There some stories that one can’t help but revisit over time and there are others that can be read merely once in a lifetime. There was a time when I would re-read the omnibus of “Dragonlance: Chronicles” by Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss once a year; each summer I’d pull out the giant-sized soft cover edition of the book and revisit the familiar characters and landscapes that had so captured my imagination years before. The same holds true for certain comic issues—Joe Kelly’s initial run on “Deadpool”, various points in Chris Claremont’s “Uncanny X-Men”, and the first fifty issues of Larry Hama’s run on “GIJoe: A Real American Hero” are all spans of issues that I’ve read time and time again over the years. When Hasbro first announced that the 25 th Anniversary line would carry over into comic packs, I was originally a bit dismayed. After all, Hasbro had already released a fairly successful line combining updated classic figures and reprints of the now-legendary Marvel run. As a fan I didn’t really see the need to revisit some of these characters and stories yet again in just a new form. Thankfully, the team in Pawtucket had a surprise in store for fans—and that was in the form of new stories by Larry Hama! Anything to add, Justin?
It seems as if the boys in Rhode Island just seem to know what the fans want these days. No doubt that’s due in part to the increased levels of communication we are all sharing with the Q & A sessions, the Convention interaction, etc… however it manifests itself, the G.I. Joe design and marketing team these days has a great concept of what we’re looking for. They always have certain sacrifices they have to make, and certain retail dictations they have to cater to, but they manage to make a lot of the right decisions, and this was simply a no-brainer. Having Larry Hama pen NEW stories for these Joe figures was a simple stroke of genius, and I’m excited to see it.
This first batch of Comic Packs takes a “between the issues” perspective, asking Larry to write stories that take place “off panel” so to speak, and the results are somewhat mixed.
Cobra Ninja (Storm Shadow):
I’m going to come out and just say it—I have a hard time reviewing this figure without falling back on “in previous reviews”. We’ve seen this body seven times now if you count the single-carded wave 4 releases as a separate occurance. While I liked it well enough in the first Cobra battle pack, I loved it as the v2 single-carded figure, thought it worked well as a Red Ninja, LOVED it in the Cobra Legions set, bought one for MOC purposes in the single-carded version, gained a new appreciation for it in the previous comic pack, and now find myself completely out of things to say. In a nutshell, this is the same figure as the very first version with a few small differences. First off, the head, wrist wraps, shin wraps, and belt are painted a rust-brown color. It’s the same color scheme as the first release of Storm Shadow right down to the Cobra sigil on the chest. I can only speculate that the changes to the color scheme are meant to more fully integrate the included cloth cape into the character design. There’s really not much else to say about this figure—not that it is any way a poorly designed repaint but mostly because I’m just really tired of seeing the Storm Shadow mold any more. It’s hard to find new and interesting things to say about a design where it pretty much is IDENTICAL to something that I’ve acquired multiple times in as many months. Anything more to add on the character design Justin?
I’ve gotta back up Fred on this, because let’s face it, this figure as already been reviewed ad infinitum. Storm Shadow was probably my very favorite figure of the first two 5-Packs, but at this point it’s a lot of “been there, done that”. Proportions are good, articulation is nice, yadda yadda yadda. But at this point we all realize that tooling needs to be reused in order to gain financial mileage out of these molds. And, in all honesty, if we have to see Storm Shadow countless times, I think they are doing a good job of at least spicing up each of these figures.
We could have gotten yet another Storm Shadow figure in this comic pack, but instead Hasbro manufactured a terrific cloth cloak and added some coloring to give him a very “Zartain in disguise” vibe. It’s stuff like this that shows just what a sense of Real American History these guys have. They know their stuff, and they’re able to pluck a pretty small event in the 25 year history and use it to give us an interesting figure, even if it is the 7 th time we’ve seen it. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t add a whole lot of new flavor, even though the cloak is pretty darn cool in it’s own right.
This figure does have one truly redeeming aspect and this is the addition of the “high tech” bow to the character’s kit. Fans of the Marvel Comics GIJoe: A Real American Hero series are going to immediately recognize this as the bow that killed the Hard Master in the flashbacks in issue #26. A mysterious cloaked assassin makes an “impossible shot” with a bow & arrow, killing the surrogate father to the man who would become the GIJoe team’s premiere commando and all signs point to Storm Shadow as the killer; this was the basis for a back story that spanned much of the original Marvel run. Only later in the series was the assassin first thought to be Zartan but later revealed as the enigmatic Firefly! This figure, while intended as Storm Shadow for the purpose of the included comic pack, nearly perfectly captures the look of that killer that changed Snake Eyes’ life that fateful day—right down to the very weapon that made the shot. Complete with molded “sound amplification & imaging gear”, the compound bow is molded with the arrow already drawn—which is great for a static action pose. The figure does have some difficulty actually holding the weapon due to some of the design limitations of the body as well as the incredibly wide “draw” of the bow string. However, fans of the comic are going to be very pleased with this nod to an issue that sparked on of the greatest “reveals” in the entire Marvel run. I do wish that the fletching and the shaft weren’t painted bright yellow but that’s a personal preference. There’s not much to add about the cloth cloak—mostly because it’s a cloth cloak. While I do like the inclusion of cloth accessories in smaller scale figures, the disproportionate density of the material at this scale never allows the fabric to fall properly over the figures like it would at human scale. The result is that the cloth ends up a bit stiff looking—however I prefer it over a rubber cape any day. Thoughts on the gear, Justin?
As Fred and I both pointed out, the gear pretty much makes the figure, though it could have been done a bit better. Yeah, we’ve got yet another version of Storm Shadow’s backpack here (which can’t be worn with the cloak) as well as his swords. But the shining point of his accessory compliment definitely has to be the brown cloak. I remember back in the day when Joe fans were buying lots of “Episode One” accessory packs just to get nice brown jedi cloaks for their customs, and now they can at least buy Joe products to get the same thing. Of course, the $10.00 Comic Pack is a bit pricier than the $5 accessory pack, but at least it’s out there. ;)
The compound bow I’m a bit mixed on. I LOVE the sculpt for it, and it looks very accurate to the source material, with the sound-scope and everything. But I must admit the blue and yellow colors leaves me a bit mixed. I know Hasbro feels to need to “comicize” this stuff a little bit, but I do wish the bow colors were toned down just a bit.
In some ways the permanent “pulled back” sculpt of the bow is cool, but in other ways, not so much. It makes it look great while in position, but it’s tough to pose this guy “at rest” because of the way the bow is sculpted. Still, the design team did a great job at least finding some way to make this figure a bit more marketable, even if it feels like we’re sort of getting beaten over the head with it.
GIJoe Ninja (Snake Eyes):
I’ll be honest—I like this figure far more than I thought I would. Personally, I’m starting to get a bit tired of this mold as I’ve now seen it released four times with various tweaks and changes. Snake Eyes v1 has been released in gray, black, and even blue and the thought of one more release just about made my head explode. Unless something drastic was done to the mold or the character, I felt that Snake Eyes was a bit “played out”. Hasbro, however, stepped up to the plate and offered us a visually interesting departure from the standard release. For once, there is a figure of the Joe team’s premiere commando that shows him on the receiving end of the punishment that he usually deals out on those familiar sepent-sporting soldiers. Snake Eyes’ shirt has been torn, as has the left sleeve, revealing a pale scarred body underneath. In fact, the right arm is almost completely bare with just a few sculpted “tatters” of material as the wrist, elbow and shoulder. The left arm seems to have fared better with a few tears at the forearm and shoulder. On the chest, the right pectoral is visible as are the lower rib cage. It’s a stark contrast to the previously monochromatic versions of the figure released and its one that, in my opinion, saves this comic pack from being “just another Snake Eyes rehash”. Heck, I even like the color scheme of the uniform—with its charcoal gray hue and black highlights. While a lot of fans clamored for an all-black version of the character I find this one far more visually interesting and would almost be willing to see an “undamaged” version in this same color scheme. Besides, gray is much better for night time camouflage than straight black. Justin might feel differently but that’s just my take on this version of Snake Eyes.
Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are going to be constants of the line, and it’s something that fans will just have to learn to accept. They’re far and away the two most iconic characters in the Joe mythos and we’re just going to have to accept this. If Hasbro is going to keep churning these out, the least they can do is make the figures a little different and interesting. With Snake Eyes they have succeeded in spades. They managed to reuse quite a bit of tooling, but also really put some new tooling in there to make this a totally new figure. For whatever reason, back in the vintage days it was never really about “display” or “scenes” to me…it was much more about a functional, fun figure that could belong in any situation. With the Anniversary stuff, I’ve become a big fan of “scene” or “mythos” oriented displays, so I love the idea of having a battle damaged Snake Eyes. The sculpted torn cloth on his torso and both sleeves looks amazing. They did terrific work on that. Sure, the painted cuts and scars underneath look a bit iffy, but the cloth uniform is amazingly well sculpted. It ends up taking yet another Snake Eyes and makes him a very cool new figure. I like it a lot.
When it comes to accessories, there’s nothing to see here. It’s the same kit that Snake Eyes has been issued three times before—with one exception. This time around, “Ole Snakes’” demolitions satchel is now sporting a Cobra logo—a souvenir of an encounter with a Cobra trooper. (Gee, I wonder who came out on top.) Other than this small difference, nothing to see here… move along.
Count me in one this one…the accessories are very cool. Great Uzi, nice knife, cool pistol and webgear, but we’ve gotten it time and time again, and this time around it’s no different.
There was one final addition to this comic pack that had me more excited that the prospect of either of the new figures—the included comic. Previously, Hasbro has included reprints of classic Marvel (and one Devil’s Due) issues that showcased the figures included in the set. However, at the 2007 Collector’s Convention in Atlanta, GA Hasbro shocked the fandom by revealing that not only was Larry Hama back on board as part of the GIJoe team but he was also going to be writing brand new stories for inclusion in the comic pack series. This issues, dubbed #21.5 “Silence Between Borders”, fills in the gaps between the pages of the now-classic “Silent Interlude” and helps to flesh out the story even more. While it doesn’t necessarily add anything ground-breaking to the story, it serves well as a companion piece to the fast-paced action of the original story and explains some of the minor details that fans had mused over for years. The one issue I do have with this particular comic is that it would have been nice to have Larry Hama provide the pencils as well as the story for this particular issue. Larry generated the artwork for the original and having him provide the art once more would have given this issue a more seamless integration into the original story. I do know that sharp-eyed fans out there are probably already working on a “complete #21” as I type this—scanning both #21 and #21.5 and putting all of the panels into true chronological fashion. I know that I’ve been tempted to do so myself. Thoughts on the included comic, Justin?
First of all, I love the fact that Larry is writing comics again, and is basing them heavily on the vintage continuity. This issue, though, was VERY hard to follow, at least for me. Fred is right, if you can somehow combine Issue #21 and 21.5 into one cohesive issue, it would probably work a lot better, but as it stands, it’s a tough read for me, without having #21 in hand to read right along with it. In that purpose, it does a good job, but as a standalone book, it’s simply too tough to follow, in my opinion. I do like how they integrate the new Storm Shadow uniform design and bow into the comic book, but in this case, this book just kind of ends up as a compliment, not something that sells me on buying the pack. The art is a bit iffy as well, which doesn’t help.
Comic Pack #21.5 is a bit of a mixed back for me. On one hand I’ve now got a brand-new comic from Larry Hama and a surprisingly cool repaint/retool of Snake Eyes that is far more impressive that I’d have originally thought. There is also the new bow accessory to be considered. On the other hand I’ve got yet another Storm Shadow figure with slightly different colors that don’t work too well w/o the included cloak. In the end, I can say that fans of the line will want to pick up this issue for the comic, Snake Eyes, and the bow. However, as I’ve already seen evidence of at retail, this is going to be the “peg warmer” of this wave in stores. I know that some marketing research somewhere probably tells the execs at Hasbro that Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are the “Wolverines” of the GIJoe brand and that kids will want to buy them at every opportunity that they have. Personally, I don’t see it and I can’t see parents finding themselves willing to continually purchase the same figures over and over again for their children. If there is a comic pack to be skipped in this wave, this would be the one. I think my own malaise in writing up the review is something that a great many fans are going to experience with regard to this particular set of characters. Justin might disagree with me, but I’m not willing to bet money on it.
No I’m right there with you, Fred. As much as I love the Anniversary stuff, and as much as I understand why Hasbro has to reuse tooling and get more mileage out of their molds, it makes reviewing these figures increasingly difficult. I can sometimes find it tough to fill a couple pages with a toy review anyway, but something I’ve already reviewed 6 times? Yeah, good luck on that one. It was tough to get fired up for this review, but hopefully it’s opened your eyes a little bit and helped you make your buying decision.
The comic, as long as you can read it intertwined with the standard issue #21, it’s entertaining (though it doesn’t necessarily add anything new), but I was very surprised at how much I like the Snake Eyes. Storm Shadow isn’t real exciting, but at least he serves as a decent homage to the Ninja-garbed Zartan from deep into his backstory. All in all, it ends up being a decent set, but by no means a “must own”.