This is going to sound like a bizarre comparison, but in a sense, Kamakura is the newsculpt 3-3/4" G.I. Joes' version of the Baroness. Consider that, like the Baroness, Kamakura was first introduced in the comic books, and proved to be a popular enough character so that Hasbro eventually brought him into the figure line.
Initially, Kamakura's origins were shrouded in mystery. He wasn't even particularly welcome in the ranks of G.I. Joe, at least not by General Hawk, who called him the "Green Power Ranger" and stated specifically that the recently revived team would not make another mistake like "Ninja Force". I always thought that was a nice little "dig" against those blasted spring-action figures. Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against ninjas or the characters introduced in Ninja Force, but the figures themselves had their share of problems.
However, when it was learned that Snake-Eyes himself vouched for Kamakura, he was more welcome. But over time, more would come out about this mysterious new ninja. Although his name would always be listed as "Classified" on the toy file cards, it was revealed in the comics that Kamakura was, in fact, Sean Collins, the adopted son of Wade Collins, a longtime friend of Snake-Eyes, Stalker, and Storm Shadow, dating back to when all four were in the same patrol in Vietnam.
A disaffected Wade wound up with Cobra, and was assigned to the family of a Crimson Guardsman who had recently been killed, but eventually, the entire family left Cobra, and Wade occasionally helped out the Joe Team. In the last issue of the Marvel comic, Sean expressed interest in joining the military, and Wade encouraged the young man to write to Snake-Eyes, to gain some perspective on what military life was really like.
Somewhere in the intervening years, Sean entered into a ninja apprenticeship with Snake-Eyes, and eventually took on the name Kamakura, and ultimately joined the G.I. Joe Team. Kamakura is one of a handful of decently distinctive characters to emerge from the "post-1994" G.I. Joes, that could arguably be said to include the likes of Big Brawler -- who's certainly had a considerable number of figures under his name even if he hasn't been featured in the comics -- Barrel Roll, and a few others that have managed to make names for themselves in the considerable population of the G.I. Joe universe.
And now, Kamakura has made the jump over to Sigma 6. In the animated series, he and Jinx are portrayed as the students of master ninja Snake- Eyes, whom they refer to as "sensei", a term loosely translated as "honored teacher" or something fairly close to that. But both Jinx and Kamakura are seen as members of the G.I. Joe Team, as well.
It's interesting to see how the high-tech "Sigma Suit" that all of the Joes now wear meshes with a ninja-look. Kamakura is clearly wearing the Sigma Suit, but his lower arms and legs have wrappings worked into the design, and there's a small length of fabric hanging from Kamakura's belt. Somewhat curiously, the main "trim" color for Kamakura's outfit is yellow. The only Kamakura figure in the 3-3/4" line that had any yellow on it was one where Kama was wearing a yellow hood/ski-mask, which frankly looked pretty darn silly compared to the green and grey of the rest of his uniform. Most of the time, it could be argued that Kamakura's primary uniform color is green.
My only complaint with the figure is that the headband and knee-pads are hand-painted. This is really a practice that needs to be stopped, regardless of the toy line it crops up in. Fortunately, it's hard to mess up the distinctly protruding knee-pads. The same cannot be said of the headband. It's not too bad. Lord knows I've certainly seen worse. But there's a few spots where it goes into the hair that show just how impossible it is to hand-paint the same detail on thousands of action figures and expect them all to turn out acceptably neatly.
Certainly Hasbro is paying abundant attention to the accessories in this line, and the equipment that Kamakura comes with is no exception. As one might expect from a ninja, he's got a lot of bladed weapons, some of which look a bit on the ancient side. He has a staff with a retractable handle, a mace, two curved bladed weapons, a huge throwing star that can convert from three points to six, and a sword. He also comes with a spring-loaded bola launcher, which is the most high-tech piece of gear he has.
It's worth noting that all of the bladed weaponry is very interestingly painted. Not just metallic silver, but there's an extra edge of metallic blue along one side. It's cool, but at the same time a little frustrating. They can do this with the accessories but then hand-paint details on the figure!? Give me a break. Still, that's not to detract in any way from the accessories. They are truly superb in every aspect.
Kamakura's file card reads as follows:
SIGMA 6 NINJA WEAPONS SPECIALIST
Code Name: Kamakura
Specialty: Hand-to-Hand Combat
Personal History: Highly skilled, a bit reckless and extremely self-confident, Kamakura is an expert with many martial arts weapons. He is the student of Snake-Eyes, the ninja commando of the Sigma 6 Team. His weapons can be configured different ways to create the most effective battle system for each mission. He is especially proficient with the bolo arm launcher that can reach enemies at a distance, giving him a powerful advantage by extending the range of his attack. His expertise in weaponry and hand-to-hand combat was invaluable when the legendary Arashikage dojo was ambushed by Cobra ninjas and Ninja B.A.T. troopers. An intense battle followed that demanded all the skills and ingenuity of Kamakura to defeat the enemy assault.
That reference to the Arashikage dojo brings a little more 3-3/4" history, albeit somewhat revised, I suspect, into the Sigma 6 concept, since Storm Shadow is from the Arashikage clan, a family of ninjas that also welcomed Snake-Eyes into their midst. As for the Ninja B.A.T.'s, they're a new version of Cobra's Battle Android Troopers that have been programmed with ninja skills by Storm Shadow. Personally, I think they look like General Grievous on steroids, and are about the only Sigma 6 figure I'm not especially interested in adding to my collection, since I not only think they look silly, but the concept of robots trained as ninjas is that much sillier.
However, Kamakura is certainly an impressive addition to the collection. I would advise giving the figure a good once-over before buying. I've heard a few people comment that sometimes the paint job -- even though most of it is properly sprayed on -- can be a little inconsistent, a result of the simple problem of spraying down an effective coat of yellow paint on black plastic. Most of the other Sigma 6 figures do not have quite so bright a "trim" color.
Apart from that, however, KAMAKURA is definitely a worthwhile addition to the Sigma 6 collection!
Take one 3-3/4" G.I. Joe action figure, who is deliberately deprived of any paint applications in 1982 to save a little bit of money on the overall budget for producing this new and highly experimental new line of toys.
Add one superb writer named Larry Hama, who sees something in this all- black, ski-masked commando that others might have otherwise assigned to obscurity because he just didn't look like much.
Mix well. Produce a legend.
There are some characters that just seem to take on a life and identity of their own. To what degree this is intentional on the part of the writer, and what part of it just somehow happens, no one can say. And sometimes it just seems to happen to the most inexplicable characters. One wonders if Len Wein expected a clawed, ill-tempered mutant to become so popular within the X-Men. Did Walt Disney really realize what was going to happen when he came up with a certain Mouse? And who would expect an unpainted, fairly nondescript action figure to take on the legendary status that Snake-Eyes has, not just in toys, but within the world of modern pop culture? But that's what happened.
Snake-Eyes' origin has become well-known over the years. This man was born out of tragedy. His family was killed just as he was returning from Vietnam. After spending time in training as a ninja and in isolation from the world, he joined the G.I. Joe team and in one of its earliest missions, endured a horrific accident that brutally scarred his face for decades and permanently robbed him of his voice.
He is respected and feared by everyone. His skills are deadly and legendary. No one, not even Cobra, wants to mess with this guy. Even the legions of Cobra fear him. Even Cobra Commander fears him. To hear any member of Cobra speak the name "Snake-Eyes" -- there is fear in that voice, and nothing else. There is only one person on Earth who comes even close to his skill level, and that's Storm Shadow. As to which one is the stronger, that remains undetermined, and probably will as long as both are still alive.
There was no way in the world that the Sigma 6 line was NOT going to have Snake-Eyes in it.
Even in a Sigma Suit, the essence of Snake-Eyes still comes through. And let's consider THAT for a moment. It's said that the Sigma Suits enhance strength and the natural abilities of the wearer. Snake-Eyes is one of the most highly trained ninjas on the planet. His skills and abilities without a Sigma Suit are legendary. Put this guy in a room with a couple of dozen of the meanest Cobra agents you can round up -- and you'd better have a couple of dozen body bags or at least a mess of Cobra Medi-Vipers at the ready, because Snake-Eyes will be the only one walking away from it. This guy needs a Sigma Suit the way a fish needs a wet-suit. I'm surprised Cobra didn't board up their global operations on just HEARING that Snake-Eyes had gotten a Sigma Suit.
There's no question, even with the 8" size, even with the anime-based design, that this figure is Snake-Eyes. The physical build is muscular but not ponderously so. This is the form, within the anime design, of someone who has trained himself to his physical peak. That doesn't mean musclebound. That means someone who has worked the fat out of his body and has taken its form to its ultimate. I knew someone like that once. He trained in the martial arts and exercised extensively. He looked thin. But take him up on his dare to punch him in the stomach and it was like hitting a brick wall. If Snake-Eyes existed in the real world, that'd be the same case with him.
Although all of the Sigma Suits are black, they all have some sort of color trim. Snake-Eyes', hardly surprisingly, is dark grey. The only bits of color on his uniform are the green "6" logo, and the bluish silver across his visor. Interestingly, he visor is removable, and you can see his eyes underneath, and the scars around them. Although in the comics, Snake-Eyes has undergone several sessions of reconstructive surgery, it's likely debatable how completely successful any of them have been. His face was literally blasted by helicopter fuel. There's only so much that can really be done with that.
The figure is superbly designed, and also includes a fabric harness with shoulder pads. The overall design and look is superb, and even in just a neutral stance, you get the impression of an individual who is highly trained and extremely dangerous if you make the mistake of crossing him.
As if Snake-Eyes' natural abilities weren't enough, the guy comes with enough accessories to turn him into a walking arsenal. Three different ninja swords, a pistol that looks a whole lot like an upgraded version of the legendary UZI that the original Snake-Eyes carried, anti-gravity climbing cups, a gas mask, a magnetic "Whip-Star" weapon with three different settings, telescopic lenses, and a few other items. Jeez, why not just give the guy a pocket-sized low-yield tactical nuke while you're at it!?
Snake-Eyes' file card reads as follows:
SIGMA 6 NINJA COMMANDO
Code Name: Snake-Eyes
Specialty: Enemy Infiltration
Personal History: Snake-Eyes spent his youth studying with masters of over thirty martial arts forms. He began his covert ops work in a mainstream intelligence division and was quickly spotted because of his mastery of ninja disciplines and his uncanny ability to move undetected. He was the most sought-after operative for missions that required someone to infiltrate secured areas that no one else had ever been able to access. During one mission, he used this specific knowledge to join a powerful ninja security force and get inside the compound of a deadly gang. He was chosen for the Sigma 6 team for his superior martial arts skills and knowledge of ninja organizations.
Not entirely accurate to the history of the 3-3/4" character -- but not entirely implausible for Snake-Eyes as a general character, either.
There's a second Snake-Eyes out right now -- with more on the way, which concerns me from the standpoint of "too many repaints", regardless of how cool he is. This one comes with "Ninja Armor". There's also technically a third Snake-Eyes, the one that comes in the two-pack with Storm Shadow. Honestly, neither of these appeal to me that much. The one in the two-pack has white trim on his uniform, and it just doesn't look right, and the "Ninja Armor" one frankly looks overburdened.
Do I recommend Snake-Eyes? Well, of course I do! You can't have a modern G.I. Joe team without Snake-Eyes on it! But I most highly recommend trying to find the FIRST Sigma 6 Snake-Eyes. No Ninja Armor. No white uniform trim. Just SNAKE-EYES. Honestly, this one is so cool, that even if you're not especially into Sigma 6, you'll probably still like him. It's THAT cool a figure of Snake-Eyes. And he definitely has my highest recommendation!
Sometimes, code-names get repeated in the world of G.I. Joe. Within the concept, it could probably be argued that this is to throw off the enemy. As far as the toy line is concerned, this is probably just a result of carelessness.
A listing of G.I. Joe characters in the Devil's Due comic "G.I. JOE SPECIAL MISSIONS - MANHATTAN", arguably the most complete listing of character names available, makes mention of two Joes names Airborne -- the Helicopter Assault Trooper from 1983 and the Sky Patrol member from 1990, as far as I know the first such repetition; two Joes named Dusty; two Joes named Side Track, two Joes named Lifeline, and two Joes named -- LONG RANGE.
In most instances, this variance is dependent on the character's "real" names, and may be subject to some interpretation. I think it's fair to assume that the two Airbornes are two different individuals, since the 1983 Airborne is a Native American named Franklin Talltree -- and the 1990 Airborne has blonde hair.
Similarly, I think it's fair to assume that the two Long Range characters are different individuals, since the first Long Range was introduced in 1989 as a vehicle driver for a fairly sizeable piece of hardware called the Thunderclap, and had fairly intense red hair, and the more recent Long Range has a family name of Garcia, and on the animated show, intersperses his English with occasional Spanish exclamations.
Now here's where the origins of the Sigma 6 Long Range get a little strange. One of the vehicles in the G.I. Joe DTC (Direct to Consumer) line of 3-3/4" figures is called the ROCC. This stands for Rolling Operation Command Center. By all accounts, it's a truly superb vehicle, and I look forward to reviewing it in the near future. It comes with a driver figure, a newsculpt 3-3/4" G.I. Joe named Long Range, which is the first official appearance of the "Garcia" Long Range. The Long Range who drives the Thunderclap is probably still out there somewhere doing just that.
In the animated Sigma 6 series, it was necessary to use some of the 3-3/4" vehicles. The one problem with an 8" figure line is that there's a size limit to the types of vehicles you can do for figures and expect the stores to carry them. It's amazing that as many stores were willing to carry some of the 12" G.I. Joe vehicles that they did in recent years, and those were mostly found at Toys "R" Us which had the room to accommodate them. This explains why, to date, the only Sigma 6 vehicles have been a pair of motorcycles, with an ATV on the way.
But then we have the ROCC. Very much living up to its name as "Rolling Operation Command Center", the ROCC served as the mobile headquarters for the Sigma 6 team, also linking Hi-Tech to his massive control center that allowed him to follow the Joes in their adventures thanks to the tie-ins to their Sigma Suits. But Hi-Tech wasn't the driver. Long Range was. And since the ROCC was so heavily featured in the animated series, so was Long Range. This mandated the addition of Long Range to the Sigma 6 toy line.
It's a shame Hasbro doesn't follow that same logic with Scarlett and a few others. I am honestly worried that the 2.5" line is going to become a clearinghouse for characters that Hasbro doesn't want to make the molds for in the 8" size, and that the 8" line, which I think can still qualify as the most prominent aspect of Sigma 6, will become weighed down with little more then repetitive repaints of the core characters, another victim of "Batman Syndrome", as I call it. I'd honestly hate to see that happen, and I sincerely hope it doesn't.
Now, let's consider the Long Range figure. It's a cool figure, if a little bland. And unfortunately, in several respects, it's a little hard to escape the notion that this figure was rather hastily done, as though someone at Hasbro said, "Y'know, Long Range turns up an awful lot in the show. I think we could profit from doing a figure of him, but we'd better get him out quick." Indeed, Long Range didn't turn up until the second assortment of figures.
The faults, individually, are minimal, but they're still there, and they total up to a figure that, unfortunately, is not one of the line's highlights. Consider the headsculpt. The nose is crooked. Did he get into a fight somewhere? The mouth is a little crooked, too. Then there's those sideburns. Setting aside the fact that they're long enough to embarrass Elvis, they don't line up by a longshot. And it's blatantly obvious. One can't help but get the impression of a hurried sculpt here that just wasn't properly checked along the way.
Then there's the extent of hand-painted details. I know I harp on this a lot, but it really is an inexcusable practice, especially on a brand-new toy line like this. Both gloves and glove details are hand painted, as are the knee pads, and most ludicrous of all -- ONE of the boots has hand-painted details. The other boot is spray-painted. Excuse me!? You people couldn't even be troubled to make paint stencils for BOTH boots? About the only saving grace on this matter is that, unlike their often-unfortunate smaller cousins, the Sigma 6 figures are large enough so that, even when hand-painting occurs, most of the time it's not quite as sloppy. Noticeable, yes, to anyone observant enough..
Now, I don't want this review to be a total slam. The figure isn't THAT bad. The facesculpt, crooked nose notwithstanding, is quite good, and the face has a nice look of grim determination to it. The body sculpt, although fairly average in appearance, is well done, and the figure stands and moves well. And I do like the coat.
Long Range is outfitted with a very nicely made fabric overcoat. It seems made from a reasonably sturdy fabric, and has very cool plastic clasps across the front and on the sleeves. There's a collar and layered stitching on the coat that results in a very nice design. It's a nice addition to an otherwise somewhat bland figure with a fairly obscure name in G.I. Joe history.
Obviously, at 8" in height, the figure can't be marketed as the driver of the ROCC. There is no 8" scale ROCC, and he wouldn't likely fit in the driver's seat of the 3-3/4" one. And with a name like "Long Range", there's only one reasonable specialty for the character -- he's the team's marksman, and his equipment certainly reflects that. Long Range comes with a very high-tech-looking rifle, with its share of moving parts, as well as a scope, grenade launcher, ammo clip, and other accessories.
It's worth noting that there's a variant of Long Range out there. The figure comes with a little keychain, perhaps the only acknowledgment of the ROCC they could make at this size, although there's also a pistol attached to the keychain. Initial releases of this figure also put a little ornamental skull insignia on the keychain. Reportedly, this has since been dropped. I don't know why. Personally, to me the skull looks so much like the Punisher's logo that I think maybe Frank Castle wanted his insignia back. On the other hand, Hasbro recently made a deal with Marvel, so I'm not really sure what the problem was here.
Long Range's file card reads as follows:
SIGMA 6 MARKSMAN
Code Name: Long Range
Specialty: Target Acquisition Expert
Personal History: Long Range acquired his marksmanship skills through intense training with top covert marksmen, years of practice and in- field experience. He proved his expertise during a series of critical operations to recapture weapons installations that had been taken over by Cobra. Despite darkness, extreme distance and difficult terrain, he eliminated all the perimeter checkpoints, clearing the way for attack. He has developed custom-designed weapons modifications to increase sight and distance, and created camouflaged hideouts that cannot be spotted by even the most observant enemy. He is extremely patient and can maintain his position for days, weeks if necessary, to acquire his target. His transportation expertise also makes him the team's mobility leader on Sigma 6 missions.
Again, that last sentence is clearly an acknowledgment of the 3-3/4" Long Range's function as the ROCC driver, which has been carried over into the Sigma 6 cartoon.
This is a good figure, but it's not the best or even the most interesting of the series. However, it's not the worst of the lot, either, and LONG RANGE, although I wouldn't make him a priority, is nonetheless a good addition to the Sigma 6 collection, and he certainly has my recommendation!
If you're going to have G.I. Joe, at least except for the original 12" strictly-military G.I. Joe, then you're going to have Cobra. Let's face it, everybody else has either been a spin-off of sorts, such as Destro's Iron Grenadiers, or wannabees, such as the I.R.O.N. Army, and the less said about that sort of thing, the better.
And if you're going to have Cobra, you've got to have Cobra Commander. The only thing that's a bit surprising here is that it took the second assortment to get around to him.
So what have we got with the Sigma 6 Cobra Commander? For one thing, as far as the animated series is concerned, we have a Cobra Commander who acts more like his original comic book counterpart. The Marvel Comics' Cobra Commander was a serious threat. The Cobra Commander in the original cartoon was a shrieking imbecile. You sort of had to love the voice, the unmistakable tones of the late Chris Latta, but the character was such a buffoon that you wondered how he'd ever come into power in the first place.
The Sigma 6 Cobra Commander, while retaining most of the vocal qualities, has also picked up the danger level of the comics' Cobra Commander. He's a serious threat, not to be taken lightly, even if he does seem to base a lot of his plans for destruction and conquest on robots and the acquisition of "power stones".
Now, within the Sigma 6 concept, obviously the Cobras are not wearing the same sort of high-tech Sigma Suits that the Joes are, which gives the Joes a certain look of uniformity and, for some inexplicable reason, lets them get away with that anime look pretty well. Perhaps better than the Cobras do. Maybe it's just easier to compare the Cobras in Sigma 6 to their 3-3/4" counterparts without the Sigma Suits, and that comparison, from an appearance if not a size standpoint, comes out as a little weird.
With regards to Cobra Commander, certainly the figure has had numerous versions in the 3-3/4" realm. The first version was the very first G.I. Joe mail-order figure, in 1982, requests for which inundated Hasbro's headquarters and let them know that they had a major hit on their hands. This was a fairly simple figure, dressed in what amounted to a pseudo-military dress uniform suit, in Cobra blue, and a helmet with a silver-painted visor, giving the figure a faceless look. Since Cobra Commander often wore a hood in the comics, a hooded version of this figure came along a few years later.
There was even an armored Cobra Commander in 1987 -- not one of the highlights by most people's estimates, and except for a very strange Cobra Commander figure in 1991, the big CC has pretty much stuck to helmeted or hooded versions ever since, even into the newsculpt line.
Now, it could just as easily be argued that the Sigma 6 Cobra Commander takes its cues from virtually every version of the 3-3/4" Cobra Commander. The figure is certainly wearing armor -- which looks a darn sight better than that 1987 peculiarity. The figure is wearing a hood, but he can also place a helmet over the hood. He even has a cape, a fairly recent addition, figure-wise.
Unlike the 1987 Cobra Commander, whose bright blue and gleaming silver armor colors were just too bright and cheerful for the ultimate villain of the G.I. Joe universe, the Sigma 6 Cobra Commander is wearing a very dark blue armor with black trim. The hood is a very dark grey. The only real outstanding colors on the figure are some gold around the shoulders, and the red cape, and even it is a fairly dark red. He's not exactly Darth Vader, or Doctor Doom, but no one's going to mistake him for one of the good guys, either.
As I said, without benefit of a Sigma Suit, the anime design tends to be even more pronounced. If this Cobra Commander looked like this and were scaled to the 3-3/4" line, he'd be hospitalized as an anorexia victim. He has a very narrow torso compared to the rest of his body. But within the Sigma 6 concept, which seems to go for this particular look, it works.
Overall, the design is excellent, but I do have a few gripes which I need to address. First and foremost -- the action feature. There's a rotating, spring-action "drum" in his chest that, when struck, changes the Cobra insignia, which is painfully small for Cobra Commander to have, to a single blow of "battle damage" to the armor. Hit it again, and a second blow of "battle damage" appears. Then you can turn the drum back around and sort of lock the Cobra insignia into place again.
This was a gimmick used TWENTY YEARS AGO by the original He-Man and the Masters of the Universe line, and it's the same gimmick now. Some fans seem to get a kick out of it. I don't. I think it's ridiculous. For one thing, it makes the Cobra logo on Cobra Commander's armor FAR smaller than anything the leader of Cobra would find tolerable. Secondly, and more to the point from a figure standpoint, they had to cut out the mid-torso articulation in order to accommodate the gimmick. I have to say this -- ANY built-in gimmick that requires articulation to be sacrificed in the process is NOT worth it.
Secondly, there's the cape. This is a minor issue, and it really relates to the packaging to a degree. The cape is pretty well pinned down in the packaging, and is not that easily extracted. And it's attached to the figure, so it's a bit of a juggling act to get it out safely. And I probably wouldn't've been QUITE so concerned about it if the cape had had a decent hem sewn into it, but it doesn't! The fabric doesn't look like it's too inclined to fray or tear, but just getting it out of the package puts it at some risk. It's otherwise a very impressive cape. The exterior side has a sort of metallic sheen to it, and a truly massive Cobra logo imprinted on it. Almost makes up for the one on the chestplate. At least you know who he's allied with when he's walking away from you.
Then there's my big gripe. This figure can't stand up straight. And I don't know why. Align his legs properly, and he's distinctly lopsided to his right. I can't figure out of this is a result of poor molding, poor assembly, poor packaging, or what. The legs do not seem to be different lengths. And unfortunately, unlike a 3-3/4" G.I. Joe, there's no way to disassemble the figure to find out what the problem is.
This is not in any way to malign the design or the look of the figure. It's really excellent. The design is superb, the paint work very well done, and he's a very cool-looking figure of a very prominent character. But I don't think it's too much to ask for him to be able to stand up straight. For as major a character as Cobra Commander, this figure has way too many faults, though.
Cobra Commander's weaponry, as one might expect, is a fairly bizarre load of stuff. He comes with a shield with rotating saw-blade-like spikes, a serpent staff that includes a spring-loaded missile launcher, arm gauntlet blasters, and a peculiar-looking pistol.
His file card reads as follows:
Code Name: Cobra Commander
Specialty: Experimental Weapon Design (no kidding...)
Personal History: Cobra Commander is the leader of the evil Cobra organization. Ruthless and cunning, he recruits talented and corrupt individuals in his quest for world domination. Under his direction, Cobra has committed acts of sabotage and destruction to defeat their enemies and increase their power. He considers himself a warrior king, dressing in armor and carrying a staff and shield. But watch out - hidden inside this ordinary-looking gear are many ingenious weapons. That "basic" shield has a ring of metal piercing blades, and that "simple" staff can blow a hole in a building or surprise the enemy with hidden blades. Despite such sophisticated gear, he always carries his old, reliable pistol with him, calling it his only "true friend".
Frankly, there's nothing "ordinary-looking" about Cobra Commander's gear, and the pistol, just to draw a comparison, doesn't look a thing like the one the 1982 Cobra Commander came with, a pistol legendary and distinctive enough that a full-size replica of it was recently offered by some company that makes such collectibles. But, this new pistol is still an impressive design.
So, what's my final word on the Sigma 6 Cobra Commander? Certainly he's a vital character in the line. Definitely the figure is an impressive design.
If there's one character in the G.I. Joe universe with a truly troubled history, even moreso than Snake-Eyes, it would have to be Storm Shadow. And unlike Snake-Eyes, whose troubled past was mostly fleshed out from past experiences before he became a G.I. Joe, we got to see Storm Shadow's story play out over the course of the adventures, mostly in the comic book.
Storm Shadow was first introduced in 1984 as a ninja working for Cobra. His initial story gave him an unknown link to Snake-Eyes, that skyrocketed the character to immediate popularity and saw the Storm Shadow figure flying off the shelves as fast as store clerks could stock it (anybody else miss the 80's?).
Ultimately, through a series of events played out over the next several years, Storm Shadow would leave Cobra and, after a brief period of semi- retirement, would work for the G.I. Joe team on a sporadic basis. This was reflected in the figure line, where a G.I. Joe-based Storm Shadow was released in 1988. Storm Shadow would remain with the Joe Team almost until the end of the run of the comic, where he would once again be brainwashed into the service of Cobra.
And these days? It depends on who you ask. The toys since 2000 have kept Storm Shadow squarely in the employ of Cobra -- including Sigma 6. The comics had Storm Shadow still brainwashed by Cobra, but he eventually broke free of the brainwashing, and currently works for G.I. Joe, although after so many back-and-forths, trust is obviously an unresolved issue. The comic book, to its credit, has largely continued the adventures of the Real American Hero without any specific connection to the 3-3/4" toy line, which these days, respectfully, is so indistinct and rather scattershot that I think it would be difficult to build a story SPECIFICALLY around JUST the most recent Joes.
Sigma 6 is a different matter entirely in this regard, but I wanted to provide some overall character history. In Sigma 6, Storm Shadow is a Cobra. Hasbro has obviously made the decision, and it's a wise one from a marketing standpoint, to keep one super-ninja-commando on EACH side of the Joe-vs-Cobra conflict. So toywise, Storm Shadow stays as a Cobra. How willingly is explained in his file card, which I'll get to shortly. Let's discuss the Sigma 6 Storm Shadow figure at this time.
Obviously, as a Cobra, Storm Shadow is not wearing a Sigma Suit. As such, the anime bent of the figure tends to be a bit more pronounced. He's very slightly shorter and a bit more slender than his "sword brother", Snake-Eyes. The figure is wearing a white sleeveless top that almost looks like armor, and white fabric trousers. The Arashikage Ninja Clan tattoo is on the left bicep. Interesting, seeing as how it's always tended to be on the right forearm, on 3-3/4" Storm Shadows where the tattoo is visible at all. This is either a case where my "Sigma 6 is an alternate universe" theory applies, or movable tattoos is one of those ninja tricks that they don't talk about much.
Storm Shadow has the Cobra insignia on his chestplate or shirt or whatever it's supposed to be, and has red gauntlets, a fabric belt, and plastic molded boots. The amount of red is interesting, and is a bit of a reflection of more recent 3-3/4" Storm Shadows. Earlier Storm Shadows did not have a lot of red on them. A fairly early newsculpt Storm Shadow had such a miasma of colors cascading throughout his mostly white uniform that he looked like he'd been mugged. This was later toned down to red and grey trim.
The result on the Sigma 6 Storm Shadow looks good. The figure is very predominantly white, but with enough red trim to keep the figure from looking bland, and it also seems to reflect both his current allegiance to Cobra, as well as his history with the Red Ninjas of the Arashikage Clan, assuming that aspect of his history is still valid in the Sigma 6 storyline.
Storm Shadow's file card reads as follows:
COBRA NINJA MASTER
Code Name: Storm Shadow
Specialty: Sabotage Operations
Personal History: Storm Shadow began his career in mainstream U.S. intelligence groups. Early on, he went undercover into the Cobra organization and was brainwashed by the enemy. With powerful mind tricks, they convinced him that the groups he worked for were really traitors, and that Cobra forces were the good guys trying to stop them. He is a powerful ninja who has adapted his martial arts skills to suit his own evil purposes. A covert ops counterintelligence expert, he once performed undercover sabotage operations. Now, as a member of Cobra, he uses this knowledge against the Sigma 6 Team, always working to destroy them, and anyone else who gets in his way.
Brother -- of all the file cards in this series, that one is probably the greatest stretch from the original character. At least they got the brainwashing part right. Clearly, though, he and Snake-Eyes still have a history, as evidenced by the Snake-Eyes/Storm Shadow two-pack with the DVD if nothing else.
Special note needs to be made on Storm Shadow's accessories. Usually I don't pay too much attention to this sort of thing, but Stormy's are really outstanding. He comes with a wide range of ninja hardware, including some really elegant swords that have a level of detail on their handles that is just amazing. Attention is certainly being paid to the accessories that come with all of the Sigma 6 figures, but somebody really took their time with Storm Shadow's and crafted some very impressive items.
Just a side-note here - there's a second version of Storm Shadow out there now, a less expensive version that actually presents us with a shirtless Storm Shadow with a big dragon tattoo on his chest. As intricately done as this tattoo is, the concept of Storm Shadow (a) having something that garish in the first place and (b) going into battle without a shirt and with essentially a target painted on his chest like that, makes this figure, in my opinion, laughable.
However, the first Storm Shadow is easily one of the most impressive entries in the Sigma 6 collection. Find the original while you still can. It's definitely worth a few extra bucks compared to Mr. "Look at my dragon!", and you'll have one of the coolest figures in the Sigma 6 series. I definitely recommend STORM SHADOW!
COBRA SKY B.A.T.
The G.I. Joe Sigma 6 Cobra SKY B.A.T. takes a lot, and I do mean a lot, of its cues from the 3-3/4" B.A.T. v.5 that was sold with the B.A.T. Attack 6-pack.
This isn't terribly surprising, given the very reliable speculation that the Sigma 6 animated series was initially intended as a new animated series for the 3-3/4" line, and had to modify itself into Sigma 6 when that concept took priority. However, animated versions of the B.A.T. v.5 had already appeared in the animated series, so it was logical to bring them into the toy line, under the new name SKY B.A.T.
The SKY B.A.T. -- and technically "B.A.T." in Sigma 6 apparently stands for "Battle Attack Trooper" rather than "Battle Android Trooper", at least according to the paperwork in the toy - gets its name from the fact that it can fly, something no previous B.A.T. has been capable of. And yes, this is something that the B.A.T. v.5 is also able to do. However, the SKY B.A.T. has one accessory that its smaller cousin lacks - a huge winged jet pack, complete with missiles and machine guns.
The Sky B.A.T., although clearly taking a lot of design cues from the B.A.T. v.5, only goes so far. Standing the two side by side, one can see the similarities, and also the differences, most of which are the result of the animation style of the television show.
The Sky B.A.T. is more angular in appearance. It has more squared off points. Its overall physique is more exaggerated. And, it's more slender. The lower legs and feet especially show the animé influence. The neck is far skinnier. The arms are completely squared off, and the toy on the whole shows less robotic detail in its sculpt than its 3-3/4" counterpart. In a way, it's really a fascinating study of essentially the same design, rendered in two entirely different styles. I'm not saying one's better than the other. They both have strong points and weak points. But it is a very interesting comparison.
There are also some distinct differences. Most obvious is with regard to color. The 3-3/4" B.A.T. v.5 is molded in a dark, metallic steel blue. The Sky B.A.T. is molded in a brighter flat blue that is pretty much the color Cobra Commander had for his uniform back in 1983. It's a good color for a Cobra, as such. No argument there.
Somewhat hysterically, the Cobra emblem is much larger on the B.A.T. v. 5, even without taking into consideration the size difference between the two figures. On the B.A.T. v.5, it is emblazoned across most of the upper torso. On the Sky B.A.T., it's a much smaller logo taking up a very small space at the base of the upper torso. You'd almost think Cobra didn't want anybody to know these were their product, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense. These things aren't exactly subtle, and Cobra hasn't exactly been known for its humility.
Although granted, the design of the Sky B.A.T. is different enough from its smaller counterpart, with a more angular torso, that trying to put the Cobra emblem across most of this would've been next to impossible, and would've looked very weird.
The one common point I wish these figures didn't have in common - frankly what I wish they didn't have at all - are the big canisters or rocket launchers or whatever the heck they're supposed to be attached to the lower arm right at the elbow. These protrusions are just asking to be targets, and given their bright color - red on the Sky B.A.T., neon green on the B.A.T. v.5 - whatever their purpose, one has to assume it's fairly important. But they look ridiculous, as if Cobra started building these things and then suddenly realized they'd left off something important.
To the Sky B.A.T's credit, his are much more unobtrusive than his little cousin's. They actually can fold up behind the arms, rather than sticking out to the side and above them.
Although a comparison with the B.A.T. v.5 is unavoidable, that doesn't mean that the Sky B.A.T. shouldn't be seen in its own light, as part of the Sigma 6 line.
Overall, it's an excellent design. Although the "A" has apparently been renamed "Attack" instead of "Android", no one is going to mistake this thing for a human being, even within the stylized universe of Sigma 6. The squared-off arms, and impossibly skinny neck and torso eliminate that possibility. And although the face is relatively expressionless, there's something about those two red eyes staring forward that manages to look menacing. You sort of get the impression of a mostly mindless attack machine that you're not going to be able to reason with.
Although it doesn't have the interchangeable parts of its smaller predecessors, it still comes with an abundance of interesting accessories, which is proving to be a hallmark of the Sigma 6 line, even in the less-expensive entries such as this Sky B.A.T.
I already cited the winged jet pack with the missiles and machine gun attachments, but I should also make mention of the launcher. Looking like a very futuristic weapon of no particular origin, but still very impressive, this double-barreled device can be attached to either arm of the B.A.T., and it has a spring-loaded missile launcher, complete with one missile.
The Sky B.A.T.'s file card reads as follows:
Code Name: SKY B.A.T.
Specialty: Extreme Combat
History: Cobra Sky B.A.T. troops convert to different modes for multiple attack capabilities. Smart technology gives them the ability to automatically make the conversions themselves. Vertical Assault Packs attach to their backs and interface with their central processors to achieve complex aerial maneuvers. Armed with concussion bombs stored on the wings, they can launch devastating attacks from the air. In ground assault mode, their arms convery to powerful grenade launchers. With the addition of ionic gas canisters, they can enhance their strength and move at accelerated speed. To combat this robotic force, the Sigma 6 Team has developed specialized weapons designed to disable computerized systems.
So, for the Sky B.A.T., those silly arm attachments are "ionic gas canisters". I still say that it's a pretty strange place to put that sort of vital equipment.
Overall, the Sky B.A.T. is a very impressive figure. The design is cool, the paint work neatly done - I see no evidence of hand-painted details anywhere - and the figure manages to look appropriately Cobra.
Clearly in the Sigma 6 storyline, Cobra is relying more on robotic troops than human ones, and as such, the Sky B.A.T. could be seen as the basic infantry soldier, or "grunt", of the Cobra forces. It's hardly surprising to learn that a number of Sigma 6 collectors are "army- building" this figure. Which, frankly, makes him a little tough to find.
But he's worth it if you do! The SIGMA 6 SKY B.A.T. definitely has my recommendation!
So there you have it. My take on SIGMA SIX. In and of itself, apart as much as possible from any previous incarnation of G.I. Joe, and as an action figure line, it's actually pretty cool. I can't imagine it'll ever replace the Real American Hero, or his 12" big brother, but it's honestly a more worthy entry into the world of G.I. Joe, and action figures in general, than I originally believed. If you've been avoiding it for the same reasons that I did -- give it a chance.
Now, if we could just get a good 8" Sigma Six SCARLETT...