G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte – A G.I. Gary NEW Comic Review
G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte #1 (of 3)
IDW Publishing, February 2019
It has been almost a year since IDW last published a G.I. Joe comic book that wasn’t written by Larry Hama. The last non-Hama series pushed the limits on what traditional G.I. Joe comic fans were accepting in both story and art. As such, IDW bringing on Michel Fiffe, known mostly for his independent comic “Copra”, felt like a risky proposition, especially to this fan. How would someone that went off and created his own military oriented comic book (after unsuccessfully submitting to IDW for G.I. Joe years ago, too) fit in with the current trends that readers expect/accept?
Fiffe’s storytelling is pretty straightforward, using paneled art, rather than images that bleed to the edges of the paper. The layouts are very reminiscent of the late 80’s, early 90’s. His dialogue and word balloons are placed well, but I did not expect his unique lettering. Initially distracting, I got used to it over the course of the issue, and he does vary it when necessary to help the story. However, his actual art is rather stylized, and those used to a more Marvel “house style” art like a Herb Trimpe, Rod Whigham, Robert Atkins, or even SL Gallant will definitely be initially put off. His anatomy structure is angular. He conserves his lines in most cases, preferring to use his coloring. The detail is there when needed, adding to what characters may be experiencing, or adding emphasis to a scene. So, while it is unconventional for a G.I. Joe comic, it is part of the story and doesn’t detract. One could surmise that this art could have been used as layouts and given to another artist(s) for finishing, but it wouldn’t have that independent spirit that this contained three issue mini-series has.
One thing that makes “Sierra Muerte” special is that it is the first IDW series by a different creator set in the “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” continuity. This means Fiffe is of a select few creators to add something to Hama’s original story.
Set in the original Marvel run roughly somewhere between issues 45-52, Fiffe takes the characters on a search for some of the deceased Dr. Venom’s languishing items in the country of Sierra Muerte, a locale previously only ever mentioned in passing. There are three teams of combatants, each highlighted in their own chapter of the book. Hawk’s team directly attacks Cobra Commander’s group. Roadblock, Gung Ho, and Rock and Roll ambush a Dreadnok stronghold. Finally, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, and Stalker attempt an extraction of a person of interest. Each section has its own beginning, middle, and end, that will lead to issue two. It’s great to see economic storytelling in seven to eight pages.
It is during these conflicts where the true concern arises. Will Fiffe keep the characters consistent to decades of a continuity? While all characters are visually faithful to their period aesthetic, most importantly, their personalities were consistent to decades of storytelling. Banter was similar, not saying that I can’t nitpick Fiffe’s dialogue (there’s one egregious example of Baroness using a nickname). Most importantly, everyone behaves and acts the way a long time reader would expect. Cobra Commander is sinister, the Dreadnoks are brutish, and Hawk is going to bend rules to achieve his mission objective.
At the back of this issue is a “You Can’t Get There from Here: A Guide to the Fictional Geography of G.I. Joe by Chad Bowers. Written in prose, over seven pages Chad details many key places in the history of “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.” It is well scribed and thorough. It helps round out a view of this universe. It doesn’t really add to Fiffe’s story, so much as help set it. It can also be seen as a very handy primer for new readers. It is also seven additional pages after a 24 page comic, which makes it hefty enough to justify the $4.99 price tag, but one may be left to wonder if this could have been a “normal” $3.99 without it.
Overall, Michel Fiffe has created a solid book that not only stands independently, but also adds to the existing “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” lore. That makes this issue a solid 4 frosty beverages out of 6. If you enjoy G.I. Joe, indie comics, or war comics, you should check out “G.I. Joe: Sierra Muerte.”
Until next time!