The G.I. Joe team has a widely varied roster. If you asked 10 Joe fans to identify their core characters you’d probably end up with 10 pretty varied lists. Sure, there’d be some commonalities but there would also be a tremendous amount of variance. With Cobra, the task becomes much simpler. Sure, Cobra is a “ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world” but it’s also comprised primarily of faceless troopers. However, I’d be willing to bet that Storm Shadow would end up on most fan lists for a variety of reasons. For one thing, he’s one of the most menacing of all of Cobra Commander’s forces. Secondly, he’s a ninja who has been involved in some of the most amazing story sequences in G.I. Joe history. (Hello? He once rode a shark!) Lastly, he’s had a tremendous amount of story time devoted to developing his character over all of the incarnations of G.I. Joe media. Apparently the film producers have felt the same way and Thomas Arashikage returns in G.I. Joe Retaliation! Rather than simply releasing previous cinematic versions of the character Hasbro opted for a complete design overhaul for the debut wave of Retaliation figures. Is this figure a replacement for the previous versions or just another in a long line of new versions? Read on and find out one Joe fan’s opinion!
Sometimes the old adage is true: less is more. This version of Storm Shadow is design with a very simple yet modern look that does wonders in breathing new life into a character that has seen heavy exposure in the brand over the past few years. The body design is simple: slim form-fitting high collared shirt, roomier flowing pants and limbs that are protected with sculpted metal forearm and shin guards and kneepads. The upper body features some gray highlights along the sides of the torso and collar and a red Cobra sigil just above the heart. It’s an incredible simple design that is made very modern by the details in the tooling. The pants are sculpted with folds that appear to offer more room at the knees than the hips while the rest of the limbs have few lines—suggesting a more tight fit. The guards over the lower legs appear light and strong, wrapping only the areas that would be used in a defensive block. At the risk of sounding like I have some sort of foot fetish, the figure has THE most detailed feet I’ve seen yet on a Joe—with sculpted detailing on both the top and bottom of the socks. It’s a fantastic figure design that is made all the better by the full range of “Joe motion” plus rocker ankles and hinged wrists. It’s a body that is both modern and practical to my eyes and I love it!
In terms of head sculpt, there’s not much to talk about. Storm Shadow’s face is covered once again with only his eyes visible behind the white cowl. His expression seems incredibly focused from the set of his brow and I find myself impressed by just how effective this is. I’m reminded of the mask from one of my favorite cheesy 60’s movies: Danger: Diabolik which featured a masked hero with incredibly striking eyes. The look works to further bring Storm Shadow firmly into the 21 st century. My only issue with the figure itself is the height at which the head sits on the necks. Due to the high collar on the torso, Thomas Arashikage’s head is higher than it would normally be to achieve the full unrestricted range of motion. It’s not something that is immediately noticeable until you’ve spent some time with the figure but I feel it’s worth noting here. It does precious little if anything to diminish my appreciation of this latest incarnation of Storm Shadow.
As I stated earlier in this review: less is more. This statement applies not only to the figure’s design but also to Storm Shadow’s included gear. The Cobra ninja is packaged complete with a small back pack, a daisho set, and a kid-friendly rope and sky hook. To G.I. Joe fans the swords should come as no surprise; the design of the blades is simple with the only sculpted details found on the sword handles. The tiny backpack, however, has a surprising amount of detail that gives it a modular hi-tech look. I’m probably reaching as the piece is barely larger than some pistols we’ve seen in the line but it really is an effectively designed accessory that compliments the minimalistic modern design of the character. The more I look at it, the more I like it and I find that it’s a shame that this figure is most like completely “off model” from the character’s appearance in the film.
As far as the sky hook goes, it’s something that I would have loved as a kid when I’d run twine between pieces of furniture in the living room and then fashion hooks out of paper clips for my Star Wars and G.I. Joe figures to use as they slid from chair-to-table and back again with the swashbuckling daring of Errol Flynn. If Hasbro is inclined to build in an action feature for the kids, this is the way to do it—as an included accessory rather than a gimmick built into the figure that reduces its overall play value. While I’ve not spent more than a few minutes with it myself I can see this as the type of included gear that younger Joe fans will love.
Now it’s time to answer the question: should fans pick up this figure. Absolutely! Of all of the various repaints of this mold that I’ve seen coming in the line this is my favorite. The design is what I’d expect from a modern ninja—simple and practical, completely efficient. The stark contrast between the overall white and the few painted gray and silver details is a triumph of elegant design. Many Joe fans have decried that the Renegades Storm Shadow is the finest version of the character ever produced and, while this may hold true for his vintage look, I find myself coming back to this figure time and time again. There’s just something about this design that takes Tommy Storm Shadow and brings him out of the 80’s and firmly into “now.” It’s also everything that the Rise of Cobra design wasn’t—practical, useful, and believable. So, if you can’t tell by now I’m going to say it now: If you only pick up one Storm Shadow figure from this entire line, this is the one to get! Of course, that’s just one Joe fan’s opinion.
End result: This is one of the best Storm Shadow figures released in years and a great addition to any collection. Snag it when you see it!