Transformers Season 3, Episode 23, "Only Human," saw the Autobots defending the amazing futuristic realm of New York City circa 2006 from a simple human gangster. Of course, that gangster knew when to hire outside advisors.
Once resigned to slither back into the shadows and live
out the rest of his life coiled in quiet solitude, an encounter with four heroic Autobots - extraterrestrial robots from the planet Cybertron - changed Old Snake's vision of retirement. Gone was the reverie and aimlessness, cut down by the sharp return of an ambition for absolute power. With the incarceration of crime lord Victor Drath, a power vacuum in the underbelly of society gave Old Snake access to the perfect collection of condemnable and reprehensible individuals whom he could use to shape the new face of Cobra. For true muscle in the new day and age, however, he still needed something with the might to challenge any adversary, be it GI Joe, Earth Defense Command, or Autobot. Focusing on his expertise in experimental weapons technologies, Old Snake set about building the next Cobra army with steel plates and circuit boards rather than flesh and blood.
I love the implications of "Only Human," that Cobra was eventually defeated by GI Joe, and that Cobra Commander abandoned all his troops in order to run away, occasionally renting out his services to criminals in need of a mastermind. And apparently living like a hobo on the streets, while still somehow maintaining enough of a coterie to have a social secretary.
In the episode, Old Snake (voiced by Chris Latta, naturally) appeared to be wearing an old Cobra uniform beneath
a trenchcoat and a floppy hat. That doesn't sound like something you'd be able to cobble together from existing parts, but you'd be surprised. The upper body comes from a Rise of Cobra Storm Shadow (and everything but the arms was also used for Blind Master), while the legs come from City Strike/Resolute Snake-Eyes. The head may be new: it looks like one we've gotten before, but might have been retooled to fit into Muskrat's hat (or the hat might just be glued on - either way, it's not coming off). The coat is tan with red accents, just like it was in the cartoon, and the figure's skin, visible thanks to his fingerless gloves, is pink. The prototype gave him yellowy-brown fingers, like he had in the episode.
Since the hat is non-removable, Old Snake only has two accessories: a black backpack, and a MARS pulse pistol (which makes sense, considering the origin of the coat). He didn't use a gun in the episode, but Cobra Commander isn't the sort of fellow to not arm himself, right? Still, what's with the backpack? It's a weird inclusion and seems too small for the figure. But you won't be paying any attention, once you see what else he comes with.
Old Snake's first attempt to harness a strength similar to the Autobots that he once tried to capture resulted in varied results. The hulking robot of Old Snake's creation truly did possess brute force as well as great intelligence, however, the interference from former General Clayton "Hawk" Abernathy and the Earth Defense Command
caused the loss of any semblance of control over Serpent O.R. Not willing to commit the same error again, Old Snake decided to forgo intellect in his next endeavor. Mimicking the programming from Cobra's prolific but now-outdated Battle Android Troopers, Old Snake upgraded the Cobra BATs with added size as well as the ability to disguise themselves as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). Although not quite the height of the Autobots, the lithe and agile Stealth BATs can maneuver in ways that most of the robots from Cybertron cannot even imagine. To further aid in espionage as well as assault operations, each Stealth BAT also features a detachable bat-like Nightshriek remote unit that can access small spaces and create havoc through sabotage and data breaches.
Well that's just full of references, isn't it? The "Serpent Organic Robot" was introduced in the GI Joe vs. the Transformers: The Art of War miniseries, and was also made (by repainting Ratbat) as part of Transformers Figure Subscription Service 3.0. That figure was not made available to Joe Club members like Old Snake, here, or else we'd have a review of it. Anyway, the comic only showed Cobra Commander trying to hijack the project, not directly involved in its creation, so these toys are their own continuity. Back to the toy!
The Stealth BATs are made using the Prime Soundwave
mold, which is a nice choice. One, because it means we can just direct you to that review for all the details about the sculpt and articulation, and two, because the homage works so well! The black and yellow colorscheme works well, and the red and green details on the chest are a nod to the equipment in the old BATs' chests. In honor of the yellow strap BATS had over their left shoulder, only one side of the toy's chest is painted yellow. Talk about your attention to detail! Plus, the faceplate is translucent red, a nod to the animated BATs.
The shape of the faceplate is duplicated on the front of the UAV, and the black and yellow colors carry over as well, with bright tailfins and colors on the trailing edge of the wings. They're also marked with the Cobra/Decepticon combi-logo, and a single landing gear folds down in the front.
If you recall, Prime Soundwave had a tiny Laserbeak that lived in his chest, and that's present here, as well - which brings us to the second unexpected reference in the filecard. The "Nightshriek remote unit"
is named after a Japanese-exclusive repaint of Batscout, a noctillionine drone that turned into the right leg of Beast Wars Polar Claw. Deep cut! Since this set includes two Stealth BATs, it would have been really nice if one of them came with the mini Ravage that replaced Laserbeak when Soundwave joined the "Beast Hunters" subline, but that was probably gang-molded with pieces not included in this set.
The Stealth BATs must run on Energon, because the set includes two Energon cubes. They're just the top half of the cubes included with GI Joe and the Transformers #6 - no internal materials. So they're not super impressive, but it's nice to get them for anyone who doesn't already have a set.
Since Old Snake and his Advanced Stealth BAT duo have a history that's slightly different from what was seen in the cartoon, it's entirely possible that their continuity is the same as the continuity of the SDCC box sets, meaning that Old Snake would be the same Cobra Commander who once wielded Megatron! This is a really nice set, with the only real downside being that it's an exclusive, and most fans will never get to own it.
And once again, I have to give a big shout-out to random reader Rex, who was kind enough to use his Collectors' Club membership to hook us up with these figures - they're only available to GIJCC and TFCC members, so he's earned himself a huge chunk of toy karma!