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GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by yo go re

We've previouly made fun of the 1980s "magical native" version of Spirit. Let's see if 25 years have made this reinterpretation any more enlightened.

Spirit Iron-Knife is a wilderness tracker on the GI Joe team. He uses a combination of innate ability, skills learned from his Native American elders, and military training to find and follow signs in any environment. He uses his skills in the jungle to track the movements of Cobra troopers concealed in the dense tropical forest.

In the '80s, Spirit was a tracker just because he was an Indian and therefore more in-tune with nature. Max Brooks (yes, the zombie guy) came up with a far more interesting take on the character recently - yes, he's a natural-born tracker, but it has nothing to do with his ancestry. Charlie has sensory integration disorder, which means he notices everything, and is unable to shut anything out. Ever try to listen to someone's conversation and what's on the radio in a passing car? You can't. You have to pay attention to one or the other. Spirit can't filter out the signals, so he notices things other people would miss. Now, isn't that better than the ability existing because he's an Injun?

Spirit is part of the "Jungle Assault" quadrant of the Pursuit of Cobra line, so he's wearing green jungle-friendly gear. Green shirt, green elbow pads, green (and brown) gloves, green pants... you get the idea. The torso, oddly, is from Alpine, but it works for him - the low, scooped neck seems good for hot weather. He shares his legs with one of the new Dukes, and his arms come from Zartan. He absolutely looks ready for a walk through the jungle. He tops off the outfit with a nicely detailed olive drab vest, one of the pieces originally seen with the Pit Commando. The vest has eight pouches and a non-removable holstered pistol - the last time we saw it it was solid black, but giving it new paint apps really brings out the details.

Speaking of paint apps, Spirit gets some nice ones. His pants have white speckles, probably intended to function much like the spots on a young deer's back - you know, that sort of sun-dappled camoflauge that never seems like it would work, but in practice always seems to. He also has some patterns on his arm wraps: tessellated T's on the right arm, and a thunderbird thing on the left. I'll level with you, here: I haven't been able to discover whether these are authentic Taos Puebloan designs, or just generic "indian" symbols off the flash wall at the local tattoo parlor. I know you folks come here because we provide deeper insight than anyone else, but now you know our secret shame: we're weak on the subject of the indigenous artwork of native tribes from the American southwest. Sorry if this lets you down. We'll try harder in the future.

Spirit's head is good. He's traded in the braids of the '80s for a shorter cut and a green bandana around his forehead. He's got a 1000-yard stare, and green greasepaint over his cheeks. If all this sounds familiar, well, it should: he's Billy. Not this Billy, Billy from Predator. It's particularly blatant on the card art - this is clearly just a 4" figure of Sonny Landham. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Spirit's accessories are a really nice bunch. In addition to the vest, he has the exact gun Billy used in the movie - an AR-15/SP1 fitted with an underslung Mossberg 500 shotgun (a piece that first came out in Generation 2) - a hatchet and a blade that falls somewhere between kukri and a machete. His backpack is actually a quiver with one removable arrow, and he has a really nice compound bow. He also includes two bright green snakes (same mold that came with the Crimson Neo-Viper).

Looking at pictures online, people seem to be confused about how Spirit should be holding the bow. The thing sticking off it horizontally? It's not a sight, it doesn't need to be near his face; it's a stabilizer, used to reduce or prevent noise, vibration, and tourque. For this accessory, it's meant to extend back under the figure's arm. If you want to get techincal, under his right arm - the bow is sculpted with a proper rest for the arrow (remember, unless you're using a traditional longbow, the arrow never rests on the archer's hand, because that would hurt like a melonfarmer), but the shelf is on the right side, meaning this is a left-handed bow. [Or Spirit likes his arrow to be on the outside of the body, for some reason. --ed.] Oh, and yet again, the arrow is the right size - pay attention, DC!

I really didn't plan to get Spirit. He's a TRU exclusive, so he's already going to be slightly more expensive, and I'm not that big a fan of Predator, so it wasn't like his being Billy was enough to make the sale by itself. But now that I have him, he's so good that I'm actually a bit sad I didn't buy him sooner. This is just such a cool figure! He's going to look nice next to Blain... er, Recondo, and hopefully Hasbro will keep this Predator homage going for the rest of the team: Carl Weathers as Stalker, the other black guy as Heavy Duty, maybe Short-Fuze as the guy with glasses... it's all doable, and it would be awesome.

-- 10/29/10

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