Comic Packs were a fairly poorly handled idea. The idea behind them was quite solid, but the execution for the most part never lived up to the potential that the series had. Hasbro made numerous mistakes with them, including starting the whole line off with a sea of green figures that all looked the same, and often times included pretty bad issues of the Comic (3 and 5 are dud issues, 4 is a good story but could’ve been omitted and saved us that horrid Grunt). It wasn’t until late into the Comic Packs that Hasbro started to have a much more diverse grouping of figures.
In 2005, when Hasbro chose to do COBRA Civil War issues, Hasbro was able to get a smattering of different looking figures, and a much more diverse cast of characters released. While most of the figures in those waves were just new versions of fan favourites, there was one figure that was actually a comic exclusive character (A thing Hasbro had a hit and miss track record with, during the Comic Pack era). It was released as COBRA Commander version 22, but everyone knew it was just that imposter, Fred VII.
On a base level, this is just the 1987 COBRA Commander mold, done up in a very similar colour scheme (with far fewer paint apps on the waist!), and a brand new head and helmet. It’s actually more of a rehash than a lot of the Comic Pack figures tended to be, but it was actually a quite well done, one. A lot of Comic Pack figures had brand new head sculpts, that were often too damn small. Fred VII was actually a decent head, and also had the benefit of a helmet that hid the majority of it. The helmet wasn’t a perfect match for the Comic, but it also looked a lot closer to the comic than the original head did. The helmet is far less ornate than the 1987 head, as the sculpted COBRA emblem has been replaced with a stamped on one, but the lack of a removable hose is a decent trade-off.
Fred VII is an interesting part of G.I. Joe history. He’s almost synonmous with the Battle Armor COBRA Commander mold, because of the story arc in the Marvel Comic (and likely due to less Cartoon competition). So to finally get a figure of the character is pretty nice. Especially for Hasbro to do it as well as they did, since the early 2000s was a time full of random late 80s/early 90s heads on 87′ CC bodies as “Fred VII” customs. Hasbro pretty much doing the same thing, was welcomed, as oftentimes reinventing the wheel leads to failure.
Fred VII, is a somewhat unfortunate character, as he had big shoes to fill, and the character’s story arc got fairly rough once Serpentor was out of the picture. He wins the civil war, then everybody of importance in the COBRA sphere of influence, learns he’s an imposter, and nobody really does anything about it, then the real COBRA Commander comes back with new and improved verbosity, and the series sputters about for another few years.
The Battle Armor is an interesting theory. On one hand it looks cool, and would make sense for the leader of a terrorist organization to be in a protective suit. The issue is, it kind of turns COBRA Commander (and G.I. Joe as a whole) into a Super Hero fantasy. It’s a catch-22, as stories are better off, when COBRA Commander is involved in the actual conflict, but when he’s suited up in armor like this, it’s a technological advance that leads to too many questions about the internal G.I. Joe world (IE: Why is it that no one else has armor like this?)
Few, Comic Pack figures based on Comic exclusive characters were done to the level that they should’ve been done at. Fred VII, I think might be the best (My issues with the Oktober Guard figures are based mainly on them being a construction style that doesn’t really lead to them meshing well with the characters they actually interacted with in the comics. 91 Big Ben and 83 Stalker aren’t completely compatible). Fred worked best, because not only did he use the correct mold, he was also cast in colours that allowed a 2005 Comic Pack figure to fit in a lot easier with vintage figures from the mid to late 80s, than damn near any other Hasbro released figure from that time frame (The fact a lot of that weird ass skin tone was hidden by the helmet, helps a lot.)