RET Crimson Guard (1:18, Hasbro)

Name: Crimson Guard

Line: G.I. Joe

Series: Retaliation

Scale: 1:18

Producer: Hasbro

Year of release: 2013

As we already established, when Cobra is in need of a team of specialists, devoted to their work and always focused on the mission at hand, the M.O.O.K.S. come into play.

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Yet sometimes the task at hand involves activities of the intelligence department rather than the spec-ops team and then one might wanna consider using troops with more… intelligence. So when even the very best are not enough, who can Cobra Commander deploy? Well, the best of the best of course, the elites themselves. Crimson Guards.

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The famous and fan-favorite Siegies, said to have their faces surgically modified to resemble the great Commander himself, creme de la creme, highly trained both in combat and espionage, are equally effective when infiltrating a small American town as your friendly neighbours and defending the base against a single female intruder from Cobra La. Even though they are most often seen just accompanying the Commander looking elegant during various ceremonies or being slaughtered as the last line of defence, they are described as being clever schemers and profiteers and skilled assassins at the same time. And we fans swallow it all gladly and without any doubts whatsoever. Why? Because they totally look the part! You immediately buy their awesomeness when looking at those cool red uniforms and mysterious black masks.

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The leaders of the Crimson Guard Corps are of course Tomax and Xamot, but what about officers? What if you need a number of Siegies in action – somebody has to act as the immediate commander. It’s not really stated clear in the lore but I am convinced there have to be some ranks among the Guards, even if they all are the top dogs of Cobra ranks. I like to perceive the hero of this review as the best of the best of the best, as the Crimson Guard Officer.

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In fact he is just an updated version of the character, released as part of the Retaliation line’s third wave (and another catch that I managed to grab during the LCC). As many others from that wave he has nothing to do with the movie franchise but that’s how Hasbro’s recent product release policy rolls and it’s no big deal, unless you really care about the packaging and are bitter to find the Rock‘s face on the card instead of a more nostalgic image. I just care about the figure itself so moving on.

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At first he just seems to be a slightly retooled version of the Siegie from the 25th Anniversary line, so why do I see him as an officer? You’ll probably understand where my sentiments come from a bit later, now let’s just take a look at what’s changed.

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The torso is the same and it defines the basic look, which is good as the new guy can easily fit among older squad members. He sports a silver ornate cord instead of a golden one which discretely but effectively makes him stand out from others reinforcing my idea of a higher rank. Not sure why they decided to make this cord a simple strip of plastic instead of that nice braid-like sculpt that they obviously already have, though. Odd. His arms are those of a Shock Trooper, often used for other figures due to their generic and universal mold. They work just fine giving the new Siegie a more muscular look. You can immediately tell which of these Guards spends more time in the gym than in the conference room. The holster is on the right thigh now and, more important, it holds his gun really well, which is a welcome change. What bugs me a bit is the fact it is a pistol. To be honest I think I’d rather again go with a revolver as I really like this ceremonial feel of older Siegies’ firearms. I also still can’t decide whether I dig the new boots. The grey kneepads are fine but what’s below looks much more… combat ready. The 25A Guards pulled off this elegant horse-riding boots look which again added to the elite concept. On the other hand the new helmet is definitely shaped better, without this weird feeling of being vertically stretched.

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Speaking of the helmet… it doesn’t come off, sadly. The idea of having a Fred head under there is great and, as a huge fan of the comic pack Siegie-with-a-face version, I’d like to see this employed for the new figure as well.

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But if you have an older Fred-headed Siegie handy, you can easily make the swap.

 

Overall RET Crimson Guard effectively combines essential pieces of the old mold with newer parts to both successfully convey the classic look and mend the 25A line’s articulation flaws and deficiencies. The only problem I have with the base figure is a minor thing that I’m not even sure is really there…

 

While posing him I often had to adjust his position to have him standing upright and I finally came to the conclusion that his left leg is a tad longer than his right one. It’s nothing as drastic as the case with my Jazwares Mortal Kombat figure, Sub-Zero, who has to be posed in a smart way not to look ridiculous. Below you can see both guys with both of their legs straightened and standing upright – you can see their left legs have to be positioned outwards in order to counter the length difference.

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With Sub-Zero it’s obvious and I read that other people had this issue with their figures of him as well, but Crimson Guard… I dunno, I see it but maybe it’s a bad joint or maybe it’s only this single figure’s problem or maybe I had a bad posing day heh. Anyway, moving on to the accessories.

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The backpack is the same. Not sure if they reused the mold or if it only looks a lot like the old one but generally it’s the same thing: Cobra emblem on the outside, hollow inside, nothing much, it’s there, that’s all. Here you can also see a knife in a sheath. This Guard means business, he comes prepared for all kinds of combat situations. And when I say all

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…I mean all! Holly crap, this guy’s packing!! Carbines of various sizes, the pistol and the knife that he carries on him and… is this a sword?? Oh yeah, it sure is! A sabre to be exact. Well, I guess we have no alternative but to try it all out.

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The new Siegie holds one-handed guns without any problems and thanks to wrist hinge joints system (write wrist bending up and down and left one bending outwards and inwards) he can pull off more realistic poses like aiming a pistol at a target in front of him while holding the weapon close to his chest.

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Those wrists also come in handy while using the medium rifle with a front handle installed. Now the large rifle is a bit… extraordinary with this large arching magazine attached at the butt. I have no idea if it’s based on an actual weapon or if it was created by Hasbro designers, either way I’m not too fond of how that clip looks. But it is usable by the figure.

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I think it may be considered a new version of the bayonet-bearing long rifle that the 25A Guard used, both as a chic-looking and close-combat-efficient weapon, effective during all HQ encounters other than the one with Pythona. It kinda works but due to that oversized ammo clip and lack of silver paint on the knife I prefer the old one instead.

And now on to the most amazing piece of equipment that the RET Siegie carries around. And if you think I mean the sabre… you are wrong.

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A tactical vest! And a really neat one, with detailed pouches sculpted all over and a tiny Cobra emblem where there usually is a security company’s logo or a police unit’s badge. And I really dig the color – darker, more on the cherry side than the Siegie’s uniform, just the right tone to both stand out from the rest of the figure and at the same time perfectly go with it by matching the color of the holster and another pouch on the leg.

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A look at the back of the vest. Fantastic details continue to amaze! Also notice the holster hanging there. I guess if you really miss the old Guard’s revolver then you can use this place to store one but that’s not its intended purpose.

 

 

The sabre goes there which is an interesting concept because that way no hanging scabbard limits the Guard’s freedom of movement and the weapon is secured. The holster-scabbard is attached on a tiny swivel joint which allows for it to be moved back in case the sword’s blade gets in the way, for example when sitting down.

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The only downside here is how the sabre’s hilt practically prevents the knife from being stored in its sheath. Yes, you can pull the sabre back and put the knife in but it’s highly impractical.

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It’s great how the Siegie gains a field trooper feel when wearing the vest. Yes, he is still red all over and carries a friggin’ sword, but now I can so much easier suspend my disbelief and imagine a small squad of those tearing through a South-American jungle in order to gain access to some forgotten drug lords’ stash or even assault a distant G.I. Joe outpost. That’s why I see this guy as a good material for a Crimson Guard Officer. Sure, you can buy a bunch of them and create a whole updated team, but if you (like me) still have a few old Siegies around and/or (like me) don’t indent to army-build the new ones, then you might consider his unique gear set as an officer’s or a bad-ass commando’s setup.

The vest doesn’t limit his articulation at all and when you combine a sword with the extra wrist joint… Just look at him fence Cobra’s best!

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And Cobra’s bestest, heh heh.

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Well, at least the outcome of these duels is always the same so it surely means the amazing level of victor’s skills, right?

Of course, being a modern G.I. Joe figure (that didn’t fall victim to the recent cost-cutting strategy) the Crimson Guard can do a lot, regardless of the flak jacket and sabre present.

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Being a winner in all categories he also was given a stand, unlike many Retaliation figures, but it’s completely bland and blank – no name, no sculpting, nothing, so I decided to borrow one from an older squad-mate.

Oh and as far as squads are concerned…

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He comes with a customization/personification kit. Those are stickers that you can use to assign him to a division and with a rank of your choice.

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I haven’t decided yet which stickers to use for him and if I’m going to mess around with them at all (the word ‘mess’ is rather accurate concerning my poor motor skills and such precise task) but if I get down to it the other guys’ shoulders can be the first source of inspiration.

Some of the Retaliation wave 3 figures are called Ultimates, as in being the ultimate representation of a certain character. I can surely understand this bold statement concerning Cobra Commander v53 orĀ Storm Shadow v49 (isn’t it funny how around number 50 they finally manage to nail the ultimate version??), as those figures do seem hard or even impossible to improve using current technology (of course bear in mind these still has to be produced as an averagely priced toys and not exclusive collectible figures that you’re afraid to breathe on). To be honest I’m not sure if this Crimson Guard is considered one of those, but regardless of that, does he deserve to be? Hmm, hard to tell, really.

On one hand he has been effectively upgraded in terms of articulation and choice of parts while remaining perfectly recognizable as the very familiar design. And his equipment adds to that: when used it brings this chief of security or field commander look and without it the Siegie still looks like a Siegie and even fits in with older brothers in arms. On the other hand I notice and would gladly improve minor things like the lack of removable helmet, pistol instead of revolver and those too army-ish boots that don’t necessarily go with an elegant fund-raising banquet in Castle Destro.

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But you know what, let’s face it, those ‘setbacks’ are nitpicks, mostly based on personal preferences. And apart from the helmet issue, I don’t really see much space for improvement here. I don’t deem myself a G.I. Joe authority enough to proclaim what is ultimate and what’s not, but in my humble opinion this guy is pretty close to perfection.

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Summary

Strong and weak points:

+ great modern articulation and posability

+ absolutely stunning tactical vest, both in design and effect on the figure

+ two alternative looks: combat ready or regular Siegie; both work just fine

+ reshaping of the helmet turned out very positive

+ fair amount of various weaponry, including a sabre

+ working gun holster and sabre scabbard-holster

+ an interesting idea of personalizing each Siegie using insignia and division decals

+ they threw in a stand (can’t believe I actually listed that as a noteworthy merit, sigh)

– lack of removable helmet and (probably) a Fred-faced head underneath

– boots look more combat-ready than elegant which doesn’t fit the dignified guardsman image as good as the 25A’s did

– the small pistol looks more common and trivial than the 25A’s long revolver

– the bayonet-bearing rifle’s design is a bit awkward and lack of extra paint on the blade is rather noticeable

– the backpack could use an upgrade as well, the hollow inside is disturbing

– the knife can’t remain sheathed when the sabre is holstered

Who will like it:

those wanting a better articulated and slightly retooled version of the character; those keen on having a more dynamic and intimidating Siegie commando; those liking the idea of a visually different but still fitting in Crimson Guard officer

Who won’t like it:

those viewing Siegies only as frail businessmen occasionally wearing their uniforms purely for ceremonial reasons; those considering the option to remove the helmet as a must-have

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