If you're looking for the latest smart, inventive reboot then the place to look, somewhat surprisingly, is GI Joe: Cobra, the last issue of which is released this week and offers a little Watchmen-inspired playfulness with the comic format.
This week's GI Joe: Cobra Special is really an epilogue and explanation to the four issues that have come before, telling the origin of the power behind the terrorist throne in such a way that the comic itself becomes a physical metaphor for the characters involved. To say too much more would be to spoil the reveal that came at the end of the original mini-series, but suffice to say that this is literally a comic that deserves to be read backwards and forwards, with a symmetry that at once rewards and betrays the reader.
It's a clever idea, and one that goes beyond its gimmicky nature thanks to the execution and the fact that it legitimately works as a metaphor for the story it's telling; a final sign that this is a different, more thoughtful G.I. Joe.
It's true — GI Joe: Cobra tells a different story than the one we've seen in toys, comics, cartoons (and now, movies) through the years - One of an undercover Joe agent, working his way upwards through the Cobra ranks as the organization puts itself together, and as things get more and more out of his control. Dispensing with almost all of the over-the-top elements of the franchise - although we get easter-egg-style glimpses of the robotic BATTs and the HISS tanks - this is a harder-edged take on the familiar. And it's miles away from the old cartoon's enforced no-bullets, no-death rules (As one captured Joe finds out midway through the story, when an interrogation comes too close to the truth).
Credit writer Mike Costa (working with Christos Gage on the mini-series' four issues) with the revisions, but maybe Ed Brubaker, as well; his Sleeper seems like an obvious influence here, even if this series has a nihilism maybe even greater than Brubaker's modern classic. Artist Antonio Fuso's presence helps, giving the book a spiky freshness unlike the more traditional Joe comics, and fitting in with the off-kilter feeling of the series as a whole.
Even if you haven't read the GI Joe: Cobra series, tomorrow's Special is well worth picking up; it stands alone enough - and has enough formalist play - to work on its own. But if you pick up the four issues that came before, you'll find yourself confronted with a Cobra more realistic, and much more interesting, than you could've imagined when you played with the toys as a kid.
GI Joe: Cobra Special is released tomorrow.