In 1989, three years after the Sunbow-produced G.I. Joe animated series had run its course, DIC Entertainment procured the contract from Hasbro to create new episodes of the series. Lasting a scant two seasons, this incarnation of G.I. Joe picked up where the old series left off, introducing new characters, new vehicles, and astonishing new ways to suck.
Now maybe you’re the type of reader who just scans the first paragraph or two and skips the rest of the review. In that case, I’ll be completely up front with you here, folks: this cartoon is terrible and more painful to watch than that snuff film Mel Gibson made about Jesus a few years ago. Avoid it at all costs.
Still reading? Cool. Here’s the part where I go into more detail about how this cartoon broke my heart and made my eyeballs bleed.
In my personal Holy Trinity of '80s Action Figures, Transformers and Masters of the Universe may have formed a solid foundation, but the position at the top of the pyramid was held with an iron grasp by the Real American Heroes of G.I. Joe. Raised on the Marvel Comic as well as the classic Sunbow cartoon, my fandom runs deep, to the point of obsession. I have a G.I. Joe tattoo, okay? I’m that guy. And when reliving my youth, I’ve found that the old comics totally live up to the nostalgia-driven hype I’ve created while the cartoon is still enjoyable on a certain level that doesn’t exactly include any actual quality.
But the DIC-produced series has always been something of an enigma to me. I recall watching the first four or five episodes before the show quickly disappeared from my radar. I wasn’t particularly impressed with it then, but my memories were vague and definitely needed refreshing. Luckily, everything that has ever existed in human history (with the notable exception of the 1960s Batman TV series) is being released on DVD these days and G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Series 2 is among them. On July 10, 2012, the second season of the second series will be made available to those masochistic folks who are interested in seeing their childhood icons dragged through the mud. Or you could save yourself a little torment and instead subject yourself to the rest of my review. And don’t worry; I won’t wax poetic about the glory days of my 3 3/4-inch action figure collection any further.
For those of you whose memory is a bit hazy, 1991 (when this season originally aired) wasn’t quite the end of the line for the G.I. Joe toy line, but it was pretty damn close. While there were still a few interesting designs, the vast majority of the figures and vehicles were awash in a sea of neon and faux reptile-skin airbrushing. The concept of a futuristic military force battling an equally advanced terrorist organization was lost and both Joe and Cobra bore more similarities to Power Rangers and X-Men than any branch of the armed forces. And to a certain extent, that’s fine: G.I Joe was never meant to be realistic. While a number of Joe purists might disagree with me, I actually think a football-themed character like Sgt. Grid-Iron fits right in with guys like Snake Eyes and Roadblock. I even think his football-shaped grenades are kinda cool. The way I see it, these guys are so good at what they do, they can’t be constrained by the standards and practices of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines; they’ve simply got to wear outlandish costumes and go by crazy nicknames.
But the problem with this series is that the writers and animators seem to have completely given up on maintaining any level of quality or credibility by the time these episodes were made and instead just go through the motions. Cobra attacks a peace conference or decides to hold a world leader for ransom with absolutely no motivation or reason given; they’re just evil and we are supposed to accept that evil people do crazy, evil things for absolutely no reason. Not even personal gain. The basic plot of every episode boils down to “Cobra does something evil and the Joes show up to shoot at them.” Even the voice actors are giving half-assed performances and don’t seem to want to be there.
There’s far too much time dedicated to silly comic relief and goofy sound effects during scenes where Cobra agents are singing while cooking a meal or Scarlett drags Duke along on a shopping excursion while the Joe team is overseas. Bad puns, ridiculous designs, and ham-fisted sub-groups like Eco-Warriors, Ninja Force, the Drug Elimination Force, and Sky Patrol make a show that was already little more than a 20-minute commercial into an absolute pile of garbage. The Sunbow G.I. Joe series was by no means Shakespeare, but this program struggles to meet the standard set by Stephanie Meyer.
Oh yeah, and Snake Eyes wears a blue costume and stupid hockey mask with red goggles! Blech!
I’ve already wasted far too much time on this review and chances are good that I’ve wasted your time as well. I’m actually finding myself getting angry as I write it. All I can say is that you can thank me for sparing you from the horrors contained on this seven-hour collection of some of the worst animation I have ever born witness to. The only real positive I can find is the 10-minute retrospective featurette with the Hasbro toy team in which a group of gentlemen from Hasbro attempt to make this era of G.I. Joe seem like it was a good idea. For the most part, they fail miserably, but it’s always entertaining to get a behind-the-scenes look at something, even if it’s something you hate.
To sum up G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Series 2, Season 2 in a nutshell: Yo, Joe? Hell no, Joe!