Thee Comic Column #33: The Cobra Files

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Last Tuesday was a big day for me at my local comic shop. A bunch of really great books came out, not the least of was the new IDW GIJOE: The Cobra Files, which is picking up where GIJOE: COBRA left off several months ago, before IDW decided to streamline and relaunch all their Joe-properties to coincide with the release of GIJOE: RETALIATION. I won’t lie, I love the IDW Cobra books, but the contant stop/start of the series (this is third, no, fourth volume? Unnecessary – although props for holding continuity through it all) is disorienting, hence why the Cobra books are the only ones of the franchise I read. Well, that and they are the exact antithesis of what you’d think a GIJOE comic would be. There’s nothing hyperbolic or cartoony, nothing over the top about this book. It’s not the costume-and-cannon amped up warrior book one might expect (not that those criteria are necessarily a bad thing – Larry Hama made it work to varying degrees for years in the 80’s with GIJOE @ Marvel). Instead, writer Mike Costa and returning artist Antonio Fuso really go for the grit and grime of an espionage-driven thriller. And this despite Costa’s prediliction for utilizing supporting characters that have some of the most ridiculous backgrounds/visages. Two great examples of this from one of the previous volumes of Costa’s Cobra are Croc Master and Crystal Ball – in this man’s hands these two kinda ridiculous characters are A-Mazing. Croc Master is dark and almost child-like, an addict of the womb of the swamp. And  Crystal Ball* is more of a combination of Alan Moore and Charles Manson than whatever he was supposed to be in the original Marvel series. See for this one for yourself:

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image courtesy of


See what I mean?

Where the original two volumes of Cobra saw the organization mired in shadowy anonymity the status quo has changed a bit. As of IDW’s crossover Cobra Civil War a couple years ago – itself a nice throwback nod to Larry Hama’s story of the same name in the 80’s Marvel title – the newest Cobra Commander has taken an arm of the organization and cast aside a lot of the anonymity, preferring instead a higher profile approach to their nefarious manuevers. The Cobra files then begins by burrowing deeper into the still-shadowy parts of both organizations, starting with the smaller Joe unit that runs the really black ops – the same one we’ve seen throughout the other Costa-penned Cobra volumes. Ex-Cobra operative Chameleon is now firmly entrenched in this Joe unit, which is housed in a Vegas casino of all places, and from her perspective as well as the reader’s it is often difficult to tell exactly where the line between Joe and Cobra, good guys and bad guys is drawn. Costa has said as much in interviews, one in particular that appeared here on CBR from March where, I quote:

Mike Costa: “Since IDW launched their “G.I. Joe” franchise a few years back, there has always been a “Cobra” book in the line, which has dealt with the dark-half of the franchise. It’s the book about bad, broken and guilty people. The book where the bad guys win. “The Cobra Files” proudly carries on that subversive tradition.”

This “broken people” is really the theme of the Cobra books – for four years now Costa has explored not only the mysterious tendrils of Cobra as an organization we really only know a little bit about (and kudos on that sir!) but also characters like Joe deep cover agent Chuckles, the P.I. Scoop (trust me, it’s gooood) and the aforementioned Cobra-turned-Joe, Chameleon. All of these characters walk a delicate line between being good guys and bad guys, sane/insane, altruistic and self-serving. This is what makes the Cobra books SO damn good, regardless of what iteration of IDW’s turn with the franchise we’re on, or what relaunch tactics are at work in its sister books. And with the first issue under its belt GIJOE: The Cobra Files continues the already deep-set story in a way that if you were reading the previous book and are hesitant because of the re-start I can very definitely say do not fear – this is GIJOE: Cobra issue #22 in spirit if not in numbering.


* Weird fact: According to Crystal Ball was partially created by a young Owen King, Stephen King’s son. Read the short entry here – just scroll down to the “trivia” section for the info pertaining to Owen King.


Can’t find a comic shop? You can always use old reliable Comic Shop Locator at 1-800-COMIC-BOOK. Or you can take some of my recommendations. If you live in the greater Chicagoland area I recommend any of the wonderful four locations of Amazing Fantasy Books. In Los Angeles it’s The Comic Bug. Las Vegas it’s Alternate Reality Comics. San Francisco? Try the Isotope Comic Lounge and if you happen to venture a little further North I’d say you have to visit The Escapist Comic Book Store in Berkley (with the wonderful Dark Carnival Books next door and owned by the same folks). Read on!!!

Shawn C Baker

Shawn C Baker

Shawn lives in Los Angeles where he co-hosts Drinking w/ Comics, writes screenplays and fiction and has been known to drink quite a bit of beer. Good beer.

One Response to Thee Comic Column #33: The Cobra Files
  1. [...] discussed the book here before and back on Chud around the time it began. I grew up reading Larry Hama&#...

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