Hasslein Blog: G.I. Joe #19: "Joe Triumphs!"


Hasslein Blog

Friday, October 11, 2013

G.I. Joe #19: "Joe Triumphs!"

By James McFadden

Thirty years ago today, one of the most memorable issues in the early run of Marvel's G.I. Joe comic book series was released. It came with a January 1984 cover date, but in that era of comics, an issue's release date was actually months earlier. G.I. Joe #19 was the culmination of a storyline that began with issue #12; up until then, the series mostly consisted of standalone issues. In the early days, Hasbro's Cobra action figures mostly consisted of faceless henchman, prompting writer Larry Hama to create original villains. Previous stories gave us Kwinn the Eskimo mercenary, and Cobra's original mad scientist, Dr. Venom. Issue #12 introduces the Cobra courier, Scar-face, who runs afoul of G.I. Joe while delivering samples of a virus to Dr. Venom. A small team of Joes tracks Scar-face to the tiny country of Sierra Gordo, but is soon captured by Kwinn. In the end, Cobra's Baroness deems Venom and Kwinn expendable and drops a bomb on an island bunker, seemingly killing the two villains along with Snake-Eyes. Both G.I. Joe and Cobra leave the country, unaware the trio actually survived.

Left to right: Kwinn, Dr. Venom, Scar-face

Over the next several issues, Venom returns to Cobra after betraying Kwinn and Snake-Eyes again and again, finally leaving them behind in a Miami jail cell. Though Kwinn is a mercenary, he has his own personal code of honor. He considers himself to be controlled by the "bear spirit," while the treacherous and cowardly Venom has the "weasel spirit" in him. Kwinn and Snake-Eyes eventually escape and set out to exact their revenge on Venom, though Snake-Eyes may be more concerned with stopping Kwinn from going too far. The Joes continue on without Snake-Eyes, scrambling to stay ahead of Cobra and learn their plans. Scar-face, meanwhile, has basically been everyone's punching bag, ordered around by Cobra Commander, pushed around by Destro, and finally infected with Dr. Venom's virus. Cobra then allows G.I. Joe to capture the infectious man, but their intention is not to kill the Joes. They plan to wait and watch for the elaborate quarantine procedures that will result, calling attention to the Joes' secret headquarters—the Pit.

When we finally reach G.I. Joe #19, Scar-face is brought to the Pit, but he immediately reveals Cobra's plan in order to save himself. Eventually, G.I. Joe commander Hawk allows Cobra to think they've succeeded anyway. The Pit is actually several levels underground, but Hawk places a prefabricated fortress on the surface to trick Cobra into believing it is the actual base. Just before Cobra's assault on the fortress, Kwinn and Snake-Eyes catch up with Venom, but some incredibly bad timing gets them captured by the Cobra invasion force. They are then trapped inside Venom's mind-controlling battle armor and forced to join in the attack on the Pit.

As the battle rages, Snake-Eyes manages to free both of them, and Kwinn recklessly attacks Venom. After snatching the scientist off of a Cobra tank, Kwinn prepares to kill Venom with a grenade.

While the fighting continues outside, Scar-face and another Cobra prisoner, Major Bludd, get the drop on Doc inside the Joe base, and prepare to escape. They are stopped by the Joe team's adviser from the Pentagon, General Flagg (another of Hama's original characters). Scar-face saves Major Bludd by disarming Flagg, who is shot by Bludd during the struggle. When the ungrateful Bludd makes his escape, he leaves Scar-face handcuffed in his cell, with a ticking time bomb about to explode.

Back on the battlefield, Kwinn can't bring himself to commit outright murder. He realizes he would be no more honorable than Venom if he carried out his revenge, and turns to walk away. But once the threat to his life ends, the cowardly Dr. Venom pulls out a hidden pistol...

Seconds later, the time bomb explodes, killing Scar-face and leveling the pre-fab fortress. Doc declares that despite his best efforts, General Flagg is dead. Cobra retreats, believing they've destroyed G.I. Joe headquarters. The rest of the Joes feel victorious, but Snake-Eyes and Doc arrive carrying Kwinn's necklace and Flagg's dog tags to interrupt Hawk's pronouncement that they've won a...

In a span of four pages, Larry Hama essentially wiped out his supporting cast. The G.I. Joe comic book rarely shied away from violence in the way the more child-oriented cartoon series did, but this was the first time major characters had been killed. The loss of those characters cleared the way for the expanded roster of Joes and Cobra that were coming soon, including prominent characters like Duke, Roadblock, Storm Shadow and Zartan. Kwinn remains one of the most popular G.I. Joe characters, even thirty years after his "death." This year, Hasbro released an all-new Kwinn action figure based on his appearance in this storyline.

Like many other issues of the comic, G.I. Joe #19 was advertised in an animated commercial, though the real heart of the story—Kwinn versus Venom—isn't even hinted at in the ad:

James McFadden has written more than a dozen articles for the United Kingdom's Official Star Wars Fact File, as well as the article "The Forgotten Warand "The History of Star Toursfor StarWars.com. In addition, James has contributed to a number of fan Web sites. His first book, Fighting for Freedom: The Unauthorized G.I. Joe Chronology, is coming soon from Hasslein Books.

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