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GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
by Artemis

There's almost always a girl on the team - Teela, Wasp, Arcee, April O'Neil, Wonder Woman, Nova, Gloria Baker, Serena, Princess Leia, Devereaux, Chun Li, the Rogue, Legolas, and so on. It's convenient for the writers, since until someone makes Queer as Folk: The Animated Series you need a woman in order to do comedy relating to a guy having a crush on someone, and it's convenient for the executives since they can hide behind her whenever anyone accuses them of being sexist. Most importantly, so long as there aren't a lot of women around (since that'd make the show "girly"), having one or two is handy, since young male viewers will invariably develop a crush.

Shana "Scarlett" O'Hara is the GI Joe team intelligence specialist and is fluent in at least half a dozen languages. She's also a powerful fighter, expertly wielding her high-tech crossbow and applying martial arts moves learned from Snake-Eyes.

Serial Number: 624-29-SC34
Grade: Sergeant (E-5)
Preferred Weapon: 15P laser-guided solid alloy compound crossbow with scope

Wait a moment, how can it be a "solid alloy compound crossbow"? Compound bows are compound because they're made of more than one material - if it's solid, it's not. Sounds like someone didn't do their research; they can go hang out with Lady Vashj and her compound not-longbow. For that matter, I hope "at least" half a dozen languages means "a hell of a lot more than" - Scarlett (in The Rise of Cobra, anyway) is meant to be some kind of child prodigy, so you'd think her linguistic talents would be up in double figures at the very least. Then again, let's not be too harsh - this is GI Joe after all, so it's a fair bet that the filmmakers know all they really have to do it kit out their cast in high-tech military hardware and blow stuff up with élan. And knowing is half the battle. (The other half is precision violence.)

There are, the internet tells me, at least two Scarlett action figures in the movie's tie-in line - this one, featuring Shana in urban camo digs, and another which'll show her off in her swish futuristic bodysuit. Since that one's nowhere to be seen yet (presumably set for a later series), Scarlett's looking decidedly mundane for now, with only a slightly sleek belt setting her apart from every other poor bastard who's signed up for basic and regretted it the next morning; even her boots look standard issue, without any of the stick-on bands and straps that movie military footwear tends to acquire from somewhere. Hasbro haven't taken that as leave to slack off though - the overalls are well sculpted, with gentle creases and seams all over, pockets on the thighs, and the Joe hawk's head logo on the left breast. Well it is, don't look at me like that. The camo pattern is applied decently, navy blue and grey over a sky blue base, and while the pattern isn't anything to write home about, it sells the camouflage look pretty well on a figure only 4" tall.

Scarlett will be played by Rachel Nichols, which'll do the box office a favour as all the Trekkies will go see the movie - she was Gaila, Kirk's green-skinned space babe paramour at the Academy. She's a thoroughly good-looking woman whatever colour she is, but the action figure is an unflattering rendition of her. I suppose I have to give it credit for not being as bad as the Baroness, but it's still lacking the slight touch of caricature that a face sculpted small needs to be attractive - and I'm sorry, but Scarlett should be hot; it's GI Joe, not a documentary. Her hair is unpainted, looking flat and lifeless, her eyes are narrow with no shadow on the lids, and her lips have no colour at all - even if she's not wearing lipstick (which, fair enough, a soldier wouldn't; even under the Scarlett-should-be-hot rule I'll accept that), lips have colour, and skipping that makes her look a bit unwell.

If she's feeling under the weather, it doesn't affect her mobility though. She's got what I think is a balljoint neck - Baroness had one, and it'd be lunacy not to give Scarlett the same, since her ponytail leaves it much freer than Ana's artistically tumbling mane, but I can honestly only get a tiny amount of tilt out of it. Maybe it's just a very tight fit in its socket; functionally I'd call it a swivel, but perhaps other figures will behave differently. For the rest of the body, there's nothing much missing: swivel/pin shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists, balljoint sternum (again, shallow tilt; Baroness may have had one too, that I misidentified as a swivel), swivel/pin hips, double pin knees, and swivel/pin ankles. You want playability, you got it.

She's kitted out like a good Joe too, with a commendable selection of hardware. Her designated Goofy Big Spring Gun is sculpted in the form of a colossal sci-fi crossbow - let's be charitable and say it's a futuristic missile launcher with a binocular targeting system, that's at least a little bit more plausible. It fires some kind of swirly blue plasma missile thing, and if you've got any sense you'll dump it in the bits box and pick something else. The options are the famous crossbow, a pistol with a silencer, a slightly modified FN F2000 assault rifle, and a short sword. Scarlett is packaged holding the crossbow, and sadly (as is often the case; I wish they'd quit doing that) it's suffered a bit of bending, with the back angling off to the left. While Hasbro didn't do the obvious thing and just put it in its own spot on the tray, at least they had enough sense to fudge the way Scarlett holds it slightly in the packaging - it's packed sideways (and elastic banded to her hand, even though there's no grip for her to hold), with the arms vertical, which has kept them from getting bent.

Scarlett also has a backpack to stow some of that gear in - the crossbow has a plug on its back, opposite the handle, which fits into the backpack's rear surface, and the sword slots into a (very tight) clip on the side. Besides various sculpted pockets and the like, the pack sports a quiver of crossbow bolts, although the effect is hampered somewhat by the whole thing being sculpted in uniform glossy grey, and unpainted, even though the sculpt clearly includes fletching. The backpack is also a bit cumbersome to use, since it occupies the space where Scarlett's ponytail needs to be - you can bend the ponytail over the back of it pretty easily, but if you leave her like that for long it'll stay sticking out into space even with the pack removed. Finally, there's a black base, shaped like a dog tag - Scarlett's is rougher and less futuristic than the Baroness's model, and (of course) has the Joe logo on the bottom, rather than Cobra.

This is, I have to admit, a pretty good figure, but like the Baroness her face just annoys me. Disregarding the lack of any lip colour it's a decent face for a female soldier, but GI Joe isn't real life and Scarlett isn't just a female soldier - she's Scarlett, the modern military enthusiast's bit of crumpet. I wouldn't warn anyone away from buying this, but I do hope that the super-suit version is, as the current photos suggest, a lot closer to the commando hottie she should be.

-- 07/03/09

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