Wraith (25th Anniversary)
Sometimes, Hasbro makes controversial decisions when it comes to deciding what characters get figures and what characters don’t. Those that don’t like the figure believe that the “bad” character in question took the mythical slot of someone “more deserving.” There were a couple of figures like that in the 25th Anniversary line and Wraith is probably the biggest offender in the minds of many Joe fans. Wraith was introduced towards the end of DDP’s first G.I. Joe series, so he didn’t have much of a history (and really his backstory wasn’t all that great), but personally, I thought the idea of a Cobra operative running around in a high tech battlesuit with active stealth technology was a pretty cool concept. Sure, the guy under the helmet was kind of a putz, but I still thought the design itself was pretty cool and when he was in the battlesuit he was pretty effective. However, I quickly learned that there weren’t a lot of Joe fans looking forward to Wraith getting a figure. Admittedly, Wraith does have some pretty big construction problems, but considering Joe figures at the time were often designed to look better than they play, I can’t fault Wraith on that front. It’s kind of a pox on the whole line at the time, so if I’m willing to forgive Flint for his problems, I should be willing to forgive Wraith as well. Despite his issues, he really does look pretty good and I’m glad I have him. Parts of me wish I could have run down the translucent blue stealth variant, but I’m also happy with the fully painted version.
Wraith is a prime example of a 25th Anniversary figure that does a very good job exploiting the more modular construction of the modern figures. From neck to knees, Wraith uses the 25th Anniversary Paine Brothers Snake Eyes figure. It works surprisingly well for the sleek undersuit that Wraith wore beneath his armor. The crosshatching on his torso looks like the scaled digital camouflage he wore as part of the gear. The upper arms and upper legs also mesh pretty well with the new parts to create a lightweight armored body suit. Wraith’s lower legs, lower arms and head are all new pieces. I really like the high boots he’s wearing here since they look so sleek. The lower arms have a bit more armor because of the sort of removable gauntlets he’s wearing. They’re clearly add on pieces, but I wouldn’t really want to try and remove them so I really don’t know what the new arms look like underneath. Truthfully, I’d just assumed they were Paine Brothers Snake Eyes arms, but the parts listing at YoJoe says they’re new and they’ve never led me wrong before so I’ll go with what they say. Each gauntlet has a small gun attached to the top of it and some small hoses that connect back to his upper arms. While they’re source material accurate, that does create one of Wraith’s many articulation problems. The hoses are quite fragile, so you have to be careful how you move him. I’m a little surprised I haven’t snapped one yet, to be honest. The gauntlets themselves also restrict his elbow articulation quite a bit. For someone who was able to move very fluidly in the comics and bested Snake Eyes in hand-to-hand combat, Wraith’s figure really doesn’t move all that well. Over the Snake Eyes torso, Wraith wears a large piece of chest armor. Unfortunately, the shoulderpads aren’t articulated. This leaves Wraith’s arms a bit trapped at his side. I know one of the first thing customizers did was slit those shoulderpads a little so he could get a little more range of motion, but it’s still something Hasbro should have foreseen as a problem and changed the design so we didn’t have to modify our figures right out of the box just to make them functional. Despite the shoulderpads, I really do like the chest armor. The collar is just a little too high and it does limit his head articulation, but it’s very source-accurate I’m willing to trade a little functionality because like that Wraith looks like he just stepped off the page. I know a lot of people didn’t like the DDP era of Joe comics, but I have a huge nostalgic soft spot for them in my heart and I remember when Wraith was first introduced I was so hoping that Hasbro would be making a figure of him soon since they were right in the thick of the relaunch era and putting out lots of new figures. Finally, we come to Wraith’s new head sculpt. The head itself is an armored cowl with an open face plate. Wraith was doing the hinged face plate thing before Robert Downey, Jr. made it look cool in the first Iron Man movie. Weirdly, I don’t recall Wraith’s face ever really looking like this in the comic. My memory may be faulty, but I don’t recall him having a mustache. I remember him sometimes having a soulpatch, but I really don’t remember a mustache at all. The cutout for his face looks good since it shows enough of his face to get an idea of what he looks like while clearly still providing him protection from attack. Wraith’s faceplate attaches via two posts on the side of his head and I really like his faceplate here. It looks suitably military and futuristic. The eyes remind me night vision goggles, but they’re clearly built into a system that is far more advanced than that. I’ll admit, I hold a lot against Wraith for his articulation issues, but they did such a great job at making him look like he did in the comics I can forgive it, to a degree. I’d love to see Hasbro revisit him someday and use what they’ve learned in the intervening years to make an amazing Wraith figure, but considering how few people wanted him in the first place (even though despite the Internet complaining about his inclusion in the 25th Anniversary line I only ever saw Wraith once in a store), I kind of doubt that will happen.
Wraith’s overall design clearly has some flaws, but the Hasbro folks really did make the figure look good and the paintwork is a testament to how much work Hasbro put into this figure. Wraith uses four colors throughout the figure and it’s amazing how well they work together and how interesting they make the figure look. The bodysuit under his chest armor (and the parts that can be seen on the backs of his knees) is black. It helps the overall design look rather sleek. Wraith’s legs and arms (as well as his shoulderpads and helmet) are all painted vibrant silver. The silver looks appropriately shiny but at the same time it isn’t overwhelmingly bright. Wraith’s suit is clearly not factory-fresh and the silver reflects that. The gauntlets and chest armor are painted in a more gunmetal gray color. I really like the look here. It’s dark and it sells the idea that even if the digital camouflage isn’t running, it’s still going to make him a bit hard to see. Finally, to break up the varying shades of silver, there’s also a silvery-blue used for the shoulderpads and guns. The figure’s paint scheme is cohesive and the colors play off each other well. The only change I wish they’d made is in the eyes of the mask. First of all, the paint dots seem just a little off kilter, which leaves him kind of looking constantly down. My other complaint is that I wish they’d chosen a color that would stand out a little better from the silver. The base blue really blends into the silver so it looks like he’s just got white dots for eyes. I think some bright green (ala pop culture’s view of night vision goggles from the front) would have worked really well here and helped make the eyes stand out a bit more.
Wraith was not a character design based around weapons. Everything he had was pretty much built into the suit, so there’s not a lot Hasbro could give him beyond that. His backpack is a good piece and source material accurate for his high tech power source, but unfortunately, the gun they gave him was a pretty epic failure. The backpack is, to my thinking, just a little too big, but beyond that gripe, it’s a great piece. It’s sleek yet angular and it fits well with the overall design of the Wraith exosuit. I can see this piece not only being the power supply for the suit but also the electronic brains of the system. This is what controls the active camouflage system built into Wraith’s armor. While I love Iron Man in the Marvel Universe, before the advent of wireless technology, I always felt the character was just a little too fantastical. I mean, I got that the power supply was part of him, but what about all the computing systems that would be needed to run a suit as advanced at that. Those would have to be in the suit somewhere, but there was never anything that looked like it could hold the equipment necessary to do that. Wraith, on the other hand, clearly has a space large enough for the tech to manage his equipment built into the suit. Plus, since he can go “invisible” at will, it being on his back really isn’t a weak spot. After all, if you can’t see him, you can’t hit him. Meanwhile, the gun he carries just doesn’t work at all. Like his backpack, it’s too large—though here it’s far too large. The design reminds me of the RCP-90 from my misspent youth playing GoldenEye, which I love because I always called that weapon the great equalizer in multiplayer. It’s a great, semi-futuristic design (since I know the RCP-90 is based on something from the real world, I’m just not sure what) but unfortunately, Wraith can’t even hold it. He can’t get a good grip on the gun itself and because it’s so large, he really couldn’t hold it well if you can get it in his hands right. Part of the problem comes from the fact that his arms can’t really move well, but the gun being oversized turns it into a double whammy.
While Wraith was a bit of a controversial addition to the Joe line during the 25th Anniversary line, I’m really happy he made the cut. The Joe line can and has survived on the strength of its old characters. The line wouldn’t be the same if they moved on from classic characters like Flint and Destro, but at the same time, not bringing in some fresh blood every now and then really does a disservice to the line. Part of what I loved about the Joe Vs. Cobra era was that while there were a lot of classic characters being remade, there were also some excellent new Joes that I could latch onto. I loved Barrel Roll when I was in high school. He had a great design and he was well used in the comic book at the time. Had they just redone someone like Low Light and given him Barrel Roll’s schtick of being a sniper who also goes undercover in Cobra and can snipe from a glider, I just don’t think I would have liked it as much. It was too much of a departure from Low Light’s established character. The same can be said for Wraith as well. Yes, I suppose you could have put Storm Shadow in a high-tech stealth suit but do we really need to give Hasbro an excuse to make more Storm Shadow figures? Wraith, as a character, may have fallen a little flat as the execution in the comics wasn’t as good as it could have been. However, the character design was great and while I thought the playboy mercenary angle was pretty dumb, the great thing about the Joe line is you can take what you think works and discard what you don’t like. Wraith was a great reference to the Joe brand’s recent more recent history and while it’s not as good as it could have been, I’m just happy to finally get an action figure of Wraith.