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REVIEW: G.I. JOE COBRA SHOCK TROOPER
By Thomas Wheeler

Admittedly, I am first and foremost a fan of the original "Real American Hero" figures from the world of G.I. Joe. That being said, I must also confess that there are some new characters and troopers coming along in the modern G.I. Joe line that impress me considerably. And one of the most impressive in the current line is the new COBRA SHOCK TROOPER, a figure that has received a great many accolades and a great deal of build-up well before I was able to track it down for the purposes of this review.

In point of fact, the Cobra Shock Trooper proved to be notoriously hard to find. Doubtless the reasons are three-fold for this. First of all, he did get quite a lot of hype -- deservedly so. Secondly, he's an army-builder. He's a trooper figure, so in theory, you can have as many of him as you want, can find, and can afford. Thirdly, he really is as impressive as the early accolades made him out to be.

There has never before been a "Cobra Shock Trooper". The closest I was able to find, name-wise, were the Shock-Vipers, which do have an interesting history. In 1994, there was a new G.I. Joe character by the name of "Ice Cream Soldier". He was a flamethrower specialist, with an admittedly ironic name, dressed in an all-covering outfit, including helmet, that was mostly bright orange with bright yellow detailing. Between the intense colors, the anonymous look of the helmet headsculpt, and the debatable name, ICS didn't exactly go on to great levels of popularity. Personally, I never had a great problem with the figure or the character (although I do tend to agree that the name is a little silly), but a lot of fans didn't think much of him.

One entirely accurate observation that was made at the time was that the basic design of the figure would make for a good Cobra trooper of some sort -- in a better color scheme, obviously. Eight years later, this is precisely what happened, as Hasbro used the Ice Cream Soldier molds to create the new Cobra Shock-Viper, which were also flamethrower troopers. No explanation was given on the file card as to why the uniforms were a dead-on match for Ice Cream Soldier's, but I think it's safe to assume that Cobra had probably managed a certain amount of infiltration and had nabbed the designs to Ice Cream Soldier's protective uniform at some point along the way. However garish the original color scheme might have been, the overall design certainly looked both highly protective and rather futuristic, so it would be reasonable to think that ICS was wearing some sort of highly advanced flamethrower gear, which is something that would certainly be of interest to Cobra.

The Shock-Vipers were part of a final wave of two-packs from the 2000-2002 series of G.I. Joe, and very nearly didn't come out at all, since at that point in time, Hasbro was gearing up the "newsculpt" era. However, a supply of the figures from this wave was made available to select online retailers at the time, with directions to make the figures available at a specific point in time, which was done. The entire assortment sold out in short order.

There was a second Shock-Viper not long after, with colors eerily close to Ice Cream Soldier's, and there was also a Shock-Viper Commander, with a different head, offered as part of one of the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club's Convention Sets. But these were really the only times the word "Shock" was used with any sort of Cobra trooper division, until now.

Now, certainly Cobra did not invent the concept of shock troops. However, it's also been observed that the term "shock trooper" has fallen into disuse for the most part in modern real-world military situations, in part because the tactics and methods used by "shock troopers" in decades past has largely become standard procedure for many armies today. This begs the question -- what has Cobra come up with to warrant using the name again?

Offhand, I think it would be fair to say that what Cobra has created is a soldier that theoretically combines aspects of the original definition of "shock trooper", but throws in no shortage of modern capabilities that might be more in keeping with the "shock and awe" factor used by our own military forces.

It is my belief that lately, the designers at Hasbro have, when possible, sought to bring an even greater air of realism to their G.I. Joe action figures. Like it or not, gone are the days of rather outlandish characters such as HEAT-Vipers, Sea Slugs, and other brightly colored Cobras. In their place are hardened, dedicated, more dangerous than ever soldiers -- who look the part. The Cobra Shock Trooper may be the epitome of that design direction.

What we have here is a modern urban warrior who is armed to the max, and who looks like a cross between a riot squad police officer and a SWAT specialist. Except for the little fact that this is one of the bad guys.

The front of the package card for the Cobra Shock Trooper quite rightly lists him as "Elite Combat Trooper". And although the file cards on the modern figures are not as extensive as they used to be, we can still get a pretty good idea of what Cobra uses the Shock Troopers for based on what information is provided. It reads:

Shock Troopers are an elite tactical assault unit in Cobra. They prepate for every situation with gear to subdue the enemy and breach buildings and barricades: "Sanbat" shock-and-neutralize electroshock batons, high-impact ballistic body shields, sledgehammers, and gas masks.

Clearly they are intended as urban warriors, which has begged the question in some circles, "What about the Alley-Vipers?" These urban soldiers have been part of Cobra's line-up since 1989, and have had almost as mavy versions over the years, right up to the modern day, as Cobra Vipers themselves. The answers can only be speculative, but my opinion is that the Alley-Vipers are probably Cobra's conventional urban soldiers. The Shock Troopers are the ones that get sent in when some urban situation needs to be taken care of particularly quickly, effectively, and/or nastily. These guys are Cobra's no-nonsense-and-look-it urban soldiers, kicking the door down, taking no prisoners, and then blowing the place up just for the heck of it on the way out.

So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. There's not really any "Alley-Viper" here. The Shock Trooper is VERY straightforward in his appearance. Everything looks realistic. Everything looks entirely plausible. I would fully expect to see any number of fans who are inclined towards designing their own full-scale costumes to show up at future G.I. Joe Conventions as Shock Troopers, because the uniform is entirely within the realm of realism. The figure looks like Cobra's answer to a SWAT specialist. If it weren't for the Cobra emblems, you could readily mistake him for one.

The figure's headsculpt is interesting. As one would expect for a Cobra trooper of any sort, the head is mostly covered in a sort of ski mask. However, the mask is almost a hood, as it drapes down the front of the figure slightly, also covering the neck. One would think this would be an impedence to articulation, but it isn't, at least not much. There are "seam" lines sculpted into the hood. The Shock Trooper's eyes are visible, and a small portion of his face. The flesh tone could have been a little more neatly painted on the one that I purchased, but the eyes and eyebrows are superbly well painted.

The figure is wearing a removable helmet, which is an excellent fit. Too often I've seen helmets that either don't fit in the first place, or fall off at the slightest provocation. That is not the case here. The helmet, looking decently modern and moderately menacing, is nicely detailed, and holds it place superbly well.

The basic uniform of the Shock Trooper is a very dark gray-blue. And the defining factor of the uniform is -- pockets. Pockets, pockets, pockets. Lots of pouches. Let's hope this guy doesn't forget which one he stashed the keys to the Cobra Fury into, because if he has to go fishing through all of these, he's still going to be looking by the time half the G.I. Joe team shows up to take them away.

Most of these pockets and pouches have been angled for ready access during combat. If you take note of a modern-designed military uniform, you'll notice that some of the pockets tend to be angled. This isn't sloppy sewing. It's intentional, since it allows the wearer easier access into whatever contents are in the pouches. The Shock Viper has one pouch on each shoulder, painted in dark gray and bearing a red Cobra emblem; a small pouch and a large pouch on each upper leg, and a medium sized pouch on the outside of each leg. The Shock Trooper's uniform redefines the term "cargo pants".

The Shock Trooper is wearing fairly standard mili-tary style boots, but the detailing on them is extremely impressive. I especially encourage you to have a look at the treads on the soles. The basic uniform also features cuffed sleeves, nicely designed gloves, and surprisingly stylized (relative to the rest of the figure, anyway) knee pads and elbow pads. The boots, pads, and gloves are black. The Shock Trooper also has a belt around his waist, black with a silver buckle.

Then there's the vest. The single biggest complaint on the part of fans about the current style of G.I. Joe figures is the mid-torso articulation point, which just doesn't look that good on a lot of the figures. To compensate for this, a lot of G.I. Joe figures have been given vests, harnesses, or other attempts to conceal it somewhat, with varying degrees of effectiveness. The vest that the Shock Trooper is wearing accomplishes this to a superb degree, but it's the amount of detail on it that's really the attention-grabber.

The vest itself is ribbed, but you can hardly see it for all the pouches on the front and all the straps on the back. There are numerous small pouches on the front, which might contain everything from ammo clips to aspirin for all I know. There are two larger pouches on the sides. One of these is actually the clasp that holds the best in place. It works -- okay, but honestly, the vest doesn't want to fully snap. Since the Shock Trooper wouldn't really look complete without this vest, I might recommend finding some sort of glue that would work on this type of plastic (and it's a very flexible plastic so I'm really not sure what might do the job), and just sealing it on.

The vest is mostly black, with a partial Cobra emblem on the front. At first I thought it was a mispaint, until I realized that there's a little sculpted something-or-other there blocking the full emblem. However, not to worry. Along with the shoulder emblems, the back of the vest has a very clear, complete red Cobra emblem, along with the word "COBRA" spelled out in big white letters.

Between the vest and the pouches on the uniform itself, one wonders whether or not this guy even needs any additional accessories to be effective in a fight. That being said, he certainly comes with plenty. I can't recall the last time I saw a G.I. Joe figure from any era come with quite this much stuff! I'm not that much of an accessory hound, but for those of you that are, you'll be delighted with the stockpile of equipment that comes with the Shock Trooper. I'd also recommend either saving the original packaging, or getting a Ziploc bag, because some of this stuff is pretty small.

The largest item is a display base. Nice, but the Shock Trooper is abundantly capable of standing on his own. Underneath this in the package is a small product folder that's been folded up more times than any of the maps Rand McNally ever published.

The next largest item is a protective shield, which definitely serves to add to the "SWAT/Riot Control" look of the Shock Trooper. It's a smooth, mostly transparent shield, rectangular in shape and slightly curved on the long edges, with a large black stripe in the center with the word "COBRA" on it in big white letters, and a red Cobra emblem. There are two handles on the back for the Cobra Shock Trooper to use, and one can readily imagine him using it against rowdy civilians who are trying to take back their town from a recent Cobra conquest.

The smallest item is a walkie-talkie that may actually be smaller than the one the original Firefly came with back in 1984 (arguably the single most lost accessory this side of helmet microphones in the entire line). Again, the fine products of Ziploc are recommended here.

Additionally, the Cobra Shock Trooper has a visor/gas mask combo which attaches to the underside of his helmet and covers his face. He's actually packaged wearing this item. There's also a pair of goggles that fit onto the helmet.

As for weaponry, the Cobra Shock Trooper comes with two pistols, one of which looks like a machine-pistol of some sort, two rifles, one with some superb silver paint detailing on it, a sledgehammer, and a pair of what I thought were nunchuks, but which may be the "electroshock batons" mentioned on the file card. I can't quite see this guy as a ninja. Interestingly, the two batons are connected by a short length of string, and there's a clip on one that allows it to attach to the other. Interesting design.

In short, the Cobra Shock Trooper comes with enough hardware to deal with just about any situation. Clearly Cobra is upping the ante in the quality and effectiveness of their soldiers if this is what they're turningout now. If I was G.I. Joe, I'd be getting a bit worried.

Of course, articulation of the figure is excellent. The Cobra Shock Trooper is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including swivel), wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. The detail work is absolutely outstanding, and while the paint applications are somewhat limited, for the most part, they're excellent, as are the logo imprintings.

So, what's my final word? I'm glad I finally found this guy, and I can certainly understand his popularity. Round up enough of them and you'll have your G.I. Joe team seriously concerned, and Cobra Commander will be saying, "Now, THAT'S what I'm talking about! Where were these thirty years ago!?" If you're any sort of G.I. Joe fan, you'll be abundantly pleased with and impressed by this figure.

The G.I. JOE COBRA SHOCK TROOPER definitely has my highest recommendation!