Writer Larry Hama hits a landmark with “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” #200, which celebrates the greatest military merchandising legend of the modern day. Artist S.L. Gallant joins Hama for a thirty-page story that name checks more Joes, Cobras and their vehicles that a trip down the action figure aisle at Toys ‘R Us, which is exactly what a celebratory issue should do.
Hama has had the good fortune of writing those two hundred issues, and his familiarity with the cast is exemplary. None of the characters are given particularly interesting chores or chats in “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” #200, but that doesn’t stop Hama from touching all the bases and giving readers a chance to escape into battle alongside Duke as he lunges at the Cobra Commander’s HISS tank, pump their fists in celebration of the silent awesomeness of Snake Eyes or slip to the edge of their seats as Scarlett, Duke, Hawk and Stalker can’t help but react with surprise to an off-panel reveal that serves as the cliffhanger to this comic book.
Over the course of the story, Hama brings in Joe Colton, giving artist S.L. Gallant the full range of settings and characters to draw. Gallant isn’t the most hyper-detailed artist to grace the pages of “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero,” but he gets the work done, hitting the spirit of the series and telegraphing the essences of the characters. Gallant is given no shortage of challenge for this issue, and he addresses each one well. At no point, however, does “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” #200 become anything more than a comic book filled with comic book action and plenty of fun. Capping off the celebration of this issue is a near full-page schematic of the Pit with “ninja exit” tubes labeled on the diagram. That single image, above and beyond any other in this comic book reminds readers that this is a study in escapism that is mildly based on larger, real-world issues. This comic book has more wounded shown on both sides than we ever saw in the entire run of the cartoon, but Gallant manages to avoid being overtly gory. Colorist James Brown fills this issue with all the vivacious tones of the toys and cartoon without reducing the visuals to hokiness.
Hama, Gallant and company manage to walk the fine line between over-the-top action and adventure free of tragedy and ridiculous pretense. Hama keeps the Joes energetic, the Cobra crew brow-beaten and Cobra Commander more dramatic than a diva. The story moves quickly from cover to finale and the issue packs in some behind-the-scenes extras for readers to indulge in after consuming a very satisfying G.I. Joe battle in “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero” #200. My biggest gripe with this comic is that, towards the conclusion of the story, Scarlett professes that “knowing is a burden” — I thought it was half the battle. Whichever the case, it’s clear that Hama’s good intentions when it comes to the Joes shines through in the final product.