G.I. Joe vol. 3 issue 13
The Baroness isn't posing for the cover. That's just how her body works, apparently.
|"Present Day", "Shadows and Light", "Inferno"|
|First published||February 5, 2014|
|Cover date||February 2014|
|Written by||Paul Allor|
|Art by||Alex Cal "Present Day"|
Robert Atkins "Shadows and Light"
Chris Evenhuis "Inferno"
|Inks by||Juan Castro "Shadows and Light"|
|Colors by||David Garcia Cruz "Present Day"|
Joana Lafuente "Shadows and Light", "Inferno"
|Letters by||Gilberto Lazcano|
|Special Thanks||Max Brooks|
|Editorial consultant||Carlos Guzman|
Mary Craft closes in on her son's kidnappers... but Cobra don't intend to make good on their deal.
The Yakuza are one of the most open criminal organizations in the world, proudly proclaiming to all who they are; and Cobra has only recently joined them in the light. The Yakuza boss who Cobra's agents are meeting with knows this, of course, but what Mary Craft wants is to earn their trust by showing them how much their organizations have in common; and so, she tells them a story...
Shadows and Light
In the Edo period of the mid-19th century, Japan's criminals are naught but petty thieves and gamblers, alone and unorganised. One man steals from a shop by a riverside, but when the shopkeeper tries to pursue him, he is stopped by a masked woman with an image of a cobra on her chest. This woman — the Commander of Cobra — had overcome great adversity, killing a warlord who intended to bed her, and was eventually taken in by Cobra after collapsing in the desert. Now, she confronts the thief in the dark alleyway in which he sits, noting that he has been homeless for some time but makes no attempt to change this. The man realises that the Commander has been following him, just as two more criminals — armed with swords — close in from behind her. The Commander dispatches the men with ease, before explaining what she and Cobra have to offer to the thief... but he ignores her and walks away, indifferent to her message. When she protests, he dismisses her — he wants respect and legitimacy, not something that Cobra can offer.
The Commander realises that the thief and his kind won't find what they want by hiding from society as Cobra has, and so she spends the following weeks working to help them run towards it instead. Taking the thief back to the shop he had stolen from before, she has the shopkeeper explain that he will hire the criminal to protect him from thieves, and purchase merchandise he "acquires" from those not under his protection... and, with further prompting, that the thief is a "trusted and honorable merchant". As Cobra Commander leaves to visit the six other shops she has picked out, the thief smiles with a newfound sense of purpose.
The Yakuza boss is unimpressed — Craft's story of the Yakuza being founded by a gaijin woman rather than their ancestors offends him and tests his patience. As such, Craft gets to the point: the slave traders they seek information on are not respectable or meaningful, deserving to be crushed, while Cobra is powerful and understands the Yakuza as few others can. Seeing her point, the Yakuza boss hands over the information they need; and as they leave, the Baroness observes that Craft is starting to enjoy travelling the world and standing up to dangerous men as part of Cobra. Insisting that she is just acting as required for the job, the sour-faced Craft prepares to go and find her son.
In a daring operation, the ship being used by the slave ring is lifted out of the sea by Cobra V-22 Ospreys, with the Baroness ordering the deaths of the entire crew at the hands of her Vipers. The ship is airlifted to land where news crews wait to report on Cobra's blow against the child-trafficking ring; on exiting the ship, Mary's son Isaac Craft sees his mother and runs to her... but is restrained by Vipers while the Baroness beats Mary to the ground. Christening the PR agent with the codename "Siren", the Baroness fills her in on the details of their arrangement going forwards: Isaac and Mary both belong to Cobra, with Siren's compliance being the price for the boy's continued survival and her being able to see him. As silent tears drip down Siren's face, the Baroness mocks her; after all, a part of Siren was born to do this.
On the returning flight, Siren looks at a copy of Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy, which the Baroness questions her on. She had brought it with her as a prop for a story that she didn't get to tell, and which the Baroness now insists on being told, despite Siren's weak protests.
In the 14th century, Cobra agent Dante Alighieri is brought before Cobra Commander, who has already ordered his death. It was hard for him to do — Dante has been a loyal operative, who has fought and been banished from his home for the sake of Cobra... and now, he has written The Divine Comedy, a poem about the organisation. Though Dante argues that it's an allegory, structured as a journey through Heaven and Hell, the point remains that Cobra exists only through secrecy, and this poem jeopardises that... and yet, Dante is not dead — and that is because the Commander read the poem, and was entranced by it, wanting him to finish it.
Over the next 12 years, Dante continues his work while Cobra oversees it. His book reflected a unique vision for Cobra; he believed it began in an "inferno", ruled by violence and terrorism, but would evolve and ascend into "purgatorio", leaving these ways behind and moving closer to redemption. Eventually, they would reach "paradiso": becoming virtuous and divine, they would reshape the Earth as a better place and save the world. The Commander is haunted by this vision, and is inspired by it to push Cobra into new lands like Australia, new disciplines like alchemy, and new ideas like heliocentricism.
Eventually Dante completes the poem, which the Commander deems the greatest thing that Cobra has ever done... and just as he does so, he grows deathly ill. The Commander confesses that he never rescinded the order for Dante's death, and as his old friend dies, he observes that they are still in the inferno... and always will be, as wonderful as it was to think otherwise.
And as the two women's plane flies on into the night, even the Baroness is at a loss for words.
Characters in italics appear only in Mary Craft's stories. (Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"If you had any idea what you are walking away from! I'm offering you —"
"The opportunity to be a leaf in your forest. Why would I want that? I want respect. Legitimacy. It's clearly not something you can offer."
- —The 19th century Cobra Commander and the thief
"What we've built here, it thrives on secrecy and silence. On our ability to exist and not exist simultaneously. And you write a poem about it."
"No one would know. No one would ever know. It's structured as a journey, through Heaven and Hell. It's an allegory —"
"Fine. I know you enjoy this verbal jousting, but I'd rather you just tell me why I'm not dead."
(Cobra Commander pauses.)
"Because I read it. You have to finish it. And dead men make for horrible poets."
- —The 1300s Cobra Commander and Dante Alighieri
"I told you — all those years ago — that I had ordered your death. I never said I rescinded the order."
"I guess we're still in the inferno. And we always will be. But it was a wonderful thought."
- —The 1300s Cobra Commander, to the dying Dante
Real world references
- Above the door to the 1300s Cobra Commander's residence are the words "Lasciat ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" — "Abandon all hope, ye who enter here", said by The Divine Comedy to be the words ascribed above the gates of Hell. However, see Errors, below.
- Dante was indeed exiled from his home city of Florence in 1302, and fought in the Guelph–Ghibelline conflict; apparently that had something to do with Cobra!
- While the theory of heliocentricism was created during the Renaissance, its presence here is a bit of an anachronism; Nicolaus Copernicus would not create and popularize his mathematical model of the solar system until 1514, almost 200 years later.
- In the inscription above the Commander's door, "Lasciat" should be spelled "Lasciate".
- This issue and the previous one were originally intended as a single 48-issue one-shot. 
- Siren's real name, Mary Craft, isn't revealed in this issue; her name, and her son's surname, won't be revealed until next issue.
- Cover A: The Baroness leans against an oil painting of Cobra Commander all sexy like, by Steve Kurth, Allen Martinez and Joana Lafuente.
- Cover RI: Cobra Commander stands triumphant, other members of Cobra reflected in the blood pooled at his feet, by Freddie E. Williams II and Priscilla Tramontano.
- Paul Allor Reveals The Secret History of Cobra In 'G.I. Joe' on ComicsAlliance