GI Joe Special Missions: Tokyo
Story: Mike O'Sullivan
Art: Mike Bear and John Lowe
Devil's Due, 2006
by Chris Sims
If anybody out there's been watching the new season of The Venture Bros.—and you should be, since it's one of the best things on TV this summer—then you've probably seen the episode that flashes back to the glory days of the Office of Secret Intelligence for an all-out parody of GI Joe. The whole thing's done up as a spoof of the cartoon's opening sequence, complete with a theme song and a Destroesque villain, but swapping out Stalker and Duke for what can only be described as a bloodthirsty, militaristic version of the Village People who return from battling evil for a triumphant scrubdown in the showers. It's great, and even in a season that's been marked by some of the best bits in the show's run, it sticks out as one of the funniest parts.
And like so many things, it's funny because it's true.
Well, maybe not the shower thing, but there's definitely something going on with Recondo (Jungle Warfare) and Sparks (Communications), if the backup story from Special Missions: Tokyo is to be believed.
Here's how it goes: After one-eyed Australian mercenary and handlebar moustache afficionado Major Bludd claims that he's killed one of the Joes, Sparks sets off to find the only one they can't get on the phone, Recondo, only to find that Bludd stabbed him and pitched him off a waterfall. Since Recondo's a close personal friend, Sparks is understandably upset until a coded email informs him that Recondo, in a twist straight out of Sherlock Holmes's Final Problem, faked his death to go underground.
From that alone, there's nothing too out of the ordinary, and to be honest, I'm as annoyed as anybody by the people—well, let's be honest and just call 'em fan-fiction writers—who see any close friendship between two guys as an indication of a sexual relationship (despite the fact that this is, as I'm sure you know, exactly what I do every two months when it's time to write QEOC), but it's at this point that the text stops and our ol' pal the subtext kicks into high freakin' gear.
The story itself is only nine pages long, but Mike O'Sullivan spends about half of that establishing their close friendship in the most turgid prose to appear in an issue of GI Joe since they introduced Serpentor. Even the way it's set up, with Recondo being an outsider who was unable to identify with the rest of the Joes because he never learned how to make friends is a setup straight out of Harlequin Romance.
And when their freindship develops from the fact that they're both voracious readers—Recondo having been a fan of the books Sparks wrote in his civilian identity—it just gets ridiculous. Here, have a look at Sparks' narration:
"We would share books, then spend hours discussing them. Sometimes calmly talking, other times passionately debating."
"Many hours were spent in silence, indulging in our mutual love" and I'm going to go ahead and add the pause here, "of the written word."
And my personal favorite:
"Generally, I'm not the first one to go out to gather first hand intel. But for Recodo, I'll make every exception."
Please note that I did not bold that word for effect; that's actually how it's written. And I dare you to read it without automatically hearing a Barry White song start up in the background.
What really sells it, though, is the email at the end where Recondo reveals he survives. The main text of it is the standard "Hey, don't tell anybody but I'm actually alive" email where he talks about how he's going undercover and he'll be able to move more freely if Cobra thinks he's dead, the standard spy movie explanation for why you'd make your best pal think you were dead.
The postscript, however, is another matter entirely.
In order to assure Sparks that it's really him, Recondo includes a brief note at the end reading:
"Juliet's potion. I'll prove you wrong."
...which is a reference to one of their afmorementioned "passionate debates" that they'd had about Romeo & Juliet when they were—and once again, this is an actual quote—"on winter leave in Providence" together.
Now really, I know that references to Shakespeare are about as common in the world of pop-culture espionage as Walther PPKs and Aston-Martins, but when two guys are sending secret messages in the form of references to star-crossed lovers who end in tragedy when one thinks the other is dead, well... that's not even subtext anymore.
That's just text.
Chris Sims fights for freedom wherever there's trouble over land and sea and air at The ISB.
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