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The Baroness

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
by Artemis

There's something that's always puzzled me about the GI Joe theme song: why are they only "fighting for freedom over land and air"? Are they seriously just letting Cobra have the oceans? That's almost three-quarters of the planet, and if seaQuest DSV is right, it's where we're all going to be living pretty soon. I bet Cobra secretly negotiated the "land and air" clause with GI Joe in 1982 when no one'd heard of environmental damage, and are now just sitting back and waiting for the world to come begging. Crafty bastards.

As dangerous as she is beautiful, Baroness is a master spy for Cobra and a powerful, high-ranking figure at M.A.R.S. Industries. She carries out her plans with icy efficiency, but her cold, cruel personality hides a painful secret from her past.

Preferred Weapon: M.A.R.S. Industries D57-A extreme environment tactical rifle.

Young lads go through a number of stages with regard to the fairer sex as they grow from oblivious preschoolers to perpetually horny teenagers. First is generally the Fairytale Princess stage, based on simplified, idealised women; as kids move from traditional age-old stories to their modern equivalents on TV they reach the Fairytale Amazon stage, which is basically the same thing but she'll have a weapon, because writers these days don't want to look sexist. By way of getting in early via children's cartoons, the Baroness (and various of her spiritual sisters like Evil-Lyn and Vanessa Warfield) is the '80s generation's gateway drug to stage three, the femme fatale. Like chocolate, she's bad for you, but you can't do the sensible thing and leave because she tastes oh so damn good.

Which brings us naturally to Sienna Miller, and GI Joe's current incarnation as a big-budget movie, and ouroboros-like to the toyline of the movie of the toyline. The Rise of Cobra Baroness is 4" tall and is naturally decked out in sexy black leather, though unlike the promo pics of the real costume it's shiny sexy black leather for the figure, so she must squeak alarmingly when she's in a fight. Thanks to Star Wars, and also GI Joe itself, we expect a lot of detail even in small figures these days, and Ana doesn't disappoint - in fact you'd be hard-pressed to find a single piece of her that isn't sculpted specifically for her, from her stiletto boots to the studded holster straps on her thighs to her fancy corset bodysuit and check-out-my-hips belts to the strappy gloves. Visually, I can only pick two shortcomings of her body, both to do with articulation and unavoidable short of omitting the joint altogether: the wide gaps in her hip joints, and the separation of the top of the corset from the rest of it at the sternum joint. Oh, and in the photo I'm looking at the costume has block heels, not separate stilettos; I can't think of any reason for the change, so chalk it up to a sculptor oversight, I guess.

("Ana" is short for Anastasia DeCobray, by the way - how, in a world where moron customs officials automatically suspect anyone with dark skin of being a terrorist, she expects to get anywhere with "Cobra" in her name, I don't know.)

["DeCobray" is an alias - the real last name is Cisarovna. --ed.]

So she's got a great body, which will cheer up all the fans who've been dreaming about it for decades, but her face... not so much. The sculpt kind of has Sienna Miller in there, but it's a really blatant example of one of those times when a sculptor, working on a face that's less than half an inch from chin to hairline, has tried too hard to be realistic. At that scale you can't do a likeness as you would on a larger sculpt - it has to be a caricature to look "right", and this doesn't.

To make matters worse the paint is indifferent at best, with poor eyebrows, tired-looking thin eyes, and lips that're way off base. Keeping the removable sunglasses on helps a fair bit, in that it hides the eyes and most of the eyebrows (and let's admit it, the standard Baroness fantasy definitely includes the line "No, leave the glasses on."); from a distance, the lips can look sort of like a smirk, rather than a mistake. Just to rub a little salt into the wound, her hair is a flat, somewhat glossy brown, and looks quite plasticky.

She may not have the looks, but she sure has the moves. Starting from the top, we have: balljoint neck (the hair is stiff but flexible, so the head can be moved acceptably), swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, swivel glove tops, swivel sternum, swivel/peg hips, double pin knees, and swivel/pin ankles. If she had swivel thighs it'd be all you could reasonably ask for at this scale - technically the arms could be swivel/pin/swivel-shoulders double-pin-elbows, but I fancy that'd hurt them aesthetically at this scale. Even the thigh swivels are a bit of a reach - I've said a few times when reviewing Star Wars figures that if only they had swivel/peg hips they'd be perfect, so in all fairness I guess I have to say Baroness is perfect, certainly far, far away from any kind of disappointment.

GI Joe means accessories, always has - you buy a Joe figure, you get a modest arsenal to go along with it. Baroness keeps up this proud tradition, although Hasbro just couldn't keep themselves from souring it a little with a preposterous spring-loaded gun. Let's get that out of the way first - it's a colossal silver launcher that, with its day-glo missile in place, is damn near as tall as Baroness herself, and from the angle of the grip I'm guessing is meant to be wielded underarm. It's a testament to the tight joints and hand sculpt that Baroness can actually hold the weapon without it falling off (although of course you'll need some way to stop her tipping over).

On the more practical side of things she's got a pair of handguns - two separate sculpts - which fit tightly in her hands, and also have little studs on their sides so they can be attached to her thighs; good decision skipping the actual holster, it'd have looked rubbish at this scale. There's also a M.A.R.S. case, a big chunky reinforced model probably stuffed with bioweapons or experimental technology, and a neat grappling hook and platform arrangement, with plenty of thin cord between the two, and a pair of pegs on the platform to help keep the figure stable on it - they're not tight enough to support her alone, but so long as she's got a hand on the platform's pole, they keep her feet from slipping off. And there's a little green gizmo which is either a chemical flare, an icy-pop, or evidence that Destro's been neglecting her; take your pick. As well as all that kit, Baroness has a base to stand on, with two pegs (very tight fits) and a blocky tech-floor design, cleverly bordered by a sleek dog-tag style design with the Cobra logo on the back of it (recessed, so the bottom is still flat).

The face is the big let-down - I've never seen a 3½"-4" scale face that's struck me as genuinely stunning, the way the likes of Warrior Isis or Machiko or G4H Lola make you go "Wow!" when you see them, but there are some pretty decent-looking tiny women around (Darth Talon for instance, or the little Uhura). If Baroness had've had a face even close to that standard she'd have been an absolute knockout; as is, she's got a lot going for her, but despite that, or rather because she's so good in other areas, you just can't help but rue that one mistake.

-- 06/26/09

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