In the past year the “crimson faction” of Cobra has been growing by leaps and bounds. Hasbro has released a Crimson Guard Force, a Crimson Attack Tank, a Crimson Command Copter, and an Operation: Crimson Sabotage. Whereas once the crimson hue denoted the most elite of Cobra’s ranks it now seems to vie with the standard Cobra blue for dominance. Now, in a rather surprising twist, Cobra Commander himself switches over to crimson and he’s not only taken the Baroness along for the ride but he’s also brought some friends. Not to be outdone by Emperor Palpatine, the Commander has added his own Imperial Guards. So, does this set have me seeing red? Read on and find out.
Let me begin by saying that this figure is a straight-up repaint of the Cobra Commander previously released in Comic Pack #1. The only difference with this figure is the color scheme chosen—a weird orange-red that gives more of a “70’s couch vibe” than a crimson-clad ruler. The overall color scheme used isn’t bad but it isn’t as solid of a palette as was used on previous figures. The Commander’s boots and braid are now black, his belt is brown, and yet he still maintains the yellow stripe on the pants leg that was found in the earlier comic pack version. As a result the color scheme is almost a bit too busy for my tastes. The one area where this color scheme takes a swan dive is the simulated long black glove on the figure’s forearms. Rather than repaint the hands, or even use a different set of arms, Hasbro opted to simply mold the forearms in black plastic. The result is a figure that actually comes across as more of a knock-off than a real Hasbro release. It is this detail that actually keeps me from appreciating this figure to any great degree. He just feels like more of a Funskool product than something that came out of Pawtucket, RI.
The Commander’s accessories are rather slim: one chair and a cloth cape. The chair might look familiar to Star Wars fans as it was previously included in the Jedi Council playsets. It’s the same chair that was used by the Jedi Council members except that this time it has been painted red and black. (Heck, even the furniture is going “crimson” these days.”) I’ll admit that the chair works well in an “Austin-Powers-lounge-lizard” kind of way but by no stretch of the imagination is it an “imperial throne”. You can use the chair for a conference room, or a lounge, or any type of casual setting but don’t expect Cobra Commander to look terribly regal sitting on this tiny thing. The other included accessory is a cloth cape. This cape has the distinction of being the first real cape I can remember in the entire GIJoe line. It doesn’t fit over the shoulders as the old Star Wars and GIJoe capes did but rather around the neck of the figure. To adorn Cobra Commander with this fine raiment, however, requires disassembling the figure, slipping the cape around his neck, and then reassembling the figure. Nowhere on the package does it describe this process so any parents who buy this for children might be a bit puzzled as to just what to do with this.
I’ll be blunt: this is cape is gaudy. We’re not talking “loud Hawaiian shirt” gaudy but rather “is this guy Vegas or what?” gaudy. Gold trim, gold lightning bolts, red Cobra sigils, red Moray/Coil sigils, and red stars do not a subtle garment make. Honestly, I think the designers at Hasbro must have just returned from a fun-filled weekend in Las Vegas just before designing it. Nowhere else on earth (other than at Casa del Liberace) would this be considered a “simple and elegant” garment. So, when you pop this cloak on the Commander be prepared to have “Viva Las Vegas” stuck in your head for days. It’s the only possible explanation.
This is not the Baroness’ first foray into the world of Cobra Crimson. Just look back to the 2002 Collector’s Convention figure set and you’ll find the classic Baroness mold in crimson. This time, Hasbro opted to use the comic pack Baroness head instead of the original for a slightly different look. (I’m going to go out on a limb and state the head change was done so as not to conflict with the Master Collector exclusive figure.) Overall, there is very little difference between this figure and the one found in Comic Pack #1 save for the color. Other than the use of silver trim on her cuffs, a gold Cobra sigil instead of red and a black holster her paint apps are identical. It’s a good look for Anastasia DeCobray although I much prefer her in her signature black. The red used isn’t quite as “crimson” as that used in other figures and comes across a bit more “orange” than anything else. However, as far as repaints/recolors go this is a solid figure and one that I can see being used for “ceremonial purposes” around Cobra HQ. I almost wish that Hasbro had used one of the “new sculpt” bodies in order to better resemble the package artwork—simply because the rendition of the Baroness is stunning.
Cobra Imperial Guard:
When I first got this set I wasn’t too keen on the concept of the Imperial Guard. After all, we’ve already got the Crimson Guard, the Crimson Guard Immortals, the Crimson Guard Commanders, the Crimson Shadow Guard, and the Crimson twins. How many more layers of Cobra hierarchy and elite troops do we really need! In my Joe-verse I’d been using the Crimson Guard Immortals as Cobra Commander’s personal entourage. However, I can see what Hasbro was going for with these figures. Going back to the Star Wars analogy, these are Cobra’s version of the Imperial Guard. While the various CG’s can be sent out on missions or undercover operations, these are the troops who NEVER leave the Commander’s side. Once this concept became clear to me, I realized that I could integrate them into my Joe collection with ease.
I have to hand it to the designers at Hasbro; this is a frankensteined figure that makes complete sense to me. The upper torso of the Imperial Guard is that of the original battle armor Cobra Commander. After seeing how effective the original armor that was designed by Fred VII proved to be, the real Cobra Commander could have easily adapted this to his personal entourage. The head and lower body of the figure are that of the original Range Viper. The color scheme of the Guardsmen fits in with the rest of the set—red and gold. This choice of colors gives the troopers a very formal appearance; you can see these troops at Cobra rallies carrying the Cobra standard and keeping a watchful eye on the crowd. While I was never a huge fan of the original Range Viper design the reuse of the parts here works to product a figure that has both mass and intimidation factor. The Guardsmen are a bit light on accessories, coming equipped with only a Cobra standard on a ceremonial pole. The pole itself is based on the Cobra staff that came packaged with the first Cobra Commander of the GIJoe vs. Cobra relaunch and blends in stylistically with the rest of my Joe collection.
My only real grievance with this set is that it isn’t quite what the name implies. When I first read the term “Imperial Processional” I was thinking that this would be a Serpentor-based pack. In fact, this set could have been left pretty much “as is” by simply replacing the comic pack Cobra Commander for the comic pack Serpentor and adjusting the color scheme of the other figures accordingly. To truly make the set shine, simply substitute Dr. Mindbender for the Baroness and you’d have a killer exclusive set. This is not to say that this set doesn’t have its own merits but more a glimpse of what might have been. Also, as stated earlier, the "crimson" color of the set is a bit off-- and comes across as more of an orange hue than a red hue. I'm not certain why this wasn't fabricated in the same color as the Crimson Guard Force but it's not that distracting.
In the end, this set surprised me. I was dead-set against it originally and was walking out the store, prepared to leave it behind. However, when it comes to GIJoe I’m a weak-willed fool and once I purchased the set I began to see its value in any GIJoe collection. The Imperial Guardsmen are nice non-combat addition to Cobra, the Baroness represents another chance for those who missed the Convention Exclusive Baroness a few years ago, and the Cobra Commander figure is always good for a few gaudy laughs. So, for $20.00 you could do a lot worse for your money. I think that many a Joe fan will be pleasantly surprised by just how much they like this set.