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Click here to order Tales of G.I. JOE
A Real American Hero
by Larry Hama, Herb Trimpe, & Steven Grant, et al
Paperback: 240 pages
Marvel Books
ISBN: 0785109013
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It's an exciting time to be a nostalgia freak, especially if you're a fan of 80's pop culture, particularly G.I. Joe and the Transformers. Hasbro, the company that owns these characters, have licensed two independent comic companies, Devil's Due and Dreamwave, to produce new comics based on their products, and the company itself has (slowly) been reproducing their toy lines for a new generation of kids and toy collectors. Recently, Marvel got into the nostalgia fray by releasing "G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero, Vol. 1", a re-colored, glossy, spiffed-up trade paperback collection of the first 10 issues of the popular early 80's comic series (which lasted more than 10 years).
The series was written by Larry Hama, who, along with writing the biggest chunk of the stories during that 10-year span, also wrote the filecards on the back of the action figure packages (that's why, I guess, Marvel wrote that Hama is the man "irrevocably" linked to the franchise).

The first 10 issues are, if one has the proper attitude, a nostalgic delight for the most part. Remember, this is pre-Watchmen and Dark Knight Returns, and admittedly, one may first be a bit impatient by the classical, almost simple-minded, level of comics story-telling. More than anything else, these comics were made for kids during the early 80's. They lack the sophistication and detail of contemporary comics, which, unfortunately, are aimed towards adolescents and adult males (comics today have a limited audience after all). These stories hark back to a more innocent, simpler time; full of illogical circumstance (killer robots), over-expository characterization (evil characters describe their nefarious plans of destruction and world domination to the heroes/reader), and an artistic style/composition which hasn't evolved much since the Kirby/Ditko era of the 60's.

The stories themselves are fun and are not to be taken too seriously. The heroes are an elite anti-terrorist task force created primarily to eliminate the threat of Cobra, a terrorist organization led by the often hysterical Cobra Commander, bent on ruling the world. Led by then-Colonel Hawk, the G.I. Joe team includes a number of familiar favorites; including occasional field leader Stalker, token tough girl Scarlett, and of course, the silent-but-deadly Snake-Eyes. Writer Larry Hama certainly seemed to have a passion for the military aspects of the book; there's a lot of military lingo scattered throughout, as well as an enthusiasts' investment of detail for weapons and artillery. There are a few hokey, B-Movie style elements; not only the aforementioned killer giant robot (replete with killer bugs in its head), but also an unlikely incursion into space, and don't forget the mad scientist with mind controlling devices (with the name of "Dr. Venom" to boot). Don't take these as complaints or fanboy nitpicking; on the contrary, it adds to its distinct charm and innocence. The artists, led by Herb Trimpe, though unspectacular by today's standards, do the job; they tell the story in a forward manner without any fussy rendering or needless distraction, if lacking just a hint of individual style.

To Hama's credit, however, he does occasionally bring political topicality to his stories; quite thoughtful for that period. For example, in the two-part story "To Fail Is To Conquer...To Succeed Is To Die!" and "Walls Of Death", our heroes are sent to Afghanistan to procure a fallen Russian satellite. There, they encounter rebel Afghan fighters and C.I.A. liaisons. At the time the comics were published, the "Cold War" was occurring between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the U.S. was in fact supporting the Afghans in their fight against the Soviets, with C.I.A. providing aid and supplies. For a little kid just wanting to read the exploits of the action figures he was collecting, he also got a partial exposure to current events. (In reading this story in particular, in light of the 9/11 tragedy and the U.S.'s current "War Against Terrorism", one can't help but be unsettled by the fact that the real U.S. Military is waging a real war in the actual place depicted in the comic against a real terrorist). And while Hama certainly isn't the first to allude to current event situations in a widely-held "children's medium", the fact that this had a focused military aesthetic, and not littered with superheroes in capes and masks, made the stories somewhat more relevant and immediate.

Besides, does one really collect these types of things for story or art? Of course not. People want to recapture a bit of their childhoods; playing in the backyard or in the living room and creating their own stories and adventures. Though just a bit on the ... side ([money]for just 10 issues is pretty high), they're much cheaper than getting the real individual issues. On the whole, Marvel, without a doubt, deserves plaudits for exceeding expectations with their packaging and re-release. Can't wait to catch the next volumes.

Dimensions (in inches): 0.49 x 10.10 x 6.66
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Six of the original book-length comic strips about the young reporter Tintin have been reissued in smaller format in two sturdy volumes. Old and new fans will enjoy following Tintin and his dog, Snowy, through remarkably detailed landscapes around the world. The adventure stories and colorful cast of characters will entertain readers of all ages, while older readers will also perceive the sociopolitical satire.
Copyright © 1995 The Horn Book, Inc. All rights reserved.
Click here to order It Can't Happen Here
by Don McGregor, Mike Mayhew, Jimmy Palmiotti
Paperback: 140 pages
Image Comics
ISBN: 1582400776
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Zorro`s bustier sporting temptress flies solo as she tracks down a madman who is stalking and killing women.
See also ZORRO
Click here to order 1: The Assasin's Road
by Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima, & Dana Lewis
Paperback: 296 pages
Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 1569715025
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Dark Horse Comics is proud to present one of the authentic landmarks in graphic fiction, Lone Wolf and Cub, to be published in its entirety for the first time in America. An epic samurai adventure of staggering proportions-- over 7000 pages-- Lone Wolf and Cub (Kozure Okami in Japan) is acknowledged worldwide for the brilliant writing of series creator Kazuo Koike and the groundbreaking cinematic visuals of the late Goseki Kojima.
Their unforgettable imagery of stark beauty, kinetic fury, and visceral thematic power influenced a generation of visual storytellers both in Japan and in the West. Don`t miss this monumental monthly release, twenty-eight volumes, with each collection approximately 300 pages!

Dimensions (in inches): 0.90 x 6.00 x 4.16
Click here to order 2: The Gateless Barrier
by Kazuo Koike, Goseki Kojima, & Dana Lewis
Paperback: 296 pages
Dark Horse Comics
ISBN: 1569715033
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The epic continues! Among the five stories in this issue: Cub has been captured while Lone Wolf lies unconscious! All of Cub`s captors are cruel, all but the osue (the lowest maid). But her help may be her undoing. The household waits for the feared Lone Wolf to come looking for his son...and when he does...pick up Volume Two to find out what happens -- plus four other great stories, as this classic epic continues!

Dimensions (in inches): 0.82 x 6.01 x 4.18
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