COBRA Urban Strike Team
name: COBRA Strike Team: Urban Division
Price: MSRP $19.99
Availability: August, 2004- Toys "R" Us Exclusive
Once again, Hasbro uses Toys "R" Us as a venue to release one of their patented exclusive six-pack of classic mold figures, and once again, as soon as pictures hit, the internet was ablaze with conflicted opinions, thoughts, and general griping. I'm proud to say, I was definitely in the "griping" camp.
Hasbro and TRU have teamed up to bring us a load of exclusives over the past few years, with some decent success. Six packs like last year's Python Patrol have probably spoiled us into thinking that every set is going to be a home run, but considering only a few sets are released a year, shouldn't we expect pretty good things?
Well, we do expect it, of course, and unfortunately, the good things don't always get delivered, at least not 100%. I think that might be what pains me about this set so much...it was so close to another Python Patrol-type success, but a few poor mold choices and non-trooper based figures really brings down the overall value of this set. Unfortunately for me, because there are at least two molds in here that knock my socks off, I will be buying a number of these sets, which will leave me with a large number of unwanted figures. I really don't like it when that happens, but that's more my fault than anyone else's. ;)
Let's start off with the bad first, shall we?
This mold is almost criminal, for several different reasons. First of all, it ushered in the birth of Ninja Force. While far from the worst figure in the Ninja Force mythos, this figure is annoying simply because it was very close to being a decent figure. It utilized the o-ring construction, was loosely based off of the '88 hooded Storm Shadow mold (an absolutely excellent figure) and had some potentially cool detail work going on. What actually came out, though, was a stiff, lanky, unposeable piece of garbage that was barely usable. The torso tabs (I have absolutely no clue why these were even included) make it nearly impossible for the figure to...you know...actually MOVE. He cannot turn well at the waist and cannot even bend over without a struggle, which of course, makes his o-ring construction completely useless.
Then we move onto the size of the torso...I'd imagine to fit the spring-loaded stuff in here they had to enlarge the torso size slightly...at least that's the only excuse I can really think of as to why it is so oddly shaped. Not only is it oddly shaped, but it has no screw hole, and Storm Shadow's head is a swivel instead of a ball. All of this combines into an almost frustrating figure to play with or do anything with. Heck, he can barely pose well. Add to this the fact that for whatever reason, his waist/legs combination fits so tightly that he cannot even lift his leg above his knee and you have a ninja who cannot do anything a ninja should be able to do. Well, except to chop when you lift his right arm. :/
The mold originally ticked me off so much because as everyone should know by now, I'm a big stickler for figures being able to represent their comic counterparts well...it's why I'm such a big mark for the new Comic 3-Packs. In the comics, this version of Storm Shadow was doing some pretty cool stuff...scaling Destro's castle, fighting with Slice and Dice, and being a general ninja. This figure could do none of that.
Then, as if to add insult to injury, since the year 2000, Hasbro has repeatedly taken this already tired and aggravating mold and churned out a few more figures with it. To this day, this unposeable piece of yuck is the only RAH representation for COBRA's greatest ninja we've gotten over the past decade and a half. In fact, Hasbro is only barely making an o-ring version of this hugely popular character, which in and of itself is nearly a crime.
So, now that that's out of the way, does this new rendition of this tired mold hold any further use or do anything that the others don't?
Not at all.
I'm honestly pretty puzzled as to why Stormy even made the cut here. First of all, there's nothing about him that can be described as "urban". I suppoze if you went by the camouflage pattern on his 1988 figure you might get an urban feel out of it, but his placement in this unit still does not really mesh with me. Combine this with the bland color pallet of this figure (just a lot of basic gray with some red highlights) and the figure just does not do anything for me, and certainly does not seem a good enough figure to represent a character of Storm Shadow's caliber. The only even remotely decent thing about the color pallet of this figure is the way-cool COBRA blue facemask that Stormy has. For some reason I'm really digging that blue shade, and thankfully it's quite prevelant throughout this set. However, that isn't enough to change the fact that this figure just kind of sucks.
Can you say "overused mold"? I knew you could! Counting convention exclusives, this Firefly mold has been used six times since 1998. That is completely rediculous. Combine that with the fact that this mold originally came out twenty years ago, which makes it somewhat dated compared to the later released classic sculpts. I will concede that this figure is definitely what makes Firefly as cool as he is, and really made him an established character, but for crying out loud, enough is enough already!
I also don't really agree that Firefly necessarily belongs in a set of this nature. People like to assume that since Firefly is most well known in gray camouflage, that this automatically makes him an Urban operative. I'll grant you that his specialty does lend itself to an urban environment, but to me, Firefly is completely a loaner, and doesn't really belong on any type of COBRA Strike Team, urban or not.
Anyone who's read my reviews knows that I'm a fan of the obscure...rarely used figures that people don't often see brought to a new life by exciting new paint jobs or a different look at the overall figure. It's probably the same reason why I'm a fan of customs. I know there are hundreds of figures at Hasbro's disposal, and it just irritates me when we see the same one released time and time again. When Firefly came out in 2000, it was very cool. He was our favorite sabatour in woodland camo, and even though he'd been released in 1998, there had only been a single release previously and the figure still had a whole lot of life. Well, now it seems most of the life has been sucked, pulled, and drained right out of this mold that was once great.
Firefly, who should be a loaner, nondescript, mercenary-for-hire, has now been an arctic trooper, a jungle trooper, a crimson trooper (?!??), and TWO separate troopers in two separate color schemes for the convention set. Here we have way too much of a good thing. I can't imagine there are any collectors around who don't have at least some version of the COBRA sabatour in their army by now, I can only imagine why the heck Hasbro thinks we need another one. I was really crossing my fingers for a cool new look at the '92 version, but alas, it was just not to be.
But did Hasbro do something nice and different with this new Firefly? Is there at least some sort of saving grace here? Actually...almost begrudgingly...they definitely did.
As you can see by my ranting and raving, I really, REALLY want to dislike this Firefly figure. I'm tired of the mold, I want to see some new and different things, but man, every time I look at this figure I am blown away by the level of detail in the paint applications and the color choices. While the mold is pretty dated, these new paint apps really give it a whole lot of new life, with tons of intricate shapes, colors, lines and different designs. Not only that, but the camouflage is definitely COBRA-esque, focusing more on blues and grays and non-traditional camouflage colors. One downside to these intense paint apps is that I'm sure the fact that Hasbro used them on this figure (and the Night Creeper), that it took away from the budget of the others, which is why some of the other figures are colored so plainly. Still, for those figures who get this new camouflage treatment, it has some incredible effects and this Firefly becomes a very, very exciting figure, even with his tired, "should be retired" mold.
Another thing I'm really liking is the brown trim. The funny thing is, brown seems to be the only color really linking all of these figures together, and it's actually a very effective "leathery" brown shade, which works really well in pretty much every aspect it's tried in on these figures. Nicely done.
Now this figure I'm a little bit more torn on.
Scrap Iron is a very cool character and has not had a representation in plastic form for twenty years. His classic figure shares a similar problem that Firefly does, in that it first came out in 1984 and definitely looks the part. The non-ball joint neck and slimmed down body mold really shines through, especially in a set like this, with figures like Night Creeper and Nullifier, and that puts a slight negative spin on this guy.
But, on the other hand, I'm happy to finally see Scrap Iron back in the COBRA fold.
I would say, that given the choice of a unique character to have in this set, I would actually prefer Scrap Iron over the other two characters that also got included. If they had designed this set like the Python Patrol one, and given us one single character "leader" and five troopers, I think more fans would have been happy, especially if Scraps, someone whose been invisible for the past twenty years, was selected as team leader. But even though he's just another unique character in this set, I find myself enjoying this rendition of Scrap Iron, even though he's got some different parts.
First of all, they changed his arms and legs to what appear to be the ones belonging to the new COBRA Infantry troopers. The arms were originally Thunders from what I can tell, and unforunately they don't fit Scrap Iron's torso quite as well as his old ones. As you might be able to tell from the picture, the arms do not rest flush on his sides and are stuck in a slightly outward position. But besides these little inconveniences, the parts blend in really well with the figure, especially since they're all of the same vintage. I'm a little annoyed that India looks to have misplaced the original padded arms and legs of the COBRA missile specialist, but the substitutions are acceptible and the figure still looks okay.
A lot of people have been lamenting the fact that they didn't really change much about this figure compared to the original. I really have to agree with that sentiment, although the changes they made really make the figure more appealing to me than it was before. While a gray-based uniform with dark blue chestpads and other COBRA-type colors would have been very cool, I find myself really liking the jet black uniform contrasting with the vibrant red chest pads. They work very well in concert with one another, and it makes the nice solid gray helmet stand out well, too. Like Firefly, Scrap Iron has the leather-brown trim on his gloves, thigh strap and boots, which again looks fantastic, and is a cool little detail that brings the mold to life.
It's going to sound silly, too, but another really cool touch is the lighter blue of his shirt collar. It's a very minor touch and something Hasbro could have easily passed on, but that little flash of color around his neck looks great.
However, one glaring problem with this figure is his accessory choices. For the most part, Hasbro did fairly well with this pack as far as accessories go. They all seem to make sense and look natural...well, not here. Scrap Iron gets a bright green backpack (the only non-black or non-silver accessory in the entire set!) which really stands out and just plain looks obnoxious. Beyond that he gets the funky laser rifle that's been coming with underwater troops of late, and originally came with the 2000 Major Bludd (and his Sonic Fighter counterpart before him). These two accessories are just bizarre, and don't really seem like "missile specialist" gear. Well, Hasbro figured they should probably give him explosive devices as well, so he also comes with a Range/Rock Viper grenade launcher...but no grenade chamber to go along with it. :/ Yeah...okay.
All I can think of is that in transit between India and the US, Scrap's missile launcher must have been lost, which really sucks, because that would have been an awesome added value to this set, but instead we get these just plain strange accessories that serve little to no purpose.
Well, that covers the unique character look at the six-pack. Because of the number of pictures, I've divided this review into two pages. Check out the pictures below, and then proceed on to page two for the rest of the review. Don't worry, things are looking up! :)
It's amazing what a little headswap will do. Those folks annoyed by the non-army builders in this set can swap Scrap Iron and Firefly's heads and come up with two more figures that could really pass as troopers, and who are not quite so identifyable as the original characters. The Scrap Iron body w/ Firefly head could easily pass for an Urban "Street-Viper" where the other figure almost looks like an urban tactics officer of some kind. Either way, a nice change from the standard characters they're supposed to be.
I need to give a big thanks to the JoeCustoms member who came up with this idea on the fly but I can't remember who it was...sorry, dude! :)
On to Page Two...
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