Sky Hawk and Arctic Snake Eyes
I’ve always had a weird affinity for the Skyhawk. It’s a neat Joe vehicle and I’ve always thought it was a little more iconic in the cartoon that even the Skystriker. While that may have just been a function of me having a Skyhawk as a kid and noticing it more than the Skystriker because that came out a little before my time, I’ve always thought the Skyhawk was a neat little vehicle. Much like the Arctic Threat Shipwreck, though, I never really thought I needed a devoted arctic version of the Joes venerable one-man attack and scouting craft. However, since it came with the Battle Below Zero set and I really wanted the Cobra WOLF, I knew I would be getting it. The addition of Snake Eyes as a pilot also seemed a little odd, but since I’m a sucker for unreleased concepts, I was actually kind of excited to finally get the Arctic Threat Snake Eyes that showed up at Joe Con in 2009. I’ll have to admit, while the Skyhawk and Snake Eyes half of Battle Below Zero is definitely the weaker half of the vehicle set, the pilot and vehicle work well together and it actually does make a little bit of sense to bring in some air power to stop a Cobra WOLF.
Starting off with the pilot, this version of Snake Eyes is a complete rerelease of the first version of Pursuit of Cobra Desert Battle Snake Eyes. However, I passed on that figure when it was first released and it was originally intended to be an arctic figure, so I like seeing it here because it’s not something I already have in my collection. I’d not realized until getting this figure (and looking to YoJoe.com for a parts listing) how much of this figure was shared with Rise of Cobra Paris Pursuit Snake Eyes. The head, torso, and legs all come from Paris Pursuit Snake Eyes. The baggy pants from PP Snake Eyes do a nice job standing in as snow pants but his new knees do help make them look a little different from their initial Rise of Cobra use. They’re also a bit more visible because this Snake Eyes isn’t wearing a long coat. The kneepads provide Snake Eyes with a little more protection on that joint so that’s a good aesthetic choice. I also really like the detailing on his feet that looks like Snake Eyes is wearing something to give him some additional traction on his boots. They kind of remind me of a product I use during the winter called Yak Traks that you slip on to your shoes if it’s icy but that you can take off so you don’t have to wear them all the time. To help further distance the legs from their initial use, Snake Eyes also has the leg straps from 25th Anniversary Airborne. Again, they kind of make sense for an arctic operator. I can see Snake Eyes needing a leg harness as part of fall arrest gear that he’s wearing underneath his jacket in case he needs to scale an ice cliff to reach his target. The PP Snake Eyes is a nice undetailed shirt, but you aren’t going to see it because he’s wearing a great jacket piece over it. The jacket is like a reactive armored winter coat and I think that’s a cool design choice. There are great armored plates built into the jacket and the pouches on the front look good but are clearly functional and not just there to look good. The bottom of the jacket also has two places where he can clip his firearms to which I like because it means Snake Eyes can carry all his gear on him. Snake Eyes’ arms (originally designed when this figure was first tooled up) help continue the reactive armor winter coat look. The arms are appropriately baggy like a winter coat, but there’s also some nice armor that helps tie his arms and his jacket together. Snake Eyes’ head is mercifully the better of the two Rise of Cobra Snake Eyes head sculpts. His mask is appropriately baggy and it looks just a little thicker than Snake Eyes’ standard balaclava, which means it will keep him warmer while on his arctic mission. The visor is a separate piece so Snake Eyes’ eyes are actually visible underneath his mask and in theory it looks as though the visor could be removed, but I don’t want to test that on a figure out of a relatively expensive vehicle set that I haven’t seen much at retail. My only real complaint is that it looks like Snake Eyes has a bit of a giraffe neck going on. I’d never noticed it before on the PP version and I think it’s because the coat that figure used had a bunched up hood that obscured it a little. Overall, the look is great and I think Snake Eyes works well as an arctic operator in this gear and it’s nice to see this mold released as the way it was intended.
Of course, the only thing that makes this figure different from his Pursuit of Cobra counterpart is the color scheme. The initial release of this figure had him done up in all black, which is not my favorite look for Snake Eyes. It was especially disappointing since the figure I saw at Joe Con in 2009 had some neat blue highlights on the jacket. For the 50th Anniversary rerelease of this figure, Hasbro went back to the original 2009 color scheme and that makes me very happy. Rather than go with all black, Snake Eyes is doing a bit more of a two tone color scheme. His pants are a charcoal gray while his jacket, arms and mask are all done up in black. While it’s still a very dark look, the different colors are a little more visually interesting than a standard all-black Snake Eyes. To bring a little more color to the figure, the armor plates on his jacket and his leg harness are painted a really neat-looking metallic blue color. I don’t know why I like this color so much, but I think it just looks really sharp on this Snake Eyes figure. Once again, it makes the figure look just a little more interesting. I liked this design when I first saw it at Joe Con in 2009, but when it became an all-black Desert Battle figure, it just didn’t really appeal to me. With the additional colors, the details on the figure pop a little more and I like that. Finally, up on the head, Snake Eyes’ visor is done in white. Hasbro did this on the Rise of Cobra arctic Snake Eyes figure and I think it looked interesting there so I kind of like seeing it here. Underneath the visor, his visible skin and eyes also get painted, which didn’t happen on the PP version of this figure so it’s nice they gave those molded details some attention this time around. This is a great look for an arctic version of Snake Eyes and I’m glad they did something other than release him all in black for this re-release.
Part of what drew me to the figure when it was an Arctic Threat figure was the gear. Snake Eyes has a great pair of (at the time) newly-designed submachine guns. I’m not sure whether they’re supposed to be Uzis or MAC-10s, but I’ve been calling them Uzis since that’s what Snake Eyes has traditionally carried. I like Snake Eyes being able to double wield them even though that’s not the best way to fight since it throws off your accuracy, but a misspent youth playing GoldenEye on the N64 makes me smile whenever I see a character double wielding weapons. It just makes them look more badass. The Uzis also have a hook built into the back of them that allows you to hook them to the bottom of his jacket. While it might not be the most practical way to carrying your weapons since I’d imagine that it would be a little hard to run with two Uzis bumping into your thighs the entire time, it looks pretty good and means that Snake Eyes can easily carry all his gear on him. Since it’s a Snake Eyes figure, he’s also carrying a sword. Once again, this was a new piece designed for this figure’s initial release and I really like it here. It looks a little more modern than the classic Snake Eyes sword and it makes me think of the tactical katanas you can buy from those late-night knife shows. It works well for Snake Eyes to carry something a little more modern here and while I’m a little tired of seeing Snake Eyes always carrying swords, at least for the most part, in the modern line it hasn’t been the same blasted sword coming with Snake Eyes every single time.
While one doesn’t necessarily think of Snake Eyes as a pilot, considering almost everyone in the cartoon flew a Skyhawk at one point in the series, I’m okay with Snake Eyes doing that even if I’m not totally sure how a mute ninja would respond to base while flying. The Battle Below Zero Arctic Skyhawk is a straight-up rerelease of the 25th Anniversary Skyhawk and that’s a good and bad thing. I really like the 25th Anniversary Skyhawk but at the same time, I wouldn’t have minded Hasbro mixing things up a little and using the engines from the Pursuit of Cobra Skyhawk just to make it look a little different. That said, though, the 25th Anniversary Skyhawk is a great piece and is an impressive modern update of the classic Joe vehicle. I’m quite certain had I not gotten randomly lucky and found the 25th Anniversary version at retail, I wouldn’t feel quite as bored by the arctic version, but as it stands, it is legitimately the exact same vehicle I already have in my collection and that is a little bit of a bummer. However, if everyone else had as hard a time finding it at retail as I did in Kansas (seriously, I didn’t find it until I was back at home in South Dakota for Christmas that year), it is nice that Hasbro was able to rerelease the full classic Skyhawk in the 50th Anniversary line. My only real complaint about the modern Skyhawk is that the cockpit is a little cramped. This is even more problematic since arctic Snake Eyes is a bit bulkier of a figure than 25th Anniversary Lift Ticket was, so he’s an even tighter fit in the cockpit than Lift Ticket.
The biggest difference between the 25th Anniversary Skyhawk and its 50th Anniversary counterpart is its paint scheme and the Skyhawk really does look great in arctic camouflage. The Skyhawk’s base body is done in white but there is plenty of light gray camouflage to break up all the white. It’s nice to see an arctic vehicle done in something other than all white. Actually, the camouflage here reminds me of the camo that Rise of Cobra Arctic Threat Shipwreck had. It’s a good look on him and it looks even better here on the vehicle. The Skyhawk’s canopy is also tinted a nice blue which makes sense since you’d want to cut down on the snow glare if your pilot is strafing a ground target like a Cobra WOLF. The sticker assortment is essentially the same as the 25th Anniversary release, but they did stencil Snake Eyes’ name on the side of the canopy and he’s apparently racked up an impressive 12 kills behind the stick of a Skyhawk. On top of the cockpit, they swapped out the classic Joe star for the 50th Anniversary
golden star and it does look really nice up there.
While there have been some toy reviewers that call this half of the Battle Below Zero set completely unnecessary (not Joe reviewers for the most part, but yes, I read a lot of toy review sites and there have been a few that were really hard on the Skyhawk/Snake Eyes pairing), I have to disagree. Yes, we’ve seen this version of Snake Eyes before, but considering he was originally supposed to be an arctic figure that got repurposed into a desert one, I’m fine seeing him here. It’s still a good figure and it’s nice to see it being used the way the Hasbro design team originally planned to use him. Its use as a desert figure never made sense to me. However, finally getting to see him as an arctic figure makes me smile. Add in a great new take on the Skyhawk (seriously, how has Hasbro never thought about doing multiple releases of the Skyhawk in different camouflage schemes until now?) and you have a great set. The Skyhawk pairs well with the Cobra WOLF and while I do wonder if Snake Eyes was the best choice for the pilot, I do genuinely enjoy seeing Arctic Assault Snake Eyes finally get released five years after he inexplicably became a Desert Battle figure. I imagine most Joe fans bought Battle Below Zero for the Cobra WOLF considering how long people have been asking for that vehicle, but the Skyhawk is a well-done vehicle and Snake Eyes looks good standing next to it.