I’ve officially died and gone to heaven. Let me explain—when I was younger I played GIJoe just about every chance I got. I had a good collection of Joes and a smaller army for Cobra; by “smaller”, I mean I had one Cobra solder, one Crimson Guard and one BAT. All the rest of my Cobra troops were named characters such as Destro, Firefly, Scrap Iron, etc. Therefore, whenever I staged a battle my one Cobra soldier was always captured, killed, etc. Well, thanks to Hasbro and Toys R Us, all the army-builders who are compensating in their adult years for lack of troops during their childhood can rejoice. The Cobra Infantry Forces are here!
What amazes me most about this set (aside from getting 6 figures for $20.00) is how closely the new sculpts resemble the originals. The Cobra Officer in set is virtually identical in uniform to the original. The straps, pouches—they’re all there. The only difference is the raised sigil on the original officer’s helmet is not found in the new version. Also, the color scheme varies slightly—with the newer version have more painted details than the original. The Cobra sigil on the chest is slightly different; the design is now composed of two paint applications using a black layer over a red background to compose the Cobra. Also note that the metal rivets have been painted to match the body color.
The Cobra soldiers are just as closely matched to the original versions as the officers. The torsos are virtually identical as are the legs, waist and hips. The single biggest difference is found in the arms. The newer version feature tailored cuffs and does not have the ammunition and straps on the forearms. It appears that every figure in this set uses the same set of arms and if that’s a cost-cutting measure that allowed us to get six figures in the set versus five then I’m all for it. It’s a minor detail, but one that purists will surely notice.
There are two major areas where the figures really differ from the original versions: paint applications and head sculpts. One painting difference has already been described—the two paint application Cobra sigil. The most noticeable difference is found on the arms of the figures. All of the Cobra troopers now sport a unit patch on the right shoulder and a rank insignia on the left. We can now clearly tell who the grunts are and who the officers are. Better yet, we’ve now got a rank structure for the officers—it’s all found on the left arm! Lastly, the various scarves worn by the troops are different. Grunts have black, the XO has brown and the commander is sporting red.
The next big difference is the head sculpts. The original soldiers had a very round head while the newer versions are more oval-shaped. If you ask me, the new heads are much more realistic, as are the skin tones used. Cobra is no longer composed entirely of caucasian males-- now an African-American soldier has been added to the mix. Even better yet, not all Cobra troopers have the same hair color-- blonde, brunette, and red-heads are all represented.
The single most interesting difference is found in the commanding figure in each set. Fans of the Marvel Comics series will recognize him immediately—Scarface, the courier. It’s this type of attention to detail that is really going to win over a lot of collectors to this set. Not only has Hasbro replicated the original Cobra troopers but also they’ve given us a figure that has only ever appeared in the comics. It’s not something that interferes with the set, but is a detail that really adds to overall appeal.
If the set has a downside it’s the accessories. For some reason, instead of the AK-47 that came with the Crimson Viper set, Hasbro has equipped these figures with the Rock Viper’s rifle and the SAW Viper’s backpack. The rifles are over-sized and the backpacks are extremely boxy. Neither of the original figures came with a backpack and, quite honestly, I’d have been just as happy with an AK-47 and a figure stand per figure. I realize that the backpacks were probably added to make the figures seem “more menacing” and the backpacks make them look “more equipped” but they’re just going to end up in the spare parts bin.
It’s also important to note that these sets are going to fly off of shelves. Amazon.com sold out in less than one day and reports indicate that these sets, if they even make to the sales floor, are selling lot hotcakes. While this does bode well for future troop-builder sets, let’s hope that Hasbro gives the Cobra Infantry Forces a long and plentiful production run. I’ve only ever seen two of these sets in person and both times they were hidden in various spots of the Action Figure department. Stiil, in my humble opinion, this is the greatest store exclusive figure set ever made. I can now have the troops that I only dreamed of as a child, provided that I can find these on the shelves. Better yet, I can have Cobra blueshirts-- not Vipers, or Neo-Vipers (which I really love, BTW) but the original Cobra troops of my youth. No longer do I have to lurk on Ebay or classifieds looking for deals on the older figures-- I just have to be patient and find these at retail. For $20.00, six highly-detailed classic 80's troops will be mine! If these continue to ship and ship to stores in large quantities, I foresee a lot of happy collectors gleefully spending their disposable income at Toys R Us! Get this set NOW!
Even my cat Smeagol likes this set!