Rating: 3.5/5 – Kobra’s Publishing History is Better Than the Story Itself.
By ComicSpectrum senior reviewer Shawn Hoklas.
The very first issue of Kobra has quite a few names in the credits box that I wasn’t expecting. The story is presented by Martin (Marty) Pasko with art by Jack Kirby, D. Bruce Berry and Pablo Marcos. Also, it’s listed that the plot is from Jack Kirby and Steve Sherman. Although the cover itself is surprising in that it’s by Ernie Chan and not Kirby, I also didn’t expect to see so many different creators involved on the interior of this and later issue. Luckily, about halfway through this first issue editor Gerry Conway explains the genesis of Kobra and just how it came to be in a letters page called the “Snake Pit”.
According to Conway, Carmine Infantino wanted Jack Kirby to create a story and characters around the concept of the Corsican brothers, conjoined siblings who after being separated at birth, can still feel the other sibling’s pains. Kirby took the idea and with the help of his assistant Steve Sherman and inker D. Bruce Berry created a first issue that unfortunately never saw the light of day in its original form. Kirby had decided to leave DC and head back to Marvel before the first issue was ever published which left the fate of Kobra shelved until Conway got a hold of it and had a new creative team make some changes.
That new creative team consisted of a personal favorite DC writer of mine, Martin Pasko, as well as artist Pablo Marcos who was brought in to redraw some of the scenes involving the hero Jason Burr, giving him a more youthful appearance. You can tell there were quite a few changes with this book because even in this first issue letter to the readers, it says “we turned to crack cover artist Joe Kubert” to essentially finish the issue, but as I mentioned previously and as you can see, the cover is clearly by Ernie Chan, with Kubert’s cover not appearing until issue number four. So, after all that creative information how was the actual comic itself? Well, unfortunately not that great except for Kirby’s art of course.
After a beautiful opening splash page by Kirby, the villain Kobra is opening a giant rock with an alien robot hidden in its center. Kobra is planning on using this robot which he calls the Servitor to do his bidding, which means killing his brother. It’s here that we then meet the good brother Jason Burr who’s being questioned by a detective at a student union building. Pasko’s script is definitely of it’s time with Burr asking the detective if he’s a Narc and stating “I’m not into any of that stuff (drugs). I get off on life…can you dig it?” I read plenty of back issues and you definitely give the writers of the time a pass, but neither Kobra as a villain or Jason as a hero are all that likable. In addition, the dialogue and convenient storytelling make this first issue fun, but eye rolling at the same time. We do get to see the twins’ origins before a final confrontation that seemed to have come out of nowhere at the end, hinting at the changes the story and creators may have gone through in its confusing creation.
Kirby’s art is of course typical Kirby which I enjoyed quite a bit, but the characters never connected with me even reading up to issue number four. This series ran for a total of seven issues, but the rotating artists and confusion around the book’s publishing didn’t stop with that fourth issue. On the last panel of issue three it says “wait until next issue” and gives the title of issue four’s story, but on the very next page, the editor’s letter states that this is the last issue of Kobra! Not only that, but issue two’s art was by Chic Stone, issue three was by Keith Giffen and four by Pat Gabriele. Whew! I think the production history of Kobra is more interesting than the comics themselves and although I’ll need to find the last few issues of this series to see how it all turns out, I’m more than happy to read what I can find on just how and why this series went through so many creators!
Reviewed by: Shawn Hoklas
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