Battle Points—those little “proof of purchase” tags with seemingly random amounts of points printed on them. For the longest time after the GIJoe vs. Cobra relaunch no one knew what to do with these. Would they end up like the “Jedi Master” points of the Star Wars line—clipped, saved, accumulated, but ultimately never used or would Hasbro eventually find some premium for collectors and children that would allow them to redeem these otherwise worthless hunks of cardboard. In 2004, Hasbro answered this question with the release of the Agent Faces in Crimson Guard disguise mail away figure. Now, in 2005 Hasbro continues their mail away program with a figure that just might prove even more popular than Agent Faces: Storm Shadow Unmasked!
I’ll admit it—I was skeptical of this figure when initial images surfaced on the web. The neck looked too long, the cowl looked to big—in other words I was acting like a Joe collector who hadn’t seen the actual product for himself. However, this figure has proven to be an extremely pleasant surprise for me. For the body, Hasbro chose to reissue the extremely popular Valor vs. Venom Wave 4 version of Storm Shadow. As previously reviewed, this body is perfect for Tommy Arashikage. The costume is simple yet the molded dragon detail renders it more than just a unitard. The forearm and calf wraps appear both functional and stylish, breaking the lines of the limbs at just the right place. The torso is styled along the lines of the Valor vs. Venom Wave 4 Snake Eyes—a gei with some harness and strap detail added on. The elbow and kneepads are extremely practical and pleasing to the eye. Even the proportions of the body, a problem with other figures in the line (any version of the new sculpt Night Creeper), are dead on. In other words, this is a body design that works.
For the mail-away figure, Hasbro went with a classic white color scheme. True, they used a similar basic white for the body on the other releases but this time most of the additional color has been stripped away, leaving just a basic white gei, black harness and belt, and an off-white neck scarf. Storm Shadow has been reduced to his most basic and neutral form. No Cobra or Joe logos (or affiliations of any kind) are found on this body. Not since the classic Storm Shadow v2 has Thomas Arashikage appeared so neutral in his attire. The gear for this figure is also fairly basic: two daggers and a familiar-looking sword are included. This time, however, Hasbro painted the blades of the weapons silver. It’s a small little detail but one that really makes these otherwise-tired accessories stand out and have new life. I wish that Storm Shadow came equipped with a scabbard to hold his sword but I’ve got plenty of extra ones lying around.
The only other accessory packaged with Storm Shadow is his cowl. In the tradition of Spy Troops, the cowl is a rubber accessory that fits over the head of the figure. As such, some people will say that it does appear to be over-sized. A great many fans expressed frustration over the size of the CG helmet that came packaged with Agent Faces. It seemed “too big” to them and became the source of much drama on the net. I never had a single problem with it as it was a helmet—it was supposed to be larger than the head that it covered. In the case of Storm Shadow, however, I can see where people might have this same complaint. The head wrapping is supposed to be cloth and yet, due to manufacturing limitations, it is roughly the same thickness as the CG helmet. As such, it will appear too large to some eyes. Frankly, it doesn’t bother me nearly as much as I thought it would. In fact, the head covering works for me—although I find I like the figure even better without out. (Note—the head wrap bears a striking similarity to the Storm Shadow shown on the cover of GIJoe: America’s Elite #0. Intentional?)
Now we come to the real selling point of this figure. For the first time ever, fans can own a figure of Storm Shadow that reveals the face of the Young Master underneath! Now, this is something I can see proving a bit controversial with some fans—after all, this is a character that has been beloved for over 20 years. Everyone has his or her own idea about which rendering of Tommy is “the definitive”. Again, I didn’t think I was going to like this head sculpt and yet I find myself pleasantly surprised. For the design, it would seem that Hasbro went not with any of the designs from the Marvel or Devils Due Press series but instead found inspiration in a figure from the classic Real American Hero line. I’m referring to the GIJoe Samurai Budo. In fact, at first glance this might have been mistaken for a new Budo sculpt. After all, many artists have chosen to show the Young Master with a crew cut, or even a flat top as was popular in the 80’s. This design, with its fair skin and rather neutral expression, works quite well in my opinion. The features are distinctly Asian which is as it should be. The face comes across as bit older than you might expect—which belies a life of internal strife and conflict. In other words, if I had nothing to base my notion of what Storm Shadow really looked like, this is a pretty good approximation. The neck is a bit long but this seems to be in response to the design of the collar of the uniform. It’s not too obvious and really doesn’t detract from the figure.
So, is this figure worth the 10 battle points and the $3.00? Absolutely! Is this the definitive Storm Shadow figure of all time? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for in a Storm Shadow figure. If you want a “faction free” figure or even a new Joe, then you’ll probably be quite happy with this one. (Again, this seems to tie in to America’s Elite—whether by coincidence or by design.) If you’re looking for a Cobra Ninja then you might want to stick with one of the other releases of this figure—most especially the Ninja Battles version. However, as far as mail away figures go, this figure doesn’t disappoint. For the price paid, it is an exceptional bargain and one that I think a lot of fans are going to be extremely happy with. Whether or not Hasbro continues with mail-away figures now that the line is moving to online only remains to be seen, but Storm Shadow Unmasked is certainly a worth addition to any Joe collection.
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