Storm Shadow (2004)
Action features are a sticky wicket. While kids love ’em (and they do, believe me) collectors tend to loathe them. I’m okay with action features when they’re integrated well with the figures. Weirdly scaled limbs, giant buttons or fall-apart bits tend to turn me off. However, when the feature is themed with the character and still allows for playability beyond a firing weapon or kicking legs, it can be a wonderful thing. The ultimate expression of this for me was in Mattel’s original Masters of the Universe line.
It doesn’t really work when integrated into most GI Joe figures, particularly in the small scale. There’s just not enough space to work mechanisms into torsos, and the theme, beyond kicking and punching ninjas like Stormy here, doesn’t lend itself to a military based toy line. Separate accessories like Parachutes, zip lines and firing weapons work much better, unless of course they’re attached to a helmet.
The Action Attack features, though short lived, showed up in several forms. From push buttons, to squeezing legs, magnetic hands and dials, a variety of means were to used to bring extra playability to the GI Joe line. In the case of Storm Shadow, his sword swinging action is triggered by squeezing his legs together. Whenever I see this type of action feature, I’m reminded of Kenner’s Super Powers line. In order for the swinging to function, Stormy’s right arm is very loose. While the effect is well done, you’re left with a toy that can’t keep his arm raised. In terms of aesthetics, his shoulders are assymetrical. To me, this is the oddest thing about the figure. We’re so accustomed to seeing small Joes with ball jointed shoulders that anything else looks out of place. Certainly two different shoulders stands out even more.
All was not lost however, as the same costume design was revisited later that same year with the traditional o-ring construction intact. The detail in the mold, and the departure from the usual Storm Shadow uniform design led me to prefer the revised figure above other new sculpt versions of the character.