It’s 1984. The ‘real’ GI Joe: A Real American Hero’s 21st issue script has gone missing, leaving Marvel with a strict time limit to get a replacement issue ready for publication. Series creator Larry Hama has three weeks to get an issue ready, so he takes on art duties himself – and to ensure that there’s less steps than usual in the process of getting the comic ready, decides to create a ‘silent’ issue – in which the mute GI Joe soldier Snake Eyes takes on a challenging infiltration and rescue mission – negating the need for a letterer or any scripted dialogue.

Not only did he do it, but Hama created one of the most iconic single issues of the 80s, perhaps of all time. Not bad for a comic series originally created to sell toys, right?

Hama would continue to raise the bar on expectations for licensed comics, with GI Joe featuring some fantastic storylines – and, after the critical reception of #21, further silent issues too – across an impressively lengthy run.

Now, for the 40th Anniversary of GI Joe: ARAH, IDW have released this special issue – which reimagines the silent issue in a unique way: each page of the original story drawn by a different artist. It’s a brilliant tribute and a worthy experiment – whether you’re familiar with the original comic or not. There’s some really cool art on display and every page really does feel unique, with each creator bringing a new feel to the material.

Not only is the main feature this new spin on an old classic, but the iconic issue #21 is also included in full, so you can check out the story in its original form (and compare it to the 40th Anniversary version). Rounding out the issue is an essay by writer Chad Bowers, a longtime GI Joe fan who was recently able to work on a GI Joe comic of his own. It’s a great read.

Overall then, this 40th Anniversary Special is a worthy tribute to and celebration of a surprisingly long-lasting pop culture franchise; one which is almost certain to still be going, in some form or other, in another 40 years!

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