In an organization like Cobra, fighting your way to the top of the corporate ladder can be a bloody, murderous business. Following the assassination of the Commander, a charismatic leader who directed affairs of the multinational, many-pronged terrorist organization from behind the scenes, a cabal of leaders within Cobra issued several, carefully chosen candidates a challenge -- to become the next Cobra Commander, kill as many G.I. Joes as possible. Among the top candidates were the Baroness, Destro, Major Bludd, Tomax, Oda Satori and Krake, and through separate intrigues they managed to utterly cripple the Joes' operations. In this week's "G.I. Joe" #8 from IDW Publishing, written by Chuck Dixon and illustrated by Will Rosado, the winner is finally revealed. "Cobra" #8, by Mike Costa and Antonio Fuso, is also on sale this week.
CBR News spoke with Costa and Dixon, who also writes the ongoing "Snake Eyes" series, about the finale of "Cobra Civil War," the ascension of a new Cobra Commander and the outright carnage of the upcoming "Cobra Command" arc which marks the Joes' first direct crossover.
[SPOILER WARNING: This interview contains major spoilers for "G.I. Joe" #8, including the identity of the new Cobra Commander.]
"Cobra Civil War" ran through the first 8 issues of each of IDW's three "G.I. Joe" series, for a total of 24 chapters. Costa said it was sometimes a challenge working on such an expansive canvas, with scores of characters in play, "especially because Cobra had traditionally focused on a pretty tight cast." Before relaunching as part of "Cobra Civil War," the previous two volumes of the "Cobra" series followed Joe agent Chuckles deep undercover in the organization; Chuckles ultimately assassinated Cobra Commander and sacrificed his life to destroy a Cobra installation.
"I didn't know what the 'Cobra' book would be about after the end of the Chuckles story -- I thought the whole book was about a guy infiltrating Cobra and what would happen," Costa told CBR News. "It was actually Chuck who came up with the whole 'Civil War' concept and convinced me to stay, but it was difficult to expand the canvas of a book so small, and I think worked because it was such a small story."
"The challenge with any large ensemble cast is to make sure each character, or group of characters, has their own arc within the story," Dixon added. "Some can end early and some run throughout. I think Mike and I have supplied plenty of these with lots of cameos. 'Joe' and the ancillary books feature one of the largest ensembles in comics so we're used to juggling a big cast. This one was a little bigger. But I think we pulled it off with flying colors."
Though the death of the previous Commander occurred in the pages of "Cobra," the new boss was revealed in "G.I. Joe," which Costa said was "the correct way." "As I said back then, Chuck was incredibly gracious to let me introduce and kill Cobra Commander in a book that isn't the main 'G.I. Joe' book. That's nuts," Costa said. "But the new Cobra Commander is very much Chuck's. This is a character he created, whereas Cobra Commander was a character I felt more was mine, I had more time with him than any other writer. A lot of that character came out of my ideas. Plus, this new Cobra Commander, unlike the previous one who was very much in the shadows and unknown to the world -- which fit better in my book, which was about espionage and intrigue -- this new guy is a lot more ostentatious and is going to be a major player on the world stage, which fits more in Chuck's book about bombastic military action."
Asked about favorite moments from the "Cobra Civil War" arc, Costa cited the capture and escape of Baroness in Dixon's "G.I. Joe." "I really like that story a lot. It's always fun to take a character who is very powerful and then trap them or strip them of their power temporarily and see how they handle that. I love the way that Chuck handled that," Costa said. "I also really like the way the Duke storyline resolved in 'Snake Eyes,' the standoff between those characters was really smartly done.
"For my own comic, I love how Antonio [Fuso] drew the climactic fight in issue #7. That's something I'd been working up to for a long time, and I knew that issue #7 was going to have this major brawl between these three characters that was going to be really, really brutal and ugly, and Antonio pulled some stuff out in that art that I really thought was awesome," Costa continued. "Every review I've seen of the book, and I've got some comments on Twitter, they all mentioned that fight. It's good, as a writer, when you think about something for so long and you think, this is what I'm working toward, this great scene, and then have people actually respond to it. That doesn't always happen. There's stuff that I write, thinking 'People are going to love this!' and then nobody talks about it, they talk about some other thing that I didn't even think about, that I came up with in five seconds. It's gratifying that everyone thought that fight was as big a deal as I did. Because we don't have a lot of fights in Cobra, and I really wanted that one to be memorable."
For Dixon, elevating Flint into a major character proved a highlight of "Cobra Civil War." "He's always been a favorite of mine and I never thought he got the attention he deserved. Here he gets to take over Team Alpha from Duke and really shows his resourcefulness, leadership and ruthlessness," Dixon told CBR. As for other favorite moments, Dixon said, "There's what I think was the 'holy s***!' moment with Baroness getting a micro-transmitter cut out of her. And I think the Big Reveal really worked as a surprise, within a riddle within a second surprise."
In "G.I. Joe" #8 readers see just how Krake wins the contest to become the new Cobra Commander, but CBR asked Dixon why Krake makes sense from a creative standpoint, and what sort of possibilities his coronation opens up. "Krake becoming the Commander is kind of triple scary. We kind of learn everything we need to know about him from the 'Joe' annual that tells his origin. And what we know is frightening," Dixon explained. "But because he's so internalized we only see the surface. There's so much more we don't know. And certainly the Joes don't know. But what's coolest about him is that Cobra really doesn't know who they put in charge here. With his leadership, Cobra shifts from a sneaky, shadowy cabal to an actual military presence. Joe is now firmly a war book with a capital W."
As early as Costa's "Cobra" #8 -- also on sale now -- readers begin to see how Krake's leadership differs from the previous Commander. "He wants to be the most powerful, most feared man in the world," Dixon said of the new Cobra boss. "He sees all of Cobra as his own personal weapon. Krake is a guy who understands that it all comes down to violence and the fear of violence. He sees himself as a predator in world of sheep and no one, within Cobra or without, will topple him while he lives. Trust me, this guy is the most frightening Cobra Commander we'll ever see."
"Krake, as Chuck has eloquently put it, wants to remake the world in his own image," Costa added. "He, more than our previous Commander, is a complete megalomaniac. Also unlike the previous Commander, he isn't content to be a power broker behind the scenes and profit invisibly. He wants people to know who he is. He's going to make a huge introduction on the world stage and be a major player as a military power and as a political power, because there are going to be people in the world who agree with what Cobra is doing. There will be rogue states that see them as revolutionaries. That's who Krake wants to be. He's a megalomaniac in every sense. He's a big, big guy who wants to be known and wants to be powerful, and wants to rule the world in the most supervillainy sense, but hopefully also in a more in a more realistic despotic way."
None of the candidates for the role of Commander particularly liked each other, and some have new reason for animosity toward the victor. But as to whether they can now rally around Krake, Costa explained it may be an open question. "Beginning with 'Cobra Command,' the big crossover that follows, I'm going to try to show that people in Cobra aren't stupid. They accept what has happened, they accept who won, and they try to move forward and make the best of it," he said. "Even if some of them are less than happy, there are several scenes of characters going, 'Well, this will be good for me because of this.' 'Ultimately, I didn't get the big chair, but the guy who did, I can count on him to do this.' But the Cobra storyline running through 'Cobra Command' has several characters realizing they might not be as secure in Cobra as they thought, and this new Commander might be a danger to them."
Open defiance to the new regime, however, is not a realistic option, Costa made clear. "Krake is the kind of guy where you fall into line, or you die," Costa said. "Unlike the previous Commander, he's less interested in letting people pursue their own goals so long as they kick back to him. I always saw the previous Cobra regime as a real cell structure, the way a lot of terrorist organizations are structured, but with three major branches: there's the business branch that the twins Tomax and Xamot were sort of the head of, there's the 'whenever we need a crazy religious nut, we go to Serpentor' religious branch, and then there's the more gunpowder-and-gasoline branch that Baroness was heading up. And then Major Bludd had his drug trade and stuff, but eventually, it directed upward toward the Commander, even if he didn't have a hand in all of it.
"Krake is not about that. Krake is in charge of everything, so you either get with the program or you get out," Costa continued. "We'll see how that works, but most people get with the program."
The upcoming "Cobra Command" arc is a first for IDW's "G.I. Joe" line in that it is a direct crossover, with chapters of the over-arching story rotating between "G.I. Joe," "Cobra," and "Snake Eyes," whereas the three separate arcs of "Cobra Civil War" continued from issue to issue within each series under the event banner. "'Cobra Command' is our most interconnected event. It's a literal crossover where you can follow along almost weekly," Dixon said. "It's a nine-part epic and we worked far enough ahead that the whole nine issues are drawn by Alex Cal. It's huge. We see the new Commander hit the ground running with a big war story. Within that we see unrest within Cobra's ranks and the first straight-up encounter between Snake Eyes and Stormshadow that ends in a way NO ONE will see coming. And lots of wild new Cobra weaponry and some set piece, toe-to-toe battles between the Joes and Cobra."
"This is Cobra's major military offensive," Costa said of "Cobra Command." "To put it in not-quite-subtle terms, this is the Cobra you remember from the Saturday morning cartoon. This is Cobra undergoing a major military operation that has no interest in being under the radar or staying out of news headlines. This is war."
With the carnage wrought by the more aggressive Cobra under Krake's leadership, Costa acknowledged that the assassination of the previous Commander begins to look less and less like a good deal for the Joes. "My big Chuckles story was him working his way up through the ranks of Cobra, and finally he kills Cobra Commander, which seems like this great thing and this great blow for victory. But ultimately, the guy who takes over is so much worse for the world," Costa said. "There's an irony there. And you'll see why it's so much worse. A lot of damage is done in 'Cobra Command.'"
Though "Cobra Command" tells one big story, Costa explained the core casts of each series would still hold top billing in their own titles. "I think it's structured really smartly. The chapters that are in the 'G.I. Joe' books focus mostly on that cast, the chapters in 'Snake Eyes' focus mostly on Snake Eyes, and the chapters in 'Cobra' mainly on Cobra. Obviously, characters like Tomax and Serpentor appear in 'G.I. Joe' and 'Snake Eyes,' but mostly what's going on with them happens in my book," Costa said. "I think it's interesting that we were able to keep the casts pretty much coherent, so you pick up 'Cobra' and you're reading Cobra characters, but it's their part of the story. I actually took inspiration from the way Bill Willingham did his big 'Fables' crossover between 'Fables,' 'Jack of Fables,' and this third comic he created for the crossover. Each of the books kept their main cast, even as they were telling the next part of the story, and I thought that was a really cool way of handling it.
"And also there's this great consistency because Alex Cal is drawing every single issue, which I don't think has ever been done in a major crossover like this before, certainly not one that ships several times a month," Costa continued. "We were really lucky to get so far ahead on scripts that Alex could draw every single issue, so I really am excited about that."
The elite fighting forces of G.I. Joe took a beating during "Cobra Civil War," with scores killed in action, at least two bases destroyed or compromised, and multiple demoralizing defeats. Dixon said the Joes' situation won't drastically improve anytime soon, but they have been able to score some small victories. "It takes the Joes a while to catch up with Cobra's new direction and they will take some lumps, but I think they're victorious in that they have forced Cobra into the light," Dixon said. "Post-'Cobra Civil War' and post-'Cobra Command' we'll see them face new challenges from the folks who were supposed to be supporting them. The Joes face some real-world challenges that change their status quo.
"But remember, Snake Eyes always wins," Dixon continued. "His bad guys are the only ones who don't get to walk away."