Ultimate Storm Shadow
Much like Ultimate Cobra Commander, I wasn’t 100% sure I needed an Ultimate Storm Shadow based on his original look. First of all, like Cobra Commander, that look kind of got done to death during the 25th Anniversary line. Secondly, I’ve always had a lot stronger attachment to his 1988 look. That is one of the three figures that I have the strongest childhood memories of and it’s really a bit more interesting look compared to the classic all-white ninja. However, after getting this figure in my hand, I wish I could go back and smack my past self upside the head for doubting this figure. Ultimate Storm Shadow is the ultimate version of the classic Storm Shadow look and I know I’d be really mad if I hadn’t gotten him. The figure is amazing and he gave me a second shot at all the great accessories that I missed being unable to find Renegades Storm Shadow back during the 30th Anniversary line.
Hasbro made Ultimate Storm Shadow look like his old self. The only reused part is his torso, which his shared with the Renegades version, but they modified it to give him the pointy shoulders he had originally. Other than that though, Storm Shadow uses all new parts and considering they had to remold the shoulders of the torso anyway, that’s not straight up reuse either. I have to applaud Hasbro for being willing to invest so much tooling money in these “Ultimate” figures considering half of them are based on classic comic looks instead of the movie that they’re being released under. This mold is exceptionally well-detailed. The cloth is appropriately wrinkled, yet the wrinkle details are crisp so the figure doesn’t look overly busy. The wraps look like they’re tightly wrapped around his ankles and forearms. The new bare arms look appropriately strong and the added wrist articulation is hidden quite nicely. The same, unfortunately, can’t be said for his ankle joints, though. There, the ball is a little more obvious and much like Retaliation Budo, my Ultimate Storm Shadow has kind of weak ankles that lead to him toppling over. Also, much like Budo, the figure stand doesn’t really help matters much because one foot hole is way too small to accommodate the stand’s peg and the other is far too loose. I’m glad they’ve brought back the figure stands, but the two figures that really need them because their ankles aren’t super steady aren’t really helped by them and that’s something that I wish Hasbro could have remedied somehow. Hands down, though, the best part of Ultimate Storm Shadow is his new head sculpt. The mask looks great and it’s another head sculpt that has a lot of emotional versatility depending on how the head is angled. When he’s looking straight at you, Storm Shadow looks pretty calm, but if you tilt the head down a little bit, you can get a pretty fierce stare from him. I love it when head sculpts can give you different emotions just by changing the posture of the figure a little. Storm Shadow does come with an alternate head, but I’m pretty sure no one will ever be using it. To tie Ultimate Storm Shadow to the Retaliation movie, we also get the unmasked Byung-Hun Lee head that was used first with Paris Pursuit Storm Shadow back during Rise of Cobra. It’s not a bad choice and actually does make a pretty good stand in for Tommy Arashikage, but compared to the standard head, it’s not a tough decision to make on how to display him. This is a comic book Cobra-era Storm Shadow and I’m hard pressed to remember an issue of the comic before Storm Shadow became a good guy that he took off his mask in.
Storm Shadow is yet another character that’s kind of hard to make interesting when it comes to a paint scheme because he’s often times wearing just one color. That’s an even bigger problem when the color in question is white. However, Hasbro has done a very good job of making Storm Shadow look interesting while staying true to his essentially all-white roots. Storm Shadow is mostly molded out of white plastic. However, to help bring out the details on the mold, there’s a slight gray wash on parts of the body. It’s basically limited to the wraps, but it does help bring out the detailing there. The sculpting of the wrinkles on the rest of the body helps break up all the white as well. Also breaking up the white a bit are his black belt and his shoulder sling. These two pieces help keep Storm Shadow from looking overwhelmingly white. Topping things off, he gets a Cobra sigil tampoed on the left side of his chest. The paint work on his mask is very good with no bleeding flesh tone into the white of the mask. The color they chose for his skin also works very well. Despite being a Japanese-American most Storm Shadow figures look like a white guy in a white ninja suit. However, this version does what Budo tried to do and give him a little different skin tone to reflect his Asian heritage and does it a bit more successfully. Storm Shadow doesn’t look nearly as jaundiced as Budo did. My only real complaint about his paint comes from the work they did on his unmasked head. The work on my version’s eyes is pretty sloppy. His left eye looks spot on, but the dot for his right eye is too small and placed rather awkwardly. Unmasked Storm Shadow kind of looks like he has a lazy eye and that’s a bit unfortunate. A lazy-eyed ninja is almost as bad as a cross-eyed sniper (SpyTroops Black Out, I’m looking at you). Mercifully the unmasked head is not something I care about, so it doesn’t bother me that much, but it is a quality control issue that I figured should be mentioned. I realize eyes are hard to paint at this scale, but honestly, Hasbro’s probably one of the best at it so it’s a bit more jarring when they mess up on someone’s eyes.
In terms of accessories, Storm Shadow has a lot of good and tiny accessories, a respectable amount good regular sized accessories and one large, very controversial piece. All his weapons and gear came from Renegades Storm Shadow. This is good. That figure was really hard to track down and his accessories were amazing. I’m glad they gave him the same load out here. Starting off with the tiniest, he’s got a dart pouch with a removable dart that can plug into his bandolier. I’d always wondered what that attachment point was for on the Renegades Storm Shadow bandolier. I’ve seen it a few times on the Dollar General Storm Shadows but I’d never known what it was for. Now I do. It’s a great little piece but I’m not confident enough on its security to risk having it on Storm Shadow. After taking the photos, all the very tiny accessories went back in their little plastic baggie and went in the small plastic case I scrounged up to store all of Retaliation Lady Jaye’s extra weapons. I know where they are, but they’re never coming out again. His other small accessories are a pair of hand claws that fit nicely in his uniquely positioned hands, a pair of daggers, a pair of sais and a pair of throwing stars. While none of these are new, they’re all great pieces and look natural in Storm Shadow’s hands. Moving up in size a little, Storm Shadow has a great quiver backpack, a bow and arrow with rather strong Japanese influences, a katana and the shorter-bladed wakizashi, a fan and, my personal favorite, a pair of nunchuks. The swords, arrow and bow can all be carried on his back. I like the nunchuks because they’re held together with real string as opposed to just being molded entirely out of plastic and they’re another great throwback to the original Storm Shadow. Everyone remembers the sword and the bow and arrow, but almost no one (even Hasbro at times) remembers he came with a pair of nunchuks too. Throw in a bo staff, and he’s carrying all the Ninja Turtle weapons and can probably whup all their mutated butts pretty easily. Now to the controversial accessory: Like Ultimate Cobra Commander, Ultimate Storm Shadow comes with a backpack with an action feature. This backpack is designed to look like the old Cobra C.L.A.W. glider. You can clip Storm Shadow on to the front of the glider and press the button on the back and Storm Shadow will spin. I realize these things weren’t made for me, but I think even as a kid, I would have found this feature pretty lame. It just looks awkward, however, an accidental discovery made me actually like this thing a little. If Hasbro had included a sheet of instructions like they did for assembling Retaliation Ultimate Firefly’s mini-H.I.S.S., I would have known right away that you can fold the harness down perpendicular so Storm Shadow can actually fly it like a C.L.A.W. glider. It does disconnect the harness from the action feature, but at least this way, you do have a vaguely-functional C.L.A.W. glider. It’s not a great version of the C.L.A.W., but really, none of the modern C.L.A.W.s have held a candle to how cool the original one was, so it’s not that surprising this one isn’t great. I like it because, like Cobra Commander’s helicopter backpack, it’s a great Easter egg for us old Joe fans, but in terms of functionality, it’s really pretty lame. The fact that you can tip the harness down so Storm Shadow isn’t just impaled on the front of a C.L.A.W. does help it a little, but it’s not enough for me to rescind my initial “this is lame” declaration when I first opened him.
Like Ultimate Cobra Commander, Ultimate Storm Shadow definitely lives up to the “ultimate” designation. I’m very glad that such great comic-based figures still got released in the Retaliation line. I enjoyed the Rise of Cobra era, but there was a part of me that wanted to see a bit more from it. It wasn’t until the very end of the line that we got some figures that weren’t just endless Tatum-Dukes, Wayons-Ripcords and Park-Snake Eyes. I realize it took a bit to get that from Retaliation as well, but looking at the super wave, there are really only four figures that a pure on-screen figures. We got some great comic homages that still fit with the aesthetic of the movie and two figures that I thought would never see the light of day. The last few waves of Retaliation figures showed just how Hasbro has evolved over the years. Rise of Cobra was all about the movie. Even the characters that didn’t show up in the movie were designed to fit seamlessly with the Rise of Cobra aesthetic. It makes sense, but if I’m going to get a figure of Kamakura, I’d rather have him have some ties to his “classic” look. However, Retaliation eventually expanded to cover more facets of the Joe brand and I’m glad to see it. I just wish the last waves weren’t so hard to track down. I think Hasbro has a great foundation for future greatness…as long as they start learning the lessons from the Iron Man 3 movie toys and the first wave of the Avengers Assemble line that is slated to replace Marvel Universe that sold rather poorly because they cut back the articulation and the detailing and made them look more like cheap knockoffs than what we know Hasbro can do.