Cobra II Part 1: Forked Tongue
|"Cobra II Part 1: Forked Tongue"|
|First published||January 10, 2010|
|Cover date||January 2010|
|Written by||Mike Costa & Christos Gage|
|Line-art by||Antonio Fuso|
|Colors by||Lovern Kindzierski|
|Letters by||Neil Uyetake|
|Assistant editor||Carlos Guzman|
One year after Chuckles' mission ended in disaster, Hawk recruits a new agent to track him down while Erika Le Tene is losing her faith in Cobra
At an airport hotel, Hawk is meeting with the commanding officer of the next soldier he's decided to poach for his "Dream Team". However, Hawk's finding the colonel extremely uncooperative in letting him pluck this soldier from his ranks. He and Hawk have done this dance before and the colonel has started noticing that every single one of Hawk's recruits end up either dead under mysterious circumstances or with their records completely erased, as though they never existed. Ultimately the colonel relents and lets Hawk have his recruit, but he warns him he's not going to be party to whatever bizarre game Hawk is playing with the lives of these soldiers anymore.
Some time later, Hawk's recruit visits his office and he wastes no time informing her that her furlough has been canceled, as she's being sent on a special mission effective immediately. Though she expresses some trepidation, the recruit eventually asks about the nature of the mission, which Hawk explains is an undercover operation. A year ago, Hawk's team sent in a man codenamed "Chuckles" to infiltrate a mysterious criminal organization known as Cobra. As he carried out his assignment, the intel Chuckles reported about Cobra only grew more and more disturbing until they finally stopped out of nowhere and his handler, Jinx, disappeared. After communications ceased, they sent in a team to Chuckles' last known location, which had been completely destroyed and abandoned. The recruit assumes she's being sent in to infiltrate Cobra as well but Hawk explains her mission is actually to track Chuckles down and bring him back. Though she feels it's likely that Chuckles simply "went native", so to speak, Hawk is sure that isn't the case. Hawk then explains that the assassination and infiltration skills she picked while training "in the garden" make her the only person he trusts for this mission. Those, and the fact that she has the right "look"...
On the other side of the world, in Russia, Erika Le Tene is going through the same motions she has been for the past five years she's been serving as the personal assistant for Tomax and Xamot Paoli. As she arrives at the stately mansion that Cobra High Command is holding their meeting at, Erika's approached by the estate's chief of staff, who attempts to flatter her by "mistaking" her for the Baroness. Swallowing her contempt for him, Erika takes the itinerary he's prepared and explains that her bosses are traveling separately when he points out only one of the Paolis is around. Since she's one short, the chief of staff asks if Erika will do them a favor and persuade the "Croc Master", who's own adjunct had met with an accident, to attend the first arrangement banquet that night. Traveling to the mansion's east wing, Erika is forced to go deeper and deeper into the sewers before she reaches this Croc Master's quarters. There, she finds a pool filled not only with crocodiles but disembodied human limbs as well. From this pool, an emaciated man in coveralls and a diving mask emerges and expresses relief that they sent him a skinny adjunct this time. Trying her best to hide her fear, Erika relays the chief of staff's request that Croc Master attend the banquet. Though he'd rather not leave his pets alone, Erika promises that they'll send somebody to take good care of them while he's away. Satisfied, Croc Master returns to his lake of sewage and informs Erika that he and his crocs have taken a liking to her.
Disturbed by her meeting with the Croc Master, Erika's goes to hide in the restroom until she calms herself down. She can't explain why, but something has changed in her over this past year. Even after working alongside the Paolis for five years and seeing them inflict horrific pain and suffering again and again, she's somehow been shaken, and she fears that the rest of Cobra knows it. To that point, her privacy is suddenly interrupted by the woman she was mistaken for earlier, the Baroness. Disgusted by the sight and sound of her crying, Baroness warns Erika that she'd better shape up. After all, Baroness got Erika her job in the first place, so Erika's failings in a way become Baroness' failings as well. And Baroness will be good and goddamned before she lets Erika get in the way of her ambitions. As Baroness leaves the bathroom, Erika follows her out and is met by Xamot, who notices that she and Baroness seem to have their differences. Taking his itinerary from Erika, Xamot offers a sympathetic ear should she ever need one... as well as any "other" body parts of his. As she recoils in barely hidden disgust at him putting a hand on her rear and "thanks" him for his help, Tomax arrives and Xamot takes off on his own. Though Tomax does somewhat apologize for his brother's behavior, he also warns Erika against becoming a "problem" for them.
Elsewhere in Russia, a ninja moves quickly and quietly through a prison, killing several guards while remaining undetected. As she fells one guard making his rounds in the actual cell block, a prisoner emerges from the shadows and puts her in a chokehold through the bars of his cell. Recognizing his voice as he asks what she's doing there, the ninja slips out of his grasp, though she loses her mask in doing so. And as Hawk's recruit shows him her face, Chuckles can't believe that Jinx is standing right there in front of him...
Characters in italic text only appear in photos. (Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"Not so long ago, I joined a criminal organization. I thought I knew what it was, going in. I didn't. The things I saw, the things I was made to do... I could never have imagined. There are faces and moments I see every night in my dreams. Then I wake up. And realize the real nightmare is my life."
- -Chuckles summarizes the events of the first series and lets you know you're in for a cheery ride.
"You recruit my people, giving me no choice in the matter, and nobody ever hears from them again. Their files disappear. It's like they never existed. Or I hear they've died. KIA, car accidents, cancer... people in their twenties, mind you. Which makes you unluckier than the Hope Diamond. And no one has any way of knowing what it is you're actually doing with this unit."
- -The Colonel smells something fishy with whatever Hawk is doing.
"Skinny. Good. It was their fault for sending a plump one last time. I could tell what they were thinking. And I knew I shouldn't. But I ask you. Could you resist that face? Felt bad after. Disappointing. Stringy. But spilled milk."
- -Croc Master makes a first impression.
"I can't stop shaking. I want to scream. Five years with the Paolis, you see some nasty things. I'm not a fool. I know we work with some horrible people. But this past year has seen a change I don't understand. I've never seen anything like that before. Have to collect myself. Can't show weakness here. There are monsters around every corner."
"What the hell are you doing?"
- -Erike Le Tene's train of thought is interrupted by Baroness.
"There are limits to my patience. I got you this position. Your actions reflect on me. I swear to god, if you embarrass me in front of these people, I will kill you myself. Do you understand me? It's disgusting I have to come in here — the toilets for the help — and say this to you. Pull yourself together. And don't make eye contact the next time you see me. For god's sake... do one thing right."
- -Baroness loves her sister.
- As a direct sequel to the original Cobra miniseries, this issue naturally references the events of that series heavily. Under Chuckles' opening narration, we see the headquarters of Extensive Enterprises, the Cobra front headed by Tomax and Xamot Paoli that Chuckles became an employee of. He also references being forced to do horrible things and, though it's made clear he committed plenty of those, the choice of illustration suggests killing his handler (and secret lover) Jinx weighs heaviest on him.
- Speaking of Jinx, Hawk notes the Joes recovered her corpse from a mass grave at the facility where they last heard from Chuckles. Said facility, located in Dubai, was where Chuckles was forced to kill Jinx to maintain his cover and was destroyed by him at the conclusion of the previous Cobra miniseries. At the time he believed this would be destroying the whole of Cobra. How wrong he was...
- As part of the recruitment process, new members of G.I. Joe are required to fake their own deaths before joining the top-secret team. As we see here though, the superior officers of these new recruits aren't exactly keyed in to the truth of what is happening to their troops and some are beginning think something fishy is going on...
- Hawk's recruit assumes "Chuckles" and "Jinx" are callsigns, but Hawk corrects her by saying they're the only names people in his unit have. As part of severing ties with their old life, Joes are also required to give up their "actual" names in favor of assigned codenames.
- Erika Le Tene, in her role as the Paolis' assistant, was assigned to closely monitor and seduce Chuckles in the previous miniseries and played a key role in him blowing his cover. However, in carrying out her assignment she seemed to form some genuine attachment to him. It would seem part of her crisis of conscience may stem from this.
- Though she didn't appear in the previous Cobra series, the ruthless Baroness has been a staple of the main G.I. Joe book, overseeing the development of the M.A.S.S. Device teleporter. In the sixteenth issue of that series, Baroness was relieved of her command over the M.A.S.S. Device project by Cobra Commander and asked to come be at his side, explaining her presence here. While not outright stated, it is heavily implied Baroness and Erika are related. You may want to keep that in mind for later...
- After being shot (with a blank) by Chuckles at the conclusion of the previous Cobra mini, Xamot underwent an extreme shift in personality and appearance, falling out of sync with his twin brother Tomax. This was detailed in the Crimson Twin centric special issue of G.I. Joe: Cobra that was released between the first Cobra mini and Cobra II.
G.I. Joe references
- Though she was noted to have some martial arts training, the IDW version of Jinx made a notable departure from the original version of the character by not being a ninja. Given her resemblance to Jinx it would seem that Hawk's new recruit was inspired more by the "classic" Jinx.
- It's Croc Master, baby! Originally introduced as part of the sixth series of ARAH style Joes in 1987, Croc Master served as Cobra's reptile trainer and security expert. He's been redesigned to be far skinnier and generally creepier than his classic, more muscle bound appearance though.
Real world references
- The colonel compares Hawk's seeming bad luck with his recruits to the Hope Diamond, an allegedly cursed piece of jewelry said to bring misfortune to all those who possess it.
- Erika recognizes two of the Croc Master's crocodiles as being of the saltwater and the endangered Siamese varieties.
- Cover A: Chuckles behind bars, by Howard Chaykin and Edgar Delgado
- Cover B: Chuckles in handcuffs while "Jinx" wields a sword, by Antonio Fuso
- Retailer incentive cover: "Virgin" version of Cover A
- Second printing cover: The Cobra logo