Snake-Eyes has been shrouded in mystery since the first issue. We have hints that he doesn’t wear his mask for fun. The older Joes seem to be more respectful, and newer Joes or strangers seem to gasp in horror at his visual appearance.
That being said, there are a lot of questions readers have about the Commando. In more recent issues we are privy to the fact that Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, the Cobra ninja, have the same red tattoo symbol on their right forearms.
How are these two tied together? What is his connection with Scarlett? How does Stalker fit into the picture? Some of these questions will be answered in Issue 26. And this is a 2 story arc, so some more answers may show up in Issue 27. But the enigmatic Larry Hama only reveals part of what the readership is clamoring for. The literary marketing technique of ‘Always leave them wanting more” is employed to perfection in these issues.
In addition to the Snake-Eyes origin story, the ongoing covert actions in the Florida swamps near Zartan’s cabin continues. Issue 25 (“Zartan!”) ended with Junkyard coming right to the cabin door. Zartan was brandishing his pistol and was about to put the “stray” out of its misery.
On to the issue
We begin with Destro petting Junkyard, and Zartan’s complexion affected by the sun.
From the tree-line: Mutt, Torpedo, and Trip-Wire are lamenting Junkyard’s perceived betrayal. Then the story transitions to Harlem, New York. A young teen points a pistol at an elderly shopkeeper and then demands money. The shopkeeper smiles and speaks to him in a slightly condescending manner, while a familiar Joe sits at the counter reading a newspaper with a trench-coat and a fedora.
The shopkeeper continues to speak with the young boy who is obviously nervous and struggling with his gun. He ends up defusing the situation without injuring the teen.
As the shopkeeper drops the empty weapon into a crate under his counter, he greets the customer: Snake-Eyes. He also shares information about gun control that stands the test of time: “Some day politicians will learn that legislating against objects is utterly useless…”
The story transitions to the Pit where Hawk, Scarlett and Stalker are discussing the unusual hexagram tattoo that seems to link Snake-Eyes and the Cobra Ninja Storm Shadow.
Stalker begins his narrative recollection of seeing the symbol a while back:
Their squad of 6 long range recon patrol members had been whittled to 3. So after losing 3 members of the squad, Stalker, “Tommy” and Snake-Eyes were the last remaining members. They were headed to a field where they could get airlifted out of the trouble they had fallen into.
They found one NVA regular that was within range. Instead of shooting him and alerting others, “Tommy” whipped out a bow and arrow and delivered him into eternity. Silently.
While they waited for the airlift, Snake-Eyes stared at the picture of his twin sister that he kept in the band of his boonie hat. It was his good luck charm against danger. It was supposed to be.
After the helicopter arrived, Stalker climbed in with the radio, with “Tommy” right behind. Snake-Eyes was on the edge of the field with his M-60 watching for the NVA who had been trailing them.
As he headed for the chopper, the sky was suddenly lit up with tracer rounds and he went down.
Stalker told the pilot to take off, but nobody obeyed him. The door gunner and pilot laid down return fire and “Tommy” weaved through the bullets, picked up Snake-Eyes and ran back to the helicopter.
Stalker concludes his tale with mentioning “Tommy” had an unpronounceable last name. He tracked it down and it translates to English as “Storm Shadow.”
Back in Harlem, the shopkeeper opens an old cigar box with Snake-Eyes’ possessions. He picks up his portion of the origin story, as they walk down memory lane.
Meanwhile, at the Pit, Hawk mentions when he first met Snake-Eyes, at the airport. He was brining bad news. Stalker and Storm Shadow’s parents had come for them. But no one came to meet Snake-Eyes.
Until Hawk came to deliver news that his family had been in a car wreck on the way to the airport to pick him up.
The shopkeeper shared that Snake-Eyes had lost everything, so he came to Japan to join Tommy in the “family business.” The shopkeeper is revealed to be Tommy’s uncle. He was also known as the Soft Master.
The other uncle was known as the Hard Master. Tommy was known as the Young Master. Somewhere along the way, Tommy’s Dad had died. The shopkeeper/Soft Master referred to him as the son of my late brother. I could hypothesize it happened along the way, or possibly the figure who came to meet him at the airport was his Mom’s 2nd husband, or someone else. At any rate, this is Snake-Eyes origin.
The family business was, in fact, the Arashikage ninja clan.
As the story continued we learned more about the complicated relationship among the family as they went along. Over the years, Snake-Eyes became better and better. But it wasn’t simply his skill. It was the depth of his character and self-discipline. In one scene, Snake-Eyes allowed Storm Shadow to cut his sleeve to keep from showing him up in front of his uncles.
The story went on that Snake-Eyes eventually became better at most every practice, except the bow. Snake-Eyes would hit the bulls-eye. Storm Shadow would hit the bulls-eye, go through the target, through the wall the target was hanging on, and kill a squirrel or other small animal beyond the target. The Soft Master referred to this as the “Ear that sees” a near inhuman sense of hearing honed to perfection through years of practice and discipline.
There was reference of the other Uncle, the Hard Master, training with Snake-Eyes individually. He asked Snake-Eyes to consider becoming the heir to the clan. Snake-Eyes turned him down. Once again, he cared more about his friend Storm Shadow and his feelings.
The Hard Master set it aside, and both of them were momentarily distracted by a noise outside. They quickly dismissed it, since they were ninjas and all.
The Hard Master then demonstrated a new technique, “Donning the Cloak of the Chameleon.” He changed his heart rate, breathing, and footstep to imitate someone else. Snake-Eyes was still honing his hearing, and could not quite place the imitation. The Hard Master was imitating him. Just then, an arrow came through the wall, ripped through the Hard Master and stuck in a post in the room.
The Soft Master tells Snake-Eyes he saw Storm Shadow running in the courtyard with his bow in his hand. They all assumed he was chasing the intruder. But when he never returned, they believed he WAS the assassin. The Hard Master said not to blame the Young Master, and that “he will have to live with a lie to find the truth.” He said all those things just before he passed away.
The Soft Master expresses he believed Storm Shadow had killed the Hard Master and joined Cobra. But he expressed Snake-Eyes was the true target of the assassin. The Ear that sees had been tricked by the mask of the chameleon. (He left a little room open for other possibilities.)
Back in the Florida swamps, we see that Firefly and Wild Weasel have escaped and the Joes are running through the trees with Destro, the Baroness, Cobra Commander and Zartan in hot pursuit with Junkyard.
We realize in the final panel that Junkyard is not a traitor. He actually led the Cobras right into miry quicksand. He wasn’t a traitor after all. And the story is continued for the next issue.
This issue was full of awesomeness. Larry Hama masterfully intertwined the origin of the mysterious Snake-Eyes from multiple points of view but also kept the Junkyard/Zartan swamp story progressing.
I hope you enjoyed this issue and will tune in soon for Issue 27, as the story is continued.
Now You Know – a little more about ”Snake-Eyes: The Origin.” Feel free to let me know what you thought of this issue AFTER THE JUMP!
Bonus retro advertisement. Props to Stan Lee: