Sunday, 28 September 2014

Storm Shadow v44 (Ninja Force)

Company: Hasbro

Year: 2012

Some of you will remember that back at the beginning of September, I took a look at G.I. Joe’s Ninja Force theme from the 1990s. I mentioned there that I had never owned the Ninja Force iteration of Storm Shadow, and harboured some regrets about that. Well, shortly after writing the article, I came across something online that would plug that gap!

A couple of years ago, Hasbro released a few G.I. Joe figures to Dollar General (and a few other discount retailers) – an American discount chain which, to draw a comparison for Australian readers, seems to be more or less analogous to Kmart. They were seemingly used to get non-movie versions of some core characters (like Cobra Commander and Snake Eyes) into circulation at a cheaper price than normal. They’re a bit of a throwback to older-style Joes, with minimal accessories and retro paint schemes. So in today’s review, we take a look at the Storm Shadow that was released in this line – a modern tribute to the Ninja Force version!

This was the 44th version of Storm Shadow that’s been released over the years, so you’d hope they’d got it right by now! Fortunately, they’ve got a good thing going with this figure.
The toy is more of a paint tribute than a sculpt tribute to the Ninja Force Storm Shadow. He looks like he’s wearing a gi, the traditional martial arts outfit. The original did too, but this time all of the extra details have been discarded – the grenades and other paraphernalia are all gone. They're not really missed; though they were cool on the original figure, it's hard to believe that ninjas would have been rocking around with bright flashy gold objects on their chest.
Most of him is cast in a hard black plastic, but the lower legs and feet are cast in slightly softer white plastic – not quite as soft as the hood, bandolier and belt, though. In a nice touch, he’s wearing tabi, traditional ninjutsu split-toe boots. You can even see the notches from his toes through the “fabric”.         

As for articulation; well, G.I. Joe's articulation was well ahead of its time when it debuted in 1983, and was well ahead of the curve for much of the 1990s too. But how has it held up in 2014?  Well, he’s got the following joints:
*Ball-jointed head

*Swivel-hinged shoulders
*swivel-hinged elbows

*swivel-hinged wrists
*swivel ab crunch

*ball-jointed hips
*double knees

*swivel-hinged ankles
Pic from
Swivel biceps would have made it easier to get him into a good arrow-shooting pose, and also let him hold the katana with two hands – but whoa! That’s still a buttload of articulation for such a little guy. There are a couple of quirks that are worth pointing out though. Firstly, he doesn’t actually have a waist joint, though the hips and swivel ab crunch compensate for some of this. Also, you’ll find the hips don’t turn outwards in quite the way you expect. Perhaps most strangely, his wrists/hands are articulated differently – on his right hand, the joint cuts through the palm of his hand, which is pretty standard. The left, by contrast, cuts the joint sideways through the hand. These points don’t detract from the figure overall, but just make sure you manage your expectations accordingly if you’re from a more Marvel Legends-style background.    
Though it might have been nice to have a “true” update, it does mean the look is now a little more plausibly Arctic camo-looking, as opposed to OTT 90’s X-Treme styling. This is a positive thing, even though I'm a big fan of the original -- I can once again say without irony that I definitely want to own a real-life version of this outfit.  

Storm Shadow comes with only three “real” accessories – a katana, a compound bow and a Cobra stand. All are cast in matte black plastic. The Cobra stand is a nice addition – but the pegs seem slightly too big for the holes in his feet. It’ll fit, but it’ll also look like he’s levitating slightly above the stand too.

The sword was little warped, possibly from being held in his hand in the display box, but this should be fixable with some hot and then iced water. Neither stays in his hands very well, but it’s nice that they’re there nonetheless. Ideally, what I would have liked to see was the sword and a sickle cast in white like the original figure, but the compound bow (a tribute to his v2 design) is still pretty cool.

The hood, the bandolier and the belt are all removable too, but this doesn’t qualify them as true accessories in my book.   

There’s not a lot of paint, but it’s a good standard for the scale. My main gripe is that his hands are noticeably darker than his face. Also, I think the expression should have been made to look a little angrier – the expression works for a Joe-aligned figure, but this is apparently meant to be villainous Storm Shadow, so it seems a little too neutral. Still, he doesn’t sport any Cobra logos, so you can just use him as a Joe if you’d prefer.   

Storm Shadow is the first G.I. Joe I’ve bought since 2004, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The line has gone through many twists, turns and reboots since I was a kid, and I haven’t really kept up to date with what’s going on. But Storm Shadow -- and specifically his Ninja Force version -- remains a perennial favourite, so it was always going to be hard for me to be anything less than "very pleased" with this figure. He’s not perfect, particularly considering the price I paid for him (definitely more than retail), but Storm Shadow is still a very worthy addition to the collection. Perhaps more importantly, as with Raphael, it’s a 20+ year omission on my part rectified. 

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