Arriving hot on the heels of the first issue of Duke, Cobra Commander #1 is the latest entry into the rapidly expanding Energon Universe. Written by the ubiquitous Joshua Williamson, drawn by Andrea Milana and colored by Annalisa Leoni, it focuses on the origins of the infamous G.I. Joe villain.
We're staying spoiler-free for this review, but it's another solid entry into the burgeoning franchise, even if it doesn't quite - on the evidence of the first issue at least - have quite the immediate punch of Transformers or the shock of Void Rivals. What it lacks in action, however, it makes up for in creepy atmosphere.
The issue opens in the present with the arrival of a mysterious stranger at a rural bar. He tersely demands a vehicle and then brutally murders a man for his snow truck. While the scene doesn't exactly shock - hey, we've all seen The Terminator - it is atmospherically told, with Milana and particularly colorist Leoni conjuring a sense of the bar's frozen isolation. You can see what I mean in the gallery below...
We then flash back to "Before" and a setting that's a real vibe switch, moving the tone from rural horror to something closer to sci-fi/fantasy.
These scenes highlight the comic's greatest strength: its world-building. Just as Duke #1 felt like getting a glimpse at a real, and already lived in corner of the Energon Universe that just happened to overlap with the arrival of the Transformers on Earth, so Cobra Commander #1 gives you the sense of discovering something huge, secret, and sinister at work in the world. It's going to a lot of fun seeing how this book inevitably collides with Duke further down the line.
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This is an entertaining first issue with evocative art and a protagonist that Williamson and Milana have pleasingly avoided softening - this Cobra Commander is a terse, murderous SOB, just as he should be.
Likewise, while there are flashback scenes, Williamson's script avoids over-explaining things, leaving the character's origin nicely ambiguous. While it currently lacks the clear narrative propulsion of Duke and Transformers' debut issues, it's perhaps the more idiosyncratic and intriguing book.
One to keep an eye on, then, and another essential piece of the Energon Universe jigsaw.
Cobra Commander #1 is published by Skybound on January 17.
Here's what we made of Duke's first issue.