G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero #21 was one of the more influential comics of the '80s thanks to its then-unique silent format. Writer Larry Hama thrust readers into the shoes of Snake-Eyes with a story that featured no dialogue or narration. With Hama now back handling the Joes at IDW, the time was right for him to revisit the concept a second time. G.I. Joe: Origins #19 features a very similar premise to the original "Silent Interlude", with Snake-Eyes infiltrating an enemy base and quietly laying waste to his enemies.
The art is worth tackling right off the bat, as it falls mainly on the visuals to carry the issue and convey the events of Hama's script. Hama actually wrote and drew A Real American Hero #21. Here, he provides layouts over which Joe Benitez handles finishes. Benitez's bombastic style shines through pretty well. The issue is far more sleek and attractive than most Joe comics. It's a more bright and colorful world Snake-Eyes inhabits here, with much of the violence downplayed or occurring off-panel. The tone set by the visuals almost seems to root the story in the more colorful A Real American Hero universe as opposed to IDW's somewhat more grounded universe. That's neither good nor bad, necessarily, but it is interesting the creators didn't aim for a more violent tone in such an action-oriented tale. In terms of storytelling, Hama and Benitez are generally able to communicate well, but there are some panels that may leave the reader feeling confused or bewildered. The issue is pretty, but not always fully clear it what it tries to communicate.
Hama's script leaves little impression because there isn't much to speak of here. There was a clear purpose driving the original "Silent Interlude". Snake-Eyes had to infiltrate Cobra's stronghold in order to rescue a captive Scarlett. Along the way, Storm Shadow made his comic book debut. Here, there's no compelling sense of purpose or even a real reason shown for Snake-Eye's mission. He's just there to get in, slice some goons, and get out again. Hama does take the time to introduce a certain furry sidekick to Snake-Eyes (or at least nod to that character). But in general, the issue leaves the reader wondering "What's the point?". The general beats of the story are pretty similar to the original. Nothing significant is added to the IDW mythology. The art is competent, but not strong enough to outclass the original. In short, this is a throwback issue that doesn't quite escape the shadow of its source material. Perhaps a plot less similar to the original would have helped Origins #19 stand out a little more.
Silent issues are far less of a novelty now than they were in 1984. If Marvel's "Nuff Said" event from 2002 taught us anything, it's best when these projects occur organically rather than being pre-planned or editorially mandated. Whatever the inspiration behind this particular issue, Origins #19 will hardly leave the impact its predecessor did.
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