G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero: Season 1.1
Reviewed by Brandy Shaul
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-07-19 DVD Movie Hasbro / Shout! Factory

Like Transformers before it, G.I. Joe has seen an incredible resurgence since the turn of the century. With a live-action film and a new toy line for 2009, it makes sense to first look at where the series began, as both a toy line developed in 1964 (and re-launched in 1982), and as a Marvel comic.

Arguably the most notable entry in the G.I. Joe universe, however, is the cartoon series that aired in the mid-late 1980's, part of which has now been conveniently re-released by Hasbro and Shout! Factory (in time for the launch of the live-action film) in a four-disc Season 1.1 DVD set. The set includes the first three G.I. Joe annual five-part miniseries (The M.A.S.S. Device, The Revenge of Cobra, and the Pyramid of Darkness), along with the first seven episodes of the first season proper.

The opening sequence of each episode introduces viewers to the universe: "G.I. Joe is the code name for America's daring, highly-trained, Special Mission force. Its purpose: To defend human freedom against COBRA, a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world."

The G.I. Joe team is populated by a wide range of dynamic and engaging characters, each of which brings their own unique abilities to the whole. Duke, the steadfast second-in-command believes a commander's place is with his team, and not behind a desk, and as such routinely places his live in danger to save others. Snake Eyes is best thought of a multi-talented ninja who dresses as such, and specializes in hand-to-hand or otherwise non firearms based combat, while Scarlett wields a crossbow and is skilled in acrobatics and counter intelligence.

The rest of the team is fleshed out with arms specialists, skilled pilots, and all-around bad asses, both willing and able to shell out the fight to anything Cobra can dish out, while Cobra on the other hand, is comprised of the typical bad-guy personas an arrogant leader, hell-bent on controlling the entire universe, and a few peons who may or may not wish to take over the enterprise for themselves.

Like other recent Shout! Factory offerings, this DVD set lacks the basics like subtitles and standard closed-captioning, which is a fairly large negative when taking into account that this, like so many other restored shows, contains dialogue that is vastly quieter than the action surrounding it, making specific words like names and locations difficult to understand until you get used to the setup.

There is the appreciated option to seamlessly play all multi-part episodes (that is, "too be continued" episodes) without any break in between, but other than that, in terms of each individual episode, it's a real "what you see is what you get" situation.

However, there are quite a few extras on the fourth disc that are worth noting, including the original G.I. Joe "Knowing Is Half The Battle" PSAs, a look at the 1963 toy line, a printable episode script for "Jungle Trap," and some archival Hasbro commercials, in addition to a multi-part "Looking Back" featurette with writer Ron Friedman, who discusses how the series transformed from comic book to television.

In terms of the graphical quality throughout, while the title of course shows its age, when compared to other G.I. Joe DVD releases the graphics here are noticeably improved, with a brighter and less grainy presentation throughout.

For long-time fans of the G.I. Joe universe, this set is sure to please. With the inclusion of the three five-part miniseries that started it all (which would normally be separate purchases), and a price tag of under thirty dollars, it's a bit of a no-brainer. While of course having the entire first season in the same set would be a nice touch, there are still eight hours of content here to take you on a very enjoyable trip back in time.

Special thanks for Scott Neumyer and Shout! Factory for providing a copy of this title.