STORM SHADOW v.49 (2013)
They call this figure Ultimate Storm Shadow and I would say that it’s a fair description. Ultimate basically means “greatest” or “definitive” and I would agree that this is probably the definitive version of 1984 Storm Shadow. That first Storm Shadow figure was awesome. It defined for me what a true ninja should look like. The other Joe ninjas like Snake Eyes, Night Creeper, and Dice, were cool looking but Storm Shadow, in his solid-white sleeveless outfit with bow and arrow accessories, was the “ultimate” ninja in my mind.
My brother Doug owned both the ’84 and ’88 Storm Shadows when we were kids. I never actually owned my own Storm Shadow until 2002 when the G.I. Joe brand was reborn in the “new-sculpt” era. Over the next 4 years I accumulated more Storm Shadows then I knew what to do with. He almost always retained white as his base color choice but the early 2000s saw him adopt a lot of red as well. Sometimes it was just small red highlights, and other times big red dragons glammed up his pajamas from head to toe. Some of those new-sculpt figures I really liked, some not so much.
It wasn’t until the brand was reborn again in 2007 under the 25th anniversary banner that I finally got an updated version of Storm Shadow in his classic all-white, hoodless, outfit. The whole idea behind the 25th anniversary series was to give us new and improved versions of iconic Joe characters in their original looks. Some of them were a little disappointing but others totally won me over, Storm Shadow being one of them. I thought that the 2007 anniversary Storm Shadow was amazing. You could have called that figure Ultimate Storm Shadow and I’d have agreed with you then.
But even the modern style of Joe figure has improved a lot since it was introduced in 2007 and what was ultimate then doesn’t seem so ultimate now. Dozens of Storm Shadows have been released since 2007 and, just like with the flood of Storm Shadows that came in the new sculpt era, some of them have been great and some of them have sucked.
Many Joe fans would argue that the best modern era Storm Shadow released to date is version 48 , which came out in 2011 as part of the 30th anniversary line. That figure had great sculpting, interchangeable belts and sashes, a multitude of weapons, and superb articulation. I understand why everyone loved it so much, but to me it just never felt like Storm Shadow. It was a great ninja figure but the tight hood and tired eyes didn’t look like they belonged to Tommy Arashikage. That figure has since been repainted and released as the Red Ninjas for which it works great. Storm Shadow was released with a new look as part of the first wave of Retaliation figures and while it arrived with little fanfare I much preferred it to the 30th anniversary figure. It placed third on my top figures of 2012 list.
And now that brings us up to speed and the release of Ultimate Storm Shadow. As I said in my opening paragraph, I think this figure is the definitive version of the 1984 Storm Shadow. However I do not believe it to be the best ever Storm Shadow. The Retaliation figure remains my favorite version of the character but this Ultimate figure is great too and substantially better than the 2007 version of the 1984 original design.
This figure has loads of articulation combined with nice stiff joints which means you can pose him all kinds of ways. The white costume looks crisper than usual because a nice dark flesh tone was used on his skin. The sculpt is relatively simple but has enough folds and straps to keep it interesting. Many of the pieces are actually borrowed from the 30th anniversary version. The hands are sculpted with separated fingers which means he can actually hold his sais and throwing stars fairly realistically. He came with a ton of accessories (swords, knives, backpack, the usual) as well as a big clunky thing that snaps onto his back and spins him around (went straight into the junk bucket) and an alternate head with actor Lee Byung-hun’s likeness. Nothing else about this figure is movie accurate so I’m not sure why they included an unmasked movie head but it’s cool to have the option to display him that way regardless. Even if you already own one or all of the excellent Storm Shadow figures I previously mentioned I would still recommend you track this one down. I would probably give this figure a 10 if I didn’t already have so many great Storm Shadow figures in my collection, but since I do, this figure becomes less essential. 9 out of 10.