Rating if the Book Were a Movie: PG-13
Writer: Joshua Williamson
Artist: Tom Reilly
Colors: Jordie Bellaire
Letters: Rus Wooton
Cover: Tom Reilly
Editor: Sean Mackiewicz and Jonathan Manning
Publisher: Image Comics and Skybound Entertainment
Story: 4.5 Stars
Artwork: 4.1 Stars
Cover Artwork: 4.2 Stars
Dialogue: 4.2 Stars
Mechanics: 4.4 Stars
Editing: 4.5 Stars
About the Book:
Conrad Hauser (AKA Duke) is a Sergeant for a special forces division in the U.S. military. He’s the perfect soldier. The brass loves him. The grunts love him even more. He doesn’t want to be promoted because he wants to be the boots on the ground for missions he believes in. When the shooting stops, he’s the first to help with humanitarian efforts.
When flying as a copilot over Oregon, Duke and his pilot Frosty encountered a hostile. This particular hostile physically altered its appearance from a fighter jet to a robot right in front of Duke. Then it proceeded to kill Frosty without thinking twice about it. In the time since that fateful moment the government has lied about what happened. Duke has gone rogue. He knows the truth and is willing to risk his life to prove it.
Different people have different franchises. Cupcake is a Masters of the Universe guy. My loyalties are torn between Transformers and G.I. Joe. I know my fair share about G.I. Joe. My friend Cover Girl makes me look like the village idiot when it continues to all things related to a real American hero.
Cover Girl is the first person I go to when I need to fact check something. She was a great help when I wrote an article about Sherlock joining the Joe team a couple years ago. She knows her stuff so well that the creator of the franchise uses her as an information resource.
Cover Girl’s favorite character is Duke. It’s akin to how much I like Starscream. Thanks to her I was aware that this title was coming down the pipeline quite a while ago. She never went into specifics; but she was very excited for Duke #1 to hit the comic book stores.
I was cautious about Cover Girl’s enthusiasm. Of course she’d be thrilled to have a new title that featured her favorite character front and center. It’s the equivalent of how I felt when all of the focus was on Starscream in Transformers: Shattered Glass. By default we give more love to things involving our favorites.
When I read Duke I was surprised. I had expected a story that was completely immersed in the world of G.I. Joe. Instead it reads like a spy thriller that happens to have a smattering of G.I. Joe in it.
Williamson does a masterful job of throwing in nuggets from the franchise’s longstanding history while keeping the story at a level that newcomers can understand. That is exactly what the franchise needs to ensure longevity. The target demographic of the original G.I. Joe line is now approximately 50 years old. Stories like this, coupled with a resurgence of action figures in the toy aisle will help usher in a new generation of fans.
I liked how this cover is done. We have Duke in the foreground atop of the wreckage of a HISS tank. He looks every bit of the warrior that people have come to love. Starscream flying in the background is very fitting because he’s been in the back of Duke’s mind ever since their encounter.
When Sunbow did the animated series Duke always seemed to look like a Ken doll in an army uniform. Reilly’s work on the interior pages humanizes him. We see a man who cares deeply about doing the right thing. It becomes an obsession. Not having a perfectly pressed uniform, some stubble, and hair that looks to have taken on a life of its own shows us just how much Duke is focused on finding the truth.
Being a subject matter expert about G.I. Joe is not a prerequisite for this title. It does help with regards to seeing the depth of certain aspects and recognizing Easter eggs; but this story doesn’t hinge on it. In fact with some parts of the story having a new set of eyes makes it easier for the reader to see things from Duke’s perspective.
As a geek on a budget I believe Duke #1 is a must read story. We get a fantastic expansion of character development, which is hard to do with a character that is older than the ninja turtles. Moreover, we have a plot that pulls the reader into this world in a way that makes the reader feel like they are experiencing everything firsthand.