G.I. Joe, Series 2: Season 2
2012, Shout! Factory
Originally Aired: September 23, 1991 – January 20, 1992
“This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.” - T.S. Eliot
So I’ve finally wrapped up watching Series 2 of G.I. Joe and I’m happy for it to be over. DIC’s Series 2 Season 1 was a big enough letdown compared to the original Sunbow era of the show that ran from 1983 to 1987 but Season 2 of Series 2 continues the decline in quality. Last season’s saving grace, Chris Latta (the voice of Cobra Commander), is gone. Scott McNeil actually does a fine job as Cobra Commander but the stories are so juvenile and stupid, the animation sub-par, the character redesigns are poor and most of the rest of the voice acting is so bad that this season is a dud. In fact, you can say that about the whole DIC run.
If I thought DIC’s first season was dumbed-down, at the beginning of Season 2 they must’ve taken their audience for complete idiots. Just look at the episode “Kindergarten Commandos” where a bunch of little kids kick Cobra’s butt at an elementary school. Probably the worst episode ever out of the Sunbow/DIC years. “El Dorado: The Lost City of Gold” was pretty awful as well. So was the two-part “Long Live Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Cobra has the bright idea to use GUITARS to level entire cities). Some of the episodes are just plain lazy like “A is for Android”, which is take-off of 1985′s “The Synthoid Conspiracy” two-parter.
I won’t say there aren’t any good episodes in this set. A few are decent with the best probably being “Messenger from the Deep”. It’s no coincidence that this episode was written by legendary comic book scribe Marv Wolfman, who previously wrote a few episodes for Sunbow’s second season. This episode has a strong sci-fi vibe to it that would make it right at home with the 1986 Sunbow season. If the voice acting was better, this episode could’ve shined even brighter.
Other episodes I somewhat enjoyed was the two-part “The Sludge Factor”. These episodes introduce the new eco-terrorist Cesspool along with his Toxo-Vipers and Sludge-Vipers and the Joe sub-group the fluorescent attired Eco-Warriors. Well, at least Flint is back, even if the voice is totally wrong and he looks radioactive. Cesspool is a genuinely creepy villain with his facial disfigurement and weird breathing/speech and he’s also completely insane. He doesn’t want to conquer the world, he wants to destroy it. In the hands of more capable writers, they could’ve taken this character into some very dark (but good) areas.
“Shadow of a Doubt” calls Storm Shadow’s loyalty to the Joes into question but doesn’t get too in-depth with it. I liked it for what it was though. Oh, you didn’t know he joined the Joes? Yeah, that’s only briefly touched upon in the in this episode. They should’ve made an entire two-parter based on Storm Shadow turning against Cobra! “The Sword” could’ve been another good episode if handled by Sunbow.
“The Greatest Evil” two-parter is okay and features the debut of another Joe subgroup the DEF (Drug Elimination Force) and the drug-dealing Evil Headhunters lead by the Headman. The Joes & Cobra team up to battle the Headhunters and that usually makes for a fun episode when G.I. Joe and Cobra are forced to work together. The story is actually pretty dark because it shows you basically go insane from drugs and the Headman actually dies at the end thanks getting an overdose of his own merchandise blasted in his face. Then his whole factory blows up for good measure.
Sgt. Slaughter doesn’t appear at all in this season and a lot of the main characters from Season 1 are reduced the supporting roles or simply background characters. In fact, I don’t know why Lady Jaye and Gnawgahyde on the cover of the DVD because I don’t even think they appear as background characters this season. Destro is also back in his traditional silver mask for the entire season.
Season 2 is a bit more varied with who gets a starring role (just like the Sunbow episodes were). Throughout the majority of the season, Duke, Scarlett, Wet-Suit, Big Ben, Skymate, Snake-Eyes, Big Bear, Storm Shadow, Falcon, General Hawk, Grunt, Mercer, Rock ‘N’ Roll, Tracker, Falcon, Roadblock, Flint, Pysche-Out, Mutt, Shockwave, Low-Light, Ozone, Clean Sweep, Major Altitude, Dusty and Captain Grid-Iron play a major role at one point or another. So it’s a good mix of old and new. Thankfully, Grid-Iron only stars in one episode and the rest of the time he doesn’t have a speaking role.
For the Cobras, Destro’s role is beefed up again and we also have Cobra Commander (of course), Overkill, Metal Head (UGH! Possibly the worst Joe character ever… or maybe Overkill is…?), Road Pig, Major Bludd, Baroness, Sky Creeper, Slice, Dice, Night Creeper Leader, Interrogator (who they should’ve used a lot more) and Cesspool. There’s still a variety of troops being used by Cobra in this season: Incinerators, Sludge-Vipers, Range-Vipers, Flak-Vipers (love these guys), Toxo-Vipers, Crimson Guard Immortals, Night Vultures, Cobra Eels, Snow Serpents, Desert Scorpions and last but not least… the B.A.T.s. The B.A.T.s were generally used this season as the standard Cobra soldier. Those classic, cool Cobra Troopers, Officers & Vipers are a distant memory. All of the troops used this season were mindless and mostly voiceless. In the past, Sunbow made an attempt to give various soldiers a personality but these guys are just fodder this season.
The things this season did right was bring back some of the older Joes like Flint, Duke, Roadblock, Wet-Suit, etc. and increase the amount of name-villains for Cobra but it was obviously all around they they were working with a smaller budget this time. Further proof of that is that the last two episodes of the series were clip shows! What a sad way to end the run of one of the greatest ’80s cartoons. I’m just glad the show was ended before the 1993 line of Joes came along that introduced the Mega Marines (Joes vs. monster aliens!), Star Brigade (Joes in space!) and Street Fighter 2 figures. The entire series was getting way too wacky for its own good. It would’ve been neat to see the Battle Corps versions of Joes used though.
Ultimately, Season 2 is probably a slight bit better than Season 1. But I’m really only saying that because I they had a wider and better selection of (old) characters this season. Much like Season 1 though, this season is something for Joe completists and certainly not anything I would call “good”. I will probably never turn to the DIC episodes again but I know I will be watching the Sunbow episodes for years to come.
So, um… I guess I’ll be reviewing G.I. Joe Extreme next? Or maybe I’ll go back and discuss Series 1, Season 1… Yeah, that’s the ticket!
Season Highlights: “The Sword”, “The Sludge Factor”, “Messenger from the Deep”, “The Greatest Evil”, “Shadow of a Doubt”, “Keyboard Warriors”
More Joe cartoon talk from me: