Retaliation Cobra Combat Ninja
I’ll freely admit, I was a bit disappointed by the Retaliation Wave 1 Cobra Trooper. The design was cool, but I preferred the more realistic look the Cobra Troopers had in the trailer. Thankfully, Hasbro eventually delivered a movie-styled Cobra Trooper in the form of the Cobra Combat Ninja (CCN). Though it couldn’t be called a Cobra Trooper since they’d already used that name, Hasbro gave us a great version of this movie design plus they threw in a neat little comic Easter egg. Though he didn’t quite meet my expectations initially, the CCN has started to grow on me, even though I did have to abbreviate his name so I wouldn’t go mad typing “Cobra Combat Ninja” multiple times during this Field Report.
The CCN only gets two new pieces, his pair of different head sculpts. From the neck down, he’s all Pursuit of Cobra Shock Trooper. That’s a great choice and it really fits the design aesthetic for Cobra in Retaliation. While Rise of Cobra was all about everything looking fifteen minutes into the future, Retaliation kept things a bit more grounded in the real world. Yes, there was some fanciful technology still in play, but the costume designs looked more like realworld soldiers and paramilitary operators than they did superheroes and super villains. I really think that was a key to Retaliation’s success for me. I enjoyed Rise of Cobra, but I found myself liking Retaliation a bit more because things stayed a bit more grounded. In Retaliation, much like in Renegades, Cobra is a bit more of a legitimate organization though it’s much more like Blackwater than a full-fledged multinational corporation with its fingers in everything like it was in Renegades. I’ll tell you one thing, though, I thought it was a spooky image when the CCN raised the Cobra flag at the White House in the first trailer for the film. The Shock Trooper body does a great job of emulating the urban camouflage military uniform that the CCN wore in the movie. It’s got all sorts of nice detailing that I’ve talked about a few times already. Where it the CCN really shines is in its pair of head sculpts. The head sculpt he’s wearing in the package is the masked Cobra Trooper look from the movie. It’s a form-fitting face mask with a surprisingly small eye slit. On top of it, he’s also wearing the unique helmet the Cobra Troopers had in the movie. It’s got some stylistic ties to the Future Warrior helmet Agent Mouse wore, but it’s also got cheek guards enclosing the rest of his head. Not much of his face is exposed and it helps give him a bit more of a sinister vibe. We can barely see much of his face anyway and then it’s also encased in armor. It makes me think that Cobra is far more serious about no one ever knowing who’s under the mask in this iteration. Surprisingly, though, as much as I love the movie-accurate head sculpt, my CCN spends most of his time wearing his alternate head. The second head is designed to look like the Blue Ninjas who recently showed up in the current Larry Hama written Joe comics that spun out of the original Marvel series. While I think the Blue Ninja storyline dragged on a little bit, it’s hard to criticize the Blue Ninjas for not looking cool. The Blue Ninja design reminds me a lot of the crazy cyborg ninja from the classic PS1 game Metal Gear Solid. His “face” has a solitary glowing green eye with a full helmet and an antenna. It’s amazing how well the CCN body works for both a movie-accurate Cobra Trooper and a comic-accurate Blue Ninja. While the colors aren’t quite on model for a Blue Ninja, it’s still a great stand in. Had you told me that Hasbro would find a way to work a Blue Ninja into the line, I would have laughed. They’d just been created in the comic and we’re knee-deep in Retaliation. Yet using the more modular nature of the current style of Joe construction has given me a passable stand in for one of Hama’s more interesting new creations from the current Joe comic. I have to applaud Hasbro for this kind of ingenuity.
CCN’s sculpting is great, but the figure does suffer just a little in the paint department, largely due to the fact that a color got cut from the overall camouflage scheme as a cost-saving measure. The body is predominantly gray, but there’s a darker gray and blue camouflage pattern on both the body and the vest. Unfortunately, in pre-production photos (which they left on the cardback so you can still see them), the vest had some black paint apps on the pouches and straps. While it’s not a bad figure without these paint apps, it does look just a little unfinished. The haphazard camo application also hurts him a little. From the photos I’ve seen, this is pretty common on the CCN, but the fronts of his thighs, right around the molded pockets, got missed by the camouflage team. It looks a little weird with large gray spots completely uncamouflaged. Also, up on the arm, there’s some bleed over of the camouflage pattern onto the pocket on his left arm. I wouldn’t normally complain, but there’s already a Cobra sigil tampoed there, so the additional bleed of the gray from his camouflage kind of obscures a nice detail that was intentionally painted on. The paint on the CCN’s eyes also isn’t my favorite. He’s kind of got a thousand-yard stare going on. I’d prefer to see a little fire behind his eyes. I also wish the Blue Ninja head sculpt got a little more paint than just his green eye to bring out all the good details they molded into it. They get a little lost in the all black plastic. Despite my criticisms and nitpicks, though, the CCN looks like a great urban operator and is surprisingly faithful to the movie look when it comes to his paint scheme. It even does a passable job working as a Blue Ninja, so I’m cool with it all the way around.
The CCN has a lot of good gear and even better, the gear even helps his pull double duty either as a Retaliation Cobra Trooper or a Blue Ninja. CCN comes with four different types of assault rifles, a sword and scabbard, a Cobra flag, and a (gasp!) spring-loaded rocket launcher. Three of his rifles (the FN2000, the scoped assault rifle and the one with the cut-off front) come from the Rise of Cobra line and are all great pieces. The fourth assault rifle appears to me to be a new mold. At first I thought it was the same as Renegades Firefly but those two weapons don’t match beyond a quick glance. Your mileage may vary, but I like equipping the CCN with a pair of the Rise of Cobra guns when he’s standing in as a movie-accurate Cobra Trooper but I equip him with the newly-sculpted rifle and sword and scabbard when I’m using him as a Blue Ninja. I really appreciate that the gear here can help define his role. The Cobra flag is a nice nod to the aforementioned spooky sequence of the Cobra flag being raised over the White House, though beyond that, it’s not terribly exciting. I realize that it would be a pain to pose, but I almost wish the flag was a soft goods item instead of a cardboard one. Making it out of cardboard just kind of feels and looks cheap. I’m sure it would go into my “unused accessories” pile either way, but a cloth flag would have at least made it feel a little less like an afterthought. However, while the flag is rather underwhelming, this rocket launcher is a thing of beauty. We’ve seen this mold a few times now and it’s great, but where Hasbro really sold me on it was its colors and paint because it’s a nice nod to a classic Cobra vehicle. The original Cobra A.S.P. was a dark blue just like this and the logo on the side of the rocket launcher is the same logo that the A.S.P. had. This little nod to old school collectors like me on a spring-loaded rocket launcher, a concept that is much-maligned in some circles, makes me smile. It’s a great reference to this history of the brand, but even if you weren’t familiar with the A.S.P., it’s a neat looking variation on the Cobra sigil so it’s still got the cool factor going for it.
Being part of the Retaliation Super Wave means that the CCN, like all the other figures, had some pretty high expectations. The shelves were pretty barren leading up to Retaliation’s delayed theatrical release, so Joe fandom was in need of a good fix. The super wave really did a great job of filling in some holes in the Retaliation line made by poor decisions (the CCN/movie accurate Cobra Trooper or the far more movie accurate Ultimate Flint) and getting some figures out that we never thought would see the light of day (Kwinn and Data Viper). It’s just such a shame that Waves 3 and 4 were so limited in their appearances at retail. I’m very glad I preordered the entire wave online. As much as I do enjoy the thrill of the hunt when it comes to Joes, now that I’m living an hour away from the nearest big city that I can Joe hunt in, it’s a lot harder to do than when I was living in Manhattan and could hit two different Wal-Marts (if I was feeling like a quick jaunt over to Junction City as well), a Target and a K-Mart all within half an hour. The Hasbro folks really started pulling out all the stops by the end of the Retaliation line. I’ll admit, I’m still a little concerned about the line going forward. The 50th Anniversary line was plagued by quality control problems, but the things that have been announced for this year make me hopeful that the momentum coming out of Retaliation won’t be squandered. As much as I have enjoyed the two live action G.I. Joe movies, it’s tough to be a collector of a toy line based on a movie property because generally its feast or famine. During the lead up to the movie, there will be scads of product everywhere, but once the movie releases, things dry up fast. I’ll grudgingly accept G.I. Joe as a Toys ‘R’ Us exclusive line if it means I can still get good figures like the CCN when there’s not a movie in the theater.