of the toys' short-lived foray into narrative.
But that doesn't mean it can't happen. I mean, all you have to do is look at the line's website to see that they've got plenty there to work with --- heck, Plague's even still around as the arch-nemesis of the franchise, and he's fighting people like an Australian soldier with immunity to toxins and a former vigilante ninja. They might not get to the heights of "we'll kill you with bullets!" again, but I can assure you, comics have been made with a whole lot less to work with.