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Red Ninja

GI Joe: Retaliation
by yo go re

You'll have to excuse this ninja: he was hiding in the elevator from The Shining.

The evil and mysterious Red Ninjas help carry out secret Cobra missions. From their mountain top dojo, these masters of mid-air battles use their zip lines and ninja swords to attack anyone who dares to enter.

The Red Ninjas show how deep into the GI Joe mythos writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and director Jon Chu are planning to go with Retaliation. (Or "were planning to go," it's hard to tell what the proper verb tense is for a movie that should have been making its way to second-run dollar theatres by now, but instead won't be released until next spring.) Anyway, the Red Ninjas came from the comics, where they were Arashikages who had gone rogue after Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow left the clan in the wake of that whole Hard Master thing (which we already know is repeated in the movie continuity, thanks to the flashbacks).

This is the figure that made Renegades Storm Shadow so excruciatingly hard to find: it shares the same molds, so Stormy didn't have a very long production window before they had to start injecting red plastic instead of white. On the plus side, if you got that figure, you already know how good this one is going to be; on the minus side, no, you didn't get that figure. Most of us didn't. The sculpt is excellent, making him look like he's wearing a loose silk uniform with a black sash. The sculpt isn't identical to Storm Shadow's, however: the Red Ninja is wearing armored pades on his forearms, hands, knees, shins and feet that the original mold didn't have. Why not? It's not like that one was even close to being cartoon-accurate to begin with, might as well spice it up a little.

The head is of course identical. It's a guy in a hood, with a mask over his lower face - how much different can it be? The colors used on the figure are nice. His red is just a bit darker than you might expect, but that keeps the toy from looking plasticky. There's just a flash of skin visible here, but it's painted cleanly, as are the eyes.

Since this figure's mold is the same as Storm Shadow's, so is the articulation - making the Red Ninja the only Retaliation figure released so far that has articulation up to the standards we'd come to expect. What he doesn't have is Storm Shadow's jaw-dropping arsenal; rather, all he gets is a pair of swords with no scabbards to put them in, and a zipline launcher that can snap onto his wrist. The set comes with instructions showing three different ways to use the zipline, but it neglects to mention the one that will apply to most of us: "put it in a box and forget it exists."

If you couldn't get Renegades Storm Shadow, this isn't a replacement: a big part of the appeal of that figure was the wide selection of weapons he came with, and this figure just can't compete. However, if you did find SS, this is still worth getting - not only is the Red Ninja an update of a real Joe character, but he's got a few newly molded pieces that keep him from being a retread. He'll also be a good base for a custom Slice, if you're so inclined.

-- 09/14/12

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