The first wave of toys for a movie line is seldom screen accurate. Frequently, this initial slate of product is put into production for distribution to retailers prior to the film’s release. This means that the designs that the figures and vehicles are based on are most often early pre-production sketches rather than the final filmed versions. As such, toy companies find themselves taking some creative liberties with those designs and the results are often mixed. In some cases, the final product only casually resembles its big screen counterpart. While this can cause frustration and disappointment with fans, it can also lead to some now truly creative pieces. So, which is the case with the G.I. Joe Retaliation Cobra Trooper? Is he disappointing or oddly captivating? Read on and find out this Joe fan’s opinion
I’m going to start out and just say it—unless there is a para-drop sequence the odds are that this figure isn’t accurate to any part of G.I. Joe Retaliation. He resembles none of the gray and black camouflaged figures that we’ve spied in the trailers thus far. However, this doesn’t mean that he’s a bad figure at all—it’s all in how you look at him. The basic body design is that of a man clad in a form-fitting slate blue uniform. Dark metallic gray paint applications have been applied to the sculpted boots, knee pads, and forearm guards while black paint has been applied to the figure’s face mask. The sculpted goggles are painted red. At first glance, this isn’t the body design of a front line grunt infantryman as the name would suggest. Everything about the design suggests a more Spartan approach to the design. In fact, the face mask might seem familiar—evoking memories of a certain black-clad commando who debuted back in 1982. From the nature of the uniform to the head mask, this figure might have been better off labeled “Cobra Commando” or “Cobra Paratrooper” than “Cobra Trooper.” Even the uniform color seems more appropriate for a paratrooper than a front line field operator.
As I’ve said before, the head sculpt of the figure reminds quite a bit of the original version of Snake Eyes that debuted in 1982. However, it was over the weekend that another source of inspiration came to mind. I was re-watching the fantastic 2003 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoons (don’t judge me) when I saw a character that reminded me of this particular Cobra Trooper – the Foot Tech Ninja. From the color scheme to the mask design I was floored by how similar the two figures were. Now, Hasbro already has plans for the Wave 2.5/Wave 3 Cyber Ninja to fill this particular role but it doesn’t mean that this figure can’t be something similar. After all the entire figure design appears to be more “commando” than it does “marine.” This is a trooper in a sky-diving uniform that is designed to slip in behind enemy lines and move quickly and quietly toward his objective. As such, this figure quickly went from “meh” to “oooh!”
In my mind, Hasbro used the included gear to try to give this figure more a front-line grunt feel. Over the top of the torso is placed a molded bright blue combat harness complete with sculpted grenades and working holster. In addition, the team in Pawtucket outfitted our hapless trooper with a heavy combat helmet molded in the same bright blue plastic. So suddenly our paratrooper has become a trooper—or more importantly, he’s become a paratrooper! Now, many fans have complained about the color of the harness and the helmet and I have to admit, they might have a point. While the figure’s overall color scheme is bluer than one would expect in a military toy line it’s nothing new for Cobra. However, the color of the sculpted accessories is more garish than we’ve come to expect from G.I. Joe outside of the Mega-Marines. It’s a color that is definitely designed to appeal to kids as the first wave seems to be targeted. I don’t feel this is a deal breaker but it does take some getting used to. The troopers only other accessory (outside of his action feature) is an unusual looking rifle. I’ll be honest—I’ve no idea what this is supposed to be. The size and bulk suggests “heavy weapon” and the canted cylinder could indicated either flame or plasma weapon. Either wave, it’s a bit of a contradiction for a paratrooper to be carrying a weapon that looks like it could blow a hole in the side of a Mauler with one shot. Don’t get me wrong—I don’t dislike the weapon but I wish we had more information about what it was supposed to be. I miss my file cards, darn it!
When it comes to adding play value to an action figure there’s nothing quite like a working parachute. As a kid in the late 70’s/early 80’s I used to spend hours outside with my Fisher-Price Adventure People and their real cloth parachute. Seriously—that thing was amazing and while it was a bit under-sized for the solid plastic figures it still made for some exciting adventures. Well, what was once old is now new again as the folks in Pawtucket have given the Retaliation Cobra Trooper a big blue parachute. Even better, this chute has a giant red Cobra sigil emblazoned upon it! This is where the near-forty year old Fred disappears and the 8 year old Fred of yester-year returns. I’d have given my neighbor’s right arm for one of these back in the day. Kids love these kind of parachutes—or at least they used to. Plus, there’s something insanely cool about watching your Cobra troopers drop into combat, held aloft by a canopy of silk with the red Cobra logo right across the dome. It’s a scene right out of the opening of the animated feature G.I. Joe: The Movie. I might be speaking like a giant five year old right now, but this parachute is one of the coolest action feature accessories I’ve seen included with a Joe in years!
Now, the moment of truth: does this figure get a recommendation? The answer is a bit of a mixed bag. With his light blue color, child-centric web gear, and giant cannon this figure isn’t replacing the 30 th Anniversary Cobra Troopers or Cobra Vipers as the backbone of any collector’s Cobra army any time soon. However, I honestly feel that the Retaliation Cobra Trooper is MILES ahead of any of the Neo-Vipers that were released in the Rise of Cobra line in terms of design and playability. Plus, with a more movie accurate trooper coming down the road, hard core collectors are likely to pass this figure over. Yet I can’t help but find myself enjoying him more and more the longer I own him. I tend to view him as a Cobra paratrooper – a specialized commando as opposed to the standard line soldier. As such, I don’t feel the need to troop build them in any appreciable numbers but I am glad that I purchased him. He’s not on par with the amazing G.I. Joe Trooper from wave 1 but he’s far superior to the myriad of insect-like Neo-Vipers that were released for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Once again, it seems like Retaliation is set to improve upon its predecessor in every way.
End result: Worth a purchase as a specialized paratrooper or as something for the kids but he’s no replacement for the more familiar standard Cobra troops in the 30th line.