Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, & Red Ninja
When you ask a Joe fan to list off their favorite moments in the Marvel Comics GIJoe series, certain storylines always come up. The Cobra Civil War, the Benzheen conflict, and the Invasion of Springfield are all fan-favorite moments. However, if you ask for a single issue that made an impression, there is one issue that stands out among the others. Due to a miscommunication at Marvel, the issue went to press without having been lettered… and the rest is history. I’m referring to #21—the infamous “Silent Issue”. So, does the comic pack live up the legacy of the original issue? In this Joe fan’s opinion, not by a long shot.
There’s really not a lot to say about this figure. The body is pretty much the same as the original 1982 Snake Eyes with the exception of the waist piece, which seems to have been lost over time. Instead, Snakes shares the same waist as the rest of the male comic pack Joes released thus far. Unlike the original release of this figure, the harnesses and belt have been painted in a light gray, adding some detail to an otherwise all-black figure. Also, his grenade has been recolored green and the dynamite on his left leg is now a pale shade of blue. Otherwise, this is the same body that has been released previously in comic pack #4 as well as in the Toy Fare exclusive 2-pack with Scarlet a few years ago. This is just a case of over-exposure killing my enthusiasm. The Snake Eyes in Comic Pack #2 at least had a different body—this one is just another in a long line of reissues of the same. It’s almost as if George Lucas were determining character selection and Snake Eyes’ real name is Jango Fett. This figure is a complete waste of a comic-pack slot.
What sets this figure apart from the previous reissues of this mold of Snake Eyes is the brand new head sculpt. Hasbro has attempted to recreate the mask worn by Snake Eyes in his early days on the Joe team with a great deal of success. The goggles are now molded goggles complete with a strap that wraps around the figure’s head. The mask also sports seams that weren’t found on previous versions. The jaw line is squared and the head has a much more realistic proportion. The only problem that can be found with this new sculpt is the size of it. Hasbro has tendency of making the heads of helmeted characters too small. Just look at recent GvC sculpts of Destro and you’ll see what I’m referring to. Rather than make the helmet over-sized to accommodate for a human head underneath, the sculptors treat the helmet AS the head and therefore give the appearance of someone who had a run-in with a voodoo witch doctor. In the case of this Snake Eyes, the opposite is true. SE’s mask is a balaclava—a cloth mask that has virtually no appreciable thickness. As such, the fact that this character is wearing a mask shouldn’t have any real affect on the size of the head. However, the original commando has the type of head that expectant mothers dread. It’s HUGE and really doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the body. I find the size discrepancy so noticeable that I really can’t see myself using this figure for much of anything. It’s too bad as the head sculpt is quite nice—but is completely out of proportion with the rest of the body.
I’m about to commit heresy among Joe fans but I was never a big fan of the original Storm Shadow mold. The body itself is pretty nice—with the sculpted dagger and shuriken on the chest and the simple lines of a gei. However I always hated Tommy’s short sleeves and his oddly shaped head. For this comic reissue, Hasbro corrected one of my issues with the figure and gave a lot of fans the chance to own an original-style Storm Shadow without having to pay vintage prices. The biggest change to this figure is found in his biceps. In removing the original short sleeves, Hasbro instead utilized the same muscular arms that were used for the Roadblock figure in Comic Pack #24, as well as several other releases. The result is a much beefier Storm Shadow than people remember from their youth. However, this figure is also now sporting the same sleeveless look that was used in both the Marvel Comics series and the Sunbow Animation and the result is really pretty sharp. The arms were also molded in a more realistic skin tone than the original figure, giving Tommy Arashikage a much more vibrant look. The rest of the figure is completely original which is a bit of a shame. I never liked the head on the first Storm Shadow figure and, without a new head sculpt, I’m still left with the “moon-faced assassin of joy” that I owned as a child. I simply can’t take this head seriously—it looks as though Tommy’s been hitting the Vicadin pretty heavily after unhooking his morphine drip! There’s no menace, no focus, no glimmer of intellect in this face. Instead we’re left with a figure that looks like he belongs atop the mushroom from “Alice in Wonderland”, happily puffing away on his hookah and wondering why the colors are singing such pretty songs. I could have accepted the v2 head atop this body; simply swapping out the forearms does not make this figure a worthy addition to the comic pack series. Still, the better colors and the lack of sleeves at least prevent this figure from being a total loss.
My favorite RAH Storm Shadow mold was always v2 and, based on the recent reissues of this mold, I would say that someone at Hasbro feels the same way. Released in the TRU exclusive Cobra Ninja Strike Team this comic pack marks the second use of the faction-neutral SS mold. The mold is nicely generic and this works for what is essentially a faceless trooper in the service of Cobra. From the layered mask, to the coiled rope, to the braces around the calves, I’ve always loved this mold and felt that this was a good look for Storm Shadow or whomever. In fact, I much prefer this Red Ninja to the one released in the Cobra Ninja Strike Force simply because I feel that this is a much better trooper mold. There’s not too much else to report on this figure—it’s a straight up repaint with minimal accessories. Still, it makes for a good troop builder and will help many a Joe fan recreate one of many issues of the Marvel series featuring the infamous Red Ninjas.
In the end, is this set worth it? As much as I dearly love the original comic issue I have to say “no.” Okay, the Red Ninja figure is great—but we just had a Red Ninja released earlier this year through Toys R Us. The new Snake Eyes head sculpt is great but it’s too large in my opinion and if there’s one thing we don’t have a shortage of its Snake Eyes figures. Once I realized that we’d had an almost identical reissue of this figure not two waves ago, my opinion of him soured considerably. Why not simply resculpt the head then and be done with it. Better yet, why not include Breaker in that issue instead and save Snake Eyes for a much more poignant issue. The Storm Shadow reissue is good but is ultimately unsatisfying because it doesn’t go far enough—a new head sculpt would have made all of the different in the world with this figure. (In fact, Storm Shadow could also have been packaged in comic pack #24 where he plays a much larger role than Destro!) The Red Ninja is a good repaint of a fantastic mold but he’s the only truly interesting figure in this entire three pack. So, while none of these figures are worthy of being deemed “bad”, the combination of the three of them just doesn’t generate any excitement for me. If you’re an obsessive fan of either Storm Shadow or Snake Eyes, you’ll want to grab this set. If you’re going for a complete collection of the comic three packs, then you’ll want to pick it up. If you want to get your own Red Ninja clan, you’ll be grabbing these whenever you can find them. However, if you don’t fit any of these descriptions, you can pass on this set and lead a full and happy life. It’s a shame too as this issue is such a terrific example of all that was great about the old Marvel series and I can’t say the same for the comic pack.