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Cobra Combat Ninja

GI Joe: Retaliation
by yo go re

Remember how, for the first movie, "G.I.J.O.E." was going to be an acronym for some stupid thing, but then Hasbro stepped in to say no, ignore that, GI Joe is just GI Joe, same as it's always been? Well this time it was Hasbro going nuts, declaring everybody and his brother is a ninja, and the movie just ignoring it because it was stupid.

Cobra Combat Ninja troopers are trained in elite martial arts techniques, but are equally skilled with ninja and military weapons from swords to submachine guns. They blaze into battle firing their missile launchers at the GI Joe team!

Although the first film was, as given away by the title, about the rise of Cobra, they never actually operated in public. Sure, Baroness and Storm Shadow got pursued through Paris, but as far as the plain Cobra troopers went? They attacked a convoy in the middle of nowhere, attacked a secret base even more in the middle of nowhere, and then got attacked in their own secret base (which was way to the north of nowhere, I believe), but no one ever really saw them. That's why, in the second movie, the president can announce to the public that he's employing Cobra forces and no one suspects anything out of the ordinary.

Forget the "Combat Ninja" name - this is the plain Cobra Trooper as seen in Retaliation. Despite the fact that this is, from the neck down, nothing but a fancy repaint of the Pursuit of Cobra Cobra Shock Trooper, it works perfectly as a Retaliation toy: the Cobra Shock Trooper had a very "real world" aesthetic, and the movie did the same. There are some differences - the specific shape of the kneepads, the size of the pockets on the webgear, the placement of the logo on the arm - but considering that there was no new sculpting, it's an amazingly close likeness.

The paint is what really sells this as a movie toy. Rather than bright blue uniforms you'd be able to target halfway across the battlefield, Cobra's forces wore a modern digital camouflage that had to be ragingly expensive for the toy to duplicate. The paint on the final figure is crisper and more detailed than the paint on the stock photos, which is pretty much unheard of. The base color is a pale beige, with a light gray and a surprisingly vibrant blue above that - we choose to take the blue as a subtle nod to Cobra's origins.

Above the neck is where the new sculpting comes in. The trooper has two new heads, one of which is wearing a slightly baggy balaclava with two seams sculpted over the top and a thin eyeslit. Over that he's wearing a helmet taken directly from the movie: the inner-most level is a small, plain helmet, with a ¾ shell over top, a mounting bracket crest on the forehead, and big cheek flaps. The guys in the movie had bare faces under the helmet, but the mask makes armybuilding easier.

The second head is a cyclopean battle helmet that looks like Gray Fox from Metal Gear Solid, but is actually a reference to the comics. IDW's A Real American Hero comic (the one that carries on the '80s continuity) had this whole long arc about the Blue Ninja clan, a cybernetically enhanced group with a vendetta against the Arashikage. Anyway, this head is a direct copy of one of the Blue Ninjas. That's the kind of synergy Hasbro does with the Transformers all the time, so it's nice to see them finally doing the same with GI Joe.

In addition to the removable helmet and webgear, and the extra head, the Cobra Combat Ninja comes with a sword and scabbard to help sell the notion that this infantry grunt is somehow a ninja. He's also got an HK G36, an assault rifle that's either a Ukranian Vepr or an F2000 (but either way is the same gun Sgt. Stone and Ice Storm came with), and some weird snub-nosed little thing that no Joe figure has come with before. In case his allegience was in question, he has a flagpole with a Cobra flag (not pictured because I'm an idiot).

Finally, he comes with the same multi-piece rocket launcher first seen with the Resolute box set. It's a cool accessory, but what's really fun about it is the paintscheme: the entire thing is an homage to that classic Cobra artillery vehicle, the ASP! The body of the launcher is dark blue, and is painted with the large white numbers "1-627" (the original ASP had "1-267" on its barrels). There's a red Cobra logo near the front, and at the back you'll find a coiled golden snake spitting fire - the ASP's logo. It's similar to the way Storm Shadow's flightpack was a reference to the ASP's fellow 1984 release, the CLAW glider.

The Cobra Combat Ninja may have a stupid name, but it's still a good toy. Of course, the Cobra Shock Trooper was a good toy, too, so just being a repaint kind of gives this one a leg up. The design is a bit too plain to stand with classic GI Joe characters (unless he's going to hang out with the Rock-Viper), but it's a terrific representation of the movie design and comes with a bunch of cool gear.

-- 08/01/14

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