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GI Joe 25th Aniversary
by yo go re

You ever wonder what would happen if, instead of a pair of burnouts, Bill and Ted had been cutthroat military leaders with an eye toward world domination? The guys they collected in their phonebooth would have been put to a much different use, that's for sure!

A secret cabal of Cobra scientists, under the direction of The Interrogator and Destro, combed the tombs, sarcophagi, and relics of the great despots of history to find cells with DNA traces. From these long-dead genetic blueprints they produced a composite clone with the military genius of Napoleon, the ruthlessness of Julius Caesar, the daring of Hannibal, and the fiscal acumen of Attila the Hun... the ultimate Cobra Emperor! A master of political intrigue and a brilliant tactician, he is capable of wresting power from Cobra Commander. Fortunately for the GI Joe team, the Cobra Emperor's own ambitions were not taken into consideration by his creators.

Wow, that is an old-school mistake right there. Old enough that it has to be intentional, and not a mistake at all. See, when the filecard refers to "the Interrogator," it doesn't actually mean the guy who uses that codename: rather, "the Interrogator" was, along with "Dr. Brainwave," one of the working names for Dr. Mindbender. The character's name hadn't been finalized when Serpentor's 1986 filecard was put together, so repeating the error here is a either an obscure reference or a massive screwup.

Serpentor was one of the few actual TFAC figures, released in 2007 on a card with metallic silver details. And while the filecard may be a throwback, the figure itself isn't. You know what the classic Serpentor looks like, and it isn't like this! Where's the chainmail? Where are the snakes coiled around his chest? Where's the big hood? This is a complete redesign. The armor on his chest comprises horizontal bands, and he's wearing a kama skirt that stops just above the knee. He doesn't have any armor on his thighs, but his kneepads are technological and the boots are similarly advanced. The only real connection between this Serpentor and the one from 21 years prior are the snakes on the shoulders, the large cape, and fact that it's gold with green trim.

In the comics, Serpentor had a full head of black hair - we couldn't say for sure whether the cartoon followed suit or not. The figure is bald as a cue ball, but that doesn't really mean anything: remember, all the TFAC Cobra Troopers were bald, too; it was 2008 before we saw one with painted hair, and 2009 before one actually got it sculpted. So this toy may have a clean-shaven pate, but it's possible the character doesn't, you follow?

Serpentor stands 4¼" tall, and moves very well: balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders and elbows, swivel wrists (at the top of the gloves), balljointed torso, balljoint hips, double-hinged knees and swivel/hinge ankles. His accessories include a double-bladed "serpent's fang" punching dagger, a short sword and a removable helmet. The dagger is a new design, but the sword and helmet are both based on the ones included in Comic Pack #16, based on the Devil's Due comic. Notice we said "based on" - they're new sculpts.

With the sleek battle helmet and the redesigned armor, you almost get the feeling this figure was meant to be based on the Devil's Due take on the character, when he made his second run at control of Cobra. But that armor was far more technological than this one, almost to a level befitting a Metal Gear Solid character, like Grey Fox or Raiden. This, compared to that, is nothing. It's like a halfway step between the classic look and the DDP design, not really servicing either in the process. We don't fault Hasbro for trying something new with the character - after all, retro updates are nice, but if that's all you ever do, the line will never move forward - but in Serpentor's case, at least, it would have been appreciated if they'd either gone all-out and turned the reborn Serpy into a toy, or stayed retro and did a straight update of the original figure. This half-measure seems like a cop-out.

-- 04/16/10

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