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Tunnel Rat & Storm Shadow

GI Joe: Resolute
by yo go re

In order to help keep public interest in GI Joe high before the live-action Rise of Cobra movie, Hasbro commissioned Warren Ellis to write a series of animated webisodes, GI Joe: Resolute. Even before the series began showing, we were lucky enough to get a handful of toys.

Tunnel Rat grew up on the streets of Brooklyn and comes from a family whose background includes Trinidadian Chinese, Irish, Spanish and Indian ancestry. He got tough on the Ranger Course at Fort Benning then honed his skills at missions around the world. There isn't a mine, booby-trap or bomb in the world that he can't disarm, defuse or otherwise deactivate in less than thirty seconds. This comes from constant practice on dummy devices, or whatever he can get his hands on that ticks. He's an expert at negotiating his way through tunnels, air ducts and other tight places where bombs and booby-traps are likely to be planted.

Tunnel Rat is a real fan-favorite Joe. He never had a very big role in either the cartoon or the comics, but he's still one of the guys the hardcore fans hope to see in each new incarnation. Why? Well, it's probably because he's an in-joke we can all appreciate. It's never been a secret that the character's look was based on GI Joe-scribe Larry Hama, and since we all love his work, it makes sense we'd want the toy that honors him.

This figure is technically part of the Resolute series, but since he looks like a direct update of the G1 figure, who's to know? We're talking the classic uniform: green shirt, black pants, one bandana on his head, a second tied around his neck, and a pistol holstered on his chest. This Tunnel Rat's face really doesn't look much like Larry Hama at all. In fact, the face is verging on racist caricature - it's wide and square, and he's got squinty eyes. If you want to be charitable, pretend he's just come out of a dark tunnel into the sunlight; he's still not as bad as Sgt. Misha.

Tunnel Rat is barely over 3¾" tall, which is good: remember, the G3 figures are done in a slightly larger scale, a true 4", so Tunnel Rat ends up noticably shorter than his fellows. His holster and bandolier are a separate piece, and the holster fits a removable revolver. He's got a satchel of TNT he can sling over one shoulder, and a comparitively huge rifle with a scope and a bipod. A heavily modified M-60? In a crawlspace? How would he even turn around? Ah, it's an update of the 1987 accessory, just go with it.

Storm Shadow can trace his family history through thirty generations of ninjas. He can scale sheer walls with bare hands and feet, move with blinding speed, and endure unspeakable hardship and pain. He's an eighth degree black belt in five martial arts and is a qualified expert in the long bow, samurai sword, throwing stars and nunchaku sticks. He's extremely arrogant about his abilities, but with good reason: he will succeed where others have failed. An expert at sabotage, he relishes the chance to infiltrate any GI Joe operations base; it's a nice way to keep his skills at their sharpest... and the resulting destruction amuses him.

Sounds like the Resolute version of Storm Shadow is much less conflicted than his Real American Hero counterpart, huh? Rather than hunting for his uncle's killer and being brainwashed into becoming loyal to Cobra, he's just a jerk with a meanstreak. Where's the fun in that? Ah, nobody ever said the characters had to be 100% the same, right? Well, nobody but the fanboys who are complaining about the movie on principle.

For a ninja, Storm Shadow sure does look like a samurai. Funny, we just had a combo like that in another franchise. Huh. Other than the feet, this is a new mold, with armor on his shins, knees, forearms, shoulders and chest. The plate on his torso is a separate piece, but it's not actually removable: it was put on before the figure was assembled, and it's not coming off. He's got the classic white outfit underneath all that, and the armor he's wearing is brown and silver, and held on by red cords.

Going along with the samurai look, Storm Shadow is wearing some crazyass headgear. Oh, he's still got the white mask that covers everything but his eyes, make no mistake, it's just that he has new things to go over it. In the package, he's wearing a piece that has a metal guard over the mouth and a second on the forehead, plus a brown cloth draped down over his shoulders. Okay. Also included in the set is a full-face mask that I think is meant to look like a dragon: it's got angled eyes and flared nostrils, and a cage around the mouth that makes the whole thing look like a snout.

Beyond that, Storm Shadow's accessories include a silver axe and a double-bladed guandao with Chinese guardian lions on the base of the blades. Are the Arashikages no longer Japanese in the Resolute continuity, or is Storm Shadow just open to using weapons from all over the world? Probably the latter.

This comic pack includes an all-new comic written by Larry Hama, GI Joe: Resolute #2. The story, logically, focuses on Tunnel Rat and Storm Shadow hunting each other in the bowels of the USS Flagg. It's a good read, not only showcasing Tunnel Rat's propensity for outdated California slang, but giving both characters a chance to show off. A lot of writers have turned the ninjas into invincible fighting machines over the years (what we call "the Batman effect"), but here, Tunnel Rat is a good enough fighter to hold his own. Nice stuff.

Right now, GI Joe: Resolute has yet to air. Originally it was meant to debut as a series of webisodes, then be shown as a one-hour movie or released on dvd at a later date. That almost didn't happen. It was announced that Resolute would premiere in its entirety on Cartoon Network's [adult swim] on Saturday, April 25th, but the webisodes were also shown on the [as] website throughout the week leading up to the tv debut. No matter what, though, at least we've gotten some good toys out of it.

-- 04/24/09


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