G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary COBRA Battle Pack #3
I hypothosized with the G.I. Joe Battle Pack review that perhaps Hasbro was creating a "bookend" 5-Pack to balance out the initial release with a desire to involve as many different characters as possible (with the exception of the always-present Snake Eyes). Well, that theory goes straight down the crapper when talking about the COBRA set, as we end up with 2/3 of the same cast as we had the first time around, many of them with only the most minor of cosmetic differences. The two improved figures are HUGE improvements, however, and those two figures almost salvage the set...but only almost.
COBRA Commander owns the dubious distinction of being the only character in every single COBRA themed 5-Pack released to date (including the Resolute one). Is that a good thing? Not really, in my opinion.
Hasbro pretty much hit the pinnacle of Sunbow COBRA Commander coolness with the release of the "Best Of" DVD Battle Pack, and to be honest this version is not even in that league, even with most of the figure being the same. Really, there is not much difference between this COBRA Commander and the one we received in the DVD Battle Pack #4, so again, the question is "why"? I can understand Hasbro's desire to market their most popular and iconic characters, but at what point is enough enough? Especially considering the bulk of this figure uses the same tooling the bulk of most of the other figures used as well. In fact, there isn't a single new part on this COBRA Commander anywhere, and from head to toe it's pretty much an identical representation of the one we got just a few months prior.
I suppose the main draw could be considered a much improved weapons assortment, only the weapons here aren't all that much improved. The cape is very nice, but is the same cape we got in the Greatest Battles DVD set, not to mention the Comic Pack w/ Tripwire...it hasn't changed. We do get a nicely sculpted COBRA themed staff, which is something new, but where COBRA Commander is concerned, it's not nearly enough. If Hasbro had made some huge improvements in the hooded head sculpt, or even a modified, bulkier body type, I might be tempted to give this a passing grade, but at this point, there is little to talk about here.
Storm Shadow has at least some redeeming qualities, I suppose, unlike COBRA Commander, who is a straight-up re-release of something we've already received. Storm Shadow follows the formula of most of the G.I. Joe 5-Pack, but using some slightly modified tooling to resemble his previous version, with just some added cosmetic alterations. The new arms actually look really nice and have great range of motion, plus they give the COBRA ninja a look more suitable to his cartoon and comic appearences. He also has new lower legs and feet, which honestly, I didn't have a major issue with the first time around.
One change I'm not really wild about are the gray belts. While I appreciate Hasbro's desire to at least make Storm Shadow look somewhat unique (unlike COBRA Commander), I would have preferred to have this definitive version of him in black straps, just for consistency sake. Still, that's a relatively minor issue, and really, the Hall of Heroes version I suppose was meant to be the "ultimate" version, which has all of these tooling changes, but with the more traditional black belts that we're familiar with.
With this 5-Pack release, Storm Shadow finally gets the nunchuks he should have had from day one, and also gets a pretty neat grappling hook as part of the bargain, but the core of his weaponry are all just the same stuff he's come with a number of times over. I like the new additions, but ultimately, they're nothing really to write home about.
Storm Shadow is a great figure...a GREAT one. Pretty much the only figure that carries over successfully from day one of the Anniversary line, and still has plenty to offer almost two years later. But the fact remains, that there are mostly minor cosmetic changes, that while they're nice, don't feel ultimately necessary, especially as part of a $25-30 boxed set.
To this point, I've been pretty down on this set...COBRA Commander did zero for me, and Storm Shadow (while he had some nice changes) was mostly the same old same old. Hasbro wants me to spend $30 on five figures, but in this case doesn't seem to be giving us much bang for the buck...at least until now.
With the Baroness, we don't get "bang", we get a full-blown 10 megaton bomb for our buck, as this figure is, without hesitation or equivocation, one of the best female figures I have seen in this scale ever. It is almost shameful how terrible she makes nearly every other 3 3/4" female figure look. Somehow the Hasbro designers managed to finally figure it out, and they can work in a sleek, slender frame, impressive articulation, a feminine look, but still maintain a solidly constructed, usable TOY, which is first and foremost in my opinion.
I think this Baroness figure actually does use the same hair as the previous version, but everything else, from head-to-toe is new tooling, and exceptional new tooling, to boot. The sculpting, the articulation, the coloring, is all done to absolute perfection. Some minor liberties were taken with the overall design, the figure isn't a straight-up reproduction of the vintage version, but any changes and tweaks were much improved over the original. The sculpted COBRA logo on her chest, the detailed armored lines throughout her uniform...it's all fantastic. Just fantastic.
While the figure has me raving, the accessories aren't much to speak of. She gets her battle stand and the same machine gun that she came with in the 5-Pack. Don't get me wrong, the gun is GREAT...I really love it. But there's just nothing really new here.
Far and away this figure is the best figure in the set, bar none. A great update to a character who desperately needed one, and every change that was made was made for the better. I can think of nothing to complain about, and even for folks who are not willing to plunk down $25 or so for the 5-Pack absolutely MUST find a way to own this figure. It's not an option.
The first Zartan we received back in Wave 3 was some strange hybrid of the Devils' Due style and the more well-known vintage style, and it took a while before we finally got a decent version in Wave 11. Well, Hasbro used the familiar vintage homage as a template and gave us this version...which doesn't really do a whole lot. It's another example in this 5-Pack of having pretty nice execution, but just plain strange decisions behind it.
I suppose I can see why Hasbro would want to include Zartan in this 5-Pack, he is a pretty central character to the G.I. Joe universe, but there are only so many different things you can do with him and keep him familiar to the fans and casual buyers. At least the designers made some attempt to do something different with this figure, though, by giving him a translucent pink chestplate, which was obviously an homage to what happens to Zartan in sunlight in the Sunbow cartoon. It's a really cool touch, and I do like the weathering done around the shoulder pads, but ultimately there isn't enough different, new things included with this particular figure.
With the G.I. Joe pack, it seemed like Hasbro took the opportunity to come up with some nice, unique accessories to entice people to buy a pack of characters everyone already owned...however with the COBRA set that doesn't seem to be the case. There's COBRA Commander's staff, Storm Shadow's grappling hook and nunchuks, but besides that, nothing new at all. Zartan comes with the same pistol and masks as the previous version, and there is very little added here to draw fans into a purchase. Sure, the casual buyer who hasn't been picking these up all along might still be tempted, but ultimately there just enough newness to get a lot of the collectors interested.
When the COBRA Viper first appeared it seemed like a major, major lost opportunity...seeing just what Hasbro was able to do with great trooper figures like the B.A.T., the Snow Serpent, and the upcoming Alley-Viper, it is becoming more and more apparent that something just went drastically wrong with the original COBRA Viper. Contorted wrists, flakey goggles, and terrible ankles all contributed to what ended up being one of the most missed opportunities in the line. A well-produced COBRA Viper in single pack form would have been a hot seller, but instead the substandard Vipers warmed pegs and torqued off collectors everywhere.
So, Hasbro did what Hasbro does, and made improvements. Great improvements. Huge improvements. Then Hasbro did what Hasbro does and put that wildly improved, certain-to-be-popular army builder in a $30 multipack alongside figures that were amongst the least desirable in the entire line. Seriously, besides the Baroness, which figures in this set warrant a $30 purchase? Any of them? No, not really.
Anyone who has read my reviews in the past will likely consider me a Hasbro fanboy, and I am, for sure. You can't be a twenty-seven year fan of a property without being a fanboy, but even as a fanboy I have to admit when they screw the pooch, and they did it pretty badly on the COBRA Viper. Now that only seems to be accentuated by the fact that the Viper may in turn be re-allocated to a Convention Exclusive set which is serving to tick off a lot more long time collectors as well. But enough conceptualizing talk...what about the actual figure?
Really, it's great. A near perfect representation of the COBRA Trooper from post-1986. Even though the vest restricts movement slightly, it's very vintage-accurate and nicely detailed. The new head sculpt with the chrome finish is GREAT. The wrists and hands are now a lot less contorted and the Viper doesn't look totally rediculous when he's standing still. Also along with the new head sculpt, the goggles don't fall off when you breathe the wrong way. If I have any complaints, there does still seem to be some restricted motion in the ankles, but compared to the liteny of problems that Hasbro did resolve, that seems like a minor quibble.
Colors are great, articulation and posing are much improved. The designers did fantastic work here, but once again, there were some decisions that probably could have been done a bit better, down the line. Sure, we got the Viper in single pack form with the Hall of Heroes, but if anything, the $12.00 - $15.00 price tag only adds to a feeling of frustration there, too.
The Viper comes with the same weapons, more or less, as the single pack one did, though the rifle appears to have some modifications for unknown reasons. Beyond those mods, though, the basic weapon compliment is the same as we've seen, which is fine, because they're accurate to the source material and the choices make sense.
Taking the COBRA Viper for what it is, it is a fantastic figure. I love the chrome helmet/facemask, I love the dark colors, I love the new Viper symbol on his shoulder and all of the fixed structural problems. The fact that I need to buy an expensive boxed set to get him is a source of a bit of anger, but beyond that, the figure rocks, plain and simple. This is the COBRA Viper that many fans would have jumped on in a normal priced single pack format, but unfortunately it's a figure that will probably never really hit its full potential since you have to invest so much money to build a decent squad. As it stands, though, a worthy addition to your COBRA ranks.
I want to love this set, I really do. The Baroness and the Viper are flat out spectacular figures that deserve all of the heaps of praise and attention that they get. However, character selection, limited new tooling, and very limited new accessories sort of has to relagate this set to the back burner, even when compared to the Joe side of things. While Storm Shadow had some minor structural "fixes" for the most part, 3/5 of this set offered zero incentive for purchase and no staying or drawing power for casual buyers or diehard collectors. The Baroness is one of the best figures released in the line to date, but is she enough to drop thirty bones on the entire set? The COBRA Viper is a fantastic COBRA trooper update as well, but, again, having to invest this kind of money, is there any valid way to army build him?
While I am in love with the Viper and the Baroness, too much of this set falls short of promises for me to endorse it fully. The presentation is great, and for new fans who don't already own these figures, this provides a very good way to get a chunk of the COBRA hierarchy in one fell swoop. But there just seems to be so much lost potential that unless you're absolutely starved for Joe product to buy, I'm not sure I can endorse this one. For $30, it does come close, with a great Baroness and Viper, but ultimately, I'm not sold. If I seem generous with the ratings, it's only because they deserve SOME credit at least for The Baroness and Viper, though I hesitate to even do that...
GRADE (EXECUTION): out of 5
GRADE (CONCEPTION): out of 5
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