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Hard Master & Snake-Eyes

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

Today's review has a real sense of history.

The Hard Master is the head of the Arashikage clan, a centuries-old and highly revered ninja clan famous for its martial arts techniques, including the "Arashikage Mind Set," the "Sleeping Phoenix," the "Ear That Sees" and the "Cloak of the Chameleon." Together with his brother the Soft Master, the Hard Master trained Snake-Eyes to be the exceptional ninja he is today. The Hard Master recognized the natural abilities of his newest student, yet tested him again and again to make sure he was worthy to receive the mark of the Arashikage clan and wear it with honor.

The Hard Master is, like Wraith, based on the "super-commando" version of Snake-Eyes. He's done in red and white, and has quite a few weapons and extras molded on: shuriken on his arms, small knives on his waist and a scroll on his right leg. He's wearing a white bandana, which is removable: the set also includes a facemask with silver eyes. The headgear just squeezes onto his bald dome, but it stays well.

The figure is armed with a bow and arrow, and also has a sword in a scabbard next to him. The sword has a white hilt, and the Arashikage symbol is molded on the scabbard. There's a real white string wrapped around it, as well. There's a hole in the Hard Master's chest that was originally used to attach some add-ons to the Snake-Eyes figure, but it still serves a purpose here. See, the arrow has a small plug on the end and, well, it's no secret that the Hard Master's death was one of the things that caused a split between Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow.

Snake-Eyes was an enlisted soldier in the military and served with Storm Shadow. During one mission, Snake-Eyes was severely wounded when his Long Range Recon Patrol unit got into a firefight with the enemy. He owes his life to Storm Shadow, who dodged enemy fire to rescue his fellow soldier. Snake-Eyes left the service to study mystic martial arts with the Arashikage clan, which also trained Storm Shadow. Snake-Eyes became the star pupil of the Hard Master and received the clan's hexagram tattoo upon completing his training.

Although this figure shows Snake-Eyes before he joined the Joe team, it's not the first to do so - or even the earliest chronologically. Remember, Comic Pack #26 had a figure of [Classified] back when he was just a plain old soldier; he didn't go to Japan until after the war.

This figure uses the same body as the 25th Anniversary Storm Shadow, done in gray instead of white. They forgot to paint his upper chest pink, though. The head is different, taken from the recent Red Ninja figure - you can tell by the two little Deadpool-style mask-nipples on his head. The detailing on his gi is very nice. He's wearing wraps around forearms and shins, and brown sandals with sculpted detail on the soles. The belt is new, lacking the tucked-in throwing stars and gap for a knife.

Proto Snake-Eyes' assigned accessory is a bo staff, just like Donatello. And by "assigned" we mean "he's holding it in the package." It doesn't show up in the comics or anything. Beyond that, though, the set includes a very nice weapons display, black with gold dragons painted on the front. There are melted candles on the right and incense sticks on the left. There's a second sword and scabbard - this one has a black hilt - and a wooden practice sword as well. Technically I suppose the sword is meant to be the one Snake-Eyes eventually wields, but right now it just belongs to the dojo, not to him.

When they started these comic packs, Hasbro was originally including straight reprints of the old Marvel issues; after that, there were still reprints, but they had new covers; then we got new stories designed to fit between existing issues. Apparently they got tired of that, because now the stores kind of go with the old continuity, but not really, and they've dropped the "#½" numbering. This comic is #10 under their new numbering, but since it involves Snake-Eyes' ninja tests, it probably would have been #26¼ or something.

The pairing of Snake-Eyes and the Hard Master is a good one, but there is at least one downside: since Hasbro is switching its focus to the live-action continuity for now, there's no way of knowing when or if we'll ever get the Soft Master, the Blind Master, or any of the other Arashikage clan leaders. Here's hoping, though!

-- 04/17/09

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