When I first heard there was a new G.I. Joe series in the works — not to mention the live-action movie — I was understandably concerned, especially after the dearth of fan service in the live-action Transformers flick a couple years back. These two series were the axes around which my childhood revolved, and from the ridiculous reinventions of Optimus Prime (original/most recent) to the redesigned Joe figures I spied while out shopping not long ago, it seemed that nobody wanted to do this sort of thing quite right. To my amazement, all it took was hiring Warren Ellis, a writer who knew nothing at all about the classic counterterrorism cartoon of the '80s. Go figure.
It follows a format similar to the Clone Wars cartoons that aired on Cartoon Network some time ago, with each episode being bite-sized (five minutes each, with a planned ten-minute finale) and packed to the gills. Seriously, I don't think I ever saw content this dense, edgy, and mature in the entire run of the original show, which itself is said to finally expect re-release on DVD sometime in Summer 2009 after the controversial discontinuation of the original DVD release (according to Joe Headquarters). Not only have the characters been modernized appropriately while keeping their unique traits intact, but it also is bolder and more mature than ever before. People — main characters and faceless soldiers alike — will clearly die, not just take a scratch on the arm and surrender or get their heads clonked together and be out for the count. The closest I recall the series coming to this before was in a previous movie when Duke took a snake spear to the heart, though he ended up surviving it.
Sure, the voices are new, but longtime fans will instantly recognize faces and garb (inspired by the originals, not one-size-fits-all as in the movie), with or without callsigns given. Duke, Flint, Ripcord (who is accurately white, unlike in the upcoming flick), Stalker, Scarlett, Gung Ho, Roadblock, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander, Destro, The Baroness, Zartan, Firefly, Dial Tone (though female now, oddly), Tunnel Rat, and even Major Bludd appear. The series opens with the Major being made an lethal example of by Cobra Commander. The bumbling Commander of old has become a truly ruthless individual who chooses to obtain power through fear and destruction rather than monetary pursuits of old. He's a mean mofo now, and considering his methods for crippling the Joes early on and getting the world's attention, this beats the crap out of the Weather Dominator, the Mass Device, or the Pyramid of Darkness.
If you ever liked anything Joe-related, you owe it to yourself to check this out. This is a series rebirth done right, even if it works in a sort of parallel universe where Cobra Commander was evidently not turned into a snake, and Serpentor never rose to power. A lot of franchise history is side-stepped, but it results in a more focused, exciting show. If they can maintain the intensity, I'd love to see this become a regular series, but who knows. I'm just glad to see it done right.