"G.I. JOE Deviations" is a goofy, thoroughly enjoyable look at what might happen if Cobra Commander finally got everything he's ever wanted. Paul Allor and Corey Lewis offer up a bright, energetically sketched vision of "Cobratopia" that pokes fun at everything from bureaucracy and democracy to self-improvement and PSAs. Most appealingly, this story takes full advantage of the one-shot format. Freed from continuity, a one-shot can step out of more than just the main plot; it can also step out of the mindset of its parent title. "G.I. JOE Deviations" does this in spades, and with heaps of humor.
Allor and Lewis really fit their premise to their format. The end of the issue didn't leave me wanting more, feeling rushed or disappointed with the pointlessness of the exercise. Instead, I felt satisfied. They've produced a genuinely fun thought experiment, and they paced it to their page count.
Essentially, the Cobras have finally succeeded in establishing a global empire, but Cobra Commander finds himself dissatisfied with the mundane, bureaucratic reality of actually administering such a large government. He longs for "sublime panic and glorious destruction," not paperwork. Allor does an excellent job contrasting the vainglory of world domination with the practicality, and it's fun to see Baroness, Hotwire and Destro settle into their pencil-pushing day jobs. The scenario is at once ridiculous and totally plausible; Cobra Commander really would be a terrible administrator.
The giddier critique of Cobra's lack of self-knowledge is balanced by some other, more unexpected jokes at the expense of democracy, capitalism and the Joes' competency. Rather than a fascist nightmare opposed by scores of rebellious citizens, a government run by Cobra is one that "keeps the streets safe and the trains running on time...The people appreciate that." The suggestion that Cobra might actually run a more peaceful society than the one we have now is both surface-level absurd and just a little disquieting.
Lewis's artistic style is leagues away from that of the main "G.I. JOE" title. His leaner lines and exaggerated facial expressions give the story a neat, almost indie vibe. Some of the characters' reactions had me giggling out loud. He also colors everything with a ludicrous fuschia- and purple-heavy palette; the resulting panels have a feel somewhere between an over-the-top music video and an office where the fire alarm has gone off. It conveys both the obnoxious glory of the Cobra empire and the claustrophobia Cobra Commander feels.
Letterer Gilberto Lazcano adds to Lewis' vibe with his diary-like choice of fonts. Thinner and just a bit uneven, the dialogue font would look more at home in an indie autobiographical comic than a corporate one-shot about a fascist dystopia. However, it really suits Cobra Commander's confessional captions, and it contributes to the message of the overall aesthetic: this comic isn't your average (G.I.) Joe.
I found "G.I. JOE Deviations" to be super fun. The issue is unapologetically silly, and it rejects the moral underpinnings of the main "G.I. JOE" title. If that's not likely to strike you as funny or if you're not a fan of humorous one-shots, this might not be for you. However, if you find yourself smiling at the idea of a Cobra-run alternate reality that's as sly as it is doofy, don't miss this one.