Jungle Assault Spirit (Pursuit of Cobra)
I don’t know why, but I’ve never really had much of an affinity for Spirit. I always thought his original figure looked a bit like they grabbed as many Native American stereotypes as they could and made a figure out of them. The filecard made him seem more like a real person, but the figure looked pretty stereotypical. The Air Commandos version was actually pretty good, but he came with a funky glider I knew I’d never use so I passed on him, and I’m honestly not sure I ever even saw the Air Commandos more than once on the pegs as a kid. However, in the Pursuit of Cobra line (as a store exclusive…sigh), Hasbro finally gave us what I would say is the best Spirit figure we’ve seen. He looks a lot more military but at the same time, there were still enough nods to his Native American heritage that it could be Spirit without crossing over the line of stereotypes. I bring up the Air Commandos version up because I see a lot of parallels in design between Jungle Assault Spirit and the Air Commandos figure and I see it as kind of a spiritual update to that version. It’s already a great figure, but using that as a metric it turns it into an even better figure.
Jungle Assault Spirit shows that Hasbro can make an excellent figure while not tooling up many new parts. Everything comes together very well. The legs come from Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Assault Duke. I think that’s a good choice because I like the idea of members of the same squad sharing at least some of the same uniform or equipment. While a set of Jungle Assault figures all dressed the same would be kind of boring, some commonality in gear makes them look a little more like a squad and less like a random assortment of action figures that share a color scheme. The pants are nicely detailed, though I still have yet to figure out why he’s only wearing one kneepad. That has always looked weird to me every time I’ve seen these legs used and it still baffles me a little. The torso comes from 25th Anniversary Alpine. I’m a little surprised by how well Alpine’s undershirt works well here. Under a heavy jacket piece it looks like something you’d wear to keep yourself a little warm, but when paired with a vest and bare arms, it looks like something you’d wear underneath your BDUs. I see it like Spirit has removed the shirt and is just wearing his government issued undershirt because it’s too warm to be running around fully kitted out. The bare arms are shared with Pursuit of Cobra Desert Battle Zartan. These are great arms and they work just as well for Spirit as they do for Zartan. The wraps would provide him some protection in the jungle, but they’re light enough that it’s not going to overheat him. The vest is one of the two that came with Rise of Cobra Pit Commando. The pouches are great and I can see Spirit wanting to be able to carry as much gear with him as possible. I see Spirit as the Jungle Assault team’s scout. He’s going to be out in front of the rest of the squad, looking for trouble, taking out what he can and warning the team about what he can’t. He doesn’t know how often he’ll actually meet up with the rest of his squad to resupply, so he’s going to want to travel with as much stuff on his person as possible. The vest does have a little problem closing but at least the closure is toward the back of the figure as opposed to the side so it doesn’t really get in the way and it doesn’t look that obvious.
Finally, we have to talk about Spirit’s new head sculpt. I know a lot of reviewers have made jokes about Spirit’s crazy stare, but I really don’t see crazy in there. I see his stern gaze as determined and ready to fight. I can see this look crossing Spirit’s face when he discovers that Shadow Tracker is in the field. Because of their similar specialties, my mind has turned the pair into mortal enemies and Spirit definitely wants to take Shadow Tracker down before he can brutally kill the rest of the Joes. The head sculpt has a lot in common with the Air Commandos Spirit figure. The braids are replaced with long hair and he’s wearing a headband. It was a great look for Spirit back in 1992 and it’s a good look for him in 2010 as well.
The mold itself is excellent and the paint team holds up their end of things by helping make the design look good. I’ll mention my only complaint right off the top. I like the shade of green they used, but I do kind of wish it was a little bit darker. Jungle Assault Duke and Recondo both have a bit darker green and I wish, from a squad-building standpoint, that Spirit’s green fit in a little better with their colors. Beyond that, though, the paint work is great. The camouflage spots on his pants are very well applied and they don’t get inadvertently placed on spots they’re not supposed to. The gray for the straps on his left leg work well with the green and matches the gray pocket on his right leg. The black helps the one kneepad stand out. The shirt and arm wraps are a slightly lighter shade of green. I like the two-tone look of the figure and the tan vest worn over it makes the figure look a little more interesting than if he were just wearing two different colors of green. The armbands have tribal-style designs on them. While I’m not certain what to call the design on the right arm, it looks sharp and all the straight lines are applied well. On the left arm, he’s got a thunderbird design. I really like the look and it’s a nice nod to Spirit’s cultural heritage. The tan vest also has a lot of well-applied, small paint applications. All the snaps on the pouches get painted silver and the pistol and holster are painted black. The paintwork on Spirit’s head is also spot on. There’s no bleed from the headband into his hair or down onto his face and the green camouflage stripe applied across the bridge of his nose looks natural. Spirit’s skin tone is also darker, as befits a Native American. It’s nice to see that Spirit has a more realistic skin tone. His skin tone has gotten progressively darker from 1984 to present. While some ethnic Joe figures haven’t gotten appropriate skin colors, it’s nice that Spirit doesn’t suffer from this problem.
Much like the famed 1990 wave of the original Joe line, Pursuit of Cobra kind of became all about the accessories. The figures were well-executed but what really helped them shine was a lot of great, character-specific accessories. As a store exclusive, a lot of Spirit’s gear is shared with other characters, but it’s still great equipment and fits Spirit very well. Starting off with the only pieces that could really be considered new (though they were subsequently reused with Shadow Tracker), Spirit has a great new bow and high-tech quiver. The moment I learned that Spirit was coming with that gear, I was sold. I’ve always kind of seen Spirit as someone who is good with silent weapons like a bow but none of his figures ever came with one. I realize that it’s probably a bit of a stereotype tied to his Native American heritage, but the bow looks really good in his hands, though I do wish they’d given him hands that could hold his arrow properly. They went to the trouble of making an arrow in the quiver removable, but it kind of defeats the purpose of doing that since he can’t actually hold the arrow. That issue aside, though, I love the modern bow that Spirit has. Usually, when a Joe is equipped with a bow, it’s kind of old school. This is clearly a modern, carbon fiber model with all the bells and whistles you can get in modern archery equipment, and it fits the Spirit character very well. As a jungle scout, it’s also important to have a good machete with you to help cut through the undergrowth. I’m not sure who originally had this machete, but it’s a great one. Unlike Jungle Assault Duke’s machete, it looks appropriately sized and I can see Spirit hacking through the brush with ease but also putting it to use as a large knife to silently take out a Jungle-Viper or two. His other bladed weapon is one I’m not quite sure what he’d use it for. It’s listed as a hatchet, but I see it more as a Special Forces tactical tomahawk. It’s used as a survival tool but soldiers are also trained specifically how to fight with it. Again, the tomahawk angle is probably a bit stereotypical, but it works well with Spirit, even though I’m not sure how necessary it was for him to be packing both a tomahawk and a large machete. If Spirit’s cover gets blown or he’s back working with the Jungle Assault squad, he’s going to want a weapon a bit more substantial than a bow and arrow. That’s a good weapon, but in a heavy firefight, it’s not ideal. Spirit is carrying the M-16 with underslung shotgun variant that Hasbro has been using since the Joes Vs. Cobra era. It’s a nice generic weapon and while it looks a little too large in the hands of those slightly older figures, it looks just about right in the hands of a modern figure like Spirit. With as much as we saw it during the Joe Vs. Cobra era, it’s surprising how little it got used prior to Pursuit of Cobra. It’s a great weapon and I’m happy Hasbro dusted it off here. I get kind of a Rambo vibe from that weapon and between the long black hair and headband, there’s definitely a little bit of a Rambo vibe from Spirit as well. For some reason, he also came with two green snakes like the ones included with Rise of Cobra Crimson Neo-Viper. They’re there…that’s the best I can say for them. I don’t really know why they did it, but they did so I figured I should mention them here just for completeness’s sake.
Store exclusives are a tricky bit, especially sing both Pursuit of Cobra Spirit and Quick Kick were initially kind of hard to find. Spirit eventually became quite easy to run down and that’s a good thing. He’s an excellent figure and shows just how good Hasbro can be when they reuse parts. Through clever parts reuse and a brand new head, the Hasbro designers made a version of Spirit I think looks great on display. The other Spirits have looked kind of dated but this version has enough element of Spirit that even when modernized, if you are familiar with the Joe line, you’ll know who he is. I’ve always felt that Spirit was one of those Joes who needed a modern update. The original look was pretty dated and he’s gotten a few different looks over the years. It made sense for the 25th Anniversary line to go back to the original Spirit look, but I was kind of disappointed that was the only Spirit we were probably going to get. Pursuit of Cobra Spirit is an excellent update of a classic Joe and he shows that following the Rise of Cobra line, Hasbro was able to capitalize on the successes of the movie line and learned from their mistakes.