Night Watch Assault Trooper
I’ve never been much of an army-builder. I’ve never really seen the point of assembling large quantities of identical looking figures. Intellectually, I understand the appeal…there have been some great shots in Joe dio-stories of massive groups of all the Cobra specialties being addressed by Cobra Commander before his big scheme takes off. Rob’s army-building post from a while back looked really cool and I’m all for cool things, but I’ve just never been into it. I’m more about squad building. If you give me a group of identical figures, I at least want them to have different gear and specialties. I think that (and the fact that the name reminds me of a terrible job I had back in college) is why I latched on to the Cobra Night Watch set so much. On the surface, it’s just a bunch of night ops repaints of the standard Cobra Trooper, but you could either equip them all with the Cobra Trooper’s Dragunov sniper rifle or you could have each one equipped differently for a different facet of the mission. Being able to equip each figure differently sold me on the Night Watch set even though I was just buying five copies of the same figure.
While the intervening years have not been kind to it, I think the Cobra Trooper mold was probably the best mold from that first group of 25th Anniversary figures. I only ever had the Python Patrol Officer growing up, but after getting reintroduced to the basic Cobra Trooper thanks to the Toys ‘R’ Us troop builder set from the early days of the 2000s relaunch, I was sold. I’d not realized just how good, yet simple, the classic Cobra Trooper mold was. The modern interpretation of it did an excellent job of replicating the look. Yes, he’s got a lot of the same problems that early 25th Anniversary figures did like a relatively severe torso gap and elbows that can’t be bent to a 90 degree angle, but despite those problems, they really did make him look pretty good. The uniform is nice and basic and looks like something you’d see a terrorist wearing in the real world. It’s got enough of a military vibe to it that you know they’re part of a bigger organization but the design is also clearly not American military, so you’re not going to mistake him for a good guy. The masked face is also a marked improvement from the classic 1982 version of the Cobra Trooper. I realize a lot of people have nostalgic memories of the classic Joes—I do too—but looking back at some of my earliest figures (like the Python Patrol Officer), I’m a little shocked at how poor they look now. For all its faults, I have to say that the modern style figures, just due to the fact that toy-making technology has improved greatly in the intervening 30-ish years, look great and are a lot closer to what my kid mind probably saw when I looked at those action figures than what they actually looked like. The blank stare and slightly awkwardly proportioned head has been replaced with the head of an angry young man staring out from behind a bandana. The helmet is removable and it reveals that the Cobra Trooper is completely bald (well, sort of). I’m glad Hasbro was able to eventually find a way to sculpt hair on the heads of Cobra Troopers and still make the helmet fit on, but since he’s an early release, he’s still cue balled. To help recreate his classic strapped torso, the Night Watch Trooper is also wearing the standard Cobra Trooper webgear. It’s a great piece and it does a great job harkening back to the classic look of the Cobra Trooper while still allowing him a relatively good range of motion, something that can’t be said for all pieces of webgear or removable vests.
Of course, what makes the Night Watch Trooper look different from his standard blueshirted Cobra brethren is the paint job. The night ops color scheme is excellent and Hasbro manages to throw enough appropriate color in to keep it looking too boring. The pants are a basic black with some dark brown for the boots and straps. There is also a little silver used for the buckles on the leg straps. That’s some pretty impressive attention to detail for a glorified repaint. The brown is carried up to the upper body on the webgear and I like the dark brown here for the webgear. Traditionally we’ve seen Cobra Trooper webgear in black and a leathery yellow, but I think the brown actually works best. His upper body is painted with a black and dark blue camouflage pattern and while I haven’t seen those colors paired in real-world night ops, it’s nice to see a night ops figure not wearing all black. From what I understand, wearing all black when operating at night is much akin to wearing all white if you’re working in the Arctic…yes, there’s a lot of it, but very few things are purely that color. The combination of black and dark blue serves to break up the black enough that the eye may actually ignore it, thinking it’s just part of a shadow. The silver is also used for the Cobra logo tampoed on his chest as well as what I’m calling the Night Watch sigil. The Cobra Troopers have had a Cobra sigil tampoed on the left arm during the 25th Anniversary line, but it’s just the sigil. To make it clear the Night Watch is its own separate unit, the Cobra sigil has border around it as well. It’s not a significant change, but it’s enough to make it different. I wish they could have used the cool Cobra sigil and skull motif they used on the original Night Watch set since that was about the only good thing to come out of it, but I’ll take what I can get here. Finally, to add a little more variety into the ranks of the Night Watch, the Night Watch troopers get hair painted on top of their cue balls. They did that a few times during the line after it became a joke in some Joe collecting circles that all Cobras had to shave their heads before going out into the field. Painting the top of the head is an okay solution, but really, I’d rather just have the pure cue balls than trying to fake hair on a head sculpt that didn’t have hair sculpted on it in the first place.
For basic gear, the Night Watch Troopers all got the same Dragunov sniper rifle and the stiletto for the left leg (something that didn’t always happen when this mold was used). However, equipping them all like that strikes me as a little boring, so this particular Night Watch Trooper is the assault trooper of the set since he’s carrying a shotgun. I love this piece and it looks great in the Night Watch Trooper’s hands. However, he is limited by his construction because he can’t really hold it in a two-handed firing position. It’s still nice to have an option for the Night Watch, though. I always love when Hasbro trots out a shotgun and this a great modern, assault-style shotgun. It’s a weapon that makes sense for a Night Watch sabotage squad and it’s a great addition to the team.
Repaints are a funny thing for me. I don’t think anyone could call the Cobra Night Watch necessary, but it’s done well enough that I can’t help but like it. I like the idea of there being Cobra grunts that specialize in night time operations. Don’t get me wrong, the Night Viper is a mean looking dude, but at the same time, they’re like the classic Vipers. It’s hard to see how Cobra Commander can afford to keep his army outfitted if every disaffected kid that comes in off the streets to join Cobra is given a super high tech helmet and some fancy body armor. I kind of see the Night Watch as the grunt corps for the Night Vipers. If you have some aptitude for night fighting as a Cobra Trooper, first you get sent to the Night Watch. Then, if you’re good enough, you get the fancy gear and become a Night Viper. Add in the fact that the way they sold it where you’ve got a built in Cobra squad, and I’m a sucker for it. While I still don’t need mass armies of Cobra Troopers (or any nameless Cobra for that matter), I still do like the look of a small squad of Cobra troopers that look alike for the purposes of display and play.