Comics, Reviews

Duke #2 Review: Man on the Run

Buckle up for this latest comic review of Joshua Willamson and Tom Reilly’s Duke, the most action-packed series of Skybound’s Energon Universe.

Duke 2 Review comic cover
Image: Skybound
By: Javier ReyesFeb 23, 2024, 2:06 AM

Duke #2

Review
Rating
8
Good
Duke 2 Full Cover

Writer: Joshua Willamson

Artist: Tom Reilly

Publisher: Skybound

Release Date: January 30, 2024

Page Count: 32

Format: Single-issue

With an issue featuring lots of bullets, surprise appearances, and action movie references, Duke delivers an action-packed romp that encapsulates everything fun about the series so far.

It goes without saying, but creating a shared universe of comics is no small task unless you’re Marvel or DC. However, the unique case in that conversation is what Skybound has been doing with Hasbro’s new Energon Universe. In less than a year, the Image Comics imprint has released four different titles as part of the shared universe, each rivaling the popularity of comics from the Big Two. It shows just how beloved the Transformers and G.I. Joe still are today. But more than simply tugging on people’s nostalgia for the series, each comic part of the Energon Universe plays a distinct role in establishing this new and exciting world for all readers to enjoy. 

While not as flashy and bombastic as what’s going on in the Transformers, Duke by Joshua Willamson and Tom Reilly is doing a calculated and captivating rebuild of everything we thought we knew about G.I. Joe. With its fresh take on the iconic heroes, the series shows plenty of promise as it subtly threads together the two sides of the Energon Universe. Want to know more? Then, continue reading below for my full review of Duke #2!

Duke 2 - guys talking

Overview

On the run from the people he served most of his life for, Duke turns to an old friend for some shelter and a helping hand in his mission to uncover the truth. But pleasantries don’t last long as other familiar faces catch up on Duke’s trail. With loaded guns and strict instructions to take Duke in, an intense battle between former allies breaks out. It begs the question: What secrets could push former friends to turn on a hero as beloved as Duke? The Real American Hero might have to make some unexpected alliances if he wants to make it out of his mission alive. 

Review

As I mentioned in my Cobra Commander review, I felt it was finally time to catch up on Skybound’s Duke series. Admittedly, I was not particularly drawn to Duke as a character because he comes off as just another generic military man to me. However, after reading the first two issues of the series, I have slowly changed my mind about Duke and can get into the fun that’s going on in the story. What is working for me is how this series presents itself like something straight out of a Jason Bourne or John Wick movie. It has all the tropes you need for an engaging action espionage story. You’ve got a lone wolf-type hero on the run from former employers, a mystery shrouding international (intergalactic in this comic’s case) affairs, and even some covert operations within secret military bases. But as run-of-the-mill as that all sounds, the fun of the comic comes from seeing such a gritty story through the lens of the outlandish characters of G.I. Joe. With Stalker and Rock ‘n Roll looking like they got ripped straight out of an ’80s action flick, the characters make the bullet-filled action sequences throughout this issue feel much more over the top. 

Duke 2 - military

I may not be a G.I. Joe expert or anything, but I know enough to say that this comic is something long-time fans of the beloved franchise will enjoy. From the array of familiar faces making appearances to the return to some classic locations, there is so much in this comic that feels like a love letter to readers who have followed the series for most of their lives. But that’s not to say the comic isn’t welcoming to new readers too. Since reading Cobra Commander alongside Duke, it’s become clear that Skybound is building the G.I. Joe side of the Energon Universe from the ground up. As iconic as the G.I. Joe characters are in their own right, their stories and motivations within these comics feel fresher than ever because of the new power Energon brings to their world. And nothing makes for a more intriguing espionage story than a good old-fashioned government coverup angle. Having Energon itself be what guilds the stories of the G.I. Joe makes for the perfect connection to the Transformers. Seeing how everything is starting to tie together makes following each comic within the Energon Universe feel all the more fulfilling. 

Since this is also my first time talking about Duke, it’s worth gushing about how dynamite Tom Reilly’s art and Jordie Bellaire’s coloring are for the series. Much like the story’s presentation, the art hits that sweet spot of nostalgia with a modern flair to it. Reilly is great at doing bold character expressions that range from cartoonishly wacky to fiercely intense. You can look at a character like Rock n’ Roll and know what he’s all about despite him hardly ever speaking a word. Then, with its energetic lines and vibrant colors, the comic is at its best when the action kicks into gear. All in all, these first two issues do a great job of establishing the high quality of work you can expect from every part of the creative team.

Duke 2 - meet again

Final Thoughts

As the last series I needed to read to get the complete picture of the Energon Universe, I see Duke fitting within a unique spot in the universe’s overarching story. It’s an intriguing look into the characters with the most to lose in what’s brewing to be a power struggle for Energon. While some aspects of the series still do not personally click with me, I adore the creativity at work here. Duke is an action-packed romp filled with characters built to kick ass. What more could you ask for? The intrigue surrounding the Transformers and Energon is all just icing on the cake of a series that is just a whole lot of fun to read.

Why You Should Read Duke

  • It’s an action-packed romp filled with familiar faces from G.I. Joe.
  • The series deeply ties into other comics part of the Energon Universe.
  • Artist Tom Reilly brings to life a vibrant and expressive version of the beloved franchise.

TAGGED: Skybound
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