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Cobra Battle Set

GI Joe: Resolute
by yo go re

The GI Joe Resolute Battle Set was a really good offering, bringing to life many of the designs we thought we'd never get to see as toys. But every group of heroes needs some villains to face, which is where the Cobra set comes in.

Zartan can blend in with his environment so skillfully that he becomes virtually invisible. Using make-up, mimicry and disguises, he can successfully impersonate anyone. He's also a clever acrobat, contortionist and practitioner of several mystic martial arts. Elusive and secretive to the extreme, he is difficult to to find and almost impossible to capture. His skill as a marksman is less well known, but was used by Storm Shadow in the past, with tragic results. Zartan encounters Duke and Scarlett in a Cobra-controlled missile silo and relishes this opportunity to battle them.

We all know Warren Ellis got the job writing Resolute specifically because he didn't know anything about GI Joe - but obviously he picked up a little bit along the way, because how else do you explain some of the coincidences? Zartan killing the Hard Master? That comes straight from the comics. And to have an author randomly choose that same setup, out of all the available characters? Nuh-uh. Obviously someone gave Ellis the cliffnotes.

In the cartoon, Zartan was shown to be very lanky and serpentine, with a very narrow face and a nearly flat nose. This figure uses the same head seen on both G3 Zartans, and surprisingly, it does a great job filling in. Sure, a newly sculpted head would have been exciting, but this 3-year-old head actually looks quit a bit like the cartoon. Fortuitous! His eyes are neon green, and his facial shadow-spot things are tan, rather than black.

Zartan's Resolute costume seems very influenced by the TFAC Zartan: brown pants, dark shirt, grey body armor. He's even got green gloves! He uses the same plain body that a lot of modern Joes have, beginning with Snake-Eyes, and his limbs come from Flash. The hood glued to his head is new, providing a lot more coverage. His armor is a series of angled plates over the chest, shoulders and back, leading to a pouchy belt with a satchel hanging off one side. It's a new piece, and looks great. They even got the glowing lights on his back - part of whatever device powers his chameleon abilities, perhaps? In general the figure's colors should be darker, but that's no major flaw.

Both Zartan's onscreen weapons were designed by Dan Norton, and the toy versions are very accurate. He has a sniper rifle and a handheld missile launcher. Each of the accessories is black and olive drab, and can be held in either hand.

Cobra Alley Vipers are urban assault specialists who are equipped with body armor, night optics, covert observation gear and an arsenal of weapons. To graduate from their training program, they are required to survive a full burst of machine-gun fire across their heavy body armor, execute a thirty-foot jump onto concrete with full combat load and run down a hundred-meter, gas-filled corridor without a gas mask. Who else would Cobra Commander send to guard a missile silo essential to his latest plan to conquer the world? The darkened, decaying station is their native element. They know how to use shadows, corridors and industrial structure to their advantage.

We all know the Alley Vipers are one of those oddball G1 creations that developed an inexplicably huge fan club, but let's be honest, here: their costumes were hideous and made zero sense. There is absolutely no place in the world in which blue stripes on an orange background are considered "stealthy." [Boise State football field. Boom! Lawyered! --ed.]

The Resolute Alley Vipers are dressed in much more reasonable uniforms. In fact, they just look like slightly advanced Cobra Troopers - if Scarlett hadn't exclaimed "Alley Vipers!" when she saw them, that's probably what we'd think they were. That design decision makes sense: after all, these guys are basically meant to be Cobra's version of a SWAT team, and a SWAT team looks like a better-outfitted version of the cops they work with. The majority of the body is shared with the Trooper, but the arms come from Comic Pack Storm Shadow, of all people! An unusual choice, but it works great. He wears a heavy, padded vest with a black Cobra logo on the chest and big pouches around the waist.

Alley Viper's head is new, though it has an angled mouth area similar to the movie's various Neo-Vipers. The eyeholes are large enough that you can see he seems to be wearing a ski mask beneath the hard faceplate. Must be for comfort. The figure comes with a helmet that has a removable pair of red goggles - but unlike the Vipers, the goggles can fit either over the eyes or pushed up on the forehead.

Other than the vest and helmet, the figure includes the same two weapons as the plain Resolute Cobra Trooper: an oversized black rifle with a grenade launcher attachment and an ultra-modern silver submachine gun of some sort. No backpack, sadly.

A major weapons supplier to Cobra, Destro takes a great personal interest in the success of the evil organization's undertakings. This is a man who understands power, and the ruthless actions that are often necessary to acquire it and keep it. He heads to the far north with the Baroness to take over a complex communications array, as part of a Cobra plan to control every country on the planet. His technological understanding of the system serves him well, but he finds himself challenged by the stubborn ingenuity of the GI Joe team.

In Resolute, Destro was a huge guy - if this was a videogame and he was downloadable content you got free for preordering at GameStop, he'd just be an alternate skin for Roadblock. If you managed to get all the way through that tortured metaphor, good for you; if you didn't, he was really tall and really wide. He wears a double-breasted military longcoat with red trim, a gold shoulder cord and silver buttons. The legs underneath the coat are new, as well, even though there was no real need for it. The gem he used to wear on a medallion on his chest is now used as a clasp on his throat.

Like Zartan, Destro's head is a reused piece. It was used for the box set Destro, it was used for Comic Pack Destro, it was used for Iron Grenadier Destro. If there was a G3 Destro, this head was on it. The reuse doesn't work as well on Destro, however, since the cartoon had a very distinctive wide jawline that this figure lacks. Hey, at least it's not vac-metallized, right?

Destro has the Dan Norton-designed rifle, which is similar to the SAR-21, but obviously a different weapon. That makes sense: Destro isn't just an arms dealer, he's also a designer, so of course he'd carry his own product. The set includes two silver pistols that fit in the holsters on his belt; a really fancy MARS briefcase with a full keyboard, a flip-up screen, and a space for the included HK MP5K; and a replacement arm with the coat sleeve torn away. Why the arm? It's from a deleted scene in the movie. After being captured by Roadblock and Gung-Ho, he would have revealed a hidden missile launcher and used it to escape, leaving the Baroness behind. This arm doesn't have the launcher, but the idea is clear.

Cobra Commander has always believed that vast wealth will give him his greatest desire: limitless power. But lately, he has come to realize that he must first achieve complete control over every nation on Earth. Once he holds the world in his fist, the money will be his to enjoy. He used technological sabotage to bring the world to its knees, and demanded that every country turn over control to him. His hunger for power and wealth have utterly corrupted him, to the point where he will easily obliterate cities without even a twitch of remorse.

This figure is the biggest disappointment in either Resolute pack. It's not that it's a particularly bad Cobra Commander - in fact, it's great. It's the same mold we reviewed in the mass-market box set, done in shades of blue instead of black and red. In other words, it's the same as the single-carded release fans already bought. Yes, the particular shade of blue is slightly different, but that's a minor change. If you already bought Cobra Commander a year and a half ago, then this is just a wasted space in the seven-pack.

What's particularly insulting is that we know there's a different Cobra Commander mold out there: Arctic Cobra Commander would have come in a Comic Pack with Resolute #3 and a similarly "Arctic" Scarlett. Hasbro already paid to have the steel tools cut to make the figure, so why did they re-release this one instead of something that would actually be new? It's really bad planning.

Cobra Commander even has the same accessories: a sword and a black pistol (as well as the removable helmet and shawl). Adding a bit of variety, we get a new dagger - probably the one CC used to kill Major Bludd. It has a silver blade, and a golden cobra-headed hilt. And that's nice, but you know what? It could have come with Arctic Cobra Commander just as easily.

The spoiled offspring of wealthy European aristocrats, the Baroness was a student radical who began her destructive activities at universities then moved to the international arena. She eventually found her way into the Cobra organization and became a close associate of Destro and a trusted lieutenant to Cobra Commander. Her relationship with Destro calls into question her true loyalties to the commander, since she allies herself with the strongest individual in an organization and will change allegiances when necessary to keep herself in a position of power.

Baroness filled her usual role in Resolute: rubbing up against Destro most of the time, but fully capable on her own and just a bit sadistic. She (along with every other female in the cartoon) was voiced by Grey DeLisle, who you should know as Princess Azula from Avatar - and if you don't, that's your own fault and it's something you should fix as fast as you can. This doesn't just look like another Real American Hero release, though, thanks to the lighter colors and the kama (skirt).

Comparing this figure to the character model, it's immediately apparent that they're not the same thing. Oh, they've tried to make her match, using clever paintwork, but that can only go so far. The body originally came from 2009's Cobra box set, so it's not exactly a common sight, but a lot of the details just don't line up. The head is new, and while it looks fine from the side, it's too wide across the front.

Baroness's glasses are removable, but it's worth noting that they're sunglasses, rather than the wire-rims she actually wore on the show. Good thing, since her eyes look so weird. She's armed with a matched pair of silver submachine guns - more MARS Industries specials? Same model as the cartoon, but there they were black.

Storm Shadow hungers to be the greatest ninja in the world, and the only person standing in his way is Snake-Eyes. As a young man in the Arashikage ninja school, Storm Shadow demanded that his uncle teach him the final step in the Seven Steps to the Sun, a ninja technique of immense power. But his uncle refused to do so, questioning his nephew's worthiness. Now, Storm Shadow has instigated a showdown to prove that he is a greater ninja than Snake-Eyes - and by proving that, he will also prove that he was the most favored student in his uncle's eyes.

Resolute Storm Shadow was much closer to his animated roots than he was to the comic version: so basically, he was unabashedly evil, not just misguided, like he was in the comics. This confused some people. Of course, other people were confused that Storm Shadow "suddenly" started fighting Snake-Eyes, because they'd only ever seen the cartoon, and thought he should be fighting Quick Kick or something.

Storm Shadow is wearing his traditional sleeveless white gi, but this time it's removable. Yes, you can strip him to the waist, if you so choose. It's a new sculpt, obviously, with a thick red belt and a small brown pouch on the back. His shins and forearms are wrapped, and he's wearing sandals. His pants are sculpted to be slightly baggy. He has a red tattoo on each forearm: a Cobra symbol on his left arm, and the Arashikage hexagram on his right. Incidentally, one of Larry Hama's working names for the character back in the '80s was "Ghost Shadow," at which point the family name would have had to be "Yureikage."

In the Real American Hero continuity, Storm Shadow only took to wearing a hood over his usual mask when he joined the good guys: in Resolute, he's got it even while being a villain. Like the shirt, it can be removed, making Stormy look even more like his old versions. The mask is covered with many wrinkles, making it look more like thin cloth than, say, a ski mask. It works.

The rope bundled around Storm Shadow's chest is a separate molded piece that you can pull off if you want, but he's got some real accessories, as well. He's got a black, three-clawed tekagi-shuko, two swords, and a brown backpack with sheaths for the swords. Unfortunately, the backpack has been designed the wrong way: he's supposed to draw over his right shoulder, not his left, and technically the backpack should be straight up and down, not at an angle, but we can forgive that.

Firefly works for Cobra Commander in a variety of capacities. As a man of many talents (all of them criminal), this mysterious saboteur is a master infiltrator and an artist with explosives. He prides himself on his precision, creativity and reliability, all of which make him the go-to person for any job deemed impossible. He welcomes the admiration of others, but a large fee is the only reward that matters to him. When Cobra Commander wants a direct line of communication with world leaders, he turns to Firefly, who carries out his assignment - in his own unique, destructive and frightening way.

Okay, now this is just weird. When the movie Flash came out, everybody pegged it as a repurposed Resolute Firefly mold - it had the same armor, and some decidedly non-Flash-like sculptural elements on the back. Hasbro made no secret of its origins, and lots of people made Firefly customs using it as a base. Now we finally get a Firefly... and he's not made from that mold? The hell?

The only part of this figure that is shared with Flash is the head, which isn't exactly an ideal situation: Flash's mask has one seam running over the top, while Firefly's had two. It's a minor thing, sure, but when they've gone to such pains on other characters, it's worth mentioning, at least. The rest of his body comes from the Cobra Trooper, which does provide a fairly accurate amount of armor, but it's still not perfect.

Firefly's accessories include the usual Firefly backpack - you know, the one with all the crazy sculpted details and the panel that opens to show his bomb-making tools. There's the silver and black Resolute Cobra gun, and the brown padded armor is removable. The set includes a knife for the sheath on the small of his back. Packaged next to him in the tray is the same cool three-piece missile launcher that came in the five-pack - good news for me, since my dog decided the other one was something she should eat.

The release of this seven-pack is a testament to patience. Stolen samples from the factories hit eBay last year, with people paying through the nose for Baroness painted blue or Destro without his accessories. A few single-carded Storm Shadows actually made it to stores in the Philippines, so he was another one. Now fans are complaining about having to pay $40 per set, but before these releases were announced this February at Toy Fair, those same fans were paying more for individual figures than it would cost to buy both sets. Resolute was a great show, and though this Cobra set isn't as good as its Joe counterpart, these are still very cool new versions of the characters.

-- 8/27/10

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