Retro Review 7: G.I.Joe: A Real American Hero #66 (Volume 1, 1987)
“The Tenth Letter”
Published by Marvel Comics
Written by Larry Hama
Art by Ron Wagner
Coloured by Bob Sharen
I used to read this series religiously for a long period of time. I was also a die-hard collector of the toys as a child and played with them way past the point of their crotches breaking off. When this issue originally came out I was too young to catch on to some of the themes in this book. However, I really looked forward to this one because it finally marked the time when Stalker, Quick Kick, and Snow Job were getting rescued from a botched mission.
Storm Shadow is working with Billy teaching him the nine letters needed to help him channel his ki. They are interrupted by Jink who has some information on Stalker, Quick Kick, and Snow Job who are being held captive in Borovia. By looking at a newspaper clipping containing information that a circus is coming to town, they see that Scarlett is working for them. They determine that Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and the Blind Master must have survived an explosion in Grenada. Meanwhile in Borovia, Sergeant Mosiev and Corporal Olga are watching the circus perform and Mosiev antagonizes the ringmaster (the White Clown) by demanding the bareback rider show up (who was named Magda and was his romantic partner before disappearing). A little person comes out to respond to Mosiev and gets slapped for his troubles. Scarlett tries to console him, but is frustrated herself at being unable to find their missing friends. Storm Shadow, Jinx, and Billy then show up and later on they all prepare for the rescue. The Blind Master asks Storm Shadow to provide a name for the tenth letter, but he insists it has no name because it is the void. The little person whose name is Orlovsky approaches the White Clown and wants to tell Mosiev of their plans to attack Gulag 23 in order to find the whereabouts of Magda. At Gulag 23, one of the prisoners escape, which prompt Olga to interrogate all of the remaining prisoners. She shoots one of them and then a prisoner named Boris rats out Snow Job. Olga doesn’t believe him and orders him to be beaten to death. Storm Shadow and company show up and provide a vicious beating on the guards. They move to the prisoner barracks with weapons for all much to the delight of Stalker. They dispatch of more guards and tend to Olga. The other prisoners decline to join in their escape as they want to stay and fight for their country. The escape is discovered by Mosiev and the escaping Joes find that escape across the river is nearly impossible. The White Clown shows up and shoots them into the river with a circus cannon. Mosiev is going to shoot them, which prompts one of his comrades to stop him because it will start an international incident (it is also revealed that he shot Magda). Mosiev turns his gun to the cannon and Stalker challenges him to a rifle duel. Mosiev is killed and the White Clown is determined to escape Borovia utilizing their resources and has no regrets about not betraying Magda’s ideals.
I hated the Olga character as a child and I was so glad to see her get hers in this issue (even though it happened off panel). Even though they were only captive for about six issues, it just seemed longer and it was nice to see this plotline resolved. The cover was so intense as a kid because it had both Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow on the cover with katanas drawn. The Joes were forbidden from rescuing Stalker, etc. (this is from memory) and it just seemed natural that Storm Shadow, etc. would be the ones with the stealth required to save them. The White Clown was an interesting supporting character because he resisted the temptation to find out about Magda and he was surprisingly uplifting despite everything that happened to him. I don’t know why I did so, but I remember learning how to make the nine letters (which was easy considering that the art detailed each and every one of them). I like how the Storm Shadow, etc. attacks on Gulag 23 happens mostly off-panel because they were quick and deadly and it left a lot to the imagination. I always thought Storm Shadow was cool, well, because he was a ninja. However, his progression with moving beyond being a crony for Cobra elevated his character in my opinion. He became deeper and more layered as a result. Stalker getting the last shot (literally) on his tormentor was fitting and thoroughly satisfying. The pencils in this issue were good, but re-reading this I like how Randy Emberlin’s inks added a lot to the art. The inking was very solid in this issue. As young as I was, I knew damn well that the MPC model ad was exaggerated. I didn’t think that girls would swoon around someone that was able to build a model. Is the word “zit” really an abbreviated form of “zittles?” Or is Oxy just making up a new word for the sake of advertising? Ah, the Fall of the Mutants ad, I remember this well. The thing that stuck out most when I first saw this was that Colossus was in it. I couldn’t have been more excited at the prospect of him returning to the team at the time. These issues were also damn hard to find at the time. A 14 issue subscription for only $8.25? I wish. I remember being really anxious to read the letters for “Postbox: The Pit!” because prior to the age of the internet, sometimes this was the only way get some answers. Also, there is a mention of the fabled No-Prize in this letters section, which used to have me wondering what it was so much as a child.
It doesn’t bother me today, but when I first read this I didn’t like the fact that Jinx wasn’t wearing her red outfit (because that’s what her action figure wore). One character I never really cared about was Billy who was also Cobra Commander’s son. The same went for the Blind Master who I didn’t hate, but I just couldn’t get into his character. I also wondered when the hell did Scarlett become a ninja? I know that Stalker was a prisoner for some time, but he still looked pretty crazy when he was embracing Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. Another awkward looking panel was when Olga ordered the guards to beat Boris to death in the guard house. They kind of had these perv grins going on, which kind of made me wonder what exactly it was they were going to do with him (this was compounded with the sound effects “aaaaarrggghhh” “stomp” “whomp” “crunch” and “splat”). At the time, this was some ninja-goodness; however, little did I know at the time that this aspect would completely overtake this series in a few years. I kind of hate looking at old American Comics, Mile High Comics, and East Coast Comics ads because some of the old back issues available were cheap and mint to boot. The Chips Ahoy! fold-in ad annoyed me a little bit back in the day because my friends used to actually fold their back pages.
Rating: 7/10 (when originally read 10/10)
This issue finally concluded an ongoing plotline and did so in a satisfactory fashion. The thing that stood out most for me was the joy I had at Olga getting killed. I don’t remember everything this character did, but she must’ve been miserable. This series was a lot of fun to read back in the day. I had the singles and I also picked up the collected digests for when I went on trips and stuff. I would eventually sour quite a bit on this series, but for a long time this was one of my favorite series. I actually want to go back and re-read more issues some time…especially the old Coney Island issue.
Tags: Cobra, G.I. Joe, Larry Hama, Marvel Comics