Silent Interlude review

What Did I Learn?

GI Joe Classic Volume 3, including the Silent Interlude

So I had wanted to get another look at the G.I. Joe “Silent Interlude” story where no one spoke. I wanted to see what techniques were used and what I could learn. It seems to me that if one can write comic that works without words then it will be a better comic overall. Of course, not all stories allow for this but if the events of the comic are visually clear, that means the text can expand on what the visuals already communicate.

The Silent Interlude was written and drawn by Larry Hama. It was issue number 21 and it was published in March 1984. It sold for a very reasonable 60 cents.

It’s the first appearance of Storm Shadow and in the last two panels, we get to see that Snake Eyes and Stormshadow have something in common – the same tattoo. You can see the original cover and read the story breakdown here (or here, in case the first link goes down someday.)

I also wrote up a panel by panel breakdown for myself. There is one full page panel and one half page panel and just a couple of insets for a total of 117 panels that break down into 21 basic events. Storm Shadow flying in and revealing his captive, Scarlet, takes 8 panels. Cobra Commander’s reaction and sending her to the dungeon takes 3 panels and Snake Eyes jumping out of the C-130 takes 4 panels…

There is no dialog to explain or communicate. There are no sound effects. There are only 2 places where you see writing. Destro is watching a computer screen which told him there was an intruder and then another shot of the screen which tells him there was a .000018% chance the intruder would successfully infiltrate. This serves to ratchet up the drama when we see how difficult the conditions are for Snake Eyes to navigate and how thorough Destro will be to make sure there are no intruders. It was also a bit of science fantasy. Desktop computers were not available to the general person for purchase.

Later, Snake Eyes throws a grenade and you see the writing on the grenade. It’s kind of a reveal – the first image just shows the technical designation number of the grenade and the second shows the word grenade on its other side, just before it explodes in the face of Stormshadow’s red ninja. It was also needed for those who didn’t know what this green round thing was. Otherwise, there may have been people who wondered why a green blob exploded without the ‘plink’ sound effect.

What Did I Learn?

There was such an economy of storytelling in the Silent Interlude. I’d like to briefly compare the storytelling to this remake presented in slideshow…Whereas the original took 4 panels to show Snake Eyes jumping out of the plane, the remake shown below takes 6 panels and the extra panels don’t seem to add anything except to draw it out a bit for the resolute-hero-going-into-danger drama or perhaps a larger page count to fill, I guess. Meh.

The video tells the story in slightly different order and has Snake Eyes escaping from Stormshadow’s thrown sword instead of catching it. To me, that’s Snake Eyes wussing out. Meh. (I don’t mind remakes as long as they stay true to the spirit of the original story. Snake Eyes should have neutralized Stormshadow or beat him, not just run away.)

More importantly than my personal preference is that I can see where some panels could be cut, even from the original. Some are needed to set the stage for something else to happen, some just dwell out different parts of the story. You couldn’t cut many from the original but you could definitely cut more from the remake.

This comic also illustrates how important panel design really is. Many of the panels in the original are slices, which tend the reader toward a quicker pace. Obviously, if you changed all the panels to small squares, the story would read very differently. Change most of the panels to wide, sweeping shots and it makes it a more introspective story.

Any kind of wordless comic is quite a feat to accomplish. It’s powerful and moving.

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