Roadblock is the spotlight character this time around and, since he’s been in the fight longer than Tiger, we get to see a different side of the toll this war has taken on its combatants. With Tiger, we got to see the fear of not being enough to accomplish the task at hand. With Roadblock, we get to see how the Joes tackle with the exact opposite question: when have they gone too far? At what point does taking care of everyday citizens take precedent over striking a blow against Cobra? Is there such a thing as an acceptable loss?
These are all excellent questions and well worth exploring. Unfortunately, we don’t quite get a satisfying resolution. On the one hand, I like this, because it avoids the simple moralizing that the cartoon series so often resorted to. The story here is much more nuanced and unlikely to be solved with a rousing speech or a big shootout. However, it does feel like some of the characters here treat the conflict as though it’s been laid to rest, when everything we see of Roadblock in this issue would lead us to think it won’t be forgotten so easily. Hopefully this is a thread that will be explored further in later issues, because the idea of seeing Roadblock choosing between serving the needs of the little guy vs. winning the war at hand is an interesting one.
As for that war I keep mentioning? It’s still being drawn splendidly by Chris Evenhuis. There are some wonderful sequences in this issue, like a chase scene early on, where the illustrations do all of the talking. One page in particular, in which Frontier leaps from a bridge to avoid gunfire, was an absolute highlight. It’s such a ballsy move and it’s given so much weight, thanks to multiple smaller panels showing Frontier’s descent.
There’s an almost awkward, scrambling nature to Frontier’s body in this sequence. He’s well-trained, but even he occasionally just needs to make a run for it. It’s a nice visual reminder that this version of the Joes is made up of regular people who have had their lives turned upside-down. Brittany Peer’s colors bring it all together, delivering a look that is equal parts vibrant and cartoony, but still somehow grounded.
Yes, while this issue was a bit of a narrative detour, it does a great job of fleshing out some of the characters that have been relegated to background chatter in the first few months. We’re starting to get a real feel for how people are genuinely trying to adapt to their new status quo, which brings home the single greatest strength of this series: these characters all feel like genuine people.
Sure, they’re jumping off of bridges, learning martial arts, and setting explosives, but their concerns are the same as ours. It’s also a testament to this series’ strengths that I didn’t even realize we hadn’t seen a certain character until the very moment they arrived. I’m hoping this strength of character extends to the villains, as well. Without spoiling anything, it looks like we’ll find out soon.