G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary Comic Pack Wave 4
Issue #4 - Firefly vs. Storm Shadow
Over the past few years, Devils’ Due has had their successes and failures as any company or creative team will, but something I always thought they did a remarkably good job at was uniform design (or redesign). Characters like Storm Shadow, Zartan, and Destro got several facelifts that still managed to heavily retain the spirit and “feel” of the characters themselves. Storm Shadow’s uniform especially borrowed elements heavily from his most familiar look, yet really added some nice “zip” to the design. With the vintage style, some of this “zip” would be pretty tough to replicate, but in this Anniversary style they have some more wiggle room and they take advantage of it pretty well. But honestly, we’ve gotten a number of Storm Shadow’s already, and how can they really improve on Firefly? How can they possibly make this set all that desirable? Well, the secret is a lot of new accessories and new design ideas, and even as the only 2-pack in this wave without a new character, this Comic Pack is far and away the “star” of Wave 4.
Firefly’s appearance has morphed somewhat over the years, but a core concept of his design has always been the gray “urban camouflage” look. I think it’s that look to the character that has really sparked his popularity and made him a character and a figure that so many fans are fond of. But as a saboteur, it makes sense for him to have some different looks depending on his current job duties, and in that way, having somewhat altered uniforms is a good idea. Hasbro takes that idea and runs with it, really giving this version of Firefly a veritable buffet of destructive weaponry that is very, VERY impressive.
From a figure point of view, Firefly uses the same tooling he did last year when he was first released, but his overall gray color pallet is quite a bit darker and more subdued. Some of his straps are now brown instead of black, and his familiar cross-strap web gear is replaced by a full body Kevlar battle armor vest…one that looks immediately familiar as G.I. Joe SWAT specialist Shockwave’s. The vest is great, the darker color scheme is great, Firefly’s overall appearance is exceedingly successful. Do you agree, Fred, or was Firefly “just right” the first time around?
Hasbro eyes the pitch… and swings! It’s a hit! It’s going! Going! GONE!
The first Firefly figure was pretty decent figure considering that he was made almost entirely out of parts from Beach Head. Sure, I found the color gray used for the uniform to be a bit light in color but my biggest issue with that first release was in the ill-seated web gear that completely encompassed the figure’s head. In one re-release, Hasbro has managed to fix both of the issues I had with the original 25A version and give him some insanely cool new gear to boot! The interesting this about this darker version of Firefly is that he actually doesn’t even need the included web gear to look perfectly well-designed. The overall darker colors bring out something in the mold that just works—and the new belt and brown paint applications on the legs are just the icing on the cake. Complaints about this re-release of the original Cobra Saboteur? Not from me! The best part about this figure is something I mentioned earlier—he looks good with or without the included vest which means that this figure offers up some fantastic options for display not found in the previous version. (Guess who’s going in my “extra figures” bin after I get done with the new version?) This is a fantastic update that required a minimum of effort on Hasbro’s part—and that’s what I call efficient!
Of course the figure is all well and good, but the accessories are where Firefly really shines here. As I’ve already mentioned, he comes with that full body bullet proof vest, which looks great, and gives us a pretty good indication that we’ll be getting a Shockwave down the line somewhere. The red goggles also add a nice different flair to the figure and unlike the Viper’s they fit perfectly. They slide on and off easily, yet fit snugly and don’t fall when you look at them sideways.
The obvious crown jewel of this Comic Pack would have to be Firefly’s backpack. Hasbro takes his saboteur equipment to a new level with a backpack that fits easily on his back, yet opens into a miniature equipment locker that contains a removable gas tank, explosive bomb, wire cutters, and a flashlight. It’s amazing how nicely integrated all of these different components are, and how well it all fits together into the backpack. A terrific added accessory that adds a lot of value to this pack for sure.
Yet as cool as all of this is, I’m easy to please…for me, it’s all about the guns (or gun). Even though Firefly is proudly carrying a pair of weapons in the package, it’s easy to see that really only the submachine rifle belongs to him, the Uzi is meant for Storm Shadow. First of all, in the included comic, Storm Shadow is the one rattling off gunfire with the smaller weapon, and as if that wasn’t clue enough, there’s a spot inside the COBRA Ninja’s backpack perfectly suited for the small 9mm. So even though the obvious inclination is to think that Firefly should have both weapons, the smaller gun definitely should go with Storm Shadow. I’m not sure why they packaged it in Firefly’s hand, but regardless both weapons are incredibly well detailed and realistic. They both come in the pack, so you can allocate them however you see fit, and you’ll see a few pictures below with both Firefly and Storm Shadow taking turns with the very cool small automatic.
You know, it’s ironic that when I shot my pics for the review of the single-carded version of Firefly I replaced his included SMG with Marauder Gun-Runners MP5. I see that the folks at Hasbro followed a similar line of logic and ditched his WW2 era weapon in favor of something a bit “quieter and deadlier”. Justin’s right, however, that the included backpack with the removable “Ace Hardware of Death” assortment is the real highlight of this set. I’m a perplexed as to why he’d carry a block of C4 and a gas can in the same pack but they look great and that’s really what counts. In terms of value this figure alone would be enough to sell this set! (I do find it ironic that he looks a great deal like the ARAH Snake Eyes v4 with the goggles on. Hmmm… another potential repaint down the road perhaps?)
As I talked about at the beginning of this review, Storm Shadow’s Devils’ Due look has always had a strong appeal to me, and the design team went out of their way to replicate it almost perfectly. The key to the design is the elaborate chest straps and gold ropes that connect the front and back, and this looks just like the COBRA Ninja stepped out of the pages of Devils’ Due comics. A great way to get more mileage out of the Storm Shadow character and figure.
This version of Storm Shadow also has some newly tooled lower legs (that are actually nicely reminiscent of the ’88 version of the character) though the lower legs really don’t fit the COBRA Trooper upper legs real seamlessly. There’s something a bit funky with the knee joint and whether it’s because of the pose in the package, or because the “fit” wasn’t exact, the legs come off as a bit screwy. Not sure exactly how to describe it, and it’s no deal breaker, but I feel like I’ve got to at least mention it. It’s also curious that he comes with the Trooper upper legs (including the knife sheath) yet has nothing that fits in that sheath.
Another minor head scratcher is that Hasbro evidently elected to ignore the fact that the Devils’ Due Storm Shadow actually had a white partial uniform on underneath the web gear. There was flesh visible, but most of Storm Shadow’s chest was covered by white fabric. I would have thought that this could have been replicated easily enough with some paint (no new tooling really required) but Hasbro just goes with the plain old bare chest “Gung Ho” look. It’s not bad, just a bit different from the source material. I do have to admit I like the Gung Ho parts a bit more than I thought I would, though. What about you, Fred, I know you have a certain hate for the Gung Ho Anniversary figure…does that affect how you feel about this figure or this Comic Pack?
Sigh… I’m never going to hear the end of my initial Gung-Ho rant, am I? (Justified as it may have been!) I think that there is a simple explanation for what Storm Shadow is rocking the “no shirt” look in this comic pack. Hasbro has released this torso/ waist combination twice now—first in Gung-Ho and second with Torch. In both cases the figure’s upper torso was molded in flesh tone while the waist was molded in flesh with a painted lower half. In producing this figure, Hasbro simply changed the color that was on the paint template for the lower waist and then had the factor machine the parts “as is”. In other words, the factory most likely could have molded the figure in white plastic to simulate a covered chest but elected to take a simpler option. As a result, the bare-chested look throws the design of the figure off in my eyes. Yes, it’s probably the closest we’ll ever come to a Devil’s Due-inspired version of Thomas Arashikage but I can’t shake the impression of Storm Shadow grabbing his uniform before having his morning coffee and then showing up at the office and realizing just what he forgot to put on. In other words, this is one of those “close but no cigar” figures that Hasbro has produced. I won’t even go into the Gung-Ho arms which really should have been fixed by now, considering how little use they’ve seen. In all likelihood I’ll take this web gear and slap it onto the Storm Shadow from comic pack #21 and see if it looks any better.
Like Firefly, Hasbro decides to really add some spark and add some value with the accessories included in this set. Along with the new Devils’ Due inspired web gear, we also get a very nicely designed backpack that holds two ornate swords…a very cool trio of weapons for the COBRA ninja…but that’s only at first glance. Closer inspection reveals that this backpack opens up and is very nicely detailed inside with a bevy of other ninja weaponry sculpted into the backpack’s interior. None of it is removable (except for the Uzi, should you decide to put it in there) but it is a very cool touch, none the less. I also like the fact that Storm Shadow gets himself a machine gun as well. It puts him on more even footing with Firefly in this set, and once you check out the way the gun fits into the backpack, it’s clear that this is Storm Shadow’s weapon, and a great weapon to boot. We also get his infamous climbing claw that we first saw back in 1988 (though this one is newly tooled and is held a LOT more firmly in his hand thanks to an added grip underneath) and another very cool bladed weapon to round off this new accessory compliment. Like Firefly, this is an existing character with limited scope, yet the creative team makes some terrific decisions and you end up with a very worthwhile set, all told.
If the figure is lackluster in my eyes, the gear is spectacular. In fact, had Hasbro simply fixed a few design issues with the Gung-Ho body before production of this set, Storm Shadow would beat Firefly for my favorite figure in the set. It’s nice to finally have swords that no only fit into Storm Shadow’s hands but also that manage to stay in the figure’s grasp! The “Wolvie claw” (which is a bit too long to be a practical climbing claw) is pretty slick, but the swords are the real highlight of this set for me.
Who would have thought that a 2-pack with 2 existing characters that we’ve seen several times already would gather much positive praise, but Hasbro has simply knocked the ball out of the park on this one. Utilizing some terrific new accessory tooling and some interesting design elements, we get a great two pack with fantastic versions of two of the more immortal COBRA characters out there today.
The comic itself is pretty classic Hama, with some action, some nice cameos by COBRA’s and Joes (we even get a Funskool Tripwire appearance…go figure!) and a nice twist at the end of the story. Like the other issues, it quite obviously takes place within Marvel continuity, but there are no specifics that lead you to think it might be shoe-horned into one specific era. I think that’s a great way to approach these issues…it can be a new adventure for folks who want that, or it can serve as a pseudo-flashback as well, and the comic succeeds at doing both.
The last couple of waves of single packs had left me a bit cold in some ways, but I’m happy to say that these Comic Packs have washed away almost every bad feeling. Great new accessories, very cool new comic stories, and a whole lot of fun! Very, VERY highly recommended.
This is the pack in the fourth wave of comic packs that I was looking forward to the most. Everything about it—the included figures, the gear, and the comic storyline were all “must haves” in my eyes and, for the most part, this set doesn’t disappoint. Firefly is a masterpiece of the new construction and every issue I had with the original figure has been fixed. He’s a dynamic update to a figure that was so close to a perfect character update before. Storm Shadow comes close but the reuse of the Gung-Ho arms and the bare chest just don’t quite wow me like Firefly did. I do like the DDP-inspired web gear and swords but ultimately it’s Thomas Arashikage who ends up as the weaker of the two figures in this set. Don’t get me wrong—fans of the 25A line are going to LOVE this set and rightly so as it is the strongest pack in the wave. However, I would be remiss in my duties as a reviewer to not point out what I perceive to be the flaws in an otherwise solid comic pack. While I’m still not 100% sold on this new style of construction, this set shows just how much Hasbro can improve upon an existing tooling with very little effort. It’s a great set and one that I can highly recommend.
Comic Plot (Potential Spoilers included)
The comic starts out with Storm Shadow on the hunt for Firefly, and he meets up with Slice and Dice who are also looking for the COBRA Saboteur. Storm Shadow makes quick work of them and is soon face-to-face doing battle with Firefly as they talk about the tangled web of their mixed past history.
Firefly reveals that he has sabotaged one of Storm Shadow’s family members to ensure that Storm Shadow can never seek revenge on him, because if his heart stops, this family member’s home will explode. Storm Shadow counters that by informing Firefly that he already had Tripwire and Tunnel Rat visit his relative’s home and disarm all explosive devices contained within.
Their heated exchange continues until Storm Shadow finally tells Firefly that one of his distant Vietnamese relations is still alive, and that Storm Shadow has secured her a safe place to live, oblivious to the conflict around her. Storm Shadow explains this as being an “olive branch” and tells Firefly that if he’s willing to look past the circle of revenge, then they can let bygones be bygones.
It’s a decent tale, with some of Hama’s typical crisp writing and an interesting twist at the end with Storm Shadow’s kindness to the man who may have been largely responsible for much of Storm Shadow’s dark past history. There are interesting cameo’s throughout and a nice bit of closure to a potentially convoluted storyline that’s now over two decades long.