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Cobra Commander

GI Joe: Retaliation
by Monkey Boy

Remember when GI Joe: Retaliation got pushed back nine months and everyone freaked out and thought the toys were being recalled and we wouldn't get our precious figures? Yeah that didn't happen. Series 1 of the figures arrived right on schedule and, after the initial scalper sweep, plenty of figures found their way to pegs. Yes, Series 2 would be delayed until the film's release, but maybe that's a good thing. The thing is, people got so worried about whether or not the figures would hit stores that they momentarily stopped complaining about figures that many people had previously been griping about for not being very good. The discussion was no longer about whether this figure had ankle joints or whether that figure could hold anything in its hand, it was now about whether or not GI Joe figures would disappear from store shelves forever. I'm not even exaggerating, that was a genuine fear people expressed.

It will probably go down as the Y2K of toy collecting history: a big hyped up deal that ended up being nothing. As far as the movie itself goes, we won't know if the delay was a good or a bad thing until March 2013, but there have been pretty valid arguments going both ways. What we can judge, though, are the toys, 'cause despite every toy collector in the world getting their panties in a bunch, the sun is still in the sky and Joe figures are still on toy shelves.

Cobra Commander is the evil leader of Cobra, and the most dangerous man alive. His staff of power strikes with fury, launching a venomous missile from the snake's mouth.

One such figure is Cobra Commander, the ever-present villain of the franchise. Like the GI Joe Trooper, he's got a variant: mostly blue outfit with black elements, or almost entirely black. We can't be sure at this point but we're pretty sure the blue version was part of the earliest shipments, with the black version replacing it. Which version you fancy is up to you, but judging by the footage we've seen, it appears the black version is truer to the film. You never know though, this may be one of those "Hoth Han Solo" moments where fans can't decide what color something actually is even when the film does get released.

Whatever the color, I'm really digging the sculpt of this version of CC. It's a nice mix of ceremonial military dress and functional battle-ready gear. His dainty shirt collar and flared pants suggest the former, while padded vest, gloves, boots, knee pads, elbow pads and helmet add to the latter. He has a removable bandolier/belt combo with lots of pounches and a nice gilded braid, again showcasing the balance between ceremony and combat functionality. All in all a very nice take on the Cobra leader.

The helmet features his familiar silver facemask framed by a fanged snake face, a feature more associated with Serpentor, though it looks right at home on the Commander. It's also slightly reminiscent of Robert Atkins' design for the new Cobra Commander in the IDW comics, which is probably no accident, since Hasbro was involved in the design of both.

One strange aspect of the sculpt is the right arm: it's totally different from the left one. The right forearm has a lobstered gauntlet as opposed to the padded glove of the left, and the design continues all the way up to his shoulder. It looks cool, but definitely makes one wonder about the reason for the asymmetry. Is there a reason for it, or is this just a case of "hey, asymmetrical designs are cool"? You can tell it's not the costume he's wearing in the movie anyway (at least judging by the promo images we've seen so far).

The paint is going to depend on which one you get, but some aspects are the same for both versions: black helmet with silver face mask, red cobra hood and eyes on the helmet frame, gloss black gloves, elbow pads, and right arm armor, black and gold bandolier, red Cobra sigil on the left breast, black thigh holster, gloss black knee pads, and black boots. The rest is either molded in blue or black. I prefer the black, as it looks a bit more "real world", but the blue actually reminds me of the old 1991 Cobra Commander that came with the weird launching plastic cut-out airplane.

And then there's the elephant in the room: articulation. Most Retaliation figures feature some degree of articulation cutbacks, much to the chagrin of Joe fans everywhere. The main joints CC lacks are ankles and a second knee-hinge. Not nearly as bad as the current vehicle drivers, but not quite up to snuff with today's expectations. I guess if you were really going to nitpick, you could say he's missing peg-and-hinge wrists, but those haven't quite become the standard with every figure. As it is, he's still well articulated, just not quite as much as we're used to. Considering he's an entirely new sculpt, there's not a whole lot of sacrifice when you compare him to one of the motorcycle-riding figures or the "battle-kata" Roadblock.

Accessories have also been sacrificed for the movie line. Gone are the Pursuit of Cobra accessory overloads, and CC even lacks a display stand, which has been standard for Joes since the G3 style of figure debuted. He has a silver rifle, and a silver gun that fits rather poorly in his thigh holster, but the accessory with the most buzz is the giant snake's head staff.

Some people love it, some people hate it, but personally I'm torn. It's actually a pretty cool design, with a realistically sculpted cobra head that fires an energy blast projectile when you pull back the head and the mouth opens. The sculpt is really nice, but it's just so big. It's hard to get the figure to stand with it since it's so top-heavy, and the lack of a stand makes the task even more difficult. Also, the top piece that plugs into the silver pole only comes molded in blue (with red paint apps on the eyes and underside of the hood), so it looks a bit out of place if you get the black Commander.

Cobra Commander has a great sculpt, and though the articulation isn't as plentiful as it could be, it's not a deal breaker. The accessories are definitely a mixed bag, but as far as the Retaliation figures go, he's definitely one of the better ones, and his cool design alone really makes him worth grabbing.

-- 06/15/12

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