Welcome back, if you enjoyed Part 1 then I suppose you are ready for Part 2 where I have tried to save the best for last. Since I have gone through the intro phase let's jump right into the figs:
Ah, Scarlett, she literally seems to be the red headed step child of the GI Joe Universe. Her first figure missed the ponytail that she is constantly seen with, her second figure was, to put it mildly, crap (Ninja Force produced a lot of crap) and since then she seems to have struggled on and on with figures that had promise but didn't deliver. She had a pretty good ARAH version from Comic Pack #9, but ever since the modern style hit she has been cursed with an "Almost there" identity that makes me wonder if anything or anyone was paying attention. Her 25th figure had that awful pointy chin and while she did have a decent rendition in ROC (Armored) it just wasn't quite the Scarlett look I had hoped for. Renegades Scarlett kind of falls into a similar category, she's a pretty good figure, but isn't quite Scarlett but she is closer than the ROC version ever came and thus far is probably the best Scarlett we've seen in the modern style.
She isn't perfect, there is the questionable Renegades pistol (Again going for futuristic ends up looking like a kids toy) and the head sculpt has something off about it. I admit it's hard to put my finger on but I will say thank goodness they steered her away from that "Clutch just pinched by butt" look she had in Renegades. Her crossbow is cool and much has been said about the exclusion of the 'City Strike" accessories. She would have been better with them but she isn't bad without them.
A big surprise to me was the fact that some in the GI Joe community have been really uptight about what has been dubbed "rocker ankles" similar to those of the latest Marvel Universe figures (ie Cyclops, Cable, ect). The ankles allow for more dynamic posing and yet there have been comments on various GI Joe boards that the articulation is worthless. I cannot understand this but I like it a great deal and hope to see more in the future from the GI Joe line. Also the term "Simplistic" and "Minimalist" have been tossed around with her quite a bit. While she isn't overly detailed she also doesn't have to be. In my opinion Scarlett has always worked better if she were less "busy" than the average GI Joe figure.
Overall I would say get her, she's a solid figure, good representation and works on many levels.
Now on to a surprise on many levels for me.
Up front I will say I simply HATE that mask Firefly is wearing, the nose peaking out is just ridiculous. In addition if you were to list the aspects I hated about Renegades, the portrayal of Firefly had to be in my top 3. I've said many times Firefly is my favorite Cobra character and they way the show reduced him to a creepy firebug just irritated me. Firefly, to me, is a force of destruction and making him "creepy" is a real disservice. The obsession with fire just turned his name into a cliché' much like when the Spy Troops show had Beachead in a surfer's accent simply because he had "Beach" in his name. Firefly was always much cooler than that and I just couldn't stand that treatment of my favorite character. I'm sure some reading this are giving that lame excuse of "Well he can't accept change" and they are welcome to that opinion. However, just accepting "change" for something lame doesn't make one open minded either. It all falls back to that "Turd with a GI Joe logo" thing.
So with all that why do I like this figure? In truth I wasn't going to get him for any amount of money, he was a complete pass for me but my wife knowing I was a Firefly nut grabbed him anyway. I wasn't going to NOT open him, and when I did I have to say I was actually impressed. The grenades on the sleeve, the long knife on the waist, all the little details that most of the Renegades figures don't have are done quite well on Firefly. He's so good that with a different head I might have gave him 5 stars. It's a very cool design that I wasn't expecting.
He comes with a cool complement of accessories with the exception of a bomb that has no real explanation behind it. Not sure what to make of that one other than maybe it's just cause he blows stuff up, but even then I'm not sure.
There is the question of what to do with him, so I decided to make him "the evil Firefly" in Scale Wars (Shameless plug for my webcomic, just hit the "Home" button to go and read). For the benefit of those who have never read Scale Wars, Firefly ended up joining the good guys cause he wasn't getting paid by Cobra (His reasoning is that while the good guys didn't pay him they were also honest about it). It's complicated but the reason I did that is the comedic nature of the stories I had done I ended up making Firefly somewhat likeable (to me at least) and wanted to keep him in that "good camp." Anyway I plan on using this one as a facsimile (NOTE: Thanos has done some trickery with the Infinity Guantlet to allow for this) and to basically poke fun at my hatred of his portrayal in Renegades. Yeah a bit windy of an explanation there.
Still, as I said, he is a cool design that doesn't have the blandness of the rest of the Renegades figures. He could have easily slipped into that bland category but apparently someone at Hasbro was thinking and put him into a very cool category with just the littlest touch-ups.
Now to the figure that completely jumps the tracks:
"OFF THE RAILS" was what I said when I opened this figure. The concept is out on Pluto but somehow Zombie Viper is exactly what I would want from a Zombie Cobra Trooper. I'm not a huge Zombie fan, I do love the Ramero films and have enjoyed the Walking Dead comic since it started but that's all the zombie love I've had. Sure, I've watched a ton of zombie films, but that is more my obsession to see every movie ever made more than anything. Still I find most zombie films and media to be repetitive and predictable rather than fun and interesting. Still I won't say I hate the genre either, just don't love it like some. Still when I saw this figure in press pictures I was just hooked, he harks back to the days when GI Joe was fun with just enough Sci-Fi elements to make it interesting. Some say this is the updated version of Toxo-Zombie and I can see that argument even though I don't agree with it. There is just a different feel to Toxo-Zombie than Zombie Viper (Probably has something to do with the Pink and Green, but I digress).
Looking back on Renegades Snake Eyes, I mentioned how his wrist articulation made big round balls around his wrists. Zombie Viper has similar articulation but without the side effects. While many other figures cover the articulation with sleeves, the Zombie Viper's wrists are bare but hide the wrists articulation rather well. In other words this is how they should have done Snake Eyes.
He also comes with a set of INSANE tendrils that apparently they can shoot out from their arms. I'm not sure the science behind this but it's just crazy in a way that works great. In addition he has a fantastic head sculpt that looks like it could have popped out of a George Ramero film. He also has a helmet and gas delivery system that looks kind of lame on him and really takes away from the effect. I'm sure I will find some use for such items eventually, but for now I just toss them to the side.
This is just a fantastic figure on the basis of novelty alone, but also it's a very cool idea with a very cool application. I tend to ignore the whole "Compound Z" thing, but the idea of mindless warriors for Cobra has plenty of merits. I have to give this figure a solid recommendation at this point.
Next is one of the few 'replacements" from 1986 that I thought was an improvement and now has an awesome update.
We haven't seen Sci-Fi since 1994, he has had a few versions of course. His second and third looked more like Ace from the Sunbow cartoon than they did Sci-Fi and his 4th was a mess that was the mess that was most of Star Brigade (although his inclusion did make a great deal of sense). Thus his inclusion this year with GI Joe seems very fresh despite this being his 5th version, much like Lifeline, Airtight, and Law and Order.
As I said with Lifeline, 1986 was an oddball year for me as many of my favorite characters were being "replaced." In many instances I felt the replacements (ie Leatherneck for Gung-Ho, Wet Suit for Torpedo, ect) were much less than their predecessors. Sci-Fi was an obvious replacement for Flash but in this rare case I thought it was an improvement on the original. Part of that is how similar Grand Slam was to Flash, they used the same body and had similar colored hair. While characters from 1982 like Rock N' Roll, Clutch, and Breaker (Who all used the same heads), or Stalker, Snake Eyes, and Grunt (who used the same bodies), Flash and Grand Slam were almost twins (the heads were different, but that is about all, even their specialties seemed similar). Sci-Fi came along and was very distinct from the previous Laser Troopers and I appreciated him on that basis alone. While the filecard painted a picture of him being a laser pointer for missiles, I couldn't help but make his rifle an advanced form of laser much like Flash's original intent (same thing I did with the Laser-Viper years later). Some scoff at this idea because in the Sunbow cartoon everyone shot lasers, but we often forget there were specific laws in place on children's television at the time and some of the "lame" aspects of the cartoon could not legally be worked around (Lasers being the big one as well as pilots ejecting from the planes). As such I give the cartoon a little levity on such matters (I sometimes think it was a miracle the cartoon ever aired to begin with).
Sci-Fi's helmet is removable and he has a second helmet that has a blast shield down. In some ways the helmet's inclusion confuses me as does it really offer more protection? Some have said this allows for troop building as well, again (as with Airtight) I am not a huge fan of Joe army building and I can't help but think Sci-Fi is too distinct for such an endeavor.
The really cool part though is his weapons, beyond the cool mold. His gun looks like the older version but supped up for the modern world. Like the original he can carry his rifle on his backpack, but this time it is much easier to place there (and isn't a prone to break). His mold is a great update with all the bells and whistles the first one had. A great update to say the least.
So, why you still sitting there, BUY HIM!!!! Really he is one of the best updates to date from modern GI Joe.
But wait there is a reason you are sitting there, one more figure to go and it's a knockout.
I tried to save the best for last, I think it's pretty safe to call this one the best. Seriously I haven't got enough stars for this bad boy.
The past few years haven't been kind for poor Storm Shadow, he's been a power ranger, a really weird version of Lawrence of Arabia, and shirtless (Shame for a Ninja master of stealth to be sure). At this point we have 41 versions of the character, more than enough to say the least. There is only so much you can do with one character as evidenced by the last few I think. Like Snake Eyes and Cobra Commander, no one needs another Storm Shadow, well that is until this one comes down the pass.
Before I get to the proper review though, I do want to touch on the very little lame qualities of the figure:
Now some claim to like the design of Renegades, but to be blunt the only way he resembles that character is the alternate head (and of course red sash). Let's look for a moment at the actual design for a second.
All I can think to say is THANK GOODNESS they didn't go with this design fully for the body. It's ok but no where near as dynamic as what we got.
The head of course has that "Mummy's Alive" look that I never understood why anyone would think this is a good look for a Ninja. He looks like a kid who wrapped his head in toilet paper or something. The tuffs of hair sticking out make it look even worse, really the design is a letdown on almost every level and is totally undesirable. If we were left with this I probably would have hated the figure to be honest, thankfully we were not.
A note, I am going with the black sash and belt combo for the remainder of the review, but I do want to be clear the red is good as well, but if given a choice I fell better with the black. It's just a preference thing.
Much has been said about the weapons and while I try not to read reviews before I post mine I kind of faltered with this figure. However, as such I will also try not to tread on old ground with this as enough has been said already. He can of course hold his weapons very well and holds every single one of them (of which there are a lot as every ninja should have).
An oddball inclusion to the weapons is the fan. While we in the west tend to think of the fan as being a woman's weapon (probably due to Mortal Kombat more than anything) it is true the fan was used by both sexes. Also the fan was considered a home defense type of weapon due to it's less than threatening appearance if left around the home. Of course women would use it in such a role, but in most cases they were taught by men to use it. While a strong argument can be made for including it with Storm Shadow as a non-threatening weapon, there is that disruption to the western sense of martial arts. As such I think this item will go over to Jinx (as I am certain she will have a figure, probably many, in the new toyline for the movie). The other is what at first appears to be nunchucks with a very long chain. Anyone who has used nunchucks would know that the longer the chain the less control you have and this kind of looks like a mistake. However, this could be argued this is an attempt at a Manrikigusari with a different end than the more popular versions (especially since that weapon was NOT included, see below) which also would mean a different type of handling of said weapon (more like a chain whip than Nunchucks) but it's hard to say.
As stated the figure was pictured with a slightly different weapon previously.
From this press picture you can see the figure has some sort of weighted chain weapon. This is most likely the aforementioned Manrikigusari with more traditional weights. Also note on the other side of the figure it appears the previously mentioned weapon is present with a much shorter string (implying it was intended to be traditional Nunchucks) so I think the stringed weapon is indeed Nunchucks but Hasbro decided to extend the string. I suppose you can argue its a Manrikigusari, but it is a letdown after seeing the above picture.
Still his accessories are really cool and all of that could be considered minor since we got so much cool stuff with this figure.
Now moving on to some of my favorite aspects of the figure and an aspect I haven't seen talked about before as well:
The side kick, a very basic tenet to the Ninjas of GI Joe. All of them should be able to accomplish this basic feat. This was my big complaint about the 2002 relaunch of GI Joe. The "T-Crotch" on characters like Cobra Commander, Gung-Ho, Heavy Duty, ect didn't bother me so much but with the Marital Arts based characters (in that set specifically Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow) side kicks are a must. When ankle articulation became the norm Hasbro didn't make too many characters who could do the side kick properly (that is with the heal forward). It was never a point I worried too much about as the angle to see a side kick isn't such that people generally notice it (hence the myth that a side kick is done with a flat foot, which of course destroys the effectiveness of the move). This time Stormy can pull the best side kick I have ever seen a Joe accomplish. The heal is just right for the move without being too exaggerated. It's a bit hard to see in the picture, but trust me it's near perfect form. But in addition to that there is the round kick.
Round kicks are delivered on the top of the foot and again Stormy's range of motion is perfect to form. Granted the above isn't a proper round kick necessarily (A more proper round kick would be to the ribs or head) but it does illustrate the point of the range of motion. Note that I am meaning a round kick and not roundhouse kick (something I have notice gets confused by some).
But also there is the fact that Storm Shadow can deliver a proper palm strike too.
The palm strike often looks ineffective but is the exact opposite. Granted in most cases you want to deliver the move with a flat palm (to avoid breaking the fingers) but the way Stormy's hand bends is perfectly acceptable to (generally if the blow is being delivered upwards). Still it's a great complement that I just appreciate about this figure more than most of the other aspects.
As I said, it seems no one would need yet another Storm Shadow, but this one really outshines almost every release previously. I've long stated my belief that Storm Shadow's design was derivative of the classic Ninja movie "Enter the Ninja" and this figure looks like he was molded right off of that film. The level of detail in the mold must be seen to be believed and the whole figure comes together in a near magical way.
Some have called this the "Ultimate Storm Shadow" in much the same way that POC wave 3 Snake Eyes is the Ultimate Snake Eyes. The major difference I would say is that Storm Shadow seems to borrow very little from his previous versions where as Snake Eyes had many elements that could clearly be seen as part of his previous versions with additions added. Stormy has very little in common with his earlier versions (other than he is in all white and some accessories) and is in a much more traditional Ninja uniform than he has ever been in before. That isn't a bad thing nor does it not make him "Ultimate" just not ultimate in the way Snake Eyes was which is a good thing. It is surprising to note that despite having so many versions Hasbro has found a way to make Storm Shadow fresh again and well worth the efforts of finding.
Again, if you get the chance, GRAB THIS FIGURE!! He is a must have at the very least and (Like POC Wave 3 Snake Eyes) it will be hard to justify another Storm Shadow after this (although I am certain Hasbro will make more).
That wraps up this series of GI Joe reviews, and for those who still think I'm a "Hater" you're entitled to your opinion, but take into account how good I am saying these figures are, and I will go on record to say the 30th anniversary is probably some of the best GI Joe's produced since the original run. Hasbro you finally brought it and I thank you.
Now keep this streak going with Retaliation.