Who are the Crimson Twins? Character Analysis from GI Joe Real American Hero #46

Hi everyone, so it’s my first post and for those of you who know me…it’s GI Joe related. Surprise, surprise.  I reread issue #46 “Who’s Who on Cobra Island” and was intrigued by the portrayal of the Crimson Twins in this issue.  Usually the twins are portrayed as sharing dialogue and actions, but in this issue, the twins were actually fairly independent in terms of speech and actions.  They even seemed to reveal subtle differences between the twins’ personalities, which is not commonly seen.  As a note before I began a break down of what I found interesting in this issue, it should be noted how to distinguish the twins from each other.  In this particular issue, the artists are not very consistent about portraying Xamot with the scar.  They are, however, consistent in portraying him with his hair parted on the left, and with his red sash going from the left shoulder to the right waist. Tomax is the opposite. (The sashes, I noticed, are reversed in later issues.)  A synopsis of the issue can be found here: http://www.yojoe.com/comics/joe/joe46.shtml

So onward to scene #1:


In this scene, Cobra Commander continues to lie to Professor Appel about the whereabouts of his daughter, Candy.  Xamot (his scar is obscured by the blurry scan) responds with a “Professor Appel doesn’t know his daughter is missing?” He seems surprised and even disapproving. Whether this is for a purely pragmatic reason…Appel might turn against Cobra when he finds out he’s being lied to (which in fact happened), or thinks that Cobra Commander is obligated to share the information from a moral standpoint is unknown. Tomax, meanwhile, says nothing. We don’t know whether or not share’s his brother’s view.

Scene #2

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A very pissed Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes have broken into Cobra Island and are searching for Zartan. Cobra Commander yells at the Crimson Twins for allowing the ninja to get that far. Tomax, not Xamot, responds with “Allow? Those two are just barreling through the best we have! Xamot! Bring up the Crimson Guards! We’ll form a human shield around the Commander!”

What I find interesting here is it’s Tomax, not Xamot, who is making the tactical decision here…and not for the last time in this chapter. He seems to have a more realistic assessment of the combat situation than Cobra Commander. Tomax seems to understand that they have little chance against two pissed ninja masters. He’s also giving orders to Xamot. It’s not a joint tactical decision between the two of them.

Scenes #3

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Several interesting things are happening on this page.  In the fourth panel, Cobra Commander gives away Zartan’s location (who is really Ripcord, but no one else but Appel has realized that). Xamot reacts with visible disgust. “Selling out a wounded man?” This seems to be too much for Xamot to stomach, even though he is certainly no saint himself.  It is also interesting because Tomax is not in that scene. The artistic focus is on Cobra Commander and a disgusted Xamot, while Tomax is off paneled. It almost seems to put the earlier comment about Cobra Commander lying to Appel about Candy in a different light. In both instances, Xamot was the one to express verbal disagreement to Cobra Commander’s face, while Tomax said absolutely nothing.

When we move to panel 5, we see where Tomax has gone.  Xamot had just started to suggest that he and Tomax take back the offensive in the previous panel…and then he’s shocked that the ninja are already gone in panel 5. Tomax, as we see here, is again ahead of his brother in calling the tactical shots. During the time that Xamot was busy being appalled at Cobra Commander (during which time he didn’t see the ninja leave), Tomax has already done the following: notice that the ninjas have escaped, went out of the hole to scope out the situation, came up with a new strategy, and issued orders.  That’s twice so far in the same issue that Tomax has been on top of the situation, while Xamot is lagging behind.

In panel 6, Xamot then jumps the gun. “If Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are on the lowest level, we’ve backed them into a corner! They’re trapped!” If their opponent were anyone else, this wouldn’t be an unrealistic assessment. Given that the opponents in question are Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, Xamot’s comment comes off as a bit optimistic and naive.  Again, it’s Tomax who seems to understand the tactical situation much better than his brother. In reaction to his brother’s hope that the ninja are cornered, Tomax retorts with a cynical “That means they’ll fight like cornered tigers!”

The body language of the twins here is also interesting. Xamot is standing out in the middle of the hallway and is completely exposed. He does have his gun in hand, because he’s not a complete moron. Tomax, on the other hand, is still crouched down next to the wall. He’s trying to maximize what little cover he has, because he knows the danger hasn’t passed.

These are very subtle differences, of course, but they do suggest some things about the twins:

Xamot is more reactive than Tomax.  He reacts to the comments about Appel’s missing daughter, while Tomax says nothing.  He reacts to Cobra Commander selling out a wounded man to certain death. He reacts to the ninjas’ disappearance and jumps the gun about their chance of winning. Tomax, meanwhile, is proactive. As soon as he sees that the ninja are heading their way, he makes command decisions. (And Xamot, as we saw, deferred to his brother and took orders from him.)  When the ninja disappear to find Zartan, he again is the one to immediately jump out the hole, assess everything, and make a new plan. By the time that Xamot is belatedly calling for an offensive action, Tomax has already taken care of shit. Xamot also seems to respond on a more emotional level. When human drama is involved, he’s the one responding to it. Tomax doesn’t seem to care at all, or at least he doesn’t let it get in the way of getting things done.

Of the two brothers, Xamot is also the slower to act in a firefight and grasp the tactical situation. Tomax, on the other hand, is more mentally and physically prepared for combat. He comes across as the more able tactician and combat leader in this issue. It really doesn’t come as a surprise then that Xamot is the one who ended up with a scar on his face.

These are of course just my thoughts after rereading this chapter and it’s possible I’m reading too much into it.  The author and artists may not have intended this reading at all. Given the fairly consistent portrayal of both twins in this issue though, it does make one wonder if it was intentional.  The differences portrayed are very subtle, which does make it interesting from a story telling perspective.