Ever since I first sat down on my aunt’s corduroy couch in 1984 and read Storm Shadow’s file card, he has remained at the top of my favorites list. Even before I knew of his connections to Snake Eyes, even before I knew about the long and storied history of the Arashikage, the mysterious COBRA ninja was a permanent fixture in my adventures. This masked man who moved with “blinding speed” and could “scale walls with his bare hands and feet” had instantly elevated to near mythical status. While that was a long time ago (longer than I care to remember) I feel somewhat certain that Storm Shadow was my first introduction to the term “ninja” and I absolutely fell in love.
Ironic that these days I much prefer the near-future military stuff to the ninja stuff, but at 10 years old, ninjas were where it was at.
Fast forward nearly (cough cough) 40 years and G.I. Joe: Classified brings us a new 6″ version of Storm Shadow and in many ways he elicits most of the same emotions– but interestingly, that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Before I get too deep into this review, I need to make one thing crystal clear: from an execution standpoint this iteration of Storm Shadow is about as close to perfection as one can get. His stocky, muscular, somewhat oversized sculpting, yet maintaining an immaculate level of articulation– it’s a combination that Hasbro uses to absolute stellar success.
So why do I feel a bit mixed about the end result?
In two words: this guy.
Ever since the G.I. Joe: Classified line was launched and debuted on GIJoe.com, I have been losing my mind in anticipation of a figure from that image above. While I saw many fans scoffing at the metal mask and the Batman gauntlets, I absolutely fell in love with the modern-mixed-with-vintage aesthetic. The white base uniform, the ninja-themed mask– but enhanced with future tech and a nasty, sharp-edged flair (not to mention the amazing full-arm tattoos). Yeah… THAT was the Storm Shadow I wanted.
Instead, at some point shortly after the Classified kick-off, the design team shifted focus, moving from a futuristic tech-based aesthetic to one that adheres more faithfully to vintage looks. Initially, according to the designer, that was in celebration of the 40th Anniversary, but it seems to be how they’re approaching the line going forward. Don’t get me wrong — it’s agreeing with most of the fans out there (I’m a bit of an outlier when it comes to those things) but from my perspective… well, I was hoping for something a bit newer.
That being said– this figure is spectacular for what it is. To Hasbro’s credit, they do work in a few modern elements, including the great forearm gauntlets and gloves and a removable hood (which isn’t necessarily modern, but a different touch for this version). And while the source material for this figure doesn’t blow me away, the way they were able to capture the spirit of that vintage Storm Shadow in a 6″ scale is just– pretty much mind-blowing.
His secondary cross-chest strap has throwing stars that aren’t removable, but look like they could be, which is a great compromise, giving us that appearance without the risk of tiny accessories that would be all too easy to lose. Along with that strap, he has removable belt straps which allow you to pose him standing still, or in dramatic motion, with the belt waving in the wind.
If I did have one complaint about the execution– for reasons I can’t quite grasp this figure, more than others, has made me crave swappable hands. I want a Storm Shadow like this who has a flat “karate-chop” hand, multiple closed fists, all sorts of expressions that really bring the figures to life. All things considered, that’s a minor gripe, but one that would take a magnificent figure and make him– well– magnificenter.
What can I say about Storm Shadow’s articulation? G.I. Joe: Classified in general has been truly living up to the “America’s Movable Fighting Man” mindset when it comes to G.I. Joe and Storm Shadow is no different. Even with the somewhat bulky sculpting, the figure is amazingly poseable and well-articulated, able to achieve a number of great, deep joint poses from ninja crouches, to sword-fighting combinations and almost anything in between.
Drop down hips, double joint knees and side ankle joints allow very expressive movements from the waist down, and his butterfly shoulders, torso cut and double elbows give him a wide array of movements throughout the upper body as well. There’s no secondary vests or cumbersome web gear or sculpting to get in the way of his movements, and from that perspective, I can’t really think of a single improvement.
Just like the vintage figure, Hasbro takes a shockingly straight forward concept and executes it to perfection with the backpack, twin sword sheath, removable arrow and a spot on the back of the pack for his new compound bow (an upgrade from the ’84 version and more in line with the ’88 camouflage iteration).
The removable hood feels like another call back to 1988, but one that I welcome, as it does add a neat new flair to this pure white version of Storm Shadow that the ’84 classic didn’t have.
The swords are sculpted with really great dragon-themed hilts, and while I like the bow, you can’t really pose it in a firing post, even with the removable arrow. If I have any complaint — WHERE ARE THE NUMB CHUCKS?!? (Yes I know that’s not what they’re really called). Maybe we’ll have to wait for the inevitable Quick Kick release to recreate our Enter the Dragon battle scene…
Unlike many G.I. Joe fans out there, I truly enjoy seeing new and different takes on this universe, and don’t necessarily want to constantly revisit the past. I do recall hearing the outcry from a few of the vocal fans when Classified first launched, decrying the gold armor and the futuristic weapons and I think Hasbro deserves a lot of credit for recognizing that and retooling some of their go forward plans.
That being said, I do believe there should be some sort of middle ground– a mix of vintage purist and a healthy injection of new elements as well. Some would argue this Storm Shadow accomplished that with the great modern gauntlets and the hood, and perhaps they did, but I simply cannot get over that amazing artwork on the GIJoe.com site and lament what could have been.
With all that in mind, however, this Storm Shadow figure is spectacular. The design, while a bit overly faithful is still immaculate. The articulation continues to take things up a notch and the plethora of accessories only further exemplifies all of the great things the Classified design team is doing right now.
While the inspiration isn’t necessarily 100% aligned with my preference, the action figure itself is difficult to find fault with.
We live in an era of eternal conflict and at the center of my conflict is STORM SHADOW. I kid– how can I possibly be upset at a figure this damn good? The truth is, I can’t, even though I would have preferred a more modern take on the venerable COBRA Ninja. That being said, the execution of this figure is almost as flawless as you can get, in spite of a bit of a lack of originality and devotion to the vintage themes.