IDW’s G.I. Joe comic made a big transformation after last year’s Revolution event, which brought all of the publisher’s Hasbro properties together to create a more fantastic status quo for the Real American Heroes. Writer Aubrey Sitterson, artist Giannis Milonogiannis, and colorist Lovern Kindzierski have used these new circumstances to take the military team in a more spectacular, imaginative direction, and it’s invigorated the title by giving these characters much bigger challenges. The scope is only increasing as the book moves forward, and this week’s G.I. Joe #5 welcomes an exceptional guest artist to help take the series to new heights. Aaron Conley, the cartoonist behind the breathtakingly gorgeous Sabertooth Swordsman, jumps from G.I. Joe covers to interiors for an issue blending bombastic action with smaller moments of psychedelia, and Sitterson gives Conley a script that plays to all his strengths.
“Aaron has been on cover duty for us since day one, so it just made sense to bring him in for interiors, as he was already familiar with the characters,” says Sitterson. “And this issue? It’s the perfect one for Aaron. If you’re familiar with his work on Sabertooth Swordsman, you know that this guy excels at drawing the weird and the fantastical, so we take full advantage of that, with Lovern Kindzierski keeping a consistent aesthetic through his inimitable approach to color art.”
“Right now, the Joes are facing monsters,” says Sitterson. “Not metaphorical monsters, but literal monsters from beneath the surface of the Earth. This series is a spiritual successor to the old Sunbow G.I. Joe cartoons, and moving forward you’ll see us leaning fully into the gonzo sci-fi action-adventure. The Joe team will go on the hunt to track these things down, while also dealing with fallout from the shocking revelation that Doc is part Dire Wraith. Expect a comic that’s more Challengers Of The Unknown than Sgt. Rock.”
Sitterson’s eagerness to bring more fantasy to this series makes him an ideal collaborator for Conley, who appreciates when the property ventures into stranger narrative territory. “The old Marvel Comics stuff is probably what connects me the most to G.I. Joe,” says Conley. “Michael Golden, Mike Zeck, and Tony Salmons are all amazing artists and I still look at the stuff they did in the G.I. Joe comics with huge admiration. I also loved the G.I. Joe animated movie. I love weird stuff, so blind Roadblock carrying around Cobra commander who is turning into a 6-eyed snake, man, yeah that’s my jam.”
“I watched a lot of G.I. Joe as a kid and had a fair amount of the action figures,” says Conley. “I’ve been doing covers for Aubrey and Giannis’ run on the series so I was already submerged in the world they were creating. I did sit down and re-read the 2 issues that were out just to be a good student. Aubrey is an absolute joy to work with, the dude was pumped and really giving for every step of the process! If any artist gets a chance to work with Aubrey I say you better take it! I was pretty surprised at how much I enjoyed drawing Skywarp, having to figure out ways to get his stiff robot body to emote was a blast.”
These preview pages showcase Conley’s talent for staging powerful fight sequences and creating bold character expressions, and there’s an exhilarating momentum in those opening pages. The pace slows down a bit as the story catches up with the team, but there’s still impressive energy in Conley’s linework, even when it’s just showing characters in conversation. This G.I. Joe run has featured some wonderfully dynamic visuals, and readers can experience the thrill by jumping into G.I. Joe #5 when it goes on sale tomorrow.