First off…wow, what a cover! The image of the Joes and the Oktober Guard reflected in Cobra Commander’s helmet is a truly iconic one. That said, it’s also the last panel of the comic, so…you know…spoilers!
The Joes are sent on a mission to Afghanistan to recover a crashed Russian spy plane, and when they land they’re assisted by some local Afghan forces, who have been fighting the Russians. This was 1982, so would have been during the 1979-1989 Soviet War in Afghanistan, during which the Russians were fighting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan. The Americans were arming the Mujahideen at the time, something which is alluded to during this issue when one of the Afghan soldiers asks Stalker to send him some anti-tank guns and ground-to-air missiles. Of course, this makes for strange reading in 2020, as the very Afghans who were fighting the Russians in the Mujahideen in the 80s would end up fighting the Americans in the Taliban in the 21st Century.
Despite the accent, Hama writes the Afghans well, as intelligent, articulate and brave. But this was before Muslims became synonymous with “bad guys” in American culture. Back then the Russians were the enemy, which is exactly what they are here, as the Joes enter pitched battle with the Oktober Guard, their Russian counterparts. That said, judging from this issue, neither the Joes or the Oktober Guard seem very good at their job, as the worst that either team suffers, despite the expending of many bullets, is a burst tyre…which was burst by an arrow.
This story features the one and only appearance of the RTV (Rough Terrain Vehicle), which is on of the ugliest things I have ever seen, and looks like one of the robots from Robotix. I’m not surprised that this was never seen again. The one interesting thing about it being it’s modular, light weight construction, enabling it to be parachuted into the target area in bits and assembled into a fully working vehicle in twenty three minutes. Impressive!
All in all this is a fun story, well written and well drawn, with a twist at the end. That being…as spoiled on the cover…that as the Joes and the Russians fight it out, Cobra show up, out gunning and out manning both teams! What will happen next? I’ll have to get #7 to find out…