Issue #21 was described on the cover as "The Most Unusual G.I. Joe Story Ever!!"-- with two exclamation marks. The story is simple, but the manner in which it is told is even simpler, and as such, more complex. A simple story introducing Storm Shadow involving the rescue of Scarlett from Cobra by Snake Eyes takes place here... with no dialogue.
If you like ninjas and need more of them, this is the set for you.
If you're a kid, the recent Ninja Battles set with five figures, a DVD, and a comic book may be up your alley. This release has fewer items, but the nostalgia factor is high, and it's not every day you see the original Storm Shadow mold decorated in such a magnificent way.
We've had red ninjas, we've had dozens of Snake Eyes, and we've had many Storm Shadows. So why the heck do you want a set like this? Simple-- if you're new to Joe, it's awesome, and if you don't feel like shelling out $20-$50 for an original Storm Shadow, this set offers an excellent substitution.
Storm Shadow turned out well-- to the untrained eye, it's a straight rehash of the original version of this figure. Of course, this is not the case-- Hasbro basically understands the collector's market and that they can improve on old designs, and have done so here admirably. Storm Shadow has new upper arms from a figure we can't currently identify, but the rest of the figure is vintage 1984 with new colors and deco. The paint is sharper, the skin is darker, the eyes are painted much nicer, and it's a cripser figure than the old ones we're used to seeing. His boots are repainted, the Cobra logo looks better, and the various silver weapons on his belt and bandolier seem to be better painted, and of course the Cobra logo is the newer, more detailed version. Overall, the figure feels like an improvement unless you're genuinely upset at the lack of sleeves for his ninja garb. We got over it quickly. While some of the figures in this wave were painted fairly sloppily, we're happy to report this one was not badly painted.
Snake Eyes is a classic, as evidenced by his many appearances in every Joe series ever. This is the third comic pack he's been sold with, and seeing as how there have only been 11 packs so far that's pretty impressive. This is the first one given a new head.
Numerous patches, pouches, and other bits of his suit were painted unlike many previous versions. Like Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes has the old-style neck that allows him to swivel his noggin, but not look up or down. The new head is crisp but not overly modern-- actually, Storm Shadow looks more like it's a 2005 figure than Snake Eyes. The figure is a good one, and the quality is fairly high, it's just that it's yet another use of the 1982 body and frankly, we've had enough of it. Although it is cool.
Finally, there's a Red Ninja Viper. An older Ninja Viper was sold in a minty green color, and looked more like a surgeon than a ninja. This one is obviously a ninja, and was made from the mold used for the second version of Storm Shadow in 1988 (which was used again for "Urban Strike Storm Shadow" in 2004.) He has a decent paint job, and in the many samples we examined, he tended to be the one with the most problems, all in the facial area. We found a good one, but we went through two cases worth of this set to find it. The figure itself feels like an older figure, despite updated and improved decoration, and could easily blend in with some of your older figures.
After the bulk of the line was stuffed with extra guns, this set is a little lacking. One gun, but lots of other extras make it a fun set.
Two scythes, three swords, a grappling hook, a machine gun, and even a little extra to store your swords on a figure's back. Not bad, it's still more accessories than you can use at any one time, but it isn't like it's some sort of ridiculous abundance with which you can equip other toys.
Unlike the first series of figures, the second series of G.I. Joe Comic Book Figure Packs has updated its artwork to look more contemporary, and not like the figures in the actual book. While disappointing, it's understandable as it makes them blend in with the figures elsewhere on the shelves. And since collectors will buy them anyway, they have to look good for the kids.
Above, you can see the front and back of the package and the filecards. The new style art looks good, but doesn't really evoke the "primative" look that the comic books themselves carry. Still, the expressions (where applicable) look good and it's not like they made these figures look any goofier with their artwork-- which is a good thing.
While not shown, this set is worth five Battle Points.
Also included is a reprint of G.I. Joe issue #21. In it, Scarlett is kidnapped by a mysterious white ninja, and Snake Eyes jumps in for the rescue. He fights Cobra troopers, he disguises himself as a Cobra, and through the whole issue, nobody says a single word. It's hard to give sequential art aimed to sell toys to kids a title like "masterpiece," because it feels goofy to do. Although in this case, relative to the rest of stories in this genre, we'll give it to scribe Larry Hama-- the guy's a good storyteller.
There's a lot more you can do with art to tell a story than some comic artists today will realize, and this feels like the G.I. Joe comic equivalent of a student film with a decent budget. Top notch work-- the figures are good, and this is probably the finest comic out of all of these packs. So if you can afford but one of these, odds are this is the one for you.
We like ninjas-- we grew up in the 1980's, so it's part of our culture. Even if the ninjas we grew up with weren't at all like the real thing. (We're OK with that.)
Kids or collectors would likely enjoy this set because it has a nifty story that transcends language, three good figures, and enough accessories for an actual "adventure" of sorts. You can do only so much with a gun, but toss in a grappling hook and you've given the pack of toys a brand new direction in which they can go-- they are no longer marred down by the need to fight, now the play pattern has been expanded to include numerous other activities.
We think it's well worth the money-- and as it may be one of the final comic book packs (it's unclear given the language in Hasbro's recent press release), it's a fine send-off for the line. If it is being sent-off, that is.
Text and photos by Adam Pawlus
Review posted on March 15 2005
Sample purchased in February 2005 from a Wal-Mart in Phoenix, AZ for about $9.84