Retaliation Crimson Guard
I’ve always liked the Crimson Guard. The concept of elite Cobra operatives who are not only dangerous on the battlefield but dangerous inside the American home front as well is really cool. However, to me, the figure has always relegated him to the status of Cobra Commander’s bodyguard. That’s neat enough, but I’ve always thought the Crimson Guards were supposed to be Cobra’s equivalent of S.E.A.L.s and that uniform is way too fancy for that sort of duty. That’s why the initial proliferation of Crimson Troopers during the 2000s relaunch didn’t really bother me all that much. I like troops I can use in the field more than I do ones that are limited in their capacity. Crimson Vipers come a lot closer to what I wanted to use a Crimson Guard for than the actual Crimson Guard figure does. Thankfully, after many years, we finally got a Crimson Guard that looks good as a bodyguard, but is still equipped in a way that it makes sense for him to be on the battlefield. While it still may not quite work as an undercover trooper, I can definitely see this version of Crimson Guard leading a platoon of Vipers, Crimson or otherwise, into battle and that’s more than I’ve been able to see a Crimson Guard doing for a long time.
The Retaliation troopers were all especially effective because of smart parts reuse that created a more modern version of the character while still paying homage to the past. The Crimson Guard is no exception. The figure’s torso comes from the 25th Anniversary Crimson Guard. It was a great piece back then and it still is now. However, to give him a more battleready look, he’s wearing a brand new vest over it. It’s got a lot of pouches and clips on it, but it doesn’t look overly busy. It helps make him look geared up for battle instead of just on ceremonial guard duty. Like a lot of other Retaliation figures, Crimson Guard gets some parts from the Pursuit of Cobra Shock Trooper. His arms come from this figure and they’re still great here. I realize some people might be getting tired of all the reuse of Shock Trooper parts, but they’re just so effective, I’m glad Hasbro is getting some mileage out of them. The legs come from a less commonly used source, but much like the Shock Trooper arms, I think they work well here. The legs come from the 25th Anniversary Alley Viper. It’s amazing how much the Alley Viper boots look like the tall boots of the Crimson Guard but at the same time, they just feel a bit more combat ready thanks to their armor plating. There’s a reason soldiers have specific dress boots. You don’t wear dress boots when you’re on combat duty and vice versa. The 25th Crimson Guard looked great as a ceremonial guard, but the Retaliation version looks ready for combat from head to toe. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t expecting these parts to work that well with the Crimson Guard torso, but it’s a great look. I didn’t bother taking photos of him sans vest, but the shots of him on YoJoe without the vest do show that the figure works just as well without his vest. If you want a ceremonial Crimson Guard, you can have that just by popping off the vest, but if you want a more battle-ready version you can have that as well. Topping off the figure is a brand new head sculpt. I wasn’t sure if this was a new piece or not, but looking online it clearly is. I just hadn’t looked at the 25th Anniversary Crimson Guard in so long, I wasn’t sure. It is a great testimony to how good this design is. I actually think it looks a bit closer to the original Crimson Guard’s head than the 25th Anniversary version did so that’s a nice plus. However, I think the top of the helmet was sculpted to ride just a little too low. The visor is barely visible beneath the helmet and it reminds me of how Beetle Bailey wears his helmet over his. An elite Cobra trooper should not remind you of the most famous comic strip slacker soldier. Like most of my criticisms, I don’t think it’s a deal-breaker, but I think he would work a little better if the top of the helmet sat just a little higher up on his head so we could get a clearer look at the visor.
Much like Snake Eyes, Crimson Guard is defined by his colors and like Snake Eyes, it’s also hard to make sixteen different versions of a guy dressed in all red look different, but the Retaliation version does managed to look interesting while still sticking to the color in his name. To me, the Achilles’ heel of the Crimson Guard is the monotone red color scheme with only the occasional non-red color for the trim. This time, we’ve got two different tones red. The base of the figure is the typical red we’ve seen in Crimson Guard for a long time. The vest, holster, straps, pockets and pouches are a darker red, closer to what I’d call crimson. This really helps break up the regular red and adds a little variety to the Crimson Guard’s look. The boots are painted with a nice black that kind of looks like worn leather. It really helps add to the visual that this is a Crimson Guard that spends more time in the field than in the throne room of the Terrordrome. The look is really great here for a more combat-oriented Crimson Guard but if you strip off the vest, all the fancy details (the buttons, the insignia, the piping) are still painted silver. This is great from a versatility standpoint. A lot of times, when a modern figure is meant to wear their vest all the time, the existing details on the actual torso aren’t painted to save Hasbro a little money. However, this way, you can actually use the same Crimson Guard for both ceremonial and combat purposes. I do wish the visor had some color. It would be nice to see where the Crimson Guard’s eyes are. Finally, I’m not sure where to talk about this, so I’ll mention them here. The Crimson Guard comes with something since we haven’t seen since 1987’s Dress Blues Gung-Ho, a sheet of stickers with both rank and division insignia so that you can decide his rank and divisional affiliation. That said, though, I do wish they’d given us a little better guidance on where to put it and did a little more planning to provide good stickering surfaces. Consensus is that the division patch is meant to go on the pocket on the Crimson Guard’s left arm. However, with all the wrinkles sculpted into it, the sticker doesn’t really stick there all that well. It doesn’t fall off, but it definitely also doesn’t sit flush against the arm. The chest sticker is a little more nebulous in its placement. I went right next to the Cobra sigil on his chest because it was a relatively flat, undetailed surface that it would stick well to. Your mileage may vary on placement, though. With as good as Hasbro is at making sure the surfaces to be stickered for Joe vehicles and with their other sticker-heavy properties (I’m looking at you Transformers) are good surfaces for the stickers, I’m a little disappointed at how they did it here. I realize it would have required them to slightly remold the Shock Trooper arm, but I think it would have been more successful that way. It’s still cool and gives me fond memories of putting stickers on my Dress Blues Gung-Ho back in the day, but I think just a little extra work on the design end would have made it work even better.
The Crimson Guard’s gear has always been more oriented towards ceremony than function. This time, though, he’s got a lot of great gear that would very useful on the battlefield, but he does have some weapon ties to his ceremonial roots. Starting off small, the Crimson Guard has a pistol to fill his leg holster and a knife to fill his sheath. These are great little pieces that I can see the Crimson Guard using in the event of closer quarters combat during the last phase of combat. For battlefield combat, he’s carrying an assault rifle with a forward grip and an Uzi submachine gun. Both these weapons look great in his hands and really make him look like he’s ready for combat. However, if you wish to use him in a more ceremonial situation, he’s got weapons that will have you covered there as well. There’s a saber sheathed off the back of his vest. This is definitely something I could see a Cobra Honor Guard carrying around while on Cobra Commander’s personal guard detail. His other rifle is the same one that came with the Rise of Cobra Crimson Neo-Viper. It’s a great, unique design. It’s eye-catching and it looks rather ceremonial. As a nice nod to the original Crimson Guard’s rifle, it’s also got a bayonet. It’s a great weapon for ceremony, but it still looks like it packs enough of a punch to take down any assassin that gets close enough to Cobra Commander on his watch. Finishing things off, he also gets the great Crimson Guard backpack they redid for the 25th Anniversary line. Its look has always been distinctive and it still looks great after all these years.
After almost 25 years, I finally have the Crimson Guard I’ve always wanted. I was fascinated with the Crimson Guard figure growing up. One of the holes in my collection back in the day was the Python Patrol version. I’d never seen the original, but the Python Patrol Crimson Guard really caught my attention on the card back. However, I never found that one and never really had a Crimson Guard in my collection until the Crimson Sabotage set came out when I was in college. After that first experience, I was hooked, but even with the Crimson Sabotage set, I felt they didn’t quite look like battlefield soldiers. The Retaliation Crimson Guard finally gives me a Crimson Guard I can actually see using in heavy combat. What’s even better is that they way the designed him. If you want to use him in the traditional Crimson Guard capacity, you still can. It’s great that this version manages to be the best of both worlds. It’s hard to make a figure that can function both as Cobra Commander’s bodyguard but also looks like a military operator. With the new construction style’s focus on removable vests, Hasbro was able to do that and they did it well. I’m just a little surprised it took until the Retaliation line to take care of it.