25th Anniversary G.I. Joes
Cobra Commander, Ninja and Cobra Officer


"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

There's a new guest reviewer in town tonight - Newton Gimmick!  He's looking at a few of the new Joes...take it away, Newt!

Have you ever loved something so much for so long, but then finally gave it up? Years later you find yourself jumping right back into it as if no time had passed at all? If you have then you might be one of many who lived and breathed in the 80's and early 90's to collect the greatest boys toy line of all time... GI JOE!

For 25 years GI Joe has been on the shelves in 3 3/4 greatness. Sure, the 12 inch scale GI Joes date back to the days of JFK, but for my money and for anyone in the 80's nothing tops GI Joe. Maybe Transformers is hot and fancy now, but to me Transformers was always GI Joe's ugly, deformed cousin. I'm sure fanboys will be in an outrage and we could argue for hours on which Hasbro property is better, but there is no argument that when it comes to plastic incarnations, GI Joe reigns supreme. I mean, can you really play with any Transformer toys? Very few. Were they cool? Absolutely, but did they have swivel arm battle grip? No. Could they even move? Probably not very well.

That's where GI Joe became the king and that's why I say it's the greatest boys toy line ever. Running almost non-stop from 1982 to now, GI Joe has produced hundreds of unique characters and figures. Hundreds of vehicles and play sets as well. No one has more vehicles then GI Joe, not even Star Wars. Although there were some brief stops in production in the late 90's and again in the early part of 2000, GI Joe has probably been the longest running action figure line short of generic green plastic army men that's stayed in scale for 25 years!

But like many people, I lost interest in GI Joe. The lack of cool figures, engaging characters and crappy accessories got me out of the line as I grew up. Some people never lost interest in the line and it remained popular enough that each year several exclusive figures are made by Master Collector and other places just for those diehard fans. But for the mainstream Joe lovers, it seemed as though nothing would get us back into the fray.

In the late 90's GI Joe 3 3/4 celebrated 15 years of producing figures by releasing a special pack of "original" figures. They suckered me in and for the first time I had an "original" Duke. The figures flat out sucked. Hasbro lost the molds to core figures like Rock-N-Roll and actually gave us a repainted Hawk instead, calling him Rock-N-Roll. To make matters worse they released the EXACT same figure with slightly different colors as someone else in the same set! Not to mention that they actually sold General Hawk in the line, which gave us 3 Hawk figures nearly identical in a span of months. Needless to say after purchasing just a few of these figures, my rebirth of GI Joe ended in a sad whimper. 

Ironically 10 years later, Hasbro has finally got it right. They've known that GI Joe has a fanbase, but they've never been able to tap back into it. In 2000 when they relaunched the line they still made many of the same mistakes as they had in the past. Releasing a figure named "Gung-Ho" that resembled the former Gung-Ho in no fashion, shape or form. The list of mistakes goes on and on, so why and how did they finally get it right this time?

They went back to the drawing board and instead of trying to reuse molds they've created all new molds for every figure. Now instead of giving us "Surf n' Turf" Duke, they've given us a Duke that actually looks exactly like his cartoon counterpart. So what's the big deal with that, you say? With around 30 Dukes made in the last 25 years, do you know how many even remotely resemble his cartoon appearance? The answer is ONE! That's right, the first figure made waaaay back in 1983 is the only Duke that bares any resemblance to the real Duke. That's not to say that there aren't some good Dukes in the Joe toyline, but the fact that only one ever really looked like he was supposed to, is just a sad dirty little secret in the toyline mythos.

But that figure is over 20 years old and he looks like crap standing next to Serpentor from 1987. Not only could that Serpentor kill Duke, he'd just laugh at him for being so poorly molded. Which brings us back to today. Hasbro has created all new figures in the GI Joe line, with the classic Joes in mind. Each figure looks like his cartoon counterpart, OR draws his incarnation from classic artwork or a classic vintage figure. 5-Packs have been released with the core Joes and Cobras already.

In a nutshell, these 25th Anniversary Figures have the potential to be the definitive versions of every GI Joe character ever made. The first singles waves are hitting the pegs and I'm here to let you know if these are indeed the figures that truly give us the okay to scream "YO JOE!" from the mountaintops again, or if we should just drown our tears into Sigma 6 figures.

Packaging - ****
Let me be honest right out of the gate. I'm not a packaging guy. Blister cards, bubble packs, window views, they rarely mean anything to me. That's not to say I can't appreciate a good package when I see one. But the 25th Anniversary GI Joe figures will make even the most cynical MIB collector happy! Each single carded figure comes classically packaged, just like he did back in the 80's! They even use the classic artwork that these figures originally came on. This is not only a nod to oldschool fans, but a real sign that Hasbro is pulling out all the stops to impress the collectors.

What's attractive about these packages is that although they look vintage, they still have strong enough art that it'll blow away anything that GI Joe has had on the shelves in years. In fact, I would bet most kids would instantly be drawn to these figures based on the artwork and impressive packages alone. Each figure is packed in a bubble, no twist ties, rubber bands or crap to bother him. He fits snuggly into his shell. Weapons are proudly displayed at his side, with a bright shiny silver GI Joe logo above him. Cobra figures have "COBRA THE ENEMY" on the package, so even if you know nothing about the Joe mythos you know who's a bad guy and who's a good guy.

Sculpting - Cobra Commander ***, Storm Shadow ****, Cobra Officer ***1/2
When it comes to GI Joes, sculpting has always been an important part. Joes typically had lots of intricate weapons and details sculpted onto their outfits. This is definitely the case now, with more details then ever. What's best is that lots of things that typically would have been molded onto the Joes, now come off. The ropes on Storm Shadow's backpack are a perfect example. Although they are one clump item, each rope looks like it could come apart and be used. It looks like real rope, impressive on a 3 3/4 scale. 

The weapons are nicely sculpted, particularly Storm Shadow's. Again his figure and accessories really take the cake of these three. The Cobra Officer is right behind, with plenty of neat gadgets on his likeness and again his belt and shoulder straps come off. He's also got a knife sheath on his right side leg and the knife fits in there perfectly. It's not out of proportion as previous Joe lines were. Cobra Commander scores the lowest only because his figure's sculpt is very plain. As it should be. He does have a unique feature where his gun fits into his back (no backpack required) just like the original Cobra Commander.

Paint - Cobra Commander ***1/2, Storm Shadow ****, Cobra Officer ***
Don't let these scores fool you, these guys are painted excellent. For a mass market figure the more detailed figures like Storm Shadow look like they have been painted at the $8-10 range. I've seen other pictures online that show these figures up close and they look to have a little slop on them. Mine don't, so I can't say much. Unless you are looking at these figures under a high zoom lens, you won't see any imperfections.

Again Storm Shadow takes the cake, with incredible colors on his bandage wrap. A gray-white wash, and even his sandals are painted as they go up between his toes. His weapons are nicely painted which is something new to the GI Joe line. I've heard that future waves may not have painted weapons, but for the swords and knives it really makes them stand out. There is a little controversy on SS with his Arashikage clan tattoo. The original 1980's figure this is based on was the first one to reveal that tattoo. It is located on the wrist. However, this figure is using the same body as "regular" Storm Shadow released in a 5-pack and has bandages on that area. Hasbro placed the tattoo on the figure but it's high up on his arm above the bandages. There are two camps, one which thinks it shouldn't be included at all. The other which thinks it should be featured on the original Storm Shadow figure as well. Where do I sit? I think people are just simply overanalyzing the product. Hasbro is remaking the 2nd Storm Shadow figure, which INCLUDED the tattoo. Thus why it's there. On the original Storm Shadow there was no tattoo and that's why in their first release of Storm Shadow the tattoo isn't present. If you are bothered by this, I personally feel you may be too "into" Storm Shadow.

Cobra Commander has a nice paint scheme, but his cobra symbol could be a tag bigger and brighter. Although some figures in the past have made this entirely too big, so a tad small is better then ridiculously huge. The Cobra Officer is well painted with a variety of details in various places. When you compare these figures to the art that they have on the package, they look almost identical, sans a few minor differences on Storm Shadow and to be honest I think the figure looks better then the package art.

Articulation - Cobra Commander ***1/2, Storm Shadow ***1/2, Cobra Officer ***1/2
Here again is some controversy between hardcore collectors. Hasbro announced that these figures would have the most articulation ever in a GI Joe. Which means these Joes feature a lot of articulation. However, some have noted that these new Joes can't reach some of the exact same poses that the originals could. Did Hasbro lie? No they didn't. The simple fact is that these Joes have slightly different articulation then the original line, which is why all the exact same poses can't be reached. Although to be fair, I really couldn't find a pose that an original could hit that the new ones couldn't, but apparently some people have.

The fact remains though that these GI Joe figures have must more articulation then the original Joes and it shines! Now not only do they have swivel arm battle grip, but they also have swivel hands! Which means you can turn their hands and wrists completely around. This is a much welcome addition. They also have double jointed knees, which is particularly fun for the ninja figures. They also have swivel feet, which allows you to turn the figures feet in a complete 360 and if you want to have someone get a broken foot on the battle lines, you can! They've added an ankle joint which allows perfect thrust kicks. 

All of the classic articulation seems to be in tact to me, although some minor differences are there. Needless to say they CAN move around a lot. The infamous O-rings are gone, replaced by torso joint. Some don't like it, but I think it's just fine. Again in super high depth camera shots, it doesn't look that great. But when you get these figures in hand you'll realize that it looks perfectly OK. These figures apparently can't sit quite as well as some of the classic Joes, but they all seem capable of sitting to me in a acceptable capacity.

Accessories - Cobra Commander **1/2, Storm Shadow ****, Cobra Officer ****
One of the strongest points for GI Joe figures has always been their accessories. While some toylines give you little to nothing, GI Joe has always given you plenty of weapons. This was often the downfall of the line in later years as they started offering "trees" which contained several generic weapons for each guy. But when GI Joe first started, each person had custom weapons that fit their personalities. The 25th line has returned to that tradition.

The scores may seem strange to you, as Cobra Commander gets 2 1/2 stars yet he only has one weapon? The reason for this is simple. Cobra Commander is the leader of Cobra. He's not in battle. He's had one gun for the majority of his career and he rarely has to use it. So the fact that it's his only weapon, just means he's perfect. Sure a few extra weapons might would have given him an extra star, but CC doesn't need any of that junk. He also comes with a figure stand (Something GI Joe pretty much invented) and a file card which draws upon vintage art and story.
Storm Shadow includes, a throwing dagger, two swords, a bow and quiver with arrows. Plus a belt, backpack and ropes around his torso. He gets a figure stand, which sports his name (All the new stands tell who they are) as well as the traditional file card. You may note that this version of Storm Shadow is actually listed as part of the GI Joe team, even though SS is most recognizable as a Cobra ninja. He was revealed some years later to be only working for Cobra for revenge and you can read the whole story on his file card. All the more reason that these are essential accessories for GI Joe. You get the an interesting back story of the character.

The Cobra Officer doesn't seem like he includes a lot, but this figure includes just enough. He's the "grunt" of the Cobra army doing the most basic work. He comes with a AK-47 Rifle and a knife which fits into his side holster. He also has a removable helmet and belt. He has a stand and file card.

Scale - ***
I'm throwing in a brief mention of scale because this seems to be another issue with collectors. Will these figures fit in with your classic GI Joes? Not entirely. This is a new line all by itself. That's not to say that some figures can't fit in. These guys have different heights ranging from 3 3/4 to right at 4 inches. It's hard to tell the difference unless you've got some old Joes right up next to them. Ironically not all old Joes are shorter. Sgt. Slaughter and other figures with big heads (and there are quite a few) stand toe to toe with these guys. While older figure like original Duke and Gung-Ho fall a little on the short side. The Valor versus Venom and Spytroops lines had the Joes grow and shrink a bit too. At least these figures don't have the shrunken head syndrome that many from those lines suffered. They aren't 100% to scale, however they are mighty close and can still be considered 3 3/4 range. Kids and collectors should be able to mingle most of these guys together without too much of a difference. Perfectionists might not be as happy.

Value - ***
For nostalgia there is no price. But these figures are working on something much more then just nostalgia. This could be a new line to collect for years to come. So I'm gauging them as such. It really depends on where you purchase these guys. I bought them online for $6.99 which is probably a bit steep. K*B Toys has them for about the same price, while Toys-R-Us is cheaper. Walmart has them for $4.88 which means they'd be 4 stars at that price. As it stands, these are still a good value.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
I feel like I'm 6 years old again. There is no price you can put on that. Seeing these guys on the shelves and getting to unwrap them is like a trip down memory lane. That said, kids from today will totally enjoy these figures as well. They don't look like "puny GI Joes" that seemed to effect the line in the mid-to-late 90's. These guys may be small, but they look like they could take bigger figures like the Legendary Comic Book Heroes in a fight!

Overall - ****
Is 5 stars an option? Look, it may seem like I'm glowing over these figures. It's true I am. The fact remains that these figures are great. I looked over the site and seen that VvV figures and Spytroops assortments were getting 3 stars. Those figures were nice, but they fall very short of these guys. This is the best version of hooded Cobra Commander EVER released. Which means he tops nearly a dozen other figures. If that's not worth your money, then what is? Storm Shadow is impressive in his simplicity and the Cobra Officer is a incredible update to a 25 year old design. If you can't see that these figures are just plain fun, then you are either too critical of toys, or you are too much of a diehard vintage sculpt fan. 

To me, these figures have not only got me reintegrated in GI Joe but have made them top priority in my figure collecting. These Joes aren't just a cheap cash-in on nostalgia like a lot of Hasbro's previous attempts. These are smart, sophisticated sculpts, with attention to every classic detail in an attempt to truly make the definitive versions of these characters. Are they? That'll be up to your own personal debate, but if you put these up on your shelf people might actually understand why you collect little plastic trinkets and that's not easy to do.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpt - Cobra Commander ***, Storm Shadow ****, Cobra Officer ***1/2
Paint - Cobra Commander ***1/2, Storm Shadow ****, Cobra Officer ***
Articulation - Cobra Commander ***1/2, Storm Shadow ***1/2, Cobra Officer ***1/2
Accessories - Cobra Commander **1/2, Storm Shadow ****, Cobra Officer ****
Scale - ***
Value - ***
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Overall - ****

Where to Buy:
These should be hitting the stores EVERYWHERE soon. K-Mart, Walmart, Target, TRU and K*B to name a few. You can purchase them online at a variety of locations. As a word of warning, buying them online can be much more costly as many online retailers are jacking the prices of popular figures up to preposterous prices. My best advice would be to check your local stores first, before being robbed by an online retailer. Although online will guarantee that you get the specific figures you want.

About the reviewer: 
Newton Gimmick collects Justice League Unlimited figures as well as TMNT, TNA Wrestling and WWE Legends figures. He also has a fair amount of other toylines including GI Joe, Swampthing, Robocop and Godzilla toys.

Figure from the collection of Newton Gimmick.

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