What an understatement...
Marvel might as well have declared G.I. Joe #21, the now-legendary "Silent Interlude" issue, as being "The Most Unusual COMIC BOOK Story Ever!" and now, a full quarter-century later, there would be very few fans of graphic art literature who would disagree.
"Silent Interlude" was the issue that broke all the rules of what a comic book was supposed to be. And I think it could even be argued that it forever shattered conventional wisdom on what a licensed property tie-in was fully capable of achieving. From the day that G.I. Joe #1 came out in the spring of 1982 onward, the comic book was generally regarded as a glorified advertisement for the popular Hasbro line of action figures.
And then came Issue #21. Written and drawn by Larry Hama, "Silent Interlude" would become the most talked-about, the most widely praised, and at the time among the most controversial comic books ever published. It permanently elevated G.I. Joe away from its perception of being a "toy franchise" and into the realm of exceptionally mature narrative.
"Silent Interlude" also laid down the foundation for all the G.I. Joe continuity that was to follow for the next ten years and beyond. It established mysteries and connections that have come to be regarded as some of the finest storytelling that the medium has yet produced.
And "Silent Interlude" did it all... without a single word of dialogue or any other written exposition.
Hama's now-classic tale of Snake-Eyes infiltrating Destro's castle to rescue captured fellow G.I. Joe team member Scarlett, and his battle with the Cobra ninja Storm Shadow, was experimental theatre of the highest form. The absence of text proved that it could not stop a well-executed, high-stakes tale loaded with action and enigma. If anything, having no written words escalated the intensity of "Silent Interlude".
Two and a half decades later, G.I. Joe #21 is widely hailed by many of the recent generation of comic artists and writers as the single issue that most inspired them to enter the industry. And as if it needed further testament to its impact, "Silent Interlude" has consequently become one of the most parodied graphic stories in history (including one especially memorable cover for an issue of Deadpool).
But there is one more praise that I am obligated to give "Silent Interlude". I can say now that G.I. Joe #21, and how its story continued to play out over the next few issues after that, was what began turning my very young mind toward what became a life-long interest in modern history. And I think that many people of my age bracket will also readily admit that Larry Hama's work on G.I. Joe made us very curious, for the first time, about what happened in Southeast Asia. Until Issue #26 a few months later, "Vietnam" was just a word that I didn't care to understand. The G.I. Joe comic book first opened my mind about the conflict... and a quarter century later, I'm still trying to grasp it all. A lot of us are.
So let's pretend that Yo Joe Cola is a real drink, and hoist our glasses in raising a toast to "Silent Interlude": not just the greatest G.I. Joe story ever, but one of the greatest comic book issues of all time! :-)