REVIEW: G.I. JOE RETALIATION COBRA INVASION TEAM 3-PACK
Hasbro has crafted an extensive line of action figures and vehicles to accompany the G.I. JOE: REALIATION film. Some of which are actually featured in the movie, others not, but as long as they're cool toys, who really cares, right?
While most of the action figures for the Retaliation line are available on individual cards, this is not the case with all of them. There are a few interesting multi-packs, and this review will take a look at one such pack, the COBRA INVASION TEAM, a three-pack featuring long-established characters STORM SHADOW and FIREFLY, and a new Cobra trooper, the COBRA INVASION TROOPER.
Let's consider these figures individually, as well as, at least in the case of Storm Shadow and Firefly, their extensive histories within the concept.
STORM SHADOW - It was a given that Storm Shadow would certainly be part of the movies. Storm Shadow is easily one of the most popular characters in the G.I. Joe concept, despite not having been introduced into the line until its third year, in 1984.
Storm Shadow first turned up in the legendary "Silent Issue" of the original; Marvel Comic, #21, a tale which saw this new and mysterious white-garbed ninja, who was obviously in service to Cobra, abduct Scarlett, and bring her before Cobra Commander in a mysterious castle-like hideaway. To no great surprise, Snake Eyes went off to rescue her, infiltrating the castle, dealing with not only an assortment of Cobra troopers, but also a group of red-garbed ninjas that served Storm Shadow, to ultimately rescue Scarlett.
That might have been the extent of the story, except for the fact that during the battle, the sleeve of Snake Eyes' uniform was torn, revealing a strange tattoo on his lower right arm. Similarly, the wrapping around the lower right arm of Storm Shadow had come undone during the battle -- revealing the same tattoo. There was some sort of connection between Snake Eyes, who had already proven himself to be one of the most dangerous member of the G.I. Joe tTeam, and this new, mysterious ninja working for Cobra.
The story would take years to unfold fully. Years before the formation of the G.I. Joe team, the man who would become Storm Shadow, Thomas Arashikage, served alongside Stalker and Snake Eyes in a Long Range Recon Patrol unit in Southeast Asia. When Snake Eyes returned home, he discovered that his family had been killed in a traffic accident on the way to the airport to meet him. With nowhere else to go, he accepted a long-standing invitation from Arashikage to join his family business -- a family clan of ninjas in Japan.
Snake Eyes ultimately proved himself more adept at certain ninja skills than Arashikage, driving a wedge of bitterness between the two longtime friends. In fact, the leader of the ninja clan, the Hard Master, intended to name Snake Eyes his successor, rather than Storm Shadow. During a training session, however, an arrow, seemingly fired by Storm Shadow, killed the Hard Master. Storm Shadow was seen fleeing from the scene, later turning up allied with Cobra, while Snake Eyes went into seclusion in the United States after the ninja school fell apart. He was later recruited for the G.I. Joe team by his old buddy Stalker.
But the truth was more complex. Storm Shadow had not killed the Hard Master. It had been his arrow, true, but it had been fired from a compound bow by Zartan, who had infiltrated the ninja clan on orders from Cobra Commander. Storm Shadow's apparent fleeing the scene and subsequent alliance with Cobra was in order to ferret out the real assassin.
Over the years, Storm Shadow would switch sides on several occasions. Between finally putting his ghosts to rest, and yet subsequent exposure to Cobra brainwashing techniques, Storm Shadow served both the G.I. Joe team and Cobra on multiple occasions.
This is obviously not the character's movie origin. The first movie presents Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow training together as children, with Storm Shadow distinctly dedicated to Cobra. Here, they are deadly adversaries. It's generally made more dramatic sense to keep one super-ninja on each side of the conflict.
The original figure of Storm Shadow proved to be massively popular. So have all others since. The original 1984 figure represented Storm Shadow allied with Cobra. His next figure, in 1988, saw him allied with G.I. Joe. I can't think of too many times when an action figure has switched sides like that. Storm Shadow would remain allied with the G.I. Joe team throughout the remainder of the original run of the line, but most figure versions since then have allied the character with Cobra, regardless of events in the comics. This has included not only 3-3/4" figures, but 12" figures, as well as a presence in the Sigma Six line.
Storm Shadow has had literally dozens of figures over the years, and is one of a small handful of notably popular characters, including the likes of Duke, Snake-Eyes, Destro, and Cobra Commander, that have never been absent from any incarnation of G.I. Joe for any length of time.
So, how's the Storm Shadow figure in this three-pack? It's not bad, but I'll be honest -- in my opinion, it's the least interesting of the three. That's not a dig against the Storm Shadow figure. That's just how impressive the other two are.
Storm Shadow is, as expected, dressed predominantly in white, as is typical for him. But the uniform he's wearing doesn't so much resemble a ninja outfit, as it looks more like a somewhat futuristic cross between an arctic uniform and some sort of hazmat suit. Now, some of the trailers from the movie have shown some ninja battle scenes taking place along the sheer edge of some obviously high mountains. But, it's reasonable to assume that it's likely a little chilly up in those mountains, which might explain Storm Shadow's more protective-looking uniform.
The only exposed part of Storm Shadow's body is a narrow slit around the eyes. His head is covered in a white ski-mask that, oddly, has a dark grey area around the lower part of the face. I really can't fathom why this was done, and I have to say that it looks a little odd, like Storm Shadow has some sort of muzzle.
The rest of the uniform is almost entirely white, except for some dark gray panels on the sides of the jacket, and a red Cobra emblem on one side of the front. The figure is extremely well-detailed, with a visible zipper on the front of the jacket, surprisingly intricate sculpted stitching throughout the entire figure, and ridged detailing especially around the upper arms and wrists that do give Storm Shadow something of a ninja look to him. The figure also has a high collar, and nicely detailed laces on his shoes.
The only reason I say this figure is the least impressive of the lot is because of how very impressive the other two are. There's nothing at all wrong with this Storm Shadow figure, especially if you're looking for a Storm Shadow figure that looks very much like his live-action cinematic counterpart. In these respects, this is really a most excellent Storm Shadow figure. I have no complaints about him whatsoever.
FIREFLY - Here's another long-standing character, even if he's not quite on the same level as Storm Shadow. Interestingly enough, the original Firefly figure was introduced in the same year as Storm Shadow -- 1984.
Firefly was originally presented as a Cobra Saboteur. He was employed by them for pay, and had an impressive background in a wide range of underhanded pseudo-military operations. He turned up sporadically in the comic book, and just as sporadically in the animated series, but never seemed to entirely catch on to the same degree as other prominent characters of the time.
Then, in the early 1990's, in the pages of the Marvel comic, writer Larry Hama dropped a bombshell -- Firefly had been the Faceless Master of the Arashikage Ninja Clan. He had infiltrated the ninja clan, just as Zartan had done, under orders from Cobra Commander, in order to try to subvert it to his goals. This worked to a certain degree, as the Red Ninjas originally emanated from the Arashikage clan.
Firefly revealed all of this in a story in the comic book in which he also debuted his 1990's uniform, a rather garish outfit in bright green with gray trim. This was in rather dramatic opposition to his original uniform, which always impressed me. Firefly's original 1984 uniform was gray camouflage, and very military in appearance, despite clearly not being allied with the good guys. If nothing else, the ski mask was something of a giveaway.
The bright green uniform with the gray trim -- recolored to black trim the following year on the figure -- was a direct result of the brighter color schemes used on most of the figures during the final years of the original run. Fortunately, in the minds of many, this costume wouldn't have a lot of longevity as far as the character was concerned.
The original Firefly molds would soon return, and be recolored in a wide variety of ways in the ensuing years, especially as part of special sets, and even a few convention exclusives, during the 2002-2006 run of the line. Firefly would turn up in urban camouflage, jungle camouflage, crimson camouflage, and more.
Perhaps the most unusual use of the original Firefly molds would have been a different character entirely intended for the G.I. Joe Tiger Force team in 1988. Here, the character would have been named Sabre Tooth, but a number of last minute changes to the Tiger Force lineup eliminated the character. Years later, a similarly-colored character, also using the original Firefly molds, would turn up in a Tiger Force five-pack offered through Toys "R" Us. This time around, he was named Wreckage. A certain Marvel mutant likely nixed the previous name.
Firefly has remained a staple if not as prominent a part of the G.I. Joe universe since his introduction, and I've always been impressed with the classic look of the character, so I'm not at all sorry to see it included in the Retaliation line.
So, how's the figure? Absolutely spectacular. If you're looking for the ultimate modern incarnation of this well-known Cobra Saboteur, here it is.
The original, classic Firefly was dressed pretty well head to toe in a gray camouflage uniform. Various straps and belts were molded to the design of the original figure, which included assorted equipment. On the new modern Firefly, those straps, belts, and equipment are separate pieces, attached to the figure during assembly.
Now, let me throw in a disclaimer here. I'm not saying I prefer one version over another, or that I think one is superior to the other. I have and always will be a lifelong fan of the original Real American Hero line. Nothing will change that. That having been said, it's impossible not to be impressed by the procedure involved in making the various uniform and equipment pieces for many of these modern G.I. Joe figures as separate pieces. It does make for a very interesting and quite authentic look to the figures, especially given their small size.
You take one look at this Firefly figure and you know you're dealing with someone who means business, and it's not very pleasant business. The bright red Cobra emblem on the upper right sleeve leaves no doubt as to who's paying for his services. Here is Firefly in a modern version of his classic, iconic look. Here is the camouflage gray uniform, complete with ski mask revealing only a small area around his eyes.
Two straps are draped over his shoulders, attacked to a belt around his waist. A row of small pouches adorns the top of one of the belts, while a row of olive gray grenades adorns the other. Two intricately detailed explosives packs are secured to the belt. Be advised, these are detachable and are small enough to be easily lost. Several larger pouches are also on the belt.
Firefly has a holster on his left leg that has a removable pistol in it. His right leg has a pouch and some sort of device mounted to it. His lower right leg has a knife sheath just above the boot, with a small removable knife.
The detail level is astounding on everything. Every strap, belt, buckle, and shoelace has been sculpted with astounding detail and precision. Even the undersides of the boots have an impressive tread pattern. This is not only the most impressive modern figure version of Firefly you could possibly ask for, it's one of the most impressive modern-style G.I. Joe figures I've ever encountered, and certainly one of the most impressive transitions from classic figure to modern figure formats that I've seen. I really believe it would be impossible for any fan of the modern G.I. Joe line to be disappointed with this Firefly.
COBRA INVASION TROOPER - Here we have the new guy -- or rather, the new trooper division. And this is one of those times where it's just a little aggravating to have a trooper figure included in a set with two individual characters, because if you want to "army-build" the Cobra Invasion Trooper, you would have to buy more full sets (although I suspect he'll be turning up on the secondary market). And that's unfortunate, because this is a cool new trooper character.
There's not a lot we can know about him. Alas, the Retaliation line doesn't do the traditional G.I. Joe file cards. There's no shortage of history on Storm Shadow and Firefly to work with, but there's nothing on these guys.
We can make some inferences, however. The name "Cobra Invasion Trooper" would tend to imply that these guys are likely the first ones to enter an area that Cobra is interesting in conquering. They're the ones who will make Cobra's presence felt and try to establish a position for the troops that follow. This concept is further reinforced by the fact that the Cobra Invasion Trooper is also -- a paratrooper.
For the longest time, Cobra didn't have a dedicated paratrooper force. And you'd think they would've gotten around to one, because certainly the G.I. Joe team had them. Airborne, a Helicopter Assault Trooper, had package art that made him look as though he was descending from the sky via parachute. And that was in 1983, the second year of the line. In 1984, a HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) Trooper named Rip Cord joined the G.I. Joe team, and was actually prominently featured in their stories for some time. Some years later, another paratrooper named Free Fall joined the team.
None of these figures had working parachutes, but you could buy a working parachute pack via mail order. And then in 1990, along came Sky Patrol, a special team of six G.I. Joes, all of whom did come with working parachutes.
All the while -- nothing from Cobra. The closest thing they had was the fact that they'd kick squadrons of Battle Android Troopers out of low-flying helicopters and let the robots take their chances,
Finally, a few years back, Cobra got a dedicated paratrooper force, Known as Para-Vipers, it was a spectacular figure with astounding detail, a truly remarkable trooper addition for Cobra, and one that was even recolored for use in the line from the first movie.
Now, we have the Cobra Invasion Trooper -- and he even comes with a working parachute!
So, how's the figure? Truly superb. The Cobra Invasion Trooper is fairly basic in appearance, and yet at the same time rather distinctive. While not overly complex, neither does he resemble any other established Cobra trooper division.
The Invasion Trooper is wearing a gray headpiece that looks like an extended ski mask as much as anything., with a bit more sculpted detail. Only an area around his eyes reveals any part of his head, the the mask drapes partway down his chest. Unfortunately, something about the sculpt, or the mounting joint to the neck, has given the figure a rather peculiar "long-necked" look, especially when viewed from the side, but it's not all that serious a fault. The figure comes with a black helmet to wear, as well as a faceplate that attaches to the front of his head, for those parachute jumps.
The Invasion Trooper is wearing a dark red, really burgundy-colored bodysuit. He's not going to be mistaken for a Crimson Guard. It's a darker red than that, and yet the color also really reflects Cobra. The suit has quite a number of pouches sculpted into the design. Two on the upper arms have been painted in a very dark gray, as have small pads on his elbows. A slightly lighter gray has been used on his gloves, armored-looking knee pads, and boots. Those knee pads are doubtless an aid for those bumpier landings. Sculpted detail on the entire figure is excellent, right down to the boot laces.
The Invasion Trooper is wearing a parachute pack, which is designed to have the working parachute rigged to it. Instructions come with the set, and I'm not going to get into it all here, because I honestly don't intend to test the figure. This is one of those "throw it high, hope the parachute opens, and watch it drift back down". I had a toy like that when I was about five. The figure wasn't a G.I. Joe and it wasn't even poseable, but it was fun for what it was.
About the only odd point with the figure is that the parachute pack that he's wearing, which is black, very impressive in its design, and complete with a bright red Cobra emblem on the front of the pack, is that it has these two long straps in the back that stick straight up. Now, this is fine and well if the figure is actually parachuting. But, with his feet on the ground, it looks rather silly. Fortunately, the straps are flexible, and I have discovered that if you cross them and tuck them behind the straps on the back of the figure, they'll stay down. This makes for a better display figure that won't look like he's using those straight-up straps to test for tunnel clearances on roadways or something...
Everybody comes with an impressive amount of accessories. Storm Shadow comes with a pair of swords, a bow, a quiver, and an arrow. The Cobra Invasion Trooper comes with his parachute -- which I might add is made from fabric, not just some sort of lightweight, cellophane-like plastic, but actual fabric, a rifle, a pistol, a walkie-talkie, a pair of goggles, and a protective face mask. Firefly comes with enough hardware to outfit a small munitions depot, including two small knives, several firearms, an additional protective vest (like the poor guy isn't weighted down enough as it is), a backpack, and -- you get the idea. Of course, some of this stuff can probably be traded from one figure to another as you see fit. It all appears to be very well made and nicely detailed, and I'm especially impressed with the parachute with the big Cobra emblem on it.
Of course, all of the figures are superbly articulated. I'd like to say that goes without saying, but it really doesn't these days. They are superbly articulated. Their painted details have also been very well done.
So, what's my final word? This is an extremely impressive set of G.I. Joes -- or rather Cobras. Storm Shadow is a little odd, but still is a very impressively-detailed figure. Firefly is absolutely astounding. And the Cobra Invasion Trooper makes for a very cool new addition to the ever-growing ranks of Cobras diverse armies. I only wish he was available individually.
The trailers for G.I. JOE RETALIATION look great, and as of this writing I'm looking forward to seeing the movie. Doubtless I will have done so by the time you read this, and I hope you will have, too. But regardless, if you're looking for an impressive trio of Cobras to add to your collection, look no further. Here they are!
The COBRA INVASION TEAM from G.I. JOE RETALIATION definitely has my highest recommendation!