Issue 4: Operation: Wingfield
This issue has a really nice cover that has nothing to do with the comic. This is not a bad thing, but the cover shows many Joes running straight forward in a V formation, charging in to save the day. And that is symbolic of what they do in this issue. That and prevent the beginning of World War III. More on that in a bit.
The issue begins with the sunglass wearing visage of a man sporting a handle-bar mustache that would make 80’s Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Rollie Fingers proud. But this gentleman (and we use the term loosely) has a small logo of a nuclear explosion/mushroom cloud with the words Strike First (or First Strike).
There are a few more panels showing recruits running through a basic training style obstacle course, and it shows Wingfield discussing the M-16 (or Mike One Six as he refers to it).
Then he opens up on his own recruits and hits one in the leg. After failing multiple rules of firearm safety, this lunatic believes shooting live rounds toward loyal (albeit out of shape) recruits is a way to build camaraderie and team spirit. Or kill them. He mumbles about making due with a field dressing and an aspirin and complains that these people need to be as hard as he is.
Then we realize these aren’t live images, but a film session at Joe HQ, led by Colonel Clayton Abernathy, Code Name: Hawk. This is a very effective literary technique by the incomparable Larry Hama, to introduce us to action and set a feeling for the depth of the evil of the enemy. All this is accomplished while serving as a prelude to the issue’s main action.
As Hawk explains the Wingfield cult/militia/paramilitary group, he outlines a plan to infiltrate the group in Montana, along with external surveillance for safety purposes. Grunt and Stalker are whispering during class. Grunt is suggesting that Stalker was going to be going and having fun with the furry animals. (This might be a double joke since Stalker enjoys photographing wild-life, but also since he grew up in Detroit. A joke that he is more of a city street-smart guy than an outdoorsy fella.) At any rate, Stalker has the last laugh as Grunt’s name is called. “Have fun with the furry animals” Stalker quips.
Hawk and Grunt sign up to join the Wingfield militia. Evidently, you can’t be too choosy or conduct background checks on recruits when you keep shattering their legs with 5.56mm NATO during training. Sign and arrive. Grunt notices that some recruits brought their families, while Hawk discusses the power Wingfield can exude over the men, if he can control their families. Snake-Eyes is tasked with what would be perceived as over-watch. He is in the treetops with binoculars, monitoring the situation. He is prepared to provide back-up, if Hawk and Grunt’s situation deteriorates too quickly.
During his surveillance, we see Snake-Eyes writing with excellent cursive penmanship in a notebook. This is another technique Hama uses to reveal a deeper glimpse of Snake-Eyes and his personality. We see he has dry wit, as he criticizes Grunt and Hawk doing a poor job pretending to be out of shape with the others during training. They are still out front leading the pack as they run.
An interesting thing about this issue is Cobra does not play the largest role, although they are referenced. It appears Wingfield has acquired some vehicles or armor from Cobra.
But more importantly, they have also acquired nuclear weapons.
Yes, you read that correctly.
A backwoods hick militia has acquired nuclear weapons from Cobra. What could possibly go wrong?
It really isn’t explained why Cobra would not use the technology themselves, but then again, they are “determined to rule the world” not to blow it up. It is a big reach to provide a tangential group led by a mustached madman the means to create mass destruction. Of course Cobra Commander might have sold him defective or incomplete weapons and just kept the profits for himself. We never find that out.
So Wingfield has his wife Shary, and his right-hand henchman Carruthers with him throughout the issue. After the Joes sneak around inside the armory during a meeting of the head honchos, an intruder alert is inadvertently set off. There is a big to do and Grunt and Hawk are captured.
As they are being led to their deaths in the woods just outside the compound, Snake-Eyes drops down from the trees and rescues them at the last moment, daring hero that he is.
But their interference has accelerated Wingfield’s plans.
He sends Carruthers in a large bomber to fly one of the nuclear weapons to Vladivostock, Russia. Feel free to Google Vladivostock if you have geographic curiosity. It is situated on the extreme Eastern seaboard of Russia, right along the Pacific Ocean.
So Carruthers has to fly across the Pacific all the way to Russia to drop the weapon. Evidently, the plan is that after the city and surrounding area are destroyed, the Russians will think it was America. They will retaliate and the Americans will think they attacked the US. Then there will be mutually assured destruction. MAD, indeed. The Wingfield militia will hide in underground bunkers to survive the holocaust, then rise to rule. The plan doesn’t really take into account that half of the world’s land mass would be uninhabitable for more than 1,000 years, but these are only details… Since Wingfield was already bald, it is doubtful he would notice the radiation illness until that beautiful mustache fell off. But I digress.
Hawk flies after the bomber in an F-86 Super Sabre (or similar surplus fighter jet). As he approaches Carruthers in the bomber, he tries to hail him on the radio, but it isn’t working. He mentions that the best he can do is “bracket the shots and allow him to jump.” Then Hawk strafes the bomber into oblivion with machine gun fire from the jet.
Even if Carruthers had been Crazy-Legs or Ripcord he would not have been able to eject safely out of that carnage. I know this is meant to portray that Hawk was trying to save all life when possible. But deep down, we know that if Carruthers ejected, it is likely Hawk would have doubled back and riddled his parachute. Hawk is just like that. Would anyone contend that Hawk would have flown somewhere and tried to get someone to rescue Carruthers at sea? No. So even if he didn’t destroy the chute, Carruthers was a dead man either way.
To be fair, Carruthers could not have planned to survive this trip anyway, when you stop and think about it. He would probably have just barely enough time to drop the bomb before meeting this same end from the Russian air force near Vladivostock. And he can’t exactly parachute down into an area that is about to be devastated.
…Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Things are going south in a hurry, as the Wingfield militia and families are mutinying and telling Wingfield he is nuts. He pulls out a side-arm and aims it at a civilian and asks his wife Shary to back him up.
Shary shoots him in the back, killing him.
She tells the Joes that Wingfield had a failsafe underneath the compound. The plan was if Carruthers failed, the explosion in Montana would cause the paranoid American government to believe Russia had struck them, and solicit a nuclear response. This would in turn result in Russia firing back, and then the whole thing goes up again. Wingfield had it all figured out.
The rest of the Joes show up and Zap again shows off his chops. In Issue 1, he flies them away in a helicopter. In Issue 4, he correctly diagnoses the type of weapon it is, how to raise it, and how to disarm it. Grunt is the hero lifting part of the weapon away at the last possible moment. So Grunt gets a lot of praise, and well deserved. But again, Zap keeps them from all being blown up, all in just a few moments.
Give the man a pay bump Hawk!!
Overall, I liked this issue, as it showed the Joes had more than just Cobra to deal with. The world is filled with terrible nut-jobs and weapons of mass destruction. Again, this is a heavy topic for a comic book.
But the Joes are up to the test, and “wherever there’s trouble, G.I. Joe is there.”
Now You Know…a little more about the Wingfield family, and their evil plan to destroy the world!