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Tactical Ninja Team

GI Joe: Retaliation
by yo go re

What's worse than having to buy a two-pack to get one character? Having to buy a three-pack.

The GI Joe team launches a surprise attack on Cobra! Ninja commano Snake-Eyes uses a rappelling line to breach the enemy's defenses as Sgt. Airborne descends from the sky. On the ground, Agent Mouse takes aim with his marksman rifle at the evil Cobra forces.

The first figure in this set (ie, the one farthest to the left in the box) is Sgt. Airborne. There's no biographical information anywhere on the packaging other than what we quoted up above, so there's no telling which Airborne this is supposed to be. Franklin Talltree (the guy everyone thinks of when they think of Airborne) already appeared in the first movie line, but he was given the codename Air Raid; so we're left to assume that this is meant to be a movie version of the other guy named Airborne, Robert M. Six. But the art on the filecard for Air Raid looked more like a white guy from Wisconsin than a Navajo from Arizona, so maybe they were trying to give Six his own identity for a change, but got confused about whose name and serial number they needed to copy? The name change actually isn't too bad: Talltree was a helicopter assault trooper, while Six was a parachute rigger; wouldn't you want to call the fighter "Air Raid," and the guy who packs the luggage the more generic "Airborne"?

That said, if he's meant to be an update of Talltree, he passes the squint test, thanks to the colors Hasbro gave him. He's done up all in tan, blue and green, just like the classic character. Looking at Airborne in the packaging, I was uninterested in the figure because I thought he was a repaint of Skydive - but as we've seen over and over, I am an idiot. Yes, he's made from reused pieces, but not Skydive's. The body is the one that was originally designed for the Data-Viper, though that figure was apparently cancelled for good when this one came out - at the time, it seemed like Airborne was the only time we'd see the mold. As we said in that other review, it's a fine sculpt that looks like a maintenance uniform, so it fits suitably beneath almost any kind of gear.

Just like the body, the head is a sculpt designed for another figure but thought lost to time. Airborne is wearing a black ski mask, which may seem out of place for a sky diver, but he's not the first to dress this way. The head was originally designed for Renegades Law, and shown off at conventions, but was cut for budgetary reasons. Good re-use, Hasbro!

Both of Sgt. Airborne's black guns also came with Law - a shotgun and an SMG. His jump gear comes from the Para-Viper, with slightly different hoses, since they don't need to plug them into his mask. The helmet is the one Renegades Ripcord wore, with the air canister hanging from the front. It's a good selection of accessories, overall.

Next we have a Snake-Eyes. Because you can't have a multi-pack without a Snake-Eyes, obviously. This one is a straight re-release of the awesome Pursuit of Cobra mold, which was a great toy, sure, but to not even swap a few pieces around? That's a little dull. The only paint on him is the red Arashikage symbol on his right arm.

The figure comes with the same small pistol, silencer, and boot knife as the previous release, so the holsters on his legs don't have to go empty. He has the backpack, swords and tekagi-shuko from Resolute Storm Shadow, while the rest of the accessories are new. Ish.

We begin with ornate webgear. It's bright blue with gold accents, which isn't very ninja-y, but what're ya gonna do? There are two ninja stars on the right shoulder, and three throwing knives on the left side of the chest. They're all just sculpted elements, not removable, but they look nice. He also has two MAC-10s that can clip onto rings at the waist of the webgear, and a pair of long, fearsome claw weapons. All this gear, including the reused Resolute pieces, were originally intended for Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Assault Storm Shadow, but that figure was cancelled - so like Airborne resurrected body sculpts we otherwise might have lost, Snake-Eyes is resurrecting accessories. The blue is a weird choice, but it's nice to see these pieces saved from the dust bin.

The third figure in the set is the one I actually bought it for: Mouse. No, that isn't a joke, I really bought this set because I wanted the action figure of Mouse. Stop laughing! It's true. Of all the new Joes introduced in the movie, Mouse is the only one who got identified by name. Heck, who am I kidding? If Hasbro had made any of the nameless guys, I would have wanted them, too. But they probably would have made us buy a Snake-Eyes repaint to get each, so maybe it's for the best.

When the casting call for Mouse was first announced, it was implied that he was going to be a central character in the film, a teen hunk to put girl butts in the seats. If that had really been the case, he probably would have been featured in more of the advertising. Or any of the advertising. His role was decent (as far as these things went), but it was far from "central." So that was probably just casting agent hype, trying to get actors interested in what was essentially a cameo role.

Mouse was played by Joseph Mazzello, best known for being the little boy in Jurassic Park. Yes, that movie came out 20 years ago, so he's an adult now. The likeness on this toy is very good - much better than most of the ones we've seen from this line. It's recognizable as the actor it's intended to be, which is more than we can say for Lady Jaye or Flint.

Below the neck, Mouse uses the same mold as the Retaliation Trooper, a figure we haven't reviewed yet (if you'd like a review, poke Monkey Boy with a sharp stick until he relents). The sculpt is well suited to a modern soldier, and for this figure it's been painted a deserty brown rather than the green on the Troopers; there are a few different shades to keep him from looking flat, too. He gets new forearms with the sleeves rolled up, and is wearing a really nice tactical vest with armored pads on the front and back, and various pouches sculpted around his waist. The blue is dark and muted, so it comes off better than the blue on Snake-Eyes. This is a very nice look for a (slightly) futuristic infantryman.

Mouse is the team's sniper, and comes with two bullpup rifles of indeterminate design: a sniper rifle with an angled foregrip, and an assault rifle with an underslung grenade launcher. They're both cast in beige, which is weird - it's too bright to be an attempt at desert camo, so they just look like toys. We've been spoiled by black and grey guns. Anyway, he also comes with a black knife that fits in the holster at the back of his vest, and a helmet that looks more like he's going skateboarding than going to war. He's also got a big silver clamp with an orange harness dangling from it. It can clamp onto a shelf, or hang from beneath one of the Retaliation planes. There's a hole in the vest and a peg on the clamp, so Mouse (or anyone else) can wear it on their back if you so choose.

Mouse is the only reason I wanted this set, but Airborne turned out to be pretty awesome in his own right (and almost qualifies as a new mold, considering that his head was never released, and his body only came out way after the fact), and Snake-Eyes comes with some accessories you couldd otherwise only get through theft. The Tactical Ninja Team turned out to be a better buy than expected!

-- 11/22/13

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