G.I. Joe Retaliation has had a long and rocky road on the toy shelves. The last-minute delay of the film last year caused the toy line to be put on hiatus about two months after the first wave hit, and despite Hasbro’s team taking that time to re-design the line to up the articulation and quality to where it should be, it seems most retailers had given up on the property. It’s a shame, because these later waves of Retaliation figures– dropped by Target, K-Mart and Wal-Mart– are some of the best Joe figures we’ve ever seen. The Legendary Series earned its name, and the final set, Series 4, is no slouch either, rounding out the core cast of the movie and delivering a great modern update to a highly demanded Cobra trooper from the Real American Hero days.
On the movie front, we finally get the movie accurate Kim Arashikage and her mentor, the Blind Master. Kim (nee Jinx) shares a sculpt with her vintage style red ninja figure from Comic Con 2012, with a huge helping of ninja weapons and a cool pop-open case to store virtually all of it. Kim is decked out in her yellow and black ninja outfit as seen in the mountain battle sequence of Retaliation, and she looks great.
Blind Master was a big want for me, most particularly because we finally have a GI Joe figure of The RZA! His Wu Tang background non-withstanding, the new portrait is fantastic, with every aspect of the character’s unique look– from his beard to his scar and milky white eyes– being captured very well. Snake Eyes’ sensei comes packed with lots of martial arts weapons, all of which are unique as opposed to being repacks of the same old ninja weapons we’ve already seen. With cool stuff like the Ten Rings sword, a staff which hides a concealed sword, a mask and a hat which doubles as a razor blade-lined shield, Blind Master’s gear is very appropriate for the martial arts master and very fun to add to the overall Joe armory.
Rounding out the set is Night Viper, who is a great modern era update of the classic 80s figure. Pursuit of Cobra’s Jungle Viper seemed like the spiritual successor of this trooper, so it should come as little surprise that the new Night Viper shares some of those parts, but with plenty of great new pieces added like the web gear and helmet with flip-up night scope. The Night Viper isn’t exactly a 1:1 translation of the Real American Hero figure, but he’s a great looking toy and bears a strong enough resemblance that any RAH collector should want to own this one.
Despite all the problems circling its lifespan, the GI Joe Retaliation collection wound up delivering some true classics to the overall modern Joe collection. I’m hoping the few retailers smart enough to continue carrying these guys will be remembered for their commitment… what I can say for sure is, any collectors who manage to track these figures down will be handsomely rewarded by how great they are.