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Shadow Tracker

GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by yo go re

It's no secret by now that Hasbro is somehow using Predator as a source for the "Jungle Assault" portion of the Pursuit of Cobra line. They're done Blain, they've done Billy, they've done a baddie with optical camouflage... and now we get a villain with big dreadlocks, a scary mask and all sorts of exotic weapons.

Shadow Tracker works for Cobra as a wilderness hunter and guide. Scorning conventional firearms, he uses traditional weapons from around the world. He tracks his prey using the primal instinct: he hears the dark whispers of the jungle, senses distant footfalls in the earth, and tastes his victim's fear in the wind. When Skydive lands in the jungle, Shadow Tracker instantly knows - and starts the hunt.

Everybody sees Shadow Tracker as the Predator, but if you took our advice and read the high-octane World War III, then he might put you in mind of Skull Buster. Dreadlocks? Check. Mask? Check. All about the wilderness? Check. So just as the "new" Jungle-Viper was secretly an updated take on the Night-Viper, maybe "Skull Buster" has been turned into "Shadow Tracker." Stranger things have happened, and there are certainly less-interesting characters who have gotten modern updates. But then, that's the beauty of toys: this guy can be whoever you want him to be.

The figure is an all-new mold - something that's always been rare among GI Joe figures. Yes, we admire the creativity it takes to build a character entirely from reused parts and still have them look unique, but those parts have to start somewhere. Shadow Tracker is a big guy, reaching 4¼" tall. He wears green and black camo pants, a heavy black vest with pouches on the belly and back and green patches on the shoulders. If you take the vest off you'll find a tight grey tank top, but you'll also notice that the upper torso is far thinner than it should be to be in proportion with the rest of his body - he's been slimmed down so the vest doesn't look unnaturally bulky.

Skull B... er, Shadow Tracker has a truly frightening face. He's wearing a translucent green mask that's smooth on the outside, but has details sculpted on the inside. You can see hints of the face beneath the mask - not that he actually has one. The mask is glued on, but you can pry it off with very little effort, and if you do, you'll see that he doesn't have a face. Rather, he has a bare, skinless skull. What the hell?! Creepy! His eyes are just blank white dots floating in black sockets, which just makes him look worse. It's wild! His dreadlocks are made from at least two separate pieces layered over one another, so they have the proper sense of depth to them.

Now, let's talk weapons. A few of them are reused: he has the same bow and arrows as Spirit, and the machete is the same mold, as well. Of note, however, is Shadow Tracker's right hand: the hand is sculpted with two fingers held out, like a real archer would draw an arrow. Nice! The one I got has a bit of leftover molding sprue on my bow, but it ends up looking like a counterweight or something, so I'm not too upset. He has the additional wrist joints that a lot of Joes are getting these days: a hinge in the right wrist that moves the hand in or out, and a hinge in the left that moves the hand up or down; the combo allows you to fine-tune his weapon poses, including making him look like he actually knows what he's doing with that bow and arrow. Hasbro's much better at that than any company that works with DC.

Beyond that, the figure is armed with a small knife, a wicked-looking khukuri, a ballistic knife (that "bump" on the hilt is the trigger), an apparently handmade flail, and a Congolese za throwing knife (the multi-pronged axe thing). There's also a weirdly ornate spear, and a working net to capture Joes. The knife sheathes at the small of his back, and the quiver, flail and sword have pegs that fit into holes on the figure's leg and back. There are two holes on the vest, but one is covered by his dreadlocks, so it only works if you twist his head out of the way. Weirdly, there's a peg-hole in the spear's blade, for no clear reason, and the end of the spear is actually the same size as one of the pegs.

Sadly, while all the weapons are cool, or at least interesting, there's no way for Shadow Tracker to hold them all (unless you want to make a bag out of the net and have him carry that). You can throw him some truly wild, dynamic poses, but he still has to pick and choose which gear to take on each mission. Whether you want to think of Shadow Tracker as a new character or as a movieverse version of Skull Buster, he's a visually interesting toy with a nice selection of weapons. In short, he's a welcome new villain.

-- 04/29/11

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