G. I. Joe: Hearts & Minds #1

The stories here aren't simple fact sheets about the characters' eye color, height, and weight. These are stories told about the characters by the characters themselves. Max Brooks, of "World War Z" fame, opens up a series of stories focusing on the spark and the fuel of the less-popularized soldiers of Cobra and G. I. Joe. This issue kicks it off focusing on what drives Major Bludd and what makes Spirit the best he is at what he does.

This issue is a surprisingly breezy read that offers up the essential information on one Cobra and one G. I. Joe, both men given motivation beyond the obvious. These are the stories behind the other characters that rarely get time in the spotlight.

The eleven pages to Major Bludd opens up a vast array of story potential beyond the snarling, mustache-twirling character Bludd appears to be. His motivation is surprising, and his arrogance in his own abilities is stunning. Chaykin marvelously interprets the arrogance of Bludd through a story that traces Bludd's roots back to his paternal grandfather.

Spirit's tale, set over thirteen pages, is drawn by Antonio Fuso. Fuso's style is reminiscent of Phil Hester's, and Fuso's page layouts play up the cacophony that fills Spirit's world. Brooks pits Spirit against the stereotypes -- generated not only by his superior officers, but also by the Hasbro toymakers at some point -- and gives us reason to look beyond those stereotypes to want to know what lies beneath.

This issue is a strong start to a series of stories behind the men and women of both camps in this war. Brooks has been given an opportunity to share the lives of the Joes and Cobras with a new generation of readers. In this post-9/11 world, crafting militaristic bad guys would seem easy, but making them compelling characters is a challenge that Brooks proves to be truly worthy of. IDW has done a great job of building up the universe of G.I. Joe, and this series looks to be an important part of that process.

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