Moving away from the previous plot and developments, so forget about ninjas and everything else, G.I Joe #21 provides a singular story framed very well throughout one issue. Whilst there are obvious repercussions and future story plot points, it reads well on its own from start to finish, even if it is a little unoriginal and cliched at times; you can’t argue originality when its done well and played to its best strengths.
The official description from IDW:
General Hawk is retired from G.I. JOE, but COBRA isn’t through with him! A team of elite snakeheads targets the former honcho for capture and interrogation. But old soldiers never die, they kick butt and take names. Big one-against-all action as an outnumbered and outgunned Hawk shows us how he earned those stars.
The set-up is pretty simple. Take a retired, ex-army officer living peacefully alone, and throw in some soldiers who want to capture him. If this sounds familiar, its because you’re probably thinking of various cheesy 80’s or 90’s action films, or a Steven Segal film, or any common trope. So, its not original, but it does suit the G.I Joe universe perfectly. Its the face off, the cat versus mouse and hunter vs hunter aspect that makes all these previous attempts great, so its hard to knock G.I Joe for doing their own version. Trust me, there are a few cliches that belay this in the story (a man who lives in the woods with a wild dog for company, hardly original) and uphold the honest routes and inspiration.Yet this, and the few in-jokes that give way in the dialogue show a decent understanding of the original inspiration.
This is mainly because its a story that really suits the one-issue framing. There’s no side plots of overlapping story arcs. You can pick this up and read it from start to finish. Its written well enough that everything is explained; a working knowledge of ‘G.I Joe vs Cobra’ is all you need.
As for characters and long time readers, this does feature a large cast of generally faceless characters. There are few, if any, massively outstanding characters to attach on to, besides General Hawk himself. As a one-shot, this is understandable, but it arguably makes its standing in the longer plots and series less important.