“Panic at the North Pole”
Quote: “The Shadow Man has the eyes of a shaman! He sees the spirits of snow and ice gazing at his soul like a hungry bear! I tell you my secrets because you are dead men!-- Kwinn
Writer: Larry Hama
Pencils: Don Perlin
The second issue of G. I. Joe is one of the best. Not only does it feature a compelling story with four of the most popular Joes, but it also introduces the fan favorite character Kwinn.
What has happened at a remote U.S. research station at the North Pole? After contact has been lost with the remote station, a team finds that it has been wiped out in a commando-style raid. The station is located hundreds of miles away from the nearest Russian settlement, but no other evidence can be found. Due to the nature of the delicate situation, General Austin and General Flagg decide to send in the G. I. Joe team, all of whom are still on leave from after their last assignment. Four team members are selected to go: Stalker, who is in Wisconsin photographing wildlife; Breaker, who is at M.I.T. playing with computers; Scarlett, who is competing in a freestyle martial arts tournament; and Snake-Eyes, who is spending some time in a sensory deprivation unit in a basement at Columbia University. The team members are escorted from their leaves and flown to the Arctic with the mission of gathering information on what happened and recover missing records from the research station.
The team is dropped near a Russian base to observe it for any information. After six hours of not seeing anyone, the team eventually spots a dog sled approaching the base: a large Eskimo with a .30 cal. Machine gun. The Eskimo enters the base, and leaves it just as quickly. The Joe team enters the base and finds the bodies of Russian scientists who have been dead for weeks and some long range sound equipment that is set to project a frequency which can affect human brain waves. The frequency modulator, a key part to the equipment, is missing, however, and Stalker believes that the Eskimo took it. Snake-Eyes finds a bomb, and the team narrowly escape the station before it explodes. The Joe team decides to try and follow after the Eskimo who might be working for the Rusians, while sending back a picture of the Eskimo to headquarters through Breaker’s equipment.
The Eskimo is named Kwinn, and he is a freelance operator who “never lies, always fulfills contractual obligations to the letter, and will not divulge any information about former employers or operations for any reason.” The team eventually reaches Kwinn’s camp, which is set up outside a downed aircraft. They think they have a jump on Kwinn as he is sitting next to his fire, but the shape they believe is Kwinn is actually a pile of C-4 plastic explosives, and Kwinn is holding the fail-safe detonator. Before leaving the Joe team stranded, Kwinn informs them of what happened with their research station: The Russians had been experimenting with paranoia inducing frequencies aimed at the U.S., but the waves leaked out and caused the Russian scientists to become paranoid themselves. They attacked the U.S. research station, believing that the scientists at that station were spying on them. Eventually they were too affected to fix their heater, and the Russians all froze to death.
Kwinn is delivering the stolen American documents and the Russian frequency modulator to the Russians, and so he sets out for his rendezvous, leaving the Joe team stranded to die with no equipment or weapons. Kwinn has underestimated the Joe team, which proceeds to use pieces from crashed plane to construct an ice boat, a type of sled with a sail on it. They also take all the explosives Kwinn left behind. Taking a different route, the team is able to bypass Kwinn and his dog sled, and set up an ambush for him under an ice bridge. The ambush fails, and Kwinn once again captures the Joe team. He has even removed the firing pins from their weapons, and added them to the necklace he wears. Kwinn admits to the Joes that he disapproves of the Russians using fear, which he proclaims to be the greatest killer of all, but he has made a contract he wishes he could get out of.
Kwinn finally reaches his Russian contacts, and gives them what they wanted. The Russians ask him if he wants to wait with them, for the sub that is coming to pick them up. Kwinn declines, stating that he wants to leave before the G. I. Joe team arrives, as he abhors senseless violence. He is not under contract to protect the Russians, and instead of killing the Joe team, he left them stranded five miles away. The final panel shows the Joe team approaching the Russian contacts. Snake Eyes is wearing Kwinn’s necklace, and the firing pins are no longer on it, but I the guns the team is carrying.
This issue features the first appearance of Kwinn, a character who will appear a few more times early in the series. This is also the first issue where we learn that there is something wrong with Snake Eyes’ face.
Like most of the early issues, issue 2 is a standalone story, but a great one. The smaller team really gives each character a chance to take the spotlight, especially Snake Eyes in this issue. He and Kwinn are excellent characters to square off against each other. They’re both extremely dangerous and full of dirty tricks and yet they have an almost mystical sense of honor about them.
It is that sense of honor that perhaps has made Kwinn such a fan favorite character. Even though he follows the contracts he takes to the letter of the law, he finds ways to make sure that he still shapes things in the way that he believes. The final panel in this story is one of my favorites, depicting the team walking coolly towards the Russians, with their weapons in hand and looks on their faces that just scream: “We mean business.” This is the first issue I picked up of the original when I decided to start picking them up, and I don’t regret it one bit. Mystery, action, and some great dialogue abound in another fantastic issue.
Rating: 5 Yo-Joe colas/ out of five.