Review: Snake Eyes: Deadgame #1
IDW's latest G.I. Joe title sees the fan-favorite character Snake Eyes taking on a new supernatural foe! Since the announcement that Snake Eyes: Deadgame would feature both story and art from '90s comics entrepreneur Rob Liefeld, fan reaction has been divided. Now the first issue is here, so how is it?
As it turns out, it's REALLY GOOD!
There are many approaches to G.I. Joe that writers have taken over the years, from Larry Hama's original militaristic approach to the cartoonish, to the over-the-top ninja action of the nineties, and then back to an even grittier realism in the early 2000s, driven by real-world fears. Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, some of my favorite G.I. Joe comics steer away from reality and into fantastical (I'm looking at you, Serpentor!), and I'm happy to say that Snake Eyes: Deadgame leans more toward escapism than reality.
With Rob Liefeld at the helm, this shouldn't be a surprise. Whether comics readers love him or hate him, he's responsible for some of the bigger comics trends in the last few decades. Liefeld has always brought flair, style, and big, fun concepts to his work: starting at DC with Hawk and Dove, then creating Deadpool (The Merc with the Mouth!) over at Marvel, launching one of my favorite mutant teams (X-Force) from the pages of The New Mutants, then stepping out as a founding member of Image Comics with books like Youngblood and bringing deeper themes like the burden of immortality to the pages of Prophet.
Snake Eyes: Deadgame is no exception. I'll keep the plot details purposefully vague, but the comic references actual mythological gods and presents a foe who appears to have supernatural ability. This is played in contrast against our soldiers who are quite human, vulnerable, and mortal. The scripting (presumably adapted from Liefeld's story ideas) by writer Chad Bowers (Marvel's Sleepwalker) is full of fantastic dialogue that feels rooted in a love and understanding of these characters. Things feel crisp and fresh, and the perspective on Snake Eyes, his skills, his burden, his oath, feels immediate and visceral. Though Snake Eyes doesn't speak, Bowers gives him tons of character through third-person narrative. That's quite an accomplishment, and a testament to Bowers as a writer.
The question many fans have been asking since Liefeld was first announced as the driving creator behind this title is whether or not the art will do justice to the story. I'm happy to report that the comic looks wonderful, and the art feels completely appropriate for this story. Liefeld's pencil style has been the subject of praise and criticism over the years (both perhaps deserved), but the guy drawing this book in 2020 feels miles from the man that so many criticized in 1995. He's come a long way, and the success of Deadpool as a character in pop culture has perhaps paved the way for a second (or third) look at Liefeld from his critics. I'm really happy to report that the work in Snake Eyes: Deadgame is very solid, at least for this Gen-X-er who came of age in the time of pockets and pouches. It's less stylized and more mature than I've come to expect from Liefeld, and that's a good thing.
It's also worth mentioning that this comic has a whopping 36 variant covers, all of which have been revealed by IDW online. While I love quite a bit of the artwork (my favorite is the cover that references the old '80s toyline), it does concern me to see so many variations at play, having lived through the speculator craze of the nineties and witnessed first-hand the destructive nature that cover gimmicks have had on the industry at large.
But what really matters is the story itself, and Snake Eyes: Dead Game has me hooked. As a long-time Joe fan who first pulled a Duke action figure from a peg in a toy store some 35 years ago, these characters are in my blood, and this comic feels true to the universe I connected with in the mid-eighties. While this is only the first issue of this story, I'm looking forward to the next chapter to see how the plot continues to develop, as well as to spend more time with some of my favorite Joes, (several famous team members appear as supporting characters). Supernatural villainy, strong character moments for our protagonist, good use of some fan-favorite heroes, and stylish (not stylized) art make this one a hearty "Yo Joe!"
Snake Eyes: Deadgame #1 is now available.
Heath Holland is a life-long fan of movies, music, comics, and video games, and has been creating content that celebrates his passion since 2007. He founded Cereal At Midnight in 2017 as both a website and a YouTube channel, which has thousands of subscribers and millions of views. He currently resides in Alabama.