Debuting in October 2008, IDW Publishing's G.I. Joe is a ground-up reboot of Hasbro's classic Real American Hero franchise, set in a Darker and Edgier, more "down-to-Earth" universe in the same vein as their 2005 Transformers reboot. Primarily driven by Chuck Dixon and Mike Costa, with contributions from Larry Hama, Fred Van Lente, Karen Traviss and Aubrey Sitterson, IDW's Joe can be divided into five "seasons" corresponding to the volumes of the main title.Season 1 was told through three main series: G.I. Joe, by Chuck Dixon; G.I. Joe: Origins by Dixon, with Larry Hama guest-writing multiple arcs; and the miniseries G.I. Joe: Cobra and its follow-up Cobra II, by Mike Costa. There were also a number of accompanying miniseries, Hearts and Minds and Infestation.
List of Season 1 series and events
Season 2 picked up from the death of Cobra Commander at the end of season 1, with the "Cobra Civil War" Cross Through. The series involved were G.I. Joe vol. 2, by Chuck Dixon; G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes/Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, by Dixon; and G.I. Joe: Cobra vol. 3, by Mike Costa. All three series lasted 21 issues in total.
- G.I. Joe vol. 1 showed the Joe team in their first encounters with Cobra, as well as the political machinations of the Cobra members and their efforts to create the M.A.S.S. Device. It ran for 27 issues.
- G.I. Joe: Origins was a prequel series depicting the early years of the team, with the first arc (by Larry Hama) showing the team's first ever mission, before giving character spotlights to individual characters, G.I. Joe or Cobra. It ran for 23 issues.
- G.I. Joe: Cobra, and its sequel series G.I. Joe: Cobra II, followed the efforts of G.I. Joe agent Chuckles to infiltrate Cobra... and to try and take it down from the inside. The series shockingly concluded with Chuckles killing Cobra Commander, before sacrificing himself to destroy Cobra's Section 20 base. Both were intended to be four-issue miniseries, but Cobra II was subsequently extended to an ongoing, which lasted 13 issues.
List of Season 2 series and events
Season 3 brought a Re Tool of the main series by franchise newcomer Fred Van Lente, who brought the Joes from a secretive, cloak-and-dagger espionage division into fully public Real American Heroes. Meanwhile, G.I. Joe: Special Missions by Dixon focused on a second branch, remaining in the shadows, while G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files by Costa continued the story of the G.I. Joe espionage unit.
- "Cobra Civil War" was a storyline that ran through all three books, depicting a contest between 9 high-ranking Cobra members for the position of Cobra Commander... a contest fought through the number of G.I. Joes each contestant was able to cause the death of. The conclusion of the contest (with Krake as the victor) led immediately into the Cobra Command Crossover.
- G.I. Joe vol. 2 chronicled the Joe team as they struggled with Cobra's assault on their people and holdings, and their subsequent difficulty in operating with their reduced resources and losses.
- G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes, later G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, was a solo series focused on the Joe team's resident Ninja-Commando, and later his Cobra counterpart.
- G.I. Joe: Cobra vol. 3 acted as a series of one-shot stories focused on contestants in the Civil War and G.I. Joe members with Cobra links. After Cobra Command, it would change focus to an intelligence-focused G.I. Joe unit, run by Flint.
- "Cobra Command", a 10-issue crossover between all threee books, showing the first act of the new, more brutal Cobra Commander: bringing Cobra into the public eye by conquering and destroying the South Asian country of Nanzhao.
- "Target: Snake Eyes", a 6-issue crossover between G.I. Joe and Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, that had the G.I. Joe team go after the rogue Snake Eyes and the Arashikage — with orders to kill.
List of Season 3 series and events
After the relatively early end of season 3, season 4 brought another Re Tool at the hands of noted science fiction author Karen Traviss, bringing a Darker and Edgier and more realistic tone to the series. Unfortunately, this run did even worse than its predecessor, being Cut Short after only 8 issues when 12 had been planned. Meanwhile, Costa's Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra covered the titular ninja.
- G.I. Joe vol. 3 centered on Duke and his public "celebrity soldier" team, operating out of New York under the command of Joe Colton, the original G.I. Joe. It lasted for 15 issues, with author Paul Allor taking over from Van Lente for issue 12 onwards.
- G.I. Joe: Special Missions acted as a Spiritual Successor to Dixon's previous G.I. Joe run, based around an espionage unit led by Scarlett who continued to work in secret while Duke acted in the public eye. It lasted for 14 issues.
- G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files continued from where Cobra vol. 3 left off, with Flint's Las Vegas intelligence unit and the manipulations of Tomax Paoli. It ended after 9 issues.
List of Season 4 series and events
Thanks to the cancellation of volume 4, IDW's G.I. Joe continuity went quiet for over a year. That changed with the announcement of Revolution: a Crossover series that would merge IDW's G.I. Joe and Transformers universes, along with Rom, Micronauts, M.A.S.K. and Action Man into a single shared continuity: the Hasbro Comic Universe. In it, the G.I. Joe team, after being defunct for two years, are recommissioned to fight the "threat" of the Transformers... but are unaware of the alien infiltrators lurking in their midst.In the aftermath of Revolution, season 5 of the G.I. Joe continuity launched, with a new, more science-fiction oriented series by Aubrey Sitterson. Meanwhile, other G.I. Joe characters would appear in Revolutionaries, ROM, and Optimus Prime on an ongoing basis. Visit their pages for more details on them.
- G.I. Joe vol. 4 ("The Fall of G.I. Joe") took place after a 5-year Time Skip from the previous volume, in which the Joes were in danger of being shut down by Obstructive Bureaucrats. Cut short at 8 issues, the series left multiple plot threads hanging.
- G.I. Joe: Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra, a 5-issue miniseries, showed the return of G.I. Joe's silent ninja... as one of the bad guys. Well, not really.
Tropes found across multiple IDW G.I. Joe series.
- Code Name: Naturally. The Joe's are officially listed as KIA, and their codenames are considered their REAL names.
- Canon Foreigner: Quite a few; the most notable are Brainstorm, Helix, Mad Monk and Hashtag. Averted in volume 5, as writer Aubrey Sitterson believes there's no need for him to create new characters when there's definitely an existing Joe that fits the role.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Several of the characters have troubled pasts, many of which are revealed in G.I. Joe: Origins. Of note is Krake, the New Cobra Commander, who was born and raised in the opium fields of the (fictional) country of Nanzhao, where there is perpetual war among the drug warlords.
- Darker and Edgier: Compared to the cartoon, hoo boy. All members of G.I. Joe, with the exception of General Hawk, are listed as KIA and are all officially dead. The Joes regularly use lethal force when necessary. Cobra soldiers are shown to be quite capable of killing the Joes in return. Cobra is shown to be an effective organization that regularly uses torture, psychological manipulation, death, and even weapons of mass destruction when doing so will further their goals. Characters on both sides die. All of this is justified since the Joes are highly trained black-ops soldiers, and Cobra is a terrorist organization.
- The Faceless: Both Cobra Commanders, naturally. Snake Eyes as well.
- From Nobody to Nightmare:
- Krake. A poor rural boy from the country of Nanzhao (apparently the stand-in for Burma/Myanmar) who rises to become a member of the High Command of Cobra, to the Commander himself.
- In volume 3, Mad Monk, from an ordinary(if trigger-happy) U.S. soldier to brutally sadistic head of Cobra's New York division who's spent years messing with bank records to make it look like Duke's on the take.
- Gender Flip: A few of the Joes have been reimagined as women instead of men, most notably Dial-Tone and Doc.
- Good Is Not Nice: G.I. Joe is a team of soldiers, not superheroes. The Joes have no problem killing their enemies or any threat to their person.
- Highly Visible Ninja: Much like in the original series, Storm Shadow still constantly wears white. The Arashikage clan ninjas are sometimes worse. For example, when they are operating in a jungle environment, they wear RED clothes.
- Non-Action Guy: The "Fobbits" (Forward Operational Base personnel), who don't typically have front-line duty.
- Sinister Minister: Serpentor, leader of the Coil cult.
G.I. Joe vol. 1
Tropes found in G.I. Joe vol. 1 by Chuck Dixon, G.I. Joe: Cobra and G.I. Joe: Cobra II by Mike Costa, and G.I. Joe: Origins by Larry Hama, Chuck Dixon and others.
- Bodybag Trick: Kwinn and Lighthorse smuggle Snake-Eyes across the border by hiding him in a coffin in a hearse.
- Dirty Harriet: In G.I. Joe: Cobra, Jinx poses as a stripper in a strip club in order to make contact with Chuckles.
- Human Sacrifice: Practiced by the Coil. At the end of "Serpent's Tale", Scoop willingly allows himself to be sacrificed.
- Trauma Conga Line: Snake-Eyes falls victim to this in the first arc of Origins: First he has his face ruined in combat, then while he's waiting to have it restored with plastic surgery he's injured again by the clinic being bombed. His face would have been restorable if he hadn't taken off to rescue the other members of the Joes on their mission against Chimera; and then, at the climax of the arc, he has his head set on fire. We don't ever see what he looks like under the mask, but it's certainly not pretty.
G.I. Joe vol. 2
Tropes found in G.I. Joe vol. 2 and Snake Eyes/Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow by Chuck Dixon, G.I. Joe: Cobra vol. 3 by Mike Costa, and the Cobra Civil War, Cobra Command and Target: Snake Eyes crossovers.
- Body-Count Competition: The titular "Cobra Civil War".
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: This was done to the entirety of the Ninja Force (generally considered an embarrassment from the Dork Age of the toy line and the unfortunate final days of A Real American Hero); having them brutally murdered during the 'Cobra Civil War' arc as part of a competition by contenders for the Cobra Commander position to see who could kill the most Joes.
- Faking the Dead: At the end of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes appears to be dead, but leaves his mask with the Hard Master to show Storm Shadow that he isn't.
- From Bad to Worse: After the death of the first Commander at the hands of the GI Joe secret agent Chuckles, Cobra goes nuts, forgoing its obsession for secrecy. the Council that governs and funds Cobra states that whoever kills the most Joes becomes the next Cobra. The Joes lose two major military bases, their submarine, and countless teammates. This causes them to suffer drastic budget cuts. THEN, Krake becomes Cobra Commander, and within two weeks he proceeds to wipe out a country, destroying it's countryside, evicting or killing it's citizens and nuking it's cities.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Vargas dies after being infected with the bio-weapon he had Duke infected with, and ends up bursting while undergoing an experimental treatment.
- Magnificent Bastard: Krake has Satori replaced with Zartan early on in the contest, so that all of the Arashikage's kills count towards Krake's total.
- The Mole: Breaker is an unwitting one for Serpentor. Steeler is a very much willing one for Major Bludd.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Deep-cover operative Chuckles and his handler Jinx try and infiltrate Cobra. Jinx is discovered and Chuckles has to kill her(after falling in love with her) to prove his loyalty to Cobra. Eventually Xamot reveals that he knew Chuckles was a Joe all along, and basically forced him to kill her just for the hell of it. Chuckles, however, eventually impresses Cobra Commander enough that CC hands him a loaded rifle and gives him permission to shoot Xamot. Chuckles mutters "Yo Joe", then swings around and kills Cobra Commander, then finishes off his mission by detonating a Cobra warhead and destroying the base, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in materiel and personnel. While this does put Cobra into flux for a while, it's a bad sort of flux, where all the top rank are battling for control, and when one of them eventually becomes the new Cobra Commander, he's much less concerned with Cobra's public image and begins to take the fight to G.I. Joe in a big way.
G.I. Joe vol. 3
Tropes found in G.I. Joe vol. 3 by Fred Van Lente, G.I. Joe: Special Missions by Chuck Dixon, and G.I. Joe: The Cobra Files by Mike Costa.
- Aborted Arc: The ending of Mad Monk's debut story, in which it's revealed that he was placed under Krake in order to sabotage him, goes completely ignored here, with Mad Monk acting as a loyal follower to Cobra.
- Bad Boss: Zartan proves to be one, leaving the Dreadnoks to the Joes as soon as the going gets tough.
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Dante Alighieri was, apparently, a Cobra agent, and The Divine Comedy was an allegory for Cobra's future.
- Dumbass No More: When Hashtag reappears at the end of volume 3, she's infinitely smarter, even if she's still somewhat naive.
- Expansion Pack Past: Duke is given one with Mad Monk and his secret wife.
- Famed In-Story: G.I. Joe Colton and the Adventure Team.
- Five-Token Band: Invoked, lampshaded, discussed and defied in volume 3; though Duke's public "celebrity soldier" teamnote was chosen to ensure a "marketable" mix of ethnicity and gender, he denies that any of them are "tokens", and that he fully trusts all of them.
- Groin Attack: In G.I. Joe #6, Cover Girl takes down a pirate by shooting him the groin with a paintball gun. (At least, we think it's a paintball gun, considering she quickly offs everyone else rather brutally.)
- It Gets Easier: Strongly implied with Cover Girl's ease at slaughtering people in issue #6.
- The Load: Hashtag, who joined the military despite not believing in guns.
- Not a Date: At the end of G.I. Joe #5, Doc and Quick Kick use their leave time to see a Broadway show. They quickly and forcefully tell Duke and Cover Girl that it's "Not a date!", despite neither Duke or Cover Girl suggesting that it was.
- Not with the Safety on, You Won't: The Baroness pulls this trick on Hashtag in G.I. Joe #5, telling her that the clip in her pistol is empty. When Hashtag tilts the gun to check, the Baroness attacks and wrests the gun off her.
- Pin-Pulling Teeth: Zartan does this when being pursued by the Dreadnoks in Special Missions #7; his other hand being occupied in steering his motorbike.
- Put on a Bus: Snake Eyes doesn't appear at all for the entirety of volume 3, thanks to faking his death at the end of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. He appears to have returned at the start of one issue, but it turns out to be Quick Kick dressed up for a training exercise.
- Ruthless Modern Pirates: G.I. Joe #6 tells Cover Girl's origin story, which involves her taking out a gang of ruthless modern pirates while a contestant on a celebrity reality show.
- Unwitting Pawn: Clockspring's jealousy of Flint and Chameleon allows Tomax to manipulate him into taking control of the casino in which the intelligence unit is based.
- What an Idiot: Hashtag, Hashtag, HASHTAG. How could anyone think that posting your location on social media during a covert mission was a good idea?
G.I. Joe vol. 4
Tropes found in The Fall of G.I. Joe by Karen Traviss and Snake Eyes: Agent of Cobra by Mike Costa.
- Action Survivor: Billy Kessler-Latta turns out to be one of these.
- Child Soldiers: Isaac Craft was raised to be one.
- Cut Short: Ended with issue 8 when the series was planned for 12 issues, with no real closure to its storyline.
- Face–Heel Turn: Snake Eyes joins Cobra. Except not really.
- Grey and Gray Morality: The Joes' mission, in this volume... is to perpetuate a costly and pointless war between two Eastern European nations so that the United States can profit. Mainframe does point this out, but Scarlett merely dismisses it on the basis that it's not their job to agree with policy.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Ronin sacrifices herself so that Chameleon and Billy can escape. Storm Shadow mocks the idea of only showing nobility like that when it's about to not matter.
- Obstructive Bureaucrat: The government panel trying to get G.I. Joe shut down.
- Reformed Criminal: Cobra have renounced violence and remade themselves as Private Military Contractors. While Tomax claims that it's just until they can re-arm themselves, it's clear that he has no problem with being more "legitimate", and the Baroness isn't happy about it.
- Re Tool: A much Darker and Edgier, realistic take that removes almost all fantastical and unrealistic elements, and runs on Grey and Gray Morality.
- Right Hand vs. Left Hand: Operational Support are operating in Schleteva with exactly the opposite goal of G.I. Joe.
- Ruritania: Schleteva and Galibi have shades of this.
- Unexplained Recovery: It's never explained why Snake Eyes decided to stop Faking the Dead.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Other than a poster on Isaac's wall, Cobra Commander/Krake doesn't show up at all, with Tomax being in charge of Cobra.
G.I. Joe vol. 5