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Throwback Thursdays: G.I. Joe 21 The Silent Issue

Review by John Amenta

by John Amenta
“Silence is Golden” is the old saying. In the case of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero number 21, it couldn’t be truer.

G.I. Joe 21 was originally published by Marvel Comics in March 1984

IDW, current publishers of Joe material, recently released a hardcover celebrating the 30th Anniversary of this landmark issue. Many series have a defining issue, some more than others. For the original Joe run from Marvel that started in the early 80’s, this is the one.

The issue was plotted and drawn by Larry Hama,with inks by Steve Leiahola. The gimmick: no dialogue, no thought bubbles,no written narrative. The only words written in the issue are a few shots of computer screens, no more. The entirety of the story is told panel by panel, completely by the sequential art. Snake Eyes( the Joe’s breakout character by that point) infiltrates Destro’s castle on a mission. As seen in the first pages of the issue, fellow Joe Scarlett is imprisoned in the castle by Cobra Commander. We follow Snake Eyes as he fights his way through Cobra troops and ninjas,on his way to rescuing Scarlett. Along the way we meet for the first time in Joe lore, Storm Shadow. The final page is one of the greatest reveals in comics history, where we learn that Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow have more in common than we knew of.

Through the years, many rumors and stories have built around the reasoning for doing an issue silently. Popular word was that the issue was running late, as Hama opted to pencil as well as plot, causing no time to letter before it’s deadline. It turns out however, that this was no happy accident, but more of an experiment, as explained by the writer himself.

“I wanted to see if I could do a story that was a real, complete story – beginning, middle, end, conflict, characterization, action, solid resolution – without balloons or captions or sound effects. I tried to do it again, as a matter of fact, with the Joe Yearbook #3 story.”

The hardcover is a wonderful treat for fans of this story. IDW gives us a recolored version of the issue that is colorful and bright. There is a reprint of IDW’s G.I. Joe: Origins number 19, also by Hama, also silently told. A great introduction, a detailed notes section, and Hama’s raw art breakdowns make this a must have for the Joe freak, or anyone that just wants to read and appreciate one of the all-time great issues in comics.

Keep on reading!!

About Armand (1269 Articles)
Armand is a husband, father, and life long comics fan. A devoted fan of Batman and the Valiant Universe he loves writing for PCU, when he's not running his mouth on the PCU podcast. You can follow him on Twitter @armandmhill
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