Cobra Commander, Baroness, Cobra Soldier
I can still remember getting my first 3.75” Joes back in 1982. Up until that moment I had been a Star Wars fan to the core but something about those uber-poseable Real American Heroes won me over. I dropped Star Wars and never looked back. As the line progressed each wave became more and more stylized, yet there was always something about the original 13 that appealed to me. These were the troops that started it all—the “pioneers in the battle against Cobra.” Sure Rock-n-Roll, Breaker, and Clutch and Grunt, Zap, Hawk, Grand Slam, Flash, and Short Fuze were essentially triplets and sextuplets but they were still “cool.” Now, after 22 years the original Joes are starting to get the treatment they’ve always deserved in the form of the comic three-packs. Yet it seems somehow fitting that this series begins not with members of GIJoe, but with their reason for being.
I never had the hooded Cobra Commander as a kid so now I’m a sucker for any version of him that is produced. This figure reuses the Talking Battle Commander body that we’ve seen reused pretty consistently since the 1997 nostalgia packs. Once again, the back of the figure is flat—so as to accommodate the original f/x backpack that came with the figure. The main selling point of this figure isn’t the body, however, it’s the head. The head sculpt is all new and it’s quite a nice departure from previous hoods. First off, it gives the appearance of hanging on the Commander’s head as real fabric would. In fact, you’d almost expect to see this hood flap in a decent breeze. Secondly, it highlights my favorite feature of any hooded Cobra Commander—his eyes. The eyes are the mirror to the soul and seeing a figure’s eyes somehow makes the likeness seem more real to me. He lacks the malicious glare of the ’91 mold; instead there is only a cold dispassionate gaze that still fits the character of the “most dangerous man alive”. While the hood doesn’t sit quite perfectly on the figure’s shoulders, it is such a great sculpt that I’m able to overlook any perceived imperfection.
The only real detractor to this figure is the large white circle that serves as the background to the Cobra sigil on the hood. I realize that the circle was drawn on the hood in issue #1 of the Marvel series but it just doesn’t sit right with me. Maybe it’s too large, maybe I’m just not used to seeing it on the hood in other molds. Regardless, it’s not enough to make me dislike this figure in any way. This is a terrific Cobra Commander and is one that will always be displayed in my collection.
Poor Anastasia… she’s never really had a truly perfect mold. As a kid I had the original Baroness and I’ve always liked the body from that figure. The proportions were good, the uniform was simple yet still had enough detail to be interesting, and she fit in well with the rest of my collection. The head was a bit bland and the features a bit soft, lacking some of the cold disdain that I’ve always felt the Baroness possessed but it remained the definitive Baroness for years. This new version is built on that same body but with an all-new head sculpt featuring removable glasses.
This figure is really pretty sharp. Like the Chameleon and Crimson Viper set versions of this figure there are all sorts of painted highlights on the body. The head however is the real test. Her hair is not only the longest it’s ever been but a good deal of it is forward over her shoulders. To me, this gives a nice touch of realism to the figure. Her face isn’t nearly as flat as the 2004 version nor is it as wide as the original mold. (I refuse to acknowledge the 2002 figure.) The sculpt is actually a nice cross between the two and, although the pictures give the appearance of an overly pointed chin, she has what may be the nicest sculpt of Anastasia yet. Where previous figures have always looked “animated” this figure really does have a more “real world” look to her.
The downside to this figure is found in the glasses. If you think of them as glasses then the Baroness is wearing “coke bottle” lenses. There simply is no way to make removable glasses for a figure this small and have them not being overly thick. However, I tend not to look at these at glasses but more as goggles. Goggles? Yes, think of these as what the Baroness would be wearing if she were riding in a HISS turret or piloting a FANG or even a CLAW. Suddenly the proportion issue isn’t really such an issue at all. I’d also like to point out that for those of you who are worried about losing the glasses you need not worry. The arms of the spectacles fit snugly under the Baroness’ hair and actually require a bit of tugging to pull them free.
If this set has a weak link, it’s the lackey. This figure is a straight repaint of the original Cobra soldier figure with one major change. It would seem that the original arms for the Cobra trooper are now lost. Instead we have a detail-less set of arms to fill the gap. They’re an adequate replacement; they will stand out when this figure is placed next to an original Cobra Soldier but his colors are so much different that this would be the least of your worries.
It’s the color scheme that detracts from this figure. First off, the paint on mine is thick—we’re talking “chunk peanut butter” thick. It’s so think that details in places like the figure's hands are severely muted. Secondly, there is something about his skin tone that I just can’t put my finger on. It’s either too red or too yellow, but the end result just doesn’t look natural. I realize that the Baroness also has the same color hands but for some reason the paint just bothers me more on this figure than it did on her. I guess my biggest problem with this figure is that he really doesn’t fit in well with any of my existing Cobra troops. He’s too light colored to fit in with the original Cobra Soldiers and he’s too “peach colored” to fit in with my Cobra Infantry Forces set. Out of this entire set, he’s probably the one figure I’ll trade away. He doesn’t really bring down the value of the set in my eyes; he’s just not a figure that I need to own.
At retail, this set is a STEAL! For $9.99 you get three figures with comic-accurate paint schemes and two with brand-spanking new head sculpts. You also get a reprint of GIJoe #1. So, when you divide out the cost of the set vs. all that’s included you end up with three Joes at a price found only in the 80’s and the origin story of the GIJoe team as an added bonus. This set is the beginning of a line that, as shown at the GIJoe Convention, is only going to continue to improve. Thank you, Hasbro. Thank you for developing this concept into something that I can find at retail! Thank you for providing the collecting community with comic-accurate versions of the characters we’ve grown to love. If you see this set run, don’t walk, and grab it. Actually, grab two, as it is a set that looks really sharp both in and out of the package. You certainly won’t regret it.