It’s not often that I really deviate from what Hasbro has intended for a given figure or six-pack. Sure, I wasn’t a big fan of the Spy Troops Pit Viper but I was able to accept him as a “stealth trooper” despite that fact that his mouth was completely exposed. Yes, I wasn’t quite so happy with the names that were assigned to the Winter Operations set but I was able to reconcile them with a few minor changes. However, in what is most likely the final Toys R Us exclusive six-pack, I find myself with a major dilemma—I’m not buying the “official line” on this set. Do the Crimson Guardsmen work as “night operations” troopers? Not exactly but they do offer a much more sinister possibility. To find out what that is, read on!
If you’ve purchased either an Operation: Crimson Sabotage set or a Crimson Guard Force 6-pack, then you already own this mold. The body, head, and removable helmet are all EXACTLY the same as with previous CG molds. In fact, for a more detailed description of this mold, read the Crimson Guard Force review already posted here at JBL. There’s not much point in duplicating the same statements here. What makes this particular CG stand out from all of the others is his color. Head-to-toe in black with silver highlights, this figure is completely distinctive from the rest of your Cobra Elite Guard. Whereas the previous Guardsmen came across as rather regal in their crimson uniforms, this figure casts a much more sinister impression. Maybe it’s the result of a childhood filled with Darth Vader, The Master (from Doctor Who), and others but the noir ensemble gives these figures a much more militant stance than previous CG’s. In fact, it is this very impression that makes it so hard for me to accept the “official line” on this set.
In theory, this is a set of stealth night operatives. They come equipped with an assortment of silent weapons (including parts of the GIJoe vs. Cobra Scarlett’s crossbow) that would seem to indicate yet another ninja-esque sub-team. The back of the card states that the Crimson Shadow Guard does most of their work “in the night and in the shadows”. However, one look at their uniform tosses that statement right out of the window. Let’s be honest—the CG uniform is not a Splinter Cell uniform! By it’s very nature it appears to be a dress uniform resplendent with medals and decorative braid. Cobra already has plenty of nocturnal troops including the Night Creepers, Night Vipers, and even the Swamp Rats. There is NO need for this set of dress uniform elite troopers to join the ranks of the night operations teams. However, the black dress uniforms are evocative of a much more sinister purpose. Before I ever read the card back for this set, I was struck by how much this group of CG’s reminded me of groups like the Nazi SS. That’s right—these aren’t night ops troops, or ninjas or any such nonsense. These are members of the internal security branch of Cobra—the dreaded Shadow Guard. Suddenly this set made sense to me and I knew that I had to acquire at least one. In my Joe-verse, the Shadow Guard is made up of a select number of Crimson Guardsmen. They are attached to the Cobra Internal Security branch and their function is enforce the doctrines of Cobra within the rank and file. They answer directly to either the Interrogator or the Cobra Commander himself and no one is above their scrutiny. You can imagine the scene in a Cobra barracks when a group of the Shadow Guard arrives to question a Viper. The room becomes as silent as a tomb as these ominous enforcers separate their target from the group of troops, leading him away into a black Humvee. Once they’re gone, the other troops start divvying up the unfortunate soldier’s possessions, as it is very likely he’ll never be returning again.
My advice on this set is simple. Toss the gear that comes with it into a parts bin, grab some AK-47’s from Marauder Inc and snag a PTE black Humvee from GIJoeHQ. Slap a red Cobra logo on the hood of the Humvee and you’ve got the transport and the gear for your own Cobra Internal Security force. Regardless of how you use these figures in your Joe collection, don’t let the assortment of martial arts weapons put you off from acquiring this set. There is no law that says these figures can’t be re-equipped and the figures themselves are far too distinctive to pass up. Even though you’re getting six identical figures, the new color scheme makes them distinctive enough that most Joe fans will want to add at least one set to their collections. In the end, this set is worth $19.99 for all of the gear and six new Guardsmen but I just don’t see many people using them in their intended role.