‘GI Joe’ comic tackles the psychological burden of coming home from war


A reboot of the classic “GI Joe” comic series by IDW Publishing has released a stand-alone issue that, for the first time, centers on the intricate struggles encountered by those with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Published in August and developed by author Paul Allor, artist Chris Evenhuis, and colorist Brittany Peer, the 32-page issue centers on a flashback for one of the main characters, Scarlett, who is reeling from the effects of combat in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Scarlett, whose real name is Shana O’Hara, “left the military and returned to civilian life ― until the war with Cobra drew her back in,” her character’s bio reads.

But before she can join the GI Joe resistance against a now-dominant Cobra World Order, Scarlett is forced to confront the relentless demons of her past.

“You need to win your own war first,” GI Joe commander Conrad Hauser tells O’Hara after encouraging her to attend veterans’ therapy sessions.

(IDW Publishing)

Reluctant at first to the concept of mental health therapy, Scarlett eventually acquiesces and witnesses both the successes and debilitating tragedies of those in her intimate group setting.

The realism of these trials — the emotional ebbs and flows encountered by combat veterans in O’Hara’s group — were, in part, the result of a collaboration between the GI Joe production team and Duane France, a combat veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan and mental health counselor in Colorado.

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France is also the founder and host of “Head Space and Timing,” a resource “focused on providing veterans, their family members, and interested members of the veteran’s community with the awareness around all aspects of veteran mental health,” the page states.

“Our intent is not only to have real and meaningful discussions about mental health and wellness, but to support and inspire veterans to be able to use the strengths they gained while they were in the military to make a positive impact on their community.”

The comic’s readers, meanwhile, were quick to point out the realistic application of an issue confronted by so many military personnel after returning home from war.

“There are a lot of easy tropes to use when writing about vets, but @PaulAllor and @ChrisEvenhuis relied on none of them in G.I. Joe #7,” one Twitter user wrote. “A humanizing and honest look at the long road home, including a listing of resources and support orgs for vets in the back pages. Beautiful job.”

G.I. Joe isn’t the franchise I’d normally associate with penetrating, achingly bittersweet perspectives on PTSD. More fool me because @PaulAllor and @ChrisEvenhuis‘ G.I. JOE #7, which drops tomorrow, is a gut punch of an issue. Truly remarkable work. pic.twitter.com/xKMPISrW49

— Alex Paknadel (@AlexPaknadel) August 18, 2020

Allor previously noted that the rebooted series, like the example of the psychologically-driven issue #7, would present a more in-depth, gritty take on the GI Joe universe that will appeal to both new and old fans of the comic.

“Old-school G.I. Joe fans will absolutely love it and find it true to everything G.I. Joe stands for,” Allor told IGN. “And new folks will be attracted to a deeply character-driven tale of hope and humanity, and about the power of resilience in an increasingly unraveling world.”

In addition to GI Joe, IDW publishing has been behind an array of popular series, to include “Transformers,” “Star Wars,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Spider-Man,” and many more.

Traditionally, issues of GI Joe are available for purchase here — digitally or in print — for $3.99. However, IDW and Hasbro are currently offering G.I. Joe #7 — Scarlett’s backstory — for free on digital platforms in observance of National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

“This month is a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on suicide and mental health,” IDW announced.

“We’re proud to share G.I. Joe #7, an issue in which Scarlett, suffering from the realities of a life of combat, recalls how she found her way to the burgeoning G.I. Joe movement. Issue #7 presents an honest look at the psychological impact of combat, with real depictions of overcoming the stigma around seeking mental health treatment, peer support, setbacks during treatment, and recovery.”


J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times who was a Marine scout observer from 2004-2008. He ugly cried when the Washington Capitals won the 2018 Stanley Cup.

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