The 50th Anniversary reviews continue! Ever since the early days of Sunbow, Spirit and Storm Shadow have gone head-to-head, and this year’s 50th Anniversary line celebrates that with their “Classic Clash” two-pack.
Featuring a cool new look at Spirit and an updated Storm Shadow in his classic ’88 battle togs this is one of the most looked forward to packs of this year’s release.
Check out my 50th Anniversary Review page for the latest, or click the links below.
I have a very mixed feeling when it comes to the 1988 version of Storm Shadow. My first reaction is resistance, because I’ve always loved Storm Shadow as a foil for Snake Eyes, and it was disappointing to me when he shifted over to the G.I. Joe side. Between him, Zartan, and Destro, it feels like COBRA gets skinnier and skinnier with their credible threats to the Joe team.
That being said, I also have fond memories of this figure. Back in ‘88 I lived in (very) small town Vermont and rarely had the opportunity to buy new G.I. Joe figures. I was making my routine run down to the local General Store, just to get candy or something, and happened to take a perusal through the toy section. Much to my shock and surprise, there were new G.I. Joe figures that I had never even heard of before sitting on a peg there. Right out in front was the 1988 Storm Shadow!
Well, because this was a general store in small town Vermont, each figure was like eight dollars, a great deal more than the four bucks or so I was used to paying at the (semi local) department store. My eyes grew wide, and I immediately dropped the figure and RAN all the way home, desperately digging through every corner of the house for spare change. Half an hour later, I’d manage to cobble together the required money and travel back to the local store and was practically skipping home with the new Storm Shadow figure tucked under my arm. It was a good day.
Fast forward too many years and we saw a terrific looking update to this figure at the Concept Case display at JoeCon in 2013 (no he wasn’t in the first concept case, but he was in the second). With some key new tooling and lots of existing parts it was a pretty nice looking update to the ‘88 classic…actually forget “pretty nice” it looked damned perfect. But as we know, sometimes figures that look perfect in concept don’t always execute to that same perfection, and the retail release of Storm Shadow does have a few shortcomings.
The base figure uses most of the G.I. Joe: Renegades/30th Anniversary version of the character, and it’s pretty tough to go wrong there. As one of the best figures in G.I. Joe’s right history of great figures, that Storm Shadow stands on the mountain top as a shining example of what can be done in the 1:18th scale. Using the same upper arms, torso, and upper legs as that Storm Shadow, it was tough for this figure to go wrong, and thankfully the lower arms, lower legs, and new head only add to the awesomeness. I believe these parts were all sculpted and tooled for a retail release of this figure, but I may be wrong on that. Regardless, the new parts compliment the existing parts perfectly, and it ends up taking a fantastic base figure and making it fantastic-er. The separated fingers, a remarkable achievement the first time around, continue to be exceedingly useful here, allowing this updated Storm Shadow to really notch an arrow for his bow.
For the most part. The only issue I have is that for whatever reason the new head doesn’t sit real well on the existing torso neck peg. It gives the figure an unusually long neck, but honestly, that’s a pretty quick fix if you’re so inclined.
The other disappointment to me is that while the concept case Storm Shadow had his trademark belt of pouches, this version does not. I can only imagine they were costed out somehow, but that’s quite unfortunate because they are one of the defining traits of the figure. He looked pretty terrific with those pouches, and it’s a pretty glaring omission to look at the final figure and not see them. Hard decisions must often be made during the production process, I just wish perhaps they had found a way to cut somewhere else so the pouches could have been maintained.
Beyond those two disappointments, the figure is pretty stellar. Articulation is fantastic, he maintains the great separated finger hands of the original, and the ‘88 homage paint scheme is crisp, accurate, and aesthetically pleasing. From a plastic quality perspective, I feel like the figure is a shade or two below some previous years, but doesn’t feel quite as thin and cheap as last year’s 50th Anniversary run.
Like Spirit Iron-Knife, Storm Shadow comes with a number of great accessories. Ironically, he comes with the compound bow and arrow quiver that the Pursuit of Cobra Spirit Iron-Knife came with a few years back. He’s got
what appears to be a newly tooled backpack faithful to the original that actually opens up with some great concealed details inside a re-release of a great backpack that came with a Comic Pack version of the character several years ago, and like Spirit, showcases how great some of those past accessories were, even if the figures themselves could have used some improvement. The backpack was so great, I completely forgot it was originally released a number of years ago!
He has two swords with red handles and a climbing claw, all of which are very nice call backs to the figure we received in 1988. Lastly, he has a removable rope harness to replicate the look of that figure, too, though it’s pretty big and doesn’t fit the torso especially well.
This figure is honestly pretty great. It has some unfortunate drawbacks compared to the Concept Case version, but as I said, I think we all know that things sometimes get cut in the production process. I feel pretty strongly that they should have tried to find a way to keep the pouches, and I wish the head sat a bit lower on the neck, but besides those minor complaints, this is one heck of a great looking update to the classic ninja character.
50th Anniversary Storm Shadow
Classic character in his classic 1988 G.I. Joe themed battle togs, this revamped modern rendition of Storm Shadow is excellent in many ways. It drifts just short of perfection with some cost cutting decisions, and part fit issues, resulting in an elongated neck.
1 – Base figure (30th Anniversary/Renegades Storm Shadow) is fantastic
2 – Nice selection of newly tooled parts which look great.
3 – Great backpack, which really opens and contains nicely detailed gear
4 – As with most of these ninja figures, articulation and figure balance are both stellar
1 – A little paint slop mixed within the gray camouflage
2 – Apparent cost cutting removed newly tooled pouch belt seen on the concept case figure
3 – Head and neck fit is off, making the figure’s neck look a bit too long
4 – Existing rope for torso doesn’t fit great
The 50th Anniversary line that came about in 2014 was what felt like kind of a last ditch olive branch to the fandom to celebrate our brand’s 50th anniversary, even if our 12” other brothers weren’t the focus as perhaps they should have been (at least partly). It was obviously greatly inspired by vintage designs, using a lot of existing tooling and characters that appeared just as they did back in the 80s.
For this second iteration of the 50th Anniversary line, we certainly get some of that as well, but part of it also feels a bit more new. The introduction of the Wolf Squad and some different vehicle elements separates this line at least a little bit and makes it seem to exist better as a continuation rather than just a revisiting. Spirit Iron-Knife is a good example of that.
Rather than just a re-release of a classic deco type figure, or the Pursuit of Cobra version released to Toys “R” Us, Hasbro goes in a slightly different direction, giving us a version of Spirit in a unique desert camouflage color pallet. His parts are all existing, from the aforementioned Pursuit of Cobra version for his head sculpt, with what looks to be Retaliation Flint for the torso and arms, with Resolute Snake Eyes legs. It’s a unique combination of parts that work pretty well giving us a figure that remains really well articulated throughout. The elbows and wrists are terrific, allowing him great flexibility to hold his various weapons, including the dart gun that’s normally a real pain. The handle and trigger guard combination on the dart gun still makes it a bit of a challenge for Spirit to grasp, but it can be made to work, which is more than can be said for previous versions of the character.
As mentioned, the camouflage and paint colors seem to focus on desert camouflage, with a basic tan shirt and sleeves, and a camouflage pattern on the legs. The leg design isn’t especially intricate or detailed, but works well enough, and maintains a style that G.I. Joe has used since the beginning. Darker brown boots and kneepads offset the lighter colors well, and Spirit’s skin is a nice variable shade of color as well.
There are a number of neat accessories for Spirit Iron-Knife here, mostly refreshed from his 25th Anniversary version. He’s got the same great backpack and dart gun combination with removable cartridges that plug into the weapon. I had almost forgotten how great those accessories were when they came with that version of Spirit so many years ago. I really don’t like that figure much, so I tend to block out the entire release, but the accessories are really very nice, and work well in this new version as well. As I said, the thick handle and tight trigger guard make it a bit tough for him to hold, but not impossible.
He comes with the same tactical vest that the Pursuit of Cobra version did (carried forward from the Rise of Cobra Pit Commando I believe) and that works quite nicely, too. He also has a knife and machete, though unfortunately no place to store either one. I also can’t help but wonder why a desert version of the figure needs a machete in the first place. A secondary weapon would have been nice, I’d think a dart gun could only carry you so far.
I’m surprised at how much I like this version of G.I. Joe’s first tracker. It’s a very straight forward combination of parts and deco, but it’s an effective combination and the end result is pretty fun. Good accessories and an aesthetically pleasing paint job. Pretty nice job on this one.
50th Anniversary Spirit Iron-Knife
A fixture on the G.I. Joe team since 1984, this version of Spirit relies on some familiar themes, but also goes in some different, appreciated directions.
1 – Good use of modern parts, resulting in great articulation and sculpting
2 – Color scheme on the skin shows some ethnic variety
3 – Love the 25th Anniversary dart gun and backpack
1 – Some paint slop in certain places
2 – The collar looks odd when he’s not wearing the vest
3 – Would have liked additional more modern and functional weaponry