NOW YOU KNOW WITH YORKTOWNJOE ISSUE G.I.JOE #55 REVIEWED

Background

Issue 54 had a lot of action, including a great air battle between the Conquest X-30 and the Firebat, with both pilots believing they had won. But there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered. Feel free to check out the review of Issue 54 in case you missed it. (You can catch up on other “Now You Know With YorktownJoe”reviews there as well!)

On to the issue

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The cover of this Issue is quite the tease. It features the title “Unmaskings” along with Snake-Eyes, Destro and Cobra Commander beginning to remove their masks. We will have to wait and see if the issue lives up to the cover, or if it is merely symbolic and an effective ploy to gather our 75 cents back in the 80’s.

At the end of Issue 54, it was beginning to rain back on Staten Island, home to Fort Wadsworth. The PIT had been destroyed back in Issue 53, but Destro and Cobra Commander were foraging for supplies and trying to find a way out of the debris.

I mentioned last issue that if they had only found limited supplies, they would not be distraught over the rain. They would be rejoicing and trying to find containers to fill so they could use the rain runoff for drinking water. They would not automatically assume they were going to drown.

But here we are with Destro trying to keep Cobra Commander from full on panic.

Even if they were trapped at the lowest possible point, it would take at least a week of solid non-stop rain for the water level to rise enough to drown them. Not a few hours of a thunderstorm. But I won’t quibble about timelines and meteorology. Let’s keep going with the issue!

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Cobra Commander is losing it and grabbing debris and flinging it out of his way. His fight-or-flight instinct took over and he panicked. Destro remained in control of his mind, and thereby kept thinking tactically about the situation.

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Destro’s self discipline is rewarded as he finds the remains of an escape tunnel. Though he was looking for a backup escape tunnel, he instead found the means to create a new one. A G.I.Joe branded earth boring machine is their ticket to freedom!

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Back on the surface, Duke and Hawk are bidding farewell to Infantry Trooper, Code-Name: Grunt. Robert W. Graves has decided to take advantage of Veteran’s Education benefits and pursue engineering school at Georgia Tech. 

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Clutch wishes him well and shows him respect. I believe Clutch is a decent human and masks his feelings with his shallow wisecracks. Although this is not one of the featured “Unmaskings” based on the cover, we do gain a little insight into Grunt and Clutch. Grunt is a complex, intelligent individual capable of doing more than fight. He’s going to be an engineer. And Clutch is an honorable friend who unveils his kindness and friendship when no one else is there to witness it. These are the psychological “Unmaskings” that might have been under your radar.

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Back in Sierra Gordo, the Baroness and Dr. Mindbender are working “Flint” over in the Brain-Wave scanner and discussing sales opportunities with the local revolutionaries (bad guys this time). Dr. Mindbender is becoming increasingly suspicious over their captive Joe. 

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Destro and Cobra Commander surface with the earth boring machine in the middle of a mall that is closed for renovations. They appear to have surfaced in the hallway between a toy shop and a wig and costume disguise store. How very convenient!

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Back on Cobra Island, Serpentor is sharing his visions with Zartan and Zarana as well as the Dreadnoks. He unveils a plan for a Cobra Consulate skyscraper in New York City. I wonder if he has a Techno-Viper who double-majored in engineering and model/diorama building. Last time he unveiled a Terror Drome, this time a Consulate building. I wonder if they were planning another play-set? I don’t think so… “Let’s have kids fight battles filing legal briefs, motions to dismiss, land right grants, easements, and an occasional pitched battles with helicopters flying overhead!!”

Probably not so much… But we will see his vision come to fruition in the future. Stay tuned on that.

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Back at the costume shop, we finally get the big reveal! Destro and Cobra Commander realize they need to travel in civilian disguise instead of the filthy battle clothes they have been stinking in for at least a week. I hope no one reading has worn the same clothes without changing for a whole week with only rain water to bathe and wash in… Eww!

At any rate, they remove their masks and helmets, but we only get a slight side or back view, concealed in shadows. At least Destro says: “So that’s what you look like!”

They put on wigs, sunglasses, and fake facial mustaches and beards. And some new clothes. Very – Gaudy – Clothes.

But at least they are clean!

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I don’t have the correct words to describe their attire. We’ll just go with “Flashy” and move on.

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Back in Sierra Gordo, the counter-revolutionaries are being led and advised by the Joe’s. Tomax and Xamot are keeping Dr. Mindbender aware of the situation, but he is pre-occupied with his interrogation. There is a small error on that page through the binoculars. see if you can spot it. Feel free to comment your explanation for a No-Prize. (Which is really accurate, since there is no prize from me if you are right…)

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He realizes “Flint” is wearing a rubber mask and peels it off. This reveals the ruined face of Snake-Eyes. Since this is classified, we only see a glimpse of him from behind and some shadows around the top of his head. And since it is classified, how does the Baroness know what he looks like? I’ll have to go back through the earlier issues and see if she was standing around when Dr. Venom used the Brain-Wave scanner on Snake-Eyes in the earlier issues. That seems likely…

At any rate, he is unceremoniously “re-masked” with a towel tossed over his face. Snake-Eyes probably had his feelings hurt. Everyone can’t stomach to look at him… Maybe he can do something about that in another 40 issues or so…

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Destro and Cobra Commander are continuing to keep things on the down low by stealing a bright yellow Corvette from a dealership. Cobra Commander said he correctly typed up the paperwork, so they would appear legit. He mentions he previously worked as used car salesman and said starting Cobra was a move in the right direction for him. Ouch! I guess we know what author Larry Hama thinks of used car sales people.

I suppose a gray sedan would have been too far beneath these two.

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Of course they get pulled over, and Cobra Commander tells Destro to relax, he has his actual driver’s license with him. It sure is good he kept his wallet on him through an assault on the PIT in Issue 53 and the harrowing week trying to avoid starvation or drowning in Issue 54. “Battle plans: check. Machine pistol: check. Battle Helmet: check. Oh wait, before this daring assault on the PIT, I should pack my wallet and state issued ID, just in case I want to grab some snacks at a super market after the battle.” 

Really?!?! REALLY!?!?

And you break laws every day of your life, built a terrorist organization financed through a pyramid scheme, murder people when you feel like it. But wait, here is a reminder postcard from the Department of Motor Vehicles. I really need to go stand in a long line and have my picture updated and get my weight corrected on a new plastic ID. I certainly would not want to get on their bad side in case I ever get pulled over for a tail-light in a HISS tank after an assault on a Federal building! I would hate to be cited for operating without a valid license!!

Really!?!? REALLY!?

Ah, well. It is interesting in the underwater peril in the rubble, Cobra Commander panicked, but Destro kept his wits. But above ground, the tables turned. 

I would have thought Cobra Commander would pull out his pistol and say something like: “I’ve got my ID, right HERE, officer!” BLAM-BLAM-BLAM!

But that is not how the story was headed…

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The Joe team are working on a rescue mission, picking off Cobra Troopers so they can steal their uniforms and sneak into the Terror Drome to pick up Snake-Eyes.

But back at the traffic stop, in western New York…

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The officer makes a note of Cobra Commander’s name and then says that is unusual. Then he drops the bomb that Billy is alive. He had the same last name and was involved in a bad accident a year before, and they were still searching for relatives for him.

In today’s world, a Google search could have linked them to an Ancestry site of some sort, or Facebook. The officers could have found relatives relatively quickly. But this was the 80’s, and there was far less technology available at the time. He does mention Billy was badly injured but he had an ID with the same last name and a picture of someone in his wallet. Without the mustache and glasses, it looked like him…

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Back in Sierra Gordo, the counter-revolutionaries (I think they are the good guys working with the Joe’s this time) have nearly over-run the Cobra Terror Drome. Not positive why the Firebat didn’t just get launched to blast them to oblivion with a strafing run around the perimeter. Maybe it was the A.V.A.C. pilot’s sleeping shift.

The Baroness and Dr. Mindbender look to try and escape to their helicopter parked outside.

She has an exchange with Leatherneck disguised as a Cobra. She comments on his weapon with the combo grenade launcher, that it isn’t standard Cobra issue. He replies he captured it. So she assumes he is good, and puts him in charge of guarding the prisoner. Ha-ha! He’ll get right on that.

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Inside, a Cobra Officer recognizes this isn’t one of his men. (His vision is better than the Baroness.) He gets decked with a punch that fills almost the entire page.

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They rescue Snake-Eyes and give him his regular Commando gear and mask. This appears to be his v.2 Action Figure gear. Stalker reminisces briefly about guilt at ordering others to leave Snake-Eyes behind in Vietnam. And how happy he was that everyone had disobeyed his orders and rescued him. He lets Snake-Eyes know he came personally to rescue him and realizes the importance of brothers in arms. 

The “unmasking” of his guilt and his heart felt feelings of camaraderie for his brother in arms is very moving.

All the Joe’s get back to their old gear so they don’t get mistakenly killed by the counter-revolutionaries (and to make it easier for the artists to let the readers know who is who).

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But for their troubles, they run outside and Stalker gets shot in the chest by Tomax and Xamot and others inside the helicopter.
Leatherneck bloops a frag (launches a grenade) and blows up a Cobra chopper. The Baroness, Dr. Mindbender, and the Twins all jump (or are blown) clear of the burning chopper.

And the Joe’s hoof it and haul the wounded Stalker into the tree-line to try to get away.

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Cobra reinforcements arrive in other helicopters and Dr. Mindbender orders the men to go hunting the Joe’s. Stalker tells them to leave him, that he owes it to Snake-Eyes that he can get away without further harm.

But Snake-Eyes is adding Low-Light’s scope to Leatherneck’s combo rifle and getting ready to bring the fight back to Cobra.

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Snake-Eyes is going to cover their evacuation, and he is loaded for bear!!

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This is an epic page of Snake-Eyes taking on all the Cobra forces on his own, blowing them away with his machine gun and grenade launcher.

But then they hit him with a barrage of grenades and mortars… Beach-Head comments it might be the last they have seen of Snake-Eyes.

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There is an emotional scene where Cobra Commander (in a ridiculous mustache and beret) is speaking to a comatose Billy in a hospital bed. I wonder if Cobra Commander realized they were billing “Cobra Blue Cross/Cobra Blue Shield” Insurance under his health insurance policy for care of his dependent for the past year? Maybe they just keep people in perpetuity in hospitals in the 80’s at no charge. And they didn’t take him to the Springfield hospital, but some other one…hmmm…

Cobra Commander begins to regret his life choices and make promises to turn over a new leaf. Perhaps this final “unmasking” is one of the most complicated and poignant. It is interesting to see the depth of character Larry Hama infuses into Cobra Commander. For all his evil, the sight of his wounded son has given him pause to reflect on his life.

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Destro is more stoic and philosophical. He lets Cobra Commander know he can’t change the past, but he can work building a better future.

This issue was filled with action and suspense, and some ridiculous literary devices to bring all these things around. As far as psychological “unmaskings” go, Cobra Commander’s feelings for his son might be the deepest of them all.

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Issue 55 had a lot of action, including a daring rescue attempt by the Joe team, an escape from drowning for Destro and Cobra Commander, and the possible death of Snake-Eyes who appears to have gone out with a bang. But once again, there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered. will Cobra Commander change his ways and become a good father? Will Snake-Eyes sacrifice be in vain, or will Stalker bleed out during the evacuation? Time will tell!

Hope you enjoyed this review!

Tune in soon for Issue 56. 

Now You Know – a little more about: ”UNMASKINGS” Feel free to let me know what you thought of this issue in the comments or on Twitter or Instagram @yorktownjoe.

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