G.I. JOE #43

Cover Date: January, 1986

Script: Larry Hama
Pencils: Rod Whigham
Inks: Andy Mushynsky

Lettering: Joe Rosen
Colors: George Roussos
Editor: Denny O'Neil
Editor-in-Chief: Jim Shooter

Summary (by Russ Humphress):  It was a dark and stormy night.... at "The Wall," the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial in Washington, DC, as a man recently identified as Wade Collins (see previous issue), now a Cobra Crimson Guard holds Stalker and Snake-Eyes at gunpoint. As Wade forces the two Joes to drive him to New York, He goes over the final LRRP mission, where Snake-Eyes, Stalker and Tommy (Storm Shadow) thought that wade and the other two team members had been killed.  As it turns out, Wade survived, and spent a long time in a VC POW camp.  He holds Stalker and Snake-Eyes responsible for not "finishing him off" before they left.

Meanwhile, near Springfield, Candy, sometimes known as Bongo the Balloon Bear, is having trouble with the vehicle Buzzer stole (see last issue).  She hitches a ride with a guy in a station wagon, as we cut to Buzzer, who is just getting off of a freight train in Springfield.  He runs into Firefly and Scrap Iron, as we cut to: The Springfield Police station.  Picking up from last issue, the Soft Master has managed to decimate the SPD pretty well, leaving only one officer conscious to preform a computer search, on the name "The Hard Master."

Meanwhile, in a station wagon east of Springfield, Candy finds the Soft Master's suitcase, and the driver, Chuck, remembers that he dropped off the suitcase's owner at the Springfield Police station.  They decide to loop back to return the case, and Candy takes Chuck up on his offer of "special" coffee.

We cut back to Stalker, Snake-Eyes, and Wade, who tells how his release from the POW camp, and subsequent homecoming were less than he had dreamed.  Upon arrival he was served divorce papers, and he was unable to find a job, because no one wanted to hire veterans. After wandering for a while, he fell in with Cobra, climbing through the ranks, and then became a Crimson Guardsman.  Stalker begins trying to convince him that it's not too late to turn his life around, and we cut to:

The Springfield police station, where the Soft Master has just learned the identity of the Hard Master's killer, when he is interrupted by the arrival of several more of Springfield's finest. He manages to elude them and steal a patrol car from in from of the station just a Buzzer, Firefly and Scrap-Iron show up and they follow him.

Ten miles east of springfield, Billy has been riding with two nuns, who drop him off as he is on his way into Springfield.  The next car to come along is the station wagon carrying Candy and Chuck.

Back in Springfield, the Soft Master manages to avoid a brace of missles fired by Firefly by driving under a truckload of frozen turkeys. Just down the road, Chuck has been hitting his "special" coffee, actually mostly brandy, and billy sees a vision of death and fire.

At that point the paths of the Soft Master and the three travelers in the station wagon converge at a railroad crossing, just as a freight train cuts off the pursuit of Firefly and the other Cobras.  Unfortunately, a struggle in the station wagon results in it crashing and bursting into flames.  The Soft Master turns back to help as Scrap Iron climbs a phone pole to survey the situation above the still passing freight train.  Scrap Iron fires, and the Soft Master jumps in front of the missile in an attempt to save the three in the wreck, and is killed.  Scrap Iron then fires his second missile into the wreck at a signal from Firefly.

Later, in Staten Island, Stalker and Snake-Eyes arrive with Wade at his home, where he tells his family that they're going away where Cobra can't find them. Then they drive off into the sunset as Stalker and Snake-Eyes watch.

Commentary: "Wow. This one is impressive from the very beginning, as it has one of the coolest covers in the entire 155 issue run. We come so close to finding out the Hard Master's killer this issue, and we say goodby to The Soft Master, Candy (aka Bongo), and apparently, Billy (like the Terminator, he'll be back.) Also new in this issue is Scrap Iron, who is one of the more under used Cobra characters.  Cobra, at least at this early stage, didn't suffer as much from the huge influx of new personalities as the Joes did, so you have to wonder why Scrap Iron drops out of site in only a couple more years. (For an interesting theory on this, look in the archives of the Joe discussion list at yojoe.com. 'Nuff said.) The back story about the LRRP team is interesting to those like me who like the whole Snake-Eyes thread. This story keeps recurring throughout the series, and each time we find out more about what happened in South East Asia on that LRRP mission.

I want to preface the following by saying that I am not a veteran, but several of my family members were. I wasn't around at the end of Vietnam, but several of my family members were.

From all I've read and heard, the depiction of Wade's homecoming in this issue was dead-on accurate. Returning vets really were spit on and cursed, by those who believed we had no business fighting that war.Well, maybe not. But those veterans were doing their duty.  They didn't make policy, and whether or not we should have been there was not (or should not have been) the issue. A lot of good men paid the ultimate price, because they were defending freedom. In return, they got not gratitude, but scorn. And that's the real travesty of Vietnam.

Thank you Larry Hama for not pulling any punches. Your accurate portrayal of all the aspects of the military are what made this series transcend its medium. To all those who complained back then that GI Joe wasn't real enough: look closer.

Reprinted in:
  • Action Force #42 & 43 (December 19th & December 26th, 1987). A Marvel UK series featuring the UK's version of G.I. Joe reprints this story in two parts, alongside an original story. All references to "G.I. Joe" were changed to "Action Force".
  • G.I. JOE: Volume 5 (2002). A trade paperback collection from Marvel. Includes issues #42-50.
  • Classic G.I. JOE: Volume 5 (November 2009). A trade paperback collection from IDW Publishing. Aside from some slight changes made to the cover, this is a reprint of the earlier Marvel collection. Includes issues #42-50.