G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary Serpentor
It was pretty well established early on that the purpose of the 25th Anniversary line was to celebrate the history and mythos of A Real American Hero, and even though he is a pretty controversial, divisional character, you cannot argue that Serpentor was a pretty big part of the Joe mythos back in the 80's, and does deserve his own spot in the Anniversary line up. However, to this point, the characters have bared a very strong resemblance to their classic visage, but Serpentor appears to be a pretty distinctly different version than when he first appeared in 1986. In fact I'm not really sure where all of the influences came from with this figure. There are definitely Devils' Due elements, some classic elements, but some totally new stuff as well. This has caused somewhat of an uproar in the Joe community...myself, I'm not really sure where I stand.
Once you start removing gear and armor, you get a bit of a mixed look from who should be a fearsome COBRA Emperor. He's got a somewhat inquisitive look on his face, and a clean shaven head, like the COBRA Trooper, and like the COBRA Trooper, people aren't crazy about that. I don't have a huge problem with it (after all, when Serpentor was first "born" he was, indeed, hairless), but the non-threatening look on his face does seem a bit out of place for someone who is supposed to instill fear and respect in his followers and his enemies.
I love the fact that his somewhat Roman "skirt" comes off, but I hate the fact that this notch and hole are left behind once you remove it. I think he looks pretty cool without it on, but that gaping spot around his waist just doesn't work. I may eventually try to trim the skirt up a bit to make it just a belt, but at this point, while the non-skirt look is still an improvement, he just looks funny without it. His cape is attached by two small string hooks, which are secured by the shoulder snakes. Those snakes have pegs which plug into shoulder holes, and are secured with glue. While messing with my figure, I popped off the right shoulder snake, and even with the broken glue seal it goes back on the shoulder fairly well, though I don't think I'd recommend that to everyone. Still, it leaves some options for customizing.
As for the rest of the figure, there are definitely elements of Serpentor's classic look visible throughout the figure, but they also are mixed within Devils' Due homages and totally new concepts, too. Personally I LIKE new concepts in my action figures, and I love to see some new takes on the classic looks. However, I also understand that this is not in the spirit of what the Anniversary line is supposed to be about. Fans have expected these figures to resemble their most iconic, classic appearances, and Serpentor really doesn't fit that mold. I do like how he looks...I'm a fan of the Devils' Due Serpentor armor, but this figure doesn't really have that look either. It's a mixture.
I have a feeling this was probably an executive decision by one of the designers to go in a different direction, and I'm not sure it's really what Hasbro was looking for, but that doesn't change the fact that the figure does still look pretty neat, even if it's not accurate. I must admit I'm not a huge fan of the Roman "skirt" look myself, because it alters his hip articulation even more than it is by default, and I don't think it really adds a whole lot to the figure overall.
From a sculpting standpoint, though this figure is fantastic. From the nicely textured chest plate to the intricate straps and buckles on his boots, Serpentor is just oozing with detail work and makes for an imposing figure (until you get to that head sculpt, anyway). Whereas a lot of figures have been great conceptually, but lacked somewhat in execution, I think Serpentor the opposite is true. The execution of the sculpting and detail is phenomenal, but I'm not necessarily sold on the concept behind that execution, so in the end, Serpentor is just kind of there...not really the impactful Anniversary figure he could have been.
But of course, since this is a G.I. Joe figure, and a 25th Anniversary figures, the wonders of the new articulation style must be discussed. Serpentor does fairly well in this department in most cases. While he came at a slight lean in the package, the torso joint freed right up, and is fairly mobile. He has swivel joints at his gauntlets, and the same great double-jointed knees that others have. He has a slight range of motion issue at his elbows, but besides that all joints work well.
As has become customary, though, he has those same hip-articulation problems that have become all too prevalant with the figures in this line. However, all is definitely not lost on this concept. We were promised at the Convention this year that Hasbro is definitely looking into those problems and that we should expect vast improvements there moving forward, possibly with changes even coming in Wave 3. This is terrific news in my mind, and will do absolute wonders to improving the overall feel and function of these figures. As it is, with Serpentor, his hips are designed in such a way that they cannot move well straight up and down, and when combined with his somewhat stiff roman leg-dressing, you get a figure that is nearly immobile from the waist down. You still get a figure that looks really striking, yet has a couple of knocks against it with the non-classic appearance and the limited waist-down articulation.
From an accessory standpoint, Serpentor comes with some stuff we've seen before. His helmet and sword both came with Hannibal in the Comic Pack #16 set, but he's got a new weapon as well, in some strange looking Egyptian style double-bladed knife. This knife looks really cool, and I really love how it could be used by the COBRA Emperor. Let's not forget he's a warrior as well as a leader, so I'm sure he's got some fighting skill, and I can really find some interesting ways for him to use this blade.
His gear also includes the familiar display stand, the "tassetts" that wrap around his waist, and I supposed his cape could qualify as well (even though it's glued in place). Speaking of his cape, I LOVE it. Hasbro has done an excellent job with this one. It's a very solid material, and the best thing is that it's actually cloth, so it's fully malleable with whatever position you want to put the figure in. It's great. All in all, the gear is pretty cool and makes a lot of sense. I think once I make his "skirt" a belt and free up his hip articulation a bit, I'll like him a lot more.
Serpentor does not resemble his classic version, has trigger fingers (but no guns), has some of the typical articulation problems, and a little bit of a goofy headsculpt. That all probably knocks him down a few notches on the "must buy" list. From an appearance standpoint, though, the figure looks really nice, I like his weapons, and overall he does look pretty imposing. He's a good head taller than COBRA Commander and even though he's not reminiscent of the classic version, the base elements are there and there is a good probability he could get retooled as a more "classic" looking Serpentor somewhere down the line. Still, he looks like a COBRA Emperor, and I think it's a decent figure overall. Definitely not in the top echelon of the Anniversary figures by any means, but I don't have the huge problems with it that other folks do.