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Hearts and Minds: A G.I. Joe Graphic Novel


Hearts and Minds: A G.I. Joe Graphic Novel


You don’t need to know a single thing about G.I. Joe to enjoy Hearts & Minds,aside from the fact that G.I. Joe are the good guys, and Cobra are the bad guys. After that, you’re all set.

War comics might not be too prominent today, having been overtaken by the superhero genre, but the theme of war was very popular between 1930 and 1970, and a few classic “war” characters still survive in the context of superhero books, like Sgt. Rock and Nick Fury. G.I. Joe debuted as an action figure in 1964 and a related comic in 1967 and has become one of the more recognizable properties in the world, spawning everything from video games to Underoos.

Hearts & Minds follows nine major characters (and four nameless recruits) from the G.I. Joe world, each with their own small chapter and succinct narrative, each delivering a kind of inner monologue about why they do what they do. It’s a kind of “The Things They Carried” for the graphic novel crowd, and it allows for a subtle discussion on the differences between the “good guys” and the “bad guys” in the context of war. It’s never as clearly delineated as it might seem at the outset, even in the ostensibly black and white, fantasy world of G.I. Joe’s weather machines and snake-themed terrorists. Max Brooks handles these classic characters deeply and delicately, and this is why Hearts & Minds is a successful book.

Most of these G.I. Joe guys are characters that fans already know about, primarily from the brief bios on the backs of their action figure cards, which were designed to catalyze narrative play. Every warrior has their own specialty, from disguise to animal tracking to fire, but now, every warrior has an emotional or psychological reason for their specialty: to make right on wrongs, an indifference to being dead or alive, an obsession with science, and so on. These might be imaginary characters, but Brooks makes them tortured and real. It’s hard to imagine caring about G.I. Joe characters, but it happens. Howard Chaykin’s classic, Ď‹bermasculine artwork drives it all home.

Hearts & Minds definitely qualifies as easy reading. No character thinks or says more than a few sentences at a time, and when they do, it’s broken up across pages full of interesting pictures, so this might be a great tool to draw in reluctant readers. It’s a comic about war and terrorism, so people die in all kinds of creative ways, but nothing so extreme that it’s offensive. If you’ve ever been interested in delving into the world of G.I. Joe, here’s your ideal access point.

Reviewed by Collin David on November 23, 2010

Hearts and Minds: A G.I. Joe Graphic Novel
by Max Brooks and Howard Chaykin

  • Publication Date: July 12, 2012
  • Genres: Graphic Novel
  • Hardcover: pages
  • Publisher: IDW Publishing
  • ISBN-10: B0069WB5RK
  • ISBN-13: 9781600107764