Title: Hearts & Minds: A G.I. Joe Graphic Novel

Publisher: IDW

Writer: Max Brooks

Artist: Howard Chaykin and Antonio Fuso

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Review by: Thomas Braaksma

At last year’s Chicago Comics and Entertainment Expo, Max Brooks hosted a panel that went over his career and various pieces of work he has done throughout his career. Besides the movie adaptation to World War Z, currently floating in limbo, one other project particularly stood out to the crowd, a G.I. Joe comic book penned by Brooks. This miniseries went by the name Hearts & Minds.

Fast forward a year later and now fans can see for themselves in a hardcover trade collecting all the stories that appeared in the miniseries. Each book looks at one Cobra and one Joe and how their real lives mix with their alter egos. It is a great concept but sadly it is poorly executed.

The stories are mostly told through long narrations by the characters during scenes of their everyday lives and scenes of them executing their specialty in the field. Out of the ten stories (including soldiers like Firefly, Blowtorch, Doc, Major Bludd, among others), there are a couple of well told ones, but most of them come off as overdramatic and just don’t work with the source material. The G.I. Joe brand could definitely benefit from a departure from the strictly cartoonish and over the top action but Brooks is not able to make that transition to the realm of serious drama.

The artwork also hurts the quality of the book half the time. The stories were split between artists Howard Chaykin and Antonio Fuso, but only half the art compliments the tales. Chaykin should have been chosen to draw the entire series since he brings out more detailed and lively characters in his drawings. Fuso delivers a flat, less appealing look in his contributions to the stories. Fortunately, in the large panels presented throughout the book, it is a quick read and easy to skim past some of the stories drawn by Fuso.

All in all it was a good attempt to resurrect a franchise that has been not been given the justice it deserves in the past years. Max Brooks seemed like a perfect candidate to finally deliver a respectful modern interpretation of the legendary G.I. Joe, but Hearts & Minds cannot accomplish that task. For any G.I. Joe enthusiast it would definitely be worth a stroll down nostalgia lane for a quick read, but at $24.99, this short book with little to no reread value isn’t worth the cover price.

For more info, idwpublishing.com

Pads and panels received a copy of the book from the publisher for review purposes.