The Last Laugh
|"The Last Laugh"|
|First published||January 18, 2012|
|Cover date||January 2012|
|Written by||Mike Costa|
|Art by||Antonio Fuso|
|Colors by||Arianna Florean|
|Letters by||Neil Uyetake|
|Editor||John Barber and Carlos Guzman|
Chuckles gives his last will and testament.
Writing his final report to General Hawk, Phillip M. Provost makes a decision: he's taking his name back. Having thrown his identity away and changed his name to "Chuckles" to join G.I. Joe, and then thrown that away to go out into the cold as an undercover agent, he's been left with nothing but fear and paranoia; so if nothing else, he's reclaiming that name. Growing up fat, poor and academically struggling with an abusive father, Provost was an ideal candidate for the United States Army, but his smart mouth meant he wasn't well-liked by his superiors; Hawk, though, knew exactly what to do with him, and sent him out in the knowledge that he would "break" in a way that would benefit the Joes; because that is Hawk's true strength: his ability to see weakness. Now Chuckles has "broken", but he won't have to live with what he's done for much longer, so Hawk will have to live with it for both of them.
Reading the letter in his office in G.I. Joe's Washington, D.C. facility, Hawk is interrupted by Dial-Tone, who lets him know that the staff have finished packing up everything for the move to new quarters. Firewall confesses that she'll miss the D.C. HQ, while Dial-Tone fills him in on the Joes' final clean-up operations; but on returning to his office, Hawk is taken aback at finding Chameleon in there, having read Chuckles' letter herself. The intelligence analyst is furious at Hawk based on what she's read, but the general doesn't care what she thinks, having been dismissed from running the Joes ; but when he suggests she get back to work, Chameleon refuses, wanting to be done with G.I. Joe entirely. Hawk gets angry, and explains that she can't go back to civilian life; as a child of the war with Cobra, with a head full of bad memories and regrets and no experience outside of worlds of luxury and privilege, the only possibility for her if she leaves for the outside world is suicide in six months. Chameleon realises that Hawk is actually talking about himself as well as her, but the general blows her off and orders her to get back to work.
Chuckles' mission is over. Cobra Commander is dead, and he plans to blow Cobra's whole installation to kingdom come with a nuclear submarine. But he knows that won't be the end of it: Cobra doesn't have a direct hierachy, instead electing their leaders in an "occult ceremony", with the current leader having been re-elected seven times. No matter what comes next, there'll be a lot more violence to come. His report done, Chuckles has a good laugh at how he knows that Hawk will have read and re-read the whole thing, to make sure he gets every scrap of actionable intelligence out of it. By the time Hawk reads the letter, Chuckles will be one of the lives he's spent, but the undercover agent refuses to let him have that: Chuckles' death is on him. But before he goes to finish his final task, Chuckles has a joke for the general: how many four-star generals does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Just one — he holds it in place and the whole world revolves around him.
And sitting alone in his office, Hawk quietly chuckles at a mercenary's final joke.
Characters in italics are shown only in flashback. (Numbers indicate order of appearance.)
"I know your real talent, Hawk. It's not military strategy. It's not administration. And it's certainly not your people skills. You see weakness. You look at a group, or a person, and you can see exactly what will make them break. And how they'll break when they do. Then you balance the right people against each other, so things break in directions that benefit you. "Cost" doesn't even factor into it."
"Here's your choice: you stay here and do something with all that anger, or you go out into the world, and in six months you eat your gun. You're not going back to the private sector. We both know that. So there's only one way out."
"You're not talking about me, are you? You're talking about you."
"Don't worry about me. I'm gonna go consult for the movies. You're the one stuck saving the world now. It's not supposed to be fun. Now, get to it."
- —Hawk and Chameleon
"And the funny part — the really funny part — is that I know you didn't skip any of it. You combed through every word, making sure there wasn't some extra, actionable intelligence in there. And then, even after you were sure there wasn't, you read it again. And then again. Right? Of course I'm right. How many times have you read this thing now? I don't even want to know. You poor, lonely, sad bastard. I think about you there, sitting in that big chair, doing the math on how to spend thirty lives to save forty. You've the world's bloodiest abacus. Must be neat."
- Though billed as an aftermath issue to Cobra Command, this issue is more of one to the Chuckles story that ran through the G.I. Joe: Cobra miniseries and the Cobra II miniseries-turned-ongoing; it was even included as such in the "G.I. Joe: Cobra: The Last Laugh" hardcover collection of the Chuckles story.
- The narration at the start of this issue confirms that the timespan from G.I. Joe #0 to the end of Cobra Command — over 3 years in real time — was 24 months, or 2 years, in-universe.
- Dial-Tone mentions Faraday and Kernel using environment-suits to wipe the servers in the Pit, which was destroyed by a nuclear meltdown back in G.I. Joe vol. 2 #3. Those are some resilient servers, huh?
- So, okay, Chuckles must have written this letter in the minutes (or, charitably, hours) between shooting Cobra Commander and awakening Tomax. Okay, seems a little unlikely, but we can suspend disbelief. But how on Earth did he send it? It doesn't seem likely that Section Twenty had a post box for him to put his letter in, and even if it did, how would it have got off the island before Chuckles destroyed it with a nuke?
- Cover A: Chuckles and Xamot, by Antonio Fuso and Arianna Florean.
- Cover B: Chuckles has a lot on his mind, by David Williams and Kelsey Shannon; the cover also uses art by Antonio Fuso taken from Cobra #3, Cobra II #1, Cobra #12 and Cobra #13.
- Cover RI: Uncolored version of cover A, by Antonio Fuso.