SDCC Cobra Eel and Night Landing Craft
While I had strong childhood ties to both parts of the Joe half of the Danger at the Docks set, everything on the Cobra side was basically new to me. I didn’t have either the Eel or the Night Landing Craft growing up. I was pretty excited to get my hands on these pieces for the first time. I have had some experience with the classic Eel thanks to the 25th Anniversary line but the only Eel I was familiar with from back in the day was my brother’s 1992 version which was extremely different from the classic Cobra frogman. The combination of the Night Landing Craft and the Cobra Eel is a no-brainer and it’s amazing how well the figure and his mini-vehicle pair up here.
I’ll freely admit, I was a little concerned about getting another Cobra Eel. By the end of the Rise of Cobra line, I was pretty tired of seeing 25th Anniversary Torpedo parts. However, for the 50th Anniversary, Hasbro decided to freshen things up a bit and the new parts really do make the figure seem a lot more interesting than just another guy in a wetsuit. Not only was I getting tired of seeing the Torpedo parts, but by the end of the Rise of Cobra line, they’d started to feel pretty dated. For the 50th Anniversary Eel, Hasbro makes enough changes that it doesn’t feel like I’m getting the exact same figure but it still has strong ties to the original Eel. The Eel’s legs and upper arms are shared with Retaliation Ninja Duel Snake Eyes and that’s a great call. Snake Eyes’ legs are sleek enough that they work for a wetsuit, but at the same time, they’ve got some nice sculpted details like pockets and kneepads that are a bit more interesting than the relatively plain Torpedo legs we saw used for almost every character in a wetsuit. The upper arms coming from Snake Eyes is also a great call. I like the slightly armored look to them. It meshes well with the armored collar the Eel has and it also works well with the classic Eel gauntlets that he’s wearing again here thanks to the 25th Anniversary Eel lower arms. The only parts unchanged from the first modern release of the Eel are the head and torso. The head was originally made for the 25th Anniversary Eel, and I’m still not sure what I think if it after all these years. It seems just a little too small and I don’t like how small the eye slit is on it. It just looks a little off to me for some reason. The torso comes from 25th Anniversary Torpedo so he is wearing a great wetsuit that we’ve seen a lot already. However, the addition of another belt piece does at least help make it feel a bit more different from the rather overexposed 25th Anniversary Torpedo.
Of course, part of what makes a diver character work is his gear and they really did a great job equipping the Eel. Most of his gear is shared with his 25th Anniversary counterpart, but they do a wonderful job of recreating the original figure’s look so I’m fine with some recycling here. The 50th Anniversary Eel has got the same great helmet, shoulder pads and backpack rig that the 25th Anniversary version had. However, it seems something is a little off with the hoses. I’m not sure if they’re too short or that the holes in the backpack are too big, but the fit on them is far looser than I remember it being on the 25th Anniversary figure and it’s far harder to get them back into place if they pop out. It’s honestly kind of annoying. I’m glad I got them back in place before taking pictures, but I think I spent at least five minutes trying to get it to work before I did. The Eel also has the classic speargun, but I did swap it out for the better-looking version from the weapons crate. The Eel also carries a pair of knives. One fits nicely in his belt sheath (which originally came with Retaliation Ninja Duel Snake Eyes) and the other one looks great in his hands. He’s also packing a small pistol that fits in the open holster on his belt. For work on dry land, he’s carries the same submachine gun that came with 30th Anniversary Law. It’s a nice compact piece, but it’s not exactly one that I’d immediately associate with the Eel. Finally, the Eel has two different sets of flippers. The first one is the standard pair that he came with back during the 25th Anniversary line. They’re not bad, but they’re far less interesting than the other set he has. The second set of flippers is designed so that the front part of the flipper can fold up in front of the shins. I really like how they look both folded down and folded up. It gives the Eel the ability to transition from an aquatic operation to land without having to waste time pulling off his flippers. The gear really helps bring the Eel’s looking together and I really appreciate how much work Hasbro put into it.
The SDCC Eel’s paint work is probably the best I’ve seen on any 50th Anniversary figure, however, the color choices confuse me a little bit. The Joe half of the SDCC version of Danger at the Docks was all about vintage colors, however, both the Eel and the Night Landing Craft are in very different color schemes than their original releases. They’re not bad colors and I actually like the color scheme on this Eel, but at the same time, it’s just a little confusing. The SDCC Eel is wearing a black wetsuit with some red accents and a golden Cobra sigil on his chest. It’s a very sharp look and for the purposes of my collection that casts him as more of an Eel Commander than just a standard Eel. The figure looks great in these darker colors and it helps the SDCC Eel stand out a little more from his 25th Anniversary counterpart.
To me, though, the star of the set is the Night Landing Craft. I never had this piece growing up, but my first experience with it in adulthood makes me think that kid KansasBrawler would have loved using this thing a lot even though I’ve never been terribly big on boats in the Joe line. The Night Landing Craft is a basic rubber Zodiac craft and I think it’s a great call for Cobra to have something like that in their motor pool. It’s not great for long range operations, but for something like sneaking into a busy port to cause trouble, it’s a great little vehicle. Its small size makes it rather difficult to notice out on the open water and the fact that it has both a motor and oars means that the operator can cut its engine off and row silently into range of his target. The Night Landing craft has space for two modern figures to sit on wood benches built into the raft. The raft also has wooden flooring and I appreciate that Hasbro molded the wood grain into the piece even back in the day. There’s a large machine gun mounted to the front of the Night Landing Craft and while I don’t see this vehicle as anything like a combat vehicle, the machine gun would be useful at eliminating sentries, though I’d think the Eel would want to use something a little quieter to take out a guard, but that’s just me. It still looks great up in the front and it’s nice that the Night Landing Craft has a little firepower to get itself out of a hairy situation should the need arise. The Night Landing Craft is a sleek little boat and its design is nicely grounded in the real world and I’m sure I would have gone out of my way to come up with a reason to use the Night Landing Craft whenever possible.
The SDCC version of the Night Landing Craft is done up all in black and I really do like how stealthy and real-world it looks. I’ve never seen a Zodiac used in popular culture that wasn’t black so I like seeing Cobra having a black one as well. However, the black does pose a little bit of a problem when it comes to some of the stickers. While the paint team was able to change up some of the paint detailing so it stands out against the black, Hasbro didn’t redo the stickers so the stickers with black text just blend into the black of the boat and I think that’s kind of a shame. It’s not a big loss, but at the same time, it just feels like a little less care went into the choices made on this SDCC exclusive set than have gone into on others.
The Night Landing Craft also has two accessories of its own. Starting off with the simpler of the two, it has a great radio. I can see the Eel using this to either eavesdrop on enemy communications or jam them as they move into position. While it looks a little dated compared to modern military communications technology, I still think it fits very well with the Night Landing Craft. The other accessory included is a footlocker that is filled with other equipment. The footlocker itself is very well-designed and I like that it’s even designed to be stackable. The two pegs on the top have corresponding holes on the bottom so if you have more than one footlocker you can securely stack them on top of each other. That’s a great piece of design work and I’m sure that Joe fans who do diostories would love to have multiples of these stacked up in a motor pool or an armory. Inside the crate, there are 20 pieces of equipment. My shot has 21 since I put the assault rifle that I consider the Eel’s primary land assault weapon in there as well so it wasn’t just hanging around loose in the boat. The Eel’s old spear gun also wound up in there because I think the new version looks much better so I prefer having that one in his hands. There are quite a few pieces we’ve seen before in here and I do genuinely like them all, but I’m going to focus most of my attention on the pieces that were reworked for this set. First off, we have a completely retooled Viper rifle. This new version is far sleeker and looks a lot less chunky than the one we’ve gotten a few times before. Next, there’s a retooled version of the 25th Anniversary Baroness rifle. The barrel has been swapped out for a thicker barrel that I view as a built-in silencer. The axe and shovel are both pieces that are new to the Joe line as far as I can tell. I don’t quite know why the Eel would need either of those tools, but they’re there, so I felt I should mention them. The assault rifle with the underslung shotgun barrel has finally gotten its grip reworked and the top handle has been removed. Three of the four knives are new and I think you know which one is a repeat since we’ve seen it so much. The knife with the serrated front was apparently supposed to come with Pursuit of Cobra Clutch but didn’t cost out while the one with the serrated back was supposed to go to Retaliation Battle Kata Roadblock and was cut for the same reason. I’m not sure where the third new knife originally came from, but it’s a great piece and I really like it being included here. The little ax was supposed to go to Retaliation Zartan but I’m not sure what I think of it. It’s an okay piece, but it’s just a little too strange for me. The pistol is a great silenced piece and I like this mold with a silencer added to it. The MP5 we’ve seen multiple times (both silenced and unsilenced) loses the scope from on top and I really think it looks better that way. The final piece is my favorite, the classic wrist crossbow. It was originally supposed to come with 30th Anniversary Road Pig but got cut. However, my first experience with the piece was with Night Creeper Leader back in 1991 so I reunited it with him once he arrived in the mail as part of FSS 3.0. It’s incredibly well designed and I love that one of the weirder weapons from the Joe line was apparently popular enough that Hasbro wanted to get it out somehow.
Overall, the Night Landing Craft and Cobra Eel work very well together. However, the slightly strange color choices do make me scratch my head a little. Considering how the Joe side of the set was all about vintage accuracy, I’m a little confused as to why Hasbro had the massmarket release version of Danger at the Docks be the one rocking the classic Night Landing Craft and Eel colors. I like the colors just fine, but it just seems odd to pair a vintage VAMP Mark II with a non-vintage Night Landing Craft. I’m also slightly amused that the Joe fans apparently thought the non-vintage colors were a much bigger deal on the VAMP Mark II than they were on the Night Landing Craft. I don’t remember anyone saying the SDCC Night Landing Craft was using the “wrong” colors like they were about the mass market VAMP Mark II. That being said, though, the Night Landing Craft and Eel’s colors work well together and that’s honestly more important than my bemusement and befuddlement regarding the non-vintage color choices here. Regardless, it’s still a great looking set and while I think I would be happy with either set of colors, I do find the SDCC set’s color scheme to be a bit more interesting because it’s just a little more realistic than the standard version. I know I would have been satisfied with the colors that the standard release used, but since I couldn’t find that one before the SDCC came out, I figured I’d take a shot on the SDCC version and got insanely lucky. As such, I have a piece that I’m very glad to have in my collection and I enjoy being exposed to a classic small Cobra
vehicle long after its original retail release. I was looking forward to the Night Landing Craft when it showed up in Hasbro’s case a few years back at Joe Con as part of the Retaliation line before it got canceled. While parts of me would have liked the Joe version of it that came with Arctic Diver Ripcord, I think it really works better as a Cobra vehicle so I’m happy it finally saw release and in its release it was returned to the side it first started on.