|First published||March 19, 2014|
|Cover date||March 2014|
|Written by||Paul Allor|
|Art by||Steve Kurth|
|Inks by||Allen Martinez|
|Colors by||Joana Lafuente|
|Letters by||Shawn Lee|
|Special Thanks||Max Brooks|
|Editorial consultant||Carlos Guzman|
G.I. Joe communications expert Hashtag investigates a mystery, but the truth is more disturbing than she expects.
Cobra's rescue of children from a slaving ring is all over the news, but Hashtag is more concerned with making a good first impression on her new teammates in G.I. Joe. Though she agonises over how to introduce herself, she is quickly snubbed by field commander Duke... and after the Warrenton mission goes badly wrong, General Joe Colton meets with her in the hospital to explain that dropping a social media practitioner into the field was a bad idea; and so the embedded journalist program is being shut down. Hashtag has other ideas, however: she isn't just a blogger, but a soldier and the best communications expert around; and so, she wants to be allowed to properly join G.I. Joe, believing that it's the best way for her to make a difference. Taken aback, the generals agree, and Hashtag joins the command center on Governors Island, with her first task being to remove the G.I. Joe social media accounts from her previous job. As she deletes them, however, she recieves a message from "Singer's Son": an encrypted, damaged video file.
Though Duke believes that the anonymous message isn't a priority, Hashtag is convinced that it could be important, and works on it on her own time over the next few months, eventually making enough progress on the encryption to make out a human figure... but Duke is still unwilling to provide military resources towards cracking it, and is unhappy with her spending so much time on it even off the job, wanting her more focused on priorities like Cobra missile transportation in South America.
The next day, she monitors satellite images of a convoy in South America made up of Cobra vehicles, stripped of their insignia — Cobra evidently having partnered with "el Presidente". Thanks to Hashtag's confirmation, Duke — on the ground with his team — has Roadblock take out the lead truck with an RPG, but when the cargo comes spilling out, the vehicle seems to contain not weapons but medicine. The Joes move in to investigate, only for the trucks to open up and reveal an army of Vipers, moments before their radio cuts out! Unable to raise the field team, Hashtag immediately contacts the Special Missions team to have them extracted from the ambush.
After hours of agonised waiting, Duke picks up, revealing that his team is alright — it seems Cobra planted the intelligence, causing the Joes to either attack the convoy and create an international incident, or allow the missiles to get through. Relieved that the team is unharmed, Hashtag hangs up, before collapsing from weariness and stress. She gets no respite when the team returns, either, as Cover Girl and Duke argue over the team's shoddy intelligence, leading Duke to snap at Hashtag when she wearily snarks about the situation under her breath. After returning home, she once again gets to work on the encryption of the "Singer's Son" video... and suddenly she hears snatches of understandable speech: a woman asking for the G.I. Joes' help!
Over the next two weeks, Hashtag repairs enough of the video to understand the message: the woman is a Cobra agent named Siren, whose son is being held by Cobra, and who needs help in rescuing him — but when she takes her findings to Cover Girl, the other Joe dismisses it, assuming that the Cobra agent is lying. It's only when Hashtag mentions that it seemed like Duke wanted to bury it that Cover Girl agrees to have a word... not with Duke, but by going over his head to General Colton.
Soon, Cover Girl and Hashtag have deployed along with Shipwreck, Roadblock and Quick Kick to the coordinates provided: a castle off the coast of North Africa. While Shipwreck stays behind to keep the attack boat ready, the other Joes quickly take out the Vipers guarding the door, and with Roadblock quite literally kicking the door in they are able to infiltrate the building; they soon find a set of barracks with bunkbeds, but Hashtag is perturbed to find a toy H.I.S.S. tank lying on the ground! Moments later, an intruder walks in on them — Siren herself. With Roadblock holding the Cobra agent at gunpoint, Hashtag explains that they got her message and are here to rescue her son... but in consternation, Siren explains that things have changed in the months since the video was sent. Though Hashtag assumes the worst, Isaac is still alive and around; and while Siren could tell them the story of what happened, she instead shows them. In the courtyard below is a mass of children performing exercises and military drills, presided over by a masked taskmaster... because the Joes have walked in on Cobra's child soldier training camp!
(Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"You showed extraordinary bravery in the field, soldier. Your country thanks you for that. But a counter-terrorism unit requires focus. Clarity. Their job requires them to make impossible decisions on a moment's notice. Dropping a social media practitioner in the middle of all that... it was just a bad idea. Plain and simple."
- —Joe Colton was against all this from the start.
"I was actually a little surprised to see you show up again. After what happened in Ohio... the work we do didn't seem like it would hold much appeal."
"It's just good to be one of the good guys, ma'am."
"Right. The good guys. That's us."
- —Cover Girl and Hashtag
"Go to your quarters and cool your heels, then we're going to have one hell of a "serious discussion"."
"Another great day for the good guys."
"You have something to say, Hashtag?"
"No, sir. Nothing at all."
- —Duke is unimpressed with Hashtag's attitude.
- The "rescue" of Siren's son from a slaver ring, and their subsequent using him to forcibly recruit Siren, was the subject of the previous two issues of G.I. Joe. That arc was unclear on where it fell in the timescale, but the start of this issue places it a week before the events of "Homefront". Speakin' of...
- The first bit of this story fills in some gaps around the aforementioned first arc of G.I. Joe vol. 3, showing Hashtag's first meeting with Duke and her subsequent request to be made a full member of the Joes. It performs a... soft retcon on Hashtag's character, portraying her as more "unjustly overlooked" than "completely incompetent"; her description of herself as a "soldier", in particular, seems at odds with the character who tried to reject a gun thanks to not believing in them.
- The subsequent parts of this story must, then, take place in between issue #5 and issue #7, as Cover Girl is suspicious of Duke but he's still in charge. However, see "Errors", below.
- Duke is unwilling to provide resources to Hashtag's pet project, as he wants them focused on the Threat Matrix, which debuted in issue #7.
G.I. Joe references
- Seen in the background when Hashtag first reports in is an Equalizer, a G.I. Joe artillery tank from the "Slaughter's Marauders" subline.
- The helicopter that brings the Joes back after the South America mission goes bad is a Tomahawk, from the 1986 range of toys. That vehicle's traditional pilot is Lift-Ticket, but the pilot here is so underdetailed that it's impossible to tell if it's him — though it seems to have rolled up sleeves that no version of Lift-Ticket does.
- The boat that the Joes take to the castle, meanwhile, is a Shark 9000, from the 1993 "Battle Force" line.
- The toy H.I.S.S. that Hashtag finds is based on the original toy from 1983. For some reason, though, the markings on its side only read "78", where the original had "788".
- Hey, Big Boa! There's been a Big Boa before in IDW continuity, but in keeping with the more serious and realistic tone of the Cobra series, he looked pretty much nothing like his outlandish classic counterpart. The idea to "bring him back as a woman" came from artist Steve Kurth, who jokingly suggested the original to fill the "drill instructor" role. In contrast to the helmetless, serious boxer from the Cobra series, this one basically just takes the original costume and puts it on a lady.
- Hashtag claims that she was working on the video for two weeks after Cobra's attack on Governors Island. Assuming she's talking about their attack on Liberty Island, which occurred in issues #7-8, rather than an entirely off-panel story, that doesn't really work — Duke is still in charge and Cover Girl is still suspicious of him, which implies this story is set before the Threat Matrix arc, which took place over the space of a single day.
- As with "The Origin of Roadblock", no title for this issue appears within, so we're using the first line of the solicitation (which was used as the title of the trade paperback containing this issue) in lieu of any other title.
- Cover A: Every member of the G.I. Joe vol. 3 cast except Hashtag, by Steve Kurth, Allen Martinez and Joana Lafuente.
- Cover RI: Cover Girl and Hashtag sneak past Vipers, by Freddie E. Williams II and Priscilla Tramontano.
- Paul Allor Reveals The Secret History of Cobra In 'G.I. Joe' on ComicsAlliance