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By Thomas Wheeler

In 2012, a unique set of G.I. Joe figures turned up at the most unexpected of places -- a "discount" chain of stores known as Dollar General. Predictably, these became known as the "Dollar General Joes". Unlike some items that turn up at similar stores, which are largely previously released merchandise placed on clearance, these figures were new! They were all familiar faces -- Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, Duke, Shipwreck, Cobra Commander, and a Cobra Trooper, and for the most part they all used previously existing parts, but it was their designs and color schemes that were entirely new to the modern line.

Mostly, they were based on previous incarnations from the original G.I. Joe line -- just versions that had yet to be brought into the modern line, and ones which didn't likely stand much chance otherwise. Much as the 25th Anniversary line sought to replicate the basic looks of the original characters in the new figure format, so these figures sought to do the same. Snake Eyes was based on his unusual 1991 incarnation. Storm Shadow looked like his initial Ninja Force version. Shipwreck, amazingly, was based on his dramatically different "newsculpt" version from the 2002-2006 era. And so forth.

The timing of the figures' arrival, more or less, couldn't have been better. They pretty much came between the initial release of the "Retaliation" figures at the more usual retail outlets, which as it turned out was before the last-minute delay of the release of the movie itself, and the return of the Retaliation figures more in time with the actual release of the movie. But far more than a convenient fill-in, these were extremely capable figures in their own right.

And now, they've returned -- in all-new color schemes! These figures are massively popular and not easily acquired, but with the help of a friend of mine who has so many Dollar Generals in his area that they literally overlap each other on the average online map, I am now in possession of a set of these figures, and this review will take a look at the basic enemy infantry soldier - the COBRA TROOPER!

Let's consider some of the history of the Cobra Troopers. When G.I. Joe was brought back as the "Real American Hero" in 1982, during the development process, which also involved people from Marvel Comics, who would be producing the tie-in comic book, the question was put forth, more or less along the lines, as to what the G.I. Joe team would actually be doing? This question had apparently not been greatly considered prior to this point. The G.I. Joes had a Commando, a Machine Gunner, a Ranger, and many other military specialties, but -- what would they be doing? If you're going to have a team of heroic soldiers, they need an enemy to fight, otherwise they're just spending all their time training and marching around the parade grounds, and that gets old pretty quickly.

The original 12" G.I. Joe had never had much in the way of enemies. During his military days, G.I. Joe had just been a soldier, for whom various uniforms and accessories could be purchased. Later, during his Adventurer days, he had faced a wide range of assorted challenges in the form of various playsets, but none of these had put him up against any human opponents. The closest to an actual enemy that the original G.I. Joe had ever faced were the so-called "Intruders", and no one really wanted to bring back a bunch of non-articulated alien cavemen.

G.I. Joe needed an enemy. But there was a problem. G.I. Joe was a reasonably realistic military action figure line. This wasn't Star Wars, or super-heroes. You couldn't just turn out Stormtroopers or super-villains and get away with it. And the last thing anybody wanted to face were the political ramifications of creating an enemy for the G.I. Joe team that was based on a real-world adversary. Bringing G.I. Joe back at all, in 1982, was a tough enough achievement without asking for that sort of trouble.

A fictional, but reasonably plausible enemy was needed, and was as such created. Cobra, an "evil terrorist organization determined to rule the world" was brought forth. They were allied with no nation, and their dark blue uniforms were not a color that was used by any known military force anywhere in the world.

The initial offering of G.I. Joe figures in 1982 consisted of nine G.I. Joes, not counting those sold with the vehicles. This number of individually carded figures was soon raised to eleven, as the Cobra Trooper -- then just called "Cobra" -- and Cobra Officer, were added to the mix. These anonymous characters with the masks over their lower faces were the first "army-builders" of the line. You could have as many Cobra Troopers and Officers as you could afford and make room for.

That same year, Cobra Commander was offered as a mail-in figure, inundating Hasbro with requests. G.I. Joe -- and Cobra -- had quickly proven themselves to be a massive hit.

It didn't take long for Cobra to become just as specialized as the G.I. Joe team. The following year introduced new dangerous individuals -- Major Bludd and Destro -- as well as the new HISS Driver character. Still, the Cobra Troopers remained the backbone of the Cobra forces.

However, over the next several years, Cobra would become even more diverse and specialized. More new individuals, such as the Baroness, Storm Shadow, and Firefly, were interspersed with new, specialized Cobra soldiers, such as the Tele-Vipers, the Snow Serpents, the Eels, and of course, the Crimson Guards.

By 1986, a new division of Cobra Infantry, known as the Vipers, were introduced. I'll admit, I've always liked the Vipers a little more than the Cobra Troopers. They just had a more high-tech, impressive design about them. However, this doesn't mean that the Cobra Troopers had retired. They still turned up in both the animated series and the comic book -- although the original figure had been dropped from the lineup, as had the Cobra Officer.

At this point, the Cobra Viper clearly took over the infantry ranks from a toy standpoint, and in the years ahead, there would be many recolorations of this character, straight through all versions of the line, right up to the present day.

But, we had not heard the last of the Cobra Trooper. He and the Cobra Officer returned a few years after their initial departure, although they had inexplicably switched places, and were now both assigned to the new Cobra special team known as Python Patrol.

During the 2002-2006 run, the original Cobra Trooper turned up in one of the comic-based three-packs. A Cobra Infantry six-pack, exclusive to Toys "R" Us offered slightly reconstructed Cobra Troopers, arguably somewhat better proportioned than before, along with a couple of Officers. And the originals returned once again, recolored somewhat, in a special set of Cobra Night Squad figures that defended the shores of Cobra Island at night when everyone else slept.

Not surprisingly, when the G.I. Joe line was reworked with an entirely new figure format for its 25th Anniversary, a new Cobra Trooper and Cobra Officer were included among the offerings, and over time, Python Patrol versions of both figures, one a Convention Exclusive, were offered.

There have been other figures called Cobra Troopers. In 1998, a Cobra Infantry three-pack that featured three recolored Cobra Vipers designated two of them Cobra Troopers, and the third as a Cobra Officer. And both the Renegades and Retaliation lines have Cobra Troopers, who while they share the name "Cobra Trooper", don't have a lot in common visually with the original.

A while back, before the current "Retaliation" movie line, something interesting happened. After several uses, the first of the modern-style Cobra Troopers was retired, and a whole new Cobra Trooper was produced, offered in the 30th Anniversary line.

There had been some criticisms of the first modern-style Cobra Trooper. The head, underneath the now-removable helmet, wasn't particularly detailed. The arms were too skinny. Some said the entire figure was too thin. Or that the figure lacked the sort of detail one expects from a modern action figure.

These were all addressed with the new Cobra Trooper, who seemed to have a bit more weight, certainly had more detail under his helmet, and was definitely ready to carry the battle to G.I. Joe, with a superb, very military-looking uniform, and plenty of accessories and equipment. Although my own collection of modern-style G.I. Joe figures is somewhat limited, and I still regard myself first and foremost as a fan of the originals, I would still very readily say that this new modern-style Cobra Trooper was a truly outstanding figure, and one of the finest entries in the modern G.I. Joe line, and I am happy to own several of them.

As such, when he turned up in an interesting recolored mode for this rather curious set of G.I. Joe figures, I knew he was somewhat that I wanted to add to my collection. And now, he's been recolored again, technically producing a third figure using this series of molds, for his Dollar General repaint.

So, how's the figure? Really outstanding. The first version of this figure, in the Dollar General format, anyway, gave the Cobra Trooper a very distinctive and never-before-seen all-black uniform. This truly made the Cobra Trooper look that much more dangerous. The only substantial paint decoration on the figure, other than some details on the head, was a silver Cobra emblem on the chest.

The Version 2 Cobra Trooper takes a different direction. Whereas the first, pre-Dollar-General version of this figure replicated the color scheme of the original figure, that is, a dark blue uniform with a black face mask and black straps and belts and such, with a red Cobra emblem on the chest, the Version 2 Dollar General figure comes a lot closer to duplicating the early comic book color scheme.

Giving the printing practices, and for that matter limitations, of the time period on comic books, someone along the way made a few editorial decisions at Marvel Comics to liven up the color palette. For example, most of the members of the Joe Team tended to wear turtleneck shirts. This was present in the toy line, as well. However, in the comic book, those turtlenecks were colored red, something that the toy line definitely did not do, and which wasn't exactly standard military practice, either.

On the Cobra side of things, the black face masks that covered the lower portions of the faces of Cobra Troopers and Officers were colored red, and the various straps and belts that comprised the trim on their uniforms was changed from black to a fairly bright yellow orange.

This Cobra Trooper comes very close to duplicating this color scheme. I actually compared him to the first version of this Cobra Trooper. The new one is -- not so much a lighter shade of blue, but a more intense shade of dark blue, so even the basic color of the uniform has been altered. He doesn't have as many paint applications -- not surprising for a bargain-level figure. And the Cobra emblem looks to be bigger. That's a bit odd in my opinion.

The Cobra Trooper does NOT have a red face mask. It's dark blue. That's about the only significant color difference between this figure and the early comic color scheme. I should mention that the original Cobra Trooper figure from 1982 finally received a comic-based color scheme as part of that comic-based three-pack I mentioned earlier -- red mask and all.

The harness that the Cobra Trooper is wearing here, a separately molded piece, is a fairly bright yellow-gold. The recolored Cobra Commander in this Dollar General assortment also has been given the comic-based color scheme, but his gold trim doesn't seem to be quite as intense. The buckle on the belt portion of the harness has been painted red, as has some trim around the shoulders. It looks to me as though it may have been painted by hand, but it has been done so very neatly.

The gloves and boots are black, and the knee pads are a very dark gray. Overall sculpted detail on this figure is astounding. I have no problem with a third version of a Cobra Trooper figure that's this impressive. I'll gladly welcome multiples of any of them into my collection.

The helmet is removable, revealing a Caucasian head underneath, with very neatly painted blue eyes, scowling eyebrows, and short-cropped brown hair. A dark blue face mask covers the lower part of the face, of course. The helmet has a red "V" shape painted on it, which usually denotes a Cobra Officer, but it's a cool extra bit of detail that the first Dollar General version also had, in silver. And he needed a bit of color.

The shirt has pouches on the upper sleeves, and protective elbow pads. The trousers have, along with the gray knee pads, several holsters and pouches strapped to the legs, including one for a pistol and another for a knife that, unfortunately, this bargain version of the Cobra Trooper doesn't come equipped with. I've never been all that big on accessories, so this doesn't bother me, but it might be a bit of a arguing point for some fans.

Finishing off the uniform are black boots, very military in style, with visible laces. Really, the sculpted detail throughout this figure cannot be overstated.

Most of the paint detailing is on the head, painting the facial details, particularly the eyes and eyebrows, and this has been done exceptionally well. Granted, he's more colorful than his most immediate predecessor, but a lot of his color is molded.

One change from the very first version of this figure has been maintained. If you look under the helmet of the first of these Cobra Troopers, you discover that their helmets were molded in flesh tone, and painted black -- at least on the outside. This was just a little creepy. Now, both Dollar General versions molded the helmets in their proper color, either black or blue. I have the feeling that the head and helmet were part of the same mold. The first Cobra Trooper has a flesh-tone head with a painted mask. Both Dollar General versions are precisely the opposite -- a head molded in the color of the mask, with the flesh-tone details of the upper part of the head painted, along with the hair, eyes, eyebrows, and such.

There are two unusual elements about this figure, however. First off, there's the belt and chest straps. Now, one thing that set the Cobra Trooper and the Cobra Officer apart from the very start was the design of their belt and straps. Although molded to the individual figures, which were otherwise quite similar in appearance, they were very distinctive.

When the 25th Anniversary figures came along, a basic "Cobra"-type figure was created, and two separate strap sets were made, one for a Cobra Trooper, another for a Cobra Officer, so that the same body molds could be used for both figures, with just the straps-and-belt set changed out.

No great surprise, when the new Cobra Trooper was produced, he was wearing the straps and belt from the previous Cobra Trooper. What the heck, it still fit, and was a perfectly viable piece.

Both versions of the Dollar General Cobra Trooper are wearing the straps and belt for the Cobra OFFICER, even though his package card clearly calls him a Cobra TROOPER. This is doubly interesting since Hasbro hasn't gotten around to producing a standard-colored Cobra Officer figure using this newer set of modern-style body molds. Hey, at least they know the harness fits now. Still, combine this with the "V" on the he;met, and you start to wonder just how badly these "Troopers" are bucking for promotion.

So, what do we call this guy? Is he a Trooper or an Officer? Well, the package says Cobra Trooper, so that's what I'm calling him. And thanks to Python Patrol, this wouldn't be the first time that the Cobra Trooper and Cobra Officer have switched these particular details.

It would be interesting, though, if, in whatever G.I. Joe line develops following the Retaliation movie, a conventionally-colored Cobra Officer should happen to surface.

Although the Cobra Trooper lacks any of the needed accessories for his various pouches and holsters on his trousers, that hardly means he is unarmed. He does come with a very nicely designed and detailed rifle to carry into battle. The figure also comes with a display base with an embossed Cobra emblem on it.

Of course, the figure is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles.

Although the Cobra Trooper doesn't come with a file card, I'm sure it's safe to assume that he is one of the "nameless, faceless legions of Cobra", totally dedicated to Cobra Commander, and his goal of conquering the world. Right up to the point where the G.I. Joe Team kicks his backside every time.

So, what's my final word? This was an extremely cool figure when he was molded in all-black as part of the first assortment of these figures, and he looks very cool, and a bit retro, and there's nothing wrong with that, in his comic-based color scheme in this recolored assortment. I'm very pleased to have him, and I believe that any G.I. Joe fan will welcome this newest version of the modern Cobra Trooper into their collection -- perhaps more than once if they can manage to army-build a bit.

The "Dollar General" Version 2 G.I. JOE figure of the COBRA TROOPER definitely has my highest recommendation! Cobraaa!