NOTE: THIS REVEIW WILL BE TALKING ABOUT THE GI JOE COBRA SERIES AS A WHOLE AND AS SUCH THE REVIEW WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
This is going to be my final issue of Cobra.
Actually hold on maybe some context is in order, preferably of the long winded variety.
For the last several years I've been reading Cobra, an offshoot of IDW's GI Joe line of titles, pretty much since reading the collected edition of the 2009 miniseries. Originally written by Christos Gage and Mike Costa with art by Antonio Fuso, GI Joe: Cobra originally centered on undercover GI Joe operative Chuckles as he was sent undercover to try and discover if rumors of a secret terrorist organization were true. That organization turns out to be Cobra and Chuckles quickly realizes that the scope of exactly what Cobra is trying to achieve is far bigger than anyone could possibly imagine. The series' main focus was on the espionage elements of Chuckles' mission and a character study of an essentially good man who has to do monstrous things so he can gain the trust of actual monsters, all the while running the risk of losing himself and actually becoming a monster himself. As far as themes in storytelling go, this is something I find infinitely fascinating.
The collection of the original 2009 miniseries has since become a personal favorite and a book that I tend to lend out to people that show an interest in getting into comics. I give it to people for a couple of reasons. For one, I've found it's easy to get people to read a comic with something they're already vaguely familiar with. Usually that means a superhero book, but most superhero titles don't always represent what I want from a book that showcases how the comic medium has evolved and matured with its storytelling compared to what most non-comics readers think of. Which is my second reason I start them with Cobra. So to take a property that most people grew up with or are at least vaguely aware of like GI Joe and then show them how you can take an established property and craft one of the best espionage stories of all time while at the same time building up an organization as borderline ridiculous as Cobra and making it a legitimate threat.
The miniseries proved popular enough that it eventually spawned a second miniseries that eventually morphed into an ongoing series, with a second volume of the ongoing launching about a year ago. Chuckles' story was the center of the first two series, not counting a handful of excellent side stories focusing on other Cobra agents, but those stories always seemed like distractions before we could get back to Chuckles' story as he descended deeper into the belly of the beast. The creative team even goes so far as to show just what would happen if Chuckles were to succumb to his darker side and how much Cobra could tarnish his soul, and that's even before the Commander becomes involved.
The Cobra Commander of these books is a far cry from the "buffoon-as-General" that was presented in the old GI Joe cartoons. Here the Commander is portrayed as a man that is as refined as he is deadly. He is a man that has the disposition of a CEO of a Fortune 500 but with the ruthlessness of a ego driven madman with all the privileges his shiny crown entails. He is pure charisma and for a moment we are lead to believe he has swayed Chuckles over to the dark side, if only to have his revenge against the Cobra lieutenants Tomax and Xamot but ultimately led to something that took everyone by surprise:
Chuckles kills Cobra Commander. Now their have been plenty of GI Joe comics where the Commander was presumed dead, but it clearly never took. But no matter how you look at that page was a visceral gut punch, a long-in-planning moment that I never saw coming but was also incredibly bold given that the commander never even showed up in the main GI Joe book! Plus this wasn't even the last issue of the first ongoing. With the final issue, the creative team managed to bring Chuckles' character arc full circle when he decides that in order to atone for all the horrible things that led to that moment he needed to hurt Cobra even more than assassinating their head and in one swift and explosive move does something that won't kill the snake, but at least will send it slithering into the light for the whole world to see. This would ultimately result in Chuckles' expiration as well as his redemption.
The death of Cobra Commander sort of signaled the end in a lot of ways, both for that iteration of the series and my own enjoyment of the book. After the death of the Commander the Cobra series relaunched with a new number one issue alongside GI Joe and a Snake Eyes series and lost Christos Gage as a cowriter. It then proceeded into a line-wide event called Cobra Civil War which would determine the new Cobra Commander. You know, normal comic book stuff. The problem was that when the decision of who the new Commander would be was made, it came almost out of nowhere, mostly due to the fact I was only reading Cobra at the time, and then went right into an even more interwoven crossover.
Ultimately the problem I was having with Cobra Civil War and then Cobra Command was that I wasn't getting one side of a whole story, and frankly I've never really been one for crossovers. I understand the want and need for crossovers as it's long been a staple of comics and one of the things that can only really be done in the comics medium and I have enjoyed many crossovers in the past. But the problem with crossovers is that if you're like me and only reading the one book you essentially get stuck with the short end of the stick and basically end up being penalized for not having the interest or money to read every single book month to month. And I'll admit complaining about that aspect about the medium is about as cliche as a writer can get, but it doesn't stop it from being true. Friends have told me the whole thing is quite good, but frankly, since I was only reading the one book, what I saw didn't really impress me, especially in comparison to what Cobra was doing before.
Which brings us to issue twelve (See! I didn't forget!) which is essentially an epilogue for a story that for all intents and purposes ended over a year ago. It primarily serves as a transitional issue, showing the next phase of the Joes' war with Cobra, and how Brigadier General Hawk ultimately failed as he reads over Chuckles' final report. From there, we finally get a glimpse of the kind of man Chuckles was before the events of the original miniseries. What I realized after reading this issue was how much I had missed Chuckles' voice in this book. Because with him gone, Cobra lost in its consistent point of view. This isn't to say the series got bad after he was gone. The series produced plenty of great character studies of the members of Cobra in the interim, but they were already on the inside, whereas the readers were still outsiders and we were ultimately left with no one to relate to except for the occasional stand in whose voice was never as well defined as Chuckles' was.
Like I said at the beginning I have been reading Cobra consistently for years, which is pretty amazing considering I have a tendency to drop books at the drop of a hat, and I can honestly say that for the most part the the series has been consistently good throughout its run. The problem is that it hasn't been great in a long while. Issue twelve was a legitimately great issue though and highlighted a lot of the book's overall strengths, whether it be Mike Costa's knack for character work or Antonio Fuso's angular character designs. However, it also serves as an appropriate ending which seems like a good enough reason to leave on a high note. This one comes as close as I think it's capable of delivering that by ending with a chuckle.
TL; DR: Cobra #12 is perfectly solid issue of an overall solid series however it also serves as an appropriate ending to the main story of Chuckles (which the book started with) and whether you feel you should read further after this issue will depend on you.
Cobra is published by IDW and written by Mike Costa and illustrated by Antonio Fuso. It is available in comic stores everywhere and you should definitely check out the original miniseries through our Amazon webstore.