G.I. Joe Renegades Premiere Review

Snake Eyes can still kick ass despite a low art budget.

When I first saw the promo stills for Renegades, I was disappointed. It seemed that Hasbro hired the cheapest animators they could find because the characters looked amazingly awful. I didn't want to judge the show on a few stills, though, because I was hoping that the actual show would be better than some ill-advised promo material. I loved the original animated series when I was a kid, but these days there are many episodes I have trouble watching because they are just so bad. The original still has its good parts, though. I love the comics, especially the newer series by IDW. I movie was awful, but not nearly as bad a Hasbro's other big movie for that year, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Well, I finally got a chance to catch the premiere of G.I. Joe Renegades online. The premiere consisted of two episodes, or at least that's what it was on The Hub site. Overall I found the show to be surprisingly good. It wasn't perfect by any means, but it definitely exceeded my expectations set by the initial promo art.

Warning: There may be spoilers.

The show begins with a commercial for Cobra Technologies, a company that apparently makes the world a better place by fighting bad guys and giving apples to kids. From this commercial, it seems that Cobra is a respected corporation in this universe and sets up the idea that citizens wouldn't possibly think that Cobra could be evil since they give kids apples. Cobra Technologies does all sorts of stuff, though. They make weapons, have a pharmaceutical division, fix power lines, and have bakeries that apparently make amazing apple pies. Much like the old cartoon series and comics, Cobra has fronts to make them money for their evil terrorist organization stuff. However, in the other continuities Cobra's fronts have other names like Arbco so as to not to be so obviously connected. Here the Cobra name is right in your face. Wouldn't citizens think it's strange that a company that makes military weapons also makes apple pies? I would think it's weird, at least.

Of course, there is at least one person who believes that Cobra isn't as wholesome as they claim, which gets us going into the episodes. Scarlett, who isn't truthful of who she really works for, picks some soldiers to help her expose Cobra for what they really are: an evil terrorist determined to rule the world. These soldiers turn out to be Duke, Tunnel Rat, Roadblock, and Ripcord. They arrive at a Cobra research lab but are attacked by Cobra troops wielding laser guns. These Joes didn't even think laser weapons were a thing so they are pretty surprised when getting shot at by them. They escape deeper into the lab, fight some Bio-Vipers, the lab blows up, they escape, but are labeled renegades in the public eye thanks to some selective information given to the media. Good guys being framed for bad is nothing new story-wise, but it hasn't really been done too much for G.I. Joe before, so it works.

The animation is pretty good overall, even though the character art is highly inconsistent. Sometimes the characters look fine, but other times the art is just reeking of the poorly drawn images that were first released for the show. Scarlett can't seem to decide if she is part Asian or not. Is she supposed to be? I can't tell! Cobra Commander looks awful with his half-mask covering only a part of his face. What the hell is the point of an angular half-mask? It doesn't look good or menacing. At least it's better than the movie's Cobra Commander, but anything is better than that. I don't like the new young Dr. Mindbender with attitude. I don't mind that he's not a shirtless freak with a monocle and an enormous moustache, I just think there could have been some middle ground between beefy monocle man and punk scientist with 'tude. At one point in the premiere he escapes an incident while leaving innocent townspeople to die, which did earn him a couple points back in my book. General Abernathy is bald, has an eye patch, a cane, and looks like he might keel over at any moment. I am not looking forward to Storm Shadow's introduction; his character design still looks awful.

"Hey guys? What the hell is wrong with our faces?"

There are some established relationships between a few of the characters already. Duke and Flint were apparently rivals in college football or something. General Abernathy already knows the Baroness in some businessy way. Of course, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow will share a history, but that one is expected. As long as Cobra Commander doesn't turn out to be Duke's best friend and the Baroness isn't Cobra Commander's brainwashed sister and a natural blonde then everything should be fine.

Codenames in Renegades are just nick names, most of which are single handedly given out by Ripcord, easily the most annoying of the team members. Ripcord just calls characters a "random" thing during the first episode and the names end up sticking. The way Ripcord gets his name is even worse, however, as it has nothing to do with parachuting. He just rips out a cord from a socket. Yeah, it's that bad. My nickname in this Joe-verse would probably be Soda Drink because I'm drinking a soda right now. Anyway, during the battle in the Cobra lab, Ripcord "dies" and everyone is sad so they keep the nicknames. I understand that there isn't actually a G.I. Joe organization in Renegades (at least for now), but I like the names being codenames and not just nick names some annoying guy gave everyone. Oh, and I am fully expecting Ripcord to return in a future episode because we don't actually see him die.

The big threat in the premiere were Mindbender's Bio-Vipers. The show skips right past normal Vipers, Alley Vipers, even Techno Vipers, and goes right into Bio-Viper territory. If I remember correctly, Bio-Vipers were originally introduced during a dark yet fluorescent time in the 90s. So, it's not a Viper with a good history among old time fans. Hopefully human Vipers will be implemented into the show because I would hate to see the Joes fight creatures every week and not humans.

Like I said, overall the first two episodes were surprisingly solid. Good action, good voice acting, decent humor when it wasn't Ripcord's time to be the "funny guy," and a different premise for what G.I. Joe is. I'll be watching the rest of the series to see where they take this, good or bad, and for the introductions of the vehicles. And to be sad at the inconsistencies of the character art and the few poor re-designs.

-Shawn - 12/04/10