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GI Joe 25th Aniversary
by yo go re

A lot of fans were upset when they realized the big 25th Anniversary Collection box set had Commando Snake-Eyes instead of Ninja Snake-Eyes, but Hasbro threw them a bone in Series 1 of the individually carded figures.

Subject served in Long Range Recon Patrols in South East Asia. Left the service to study mystic martial arts with the same Ninja family that produced Storm Shadow. Snake-Eyes was living an ascetic existence alone in the High Sierras with a pet wolf named Timber when he was recruited for the GI Joe Team. Qualified Expert: All Nato and Warsaw Pact small arms, black belt in 12 different fighting systems and highly skilled in the use of edged weapons.

Snake-Eyes was [almost --ed.] the first GI Joe figure to be re-designed and re-released, starting a trend that would continue throughout the line's history. While his first figure was a plain commando, the second began moving him toward being the ninja we all know today. He'd wear a couple other costumes over the years, but this look is still the definitive version of Snake-Eyes. It's also one of the rarest, since Hasbro lost the molds.

Snake-Eyes uses the same body as the box set figure, but with just enough minor changes to make him seem unique. His shirt still has the banded cuffs at the wrists, for instance, but this time they've been painted silver, so they won't look much like the old things. The only part that isn't re-used is the head, which features the visor he's so known for - the first release was wearing goggles. The majority of his outfit is grey, rather than black, but he also features quite a number of paint apps to accentuate the sculpted details.

The sculpt is very detailed, even without the paint, and does a good job of updating the 1985 Snake-Eyes. The knife on his right thigh is removable, and there's some device sculpted on his left thigh. He has small pockets on his biceps, just like the original figure, but he doesn't have the bandolier of grenades sculpted across his chest any more - that's a separate piece. Amazingly detailed piece, too. Looking at it, you can even see the way it would clasp if it was a real item.

Even Snake-Eyes' accessories are taken from the old figure - mostly. He still has an uzi, but his sword is clearly a ninja-style weapon, rather than the unique, asymmetrical blade he used to wield. They even gave it a silver paint app, so you no longer have to pretend he fights with a black blade. One thing that's missing, though? His backpack, which featured clips to hold the sword when it wasn't it in use - this Snake-Eyes has to keep his hands filled all the time.

There's one more accessory in this set that comes from the old days, and it's one that's truly welcome: SE's pet wolf, Timber. Okay, so maybe "pet" is overstating it a bit - Timber was still a wild animal, he just seemed to have an affinity for Snake-Eyes, going so far as to guard the mountain cabin even when the soldier wasn't there. Timber was the first animal companion introduced to the GI Joe line, but he certainly wouldn't be the last - however, other than the original in 1985, Timber has only had two action figure appearances, in the Valor vs. Venom series and the Sigma 6 line (the repainted coyote that came with the Kid Rhino dvd doesn't count).

Just like Sigma 6 Timber, this one comes in more than one paint scheme: though the classic gray is most common, there's also a chase black variant out there. How can a wolf change his fur color so drastically? Well, no one ever said it was one wolf: according to the comics, the original Timber died of old age about a year after the Joe team disbanded; but before that, he'd fathered a whole litter of pups, so maybe the different coats show different offspring. This wolf is actually the same as the VvV mold, which is nice, but lacks the sleek head of the original. The old wolf looked like he was ready for a fight - this one looks like his nap was interrupted.

Timber may not have any articulation, but Snake-Eyes sure does. He has balljointed ankles, double knees, balljointed hips, balljointed torso, peg wrists, balljointed elbows, balljointed shoulders and a balljointed neck. That's 22 points of articulation on a 4" figure, and it all works great. To help keep him standing in even the most extreme ninja pose, the figure includes a black display base with his name printed on the front.

If you look round online, you'll find fanboys bitching that these new figures don't have the rubber O-ring waists, or that the range of motion in the joints is bad, or any number of other imaginary faults. Don't listen to them: it all boils down to "wah wah wah, it's different than it was when I was seven. Change scares me!" Boo-hoo. These figures are all superb offerings, and Snake-Eyes is one of the best. If you have any interest in the character at all, there's no reason to hesitate: this is, unquestionably, one of the best toys of the year.

-- 08/12/07

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