There are times, it seems, where nearly every memory of my childhood is at least tangentially related to G.I. Joe, as foolish as that sounds. As I was prepping this review in my head, I recalled that at some point in 1984, my best friend at the time and I were preparing to exchange Christmas presents. It was with some great, barely concealed frustration that I was wrapping a brand new Spirit figure for him– not because he didn’t deserve it, but because, dangit, the figure looked awesome and I wanted it. But my mom had been adamant that we give it to my friend for Christmas, so it got sealed in a box, wrapped in paper and forever removed from my eager, ten year old hands.
Fast forward a few days and my friend and I exchanged our gifts, both of us eagerly opening them– and much to our pleasure (and surprise) we’d both bought each other Spirit action figures from that new G.I. Joe toy line we both loved so much.
For whatever reason I clearly remember Freedom’s claws breaking within three days of opening him, but I loved that Spirit figure and by the time it finally saw retirement there was a broken thumb, a broken crotch and a lost belt to go along with Freedom’s claws.
Now, here were are in 2022, way more years later than I’d care to admit, and I just expressed similar excitement in opening the package of another version of Spirit Iron-Knife, one whose design was overseen by a group of Native Americans who had agreed to work alongside Hasbro to ensure the update to the G.I. Joe tracker was as inclusive and sensitive to their heritage as it could be.
As a result, some changes were made from the vintage version, but all things considered, this Spirit update is a credit to the fantastic history of the character, who took up prominent roles in both the comic and the cartoon back in the 80s.
As with most Classified figures these days, Spirit Iron-Knife certainly seems to take a healthy amount of inspiration from his classic look from 1984, but, ends up with just the right amount of updates and tweaks to thrust him into the modern day.
Like the classic Spirit he’s got his powder blue shirt and tan khaki pants, though Hasbro removed the belt and the frills along the boots, mostly, I suspect, out of respect for Spirit’s Native American heritage and without leaning on some of the more prominent stereotypes of that heritage. The result is a figure that looks instantly like he did back in the day, but without some of those more egregious design elements that could take away from an otherwise fantastic looking figure.
The secondary strap and knife sheath on his chest, along with the belt and leg holster and sheath are all in the same olive green color and fit the figure perfectly without restricting his articulation, a delicate balance that Hasbro has achieved to perfection here. The sculpting on Spirit is as terrific as always, his face full with the familiar character that we’ve seen throughout both Sunbow and Marvel, the look of grim determination as well as the red headband and a thin strand of hair hanging over the fabric which only serves to further express the figure in three dimensions.
The gauntlet on his left arm has two holes in it for Freedom’s claw pegs and the sizing is just right, allowing the large eagle to perch, ready to strike.
Speaking of that eagle, he comes with folded wings or wings outstretched, and includes ball-joint articulation for both as well as hip and neck– so he can be perched in wait, or in mid-flight. Some fantastic added detail only possible in a larger scale.
As mentioned, the design of the chest strap and sheath is great in that it does nothing to restrict the movement of the figure’s torso joint or shoulders, so Spirit Iron-Knife retains a full range of motion in nearly any direction.
A pet peeve I’ve often had for G.I. Joe figures in other scales was that the soldiers could never really quite hold their weapons “right” there were always some limitations to the way the figures moved. Well, Spirit can capture an almost perfect pose with the sniper rifle, either on his feet or on a knee or anything in between and while it might be a little thing, it makes a big difference.
Spirit Iron-Knife’s articulation is pretty much everything you’d want it to be and it gets bonus points because even the eagle has it!
At some point during Classified’s inception, it was decided by the design team that they wanted to do whatever they could to have a spot for all of the various figures’ accessories either on the figure or in an included bag or backpack. They haven’t always hit that mark (there have been spare hands and hair pieces, for instance) but they’ve regularly come pretty dang close.
Spirit Iron-Knife is a perfect example of how they’re achieving this feat.
Obviously there’s an exception here — Freedom comes with two sets of wings, so they’re not going to have a place to store the alternate set– but everything else has it’s place. A holster for the pistol, two separate sheaths for both knives, a backpack with a peg for the sniper rifle as well as a mount for Freedom.
You can pose Spirit Iron-Knife with every bit of gear he comes with and he both holds that pose well and looks dynamite at the same time. Obviously, Hasbro elected to eschew the spear gun from 1984 in favor of a more traditional sniper rifle, and that totally works for me– even as a kid I wasn’t especially sold on that weapon. His pistol looks like an old school combat pistol and both knives are just different enough, while very much looking their part.
I’ve already expressed my pleasure with how Freedom came out as well, so in short — I cannot think of a single way they could improve the accessory compliment with this figure. It’s just fantastic.
Whether facing off against Storm Shadow in the Sunbow cartoon, or teaming up with Ripcord and Blowtorch alongside Bongo the Balloon Bear, Spirit has often played key roles, not just on the toy shelves but in various media as well — heck, he even made the shortlist for Sigma 6.
With this version of the character, Hasbro propels him into a slightly more modern look but with all of the great vintage throwbacks, and took great care to remain sensitive to his cultural history. All three figures in this assortment are spectacular and Spirit, I believe, stands atop that pile
It seems only fitting that Spirit Iron-Knife comes in the same assortment as Storm Shadow and although I always bristled at that conflict in the Sunbow cartoon, I find the giddy nostalgia satisfying nearly 40 years later. It certainly helps that Spirit is a hell of a great figure with some flawless sculpting, excellent articulation and great accessories.