NOTE: This “tag team” review features text by both Fred “Leonardo T Dragon” and Justin “General Hawk” Bell. Fred’s text appears in standard text while Justin’s will be rendered in bold.
If there is one issue of GIJoe that has made a truly lasting impression upon the comic world it is Larry Hama’s excellent “Silent Interlude”, Marvel Comics GIJoe: A Real American Hero #21. Copied countless times, both by Mr. Hama and the industry, the original issue is one of the most effective and stylish issues of comics that I have ever read. Even without the nostalgia factor, the amount of story-telling found in this completely dialogue-free issue puts many current comic issues to shame. It seems only fitting that such a fan-favorite issue be given the 25th Anniversary treatment as part of the debut wave of comic packs and the result is a pack that is, for the most part, quite successful. Of course, my Northeastern compatriot might have a different take on this entirely. Justin?
Well, it’s sort of tough to label a Comic Pack with yet another Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow as “successful”, because it’s going to draw the ire of many collectors out there, but I think for what they had to work with Hasbro was able to make some nice changes and give us more than just yet another Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, even though the figures are, in fact, just another Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.
There’s really only so much that Hasbro can do to create variability in the debut 25A Snake Eyes mold. It’s already been issued in gray and black and has also been used as the basis for several other figures including Hawk and Stalker. Yet, this comic pack version is one that I find surprisingly more interesting that I would have thought possible—especially given how simple the changes are. Rather than black or gray, the Joe team’s premiere commando is clad head-to-toe in blue. There are some black highlights found on the various molded straps and on the knife sheath on the right leg and the figure’s visor is painted silver but otherwise the figure is entirely navy blue. (If only the comic pack #24 Cobra Commander had shared this color scheme!) Now, some fans are probably scratching their heads over the use of blue; after all, isn’t Snake Eyes always shown wearing black? The reason is simple—black-costumed characters in comics are almost always colored a dark blue in order for the character to actually be seen on the page. (This is especially effective when drawing him against shadows, etc.) This technique was especially common in the 1980’s when the “Silent Issue” made it’s debut on stands. As such, the figure has a very “Sunbow” look to him that actually works well for the character design. I can’t really explain why but I find that this figure is actually one of my favorites from the entire first wave and I’ve found myself appreciating the dark blue color scheme more than I have the all-black look found on the 2008 wave 1 version. The rest of the figure’s gear is exactly the same as was found in the previous two releases of this particular figure with the exception of a yellow-painted hand grenade found on the harness. (Perhaps it contains the hair dye for the #24 Duke figure?) So, what are you thoughts on the navy clad Commando, Justin?
I have to agree, for sure. You’re spot on, Fred, comics and cartoons use a deep, dark blue often times in order to represent black, so Hasbro chose to replicate that feeling here. The results are twofold:
First of all, it gives Snake Eyes a new look, which is pretty cool. The same old black uniform can get a little old after a while, so it’s always nice to see how a figure like this looks with a slightly different color pallet. The blue and black work off of each other pretty nicely to give you a nicely different version of Snake Eyes.
A nice little side effect to this is that Snake Eyes first appeared in the Sunbow cartoon in a blue uniform (with bare hands). This look ended up being pretty unique, and this version of the figure also duplicates that pretty nicely. It gives him a pretty unique “old school” cartoon appearance which is a nice homage.
Last of all, this figure as is, could also present a nice base to make a new COBRA Commando out of. With this dark blue, I could see a COBRA Trooper head popped on here with the helmet and you could end up with a nice covert operations COBRA Commando as a nice bonus. Yes, this is just another Snake Eyes, and yes, this is the umpteenth time we’ve seen this tooling used in less than a year, but the end result is actually fairly appealing and I like the figure pretty well.
Much like Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow is given a minimum of paint applications and the result is surprisingly effective. The figure is molded entirely in white plastic with the face, arms, and hands painted in flesh tone. There is a red Cobra sigil over the figure’s heart but otherwise is completely free of any major paint applications. Normally I’d look at this figure and bemoan how it is an almost “lazy” approach to releasing a figure but for Storm Shadow that lack of paint actually works. I find the plain white of this figure’s uniform completely evocative of the original ARAH era Storm Shadow figure whose only color was found on his black sash and painted weapons, as well as his Cobra sigil. In many ways this comic pack figure is much closer to that original figure than the first 25A figure was—and as such I find myself preferring this version over that original. While it might seem odd that Tommy is wearing white sandals over his white socks, the stark nature of the figure’s color scheme working to set him up more as the yang to Snake Eyes yin. I’m not entirely sold on the use of blue for the belt and quiver sash but overall it works well to compliment and not overpower the very basic nature of this character design. So, what should have been written off as a “lazy re-release” is instead a very solid figure in its own right. Justin might think I’m off my rocker but that’s just my opinion.
Eh, I’m not quite as excited about Storm Shadow as Fred is, but I can see the appeal. Personally I kind of like the off-white more “realistic” look of the original Storm Shadow in the COBRA Battles 5-Pack and I’m not quite sold on the “whiter than white” update in the comic pack. The blu-ish belt and weapons handles all end up looking a bit too cartoony for my tastes, and don’t necessarily represent how the figure or gear would look on the comic page. In the end he’s just too similar to the original Storm Shadow and all of the paint changes that are made were kind of for the worse.
I can see from a certain perspective how folks might like the brighter more vibrant white color, but to me, I kind of prefer a more “real world” look in that case. Perhaps with black belts instead of blue, the brightness of the base color might appeal to me more, but as it stands, I just prefer the original 5-Pack version over this one.
If there is a real downside to this package it is found in the use of those dreaded clear rubber bands that hold the figures gear in their hands. Storm Shadow seems to fare the worse of the two due to the positioning of his swords and removing him from the package actually requires a bit of care to not further warp or damage the pommels of his daisho. The wakizashi fared the worse of the two swords as there are white stress marks along the base of the handle. Also both of the sword blades are warped to the point of comedy—giving the impression of rubber props as opposed to “blades of the Arashikage”. I understand the need to pose the figures in more dynamic positions in the packaging but I really grow tired of warped accessories and warped knees. (The softer plastic used in Snake Eyes’ double knee joints is also distorted by the packaging.) I don’t know exactly how to alleviate this packaging issue and still maintain the dramatic presentation of the comic packs but a better way has to exist.
When this pack was first announced I rolled my eyes and wondered just what I was going to do with yet another pair of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow figures. After all, Snake Eyes has seemingly become the Wolverine of the GIJoe line with a new figure appearing about everything third wave of so. Yet I find myself sitting down as I have on more than one occasion and eating a bit of crow as this comic pack is quite possibly my favorite of the debut wave. The blue Snake Eyes stands out enough from those that have come before him that he’s surprisingly fun and exciting. Storm Shadow, whose paint scheme is practically non-existent when compared to the Cobra Legions version, is functionally basic—and surprisingly evocative of his original version. While I’m positively giddy with excitement over the forthcoming wave 3 #21.5 “Silence without Borders” pack, I’m actually happy that Hasbro released this particular comic pack and will even go so far as to say that I prefer it over the previous Valor vs. Venom era #21 comic pack. Justin’s opinion might be wildly different but that’s just one Joe fan’s take on things.
I couldn’t agree more with Fred on the rubber band issue. In fact, the lower legs of my Snake Eyes were so negatively impacted by the rubber band and position of the figure, that he could not stand upright when I first got him out of his package. The plastic in the leg was actually distorted around the knee “peg” to the point that it could have snapped off at the knee. This can’t be considered good business practice. I can understand the need for marketing appeal and making your package desirable to customers as they walk by, but I’m not sure sacrificing the structural integrity of the item itself is the best way to “sell” it.
I find myself drawn to the Snake Eyes far more than I expected to be, but Storm Shadow still doesn’t excite me a whole lot. While this pack is better as a whole than the Duke/COBRA Commander 2-Pack was, in the long run, I think the inclusion of Hawk puts Issue #1 on top.