It was initially thought that the fifth DVD Battle Pack would be a pack focused on the ’87 Movie, and from the figure selection, it’s obvious that’s what Hasbro was planning as well. Every figure in the fifth set includes figures definitely inspired by that movie, but something changed down the line. My own personal hypothesis is that Hasbro is planning on re-releasing a commemorative version of the movie on DVD this year to coincide with the live action film, so rather than “give it away” in this set, they’re holding it to sell it as a separate piece this summer.
So rather than give us the movie here, they elected to go with a “Best of the 80’s” format, but unfortunately, the “Best of the 80’s” is far from it. To Hasbro’s credit, they did put up a poll on GIJoeClub.com, but for whatever reason it wasn’t publicized real well, not many fans voted, and I think we got some skewed results. None of the timeless two-parters (like The Traitor or Worlds Without End) made the cut, and the four episodes we got were somewhat standard fare. “The Viper is Coming” is probably the highlight of the disc. But rather than ramble on and on about what episodes should or should not have been included, how about I just show you some clips from each and let you make up your own mind?
Season 1: The Phantom Brigade
The Phantom Brigade is one example of some things that Joefans find a bit irritating about the Sunbow cartoon. While the comic explored LRRP’s seeing covert ops action in Vietnam, Japanese ninja clans, assassinations, and other serious fare, the Sunbow cartoon was sending COBRA to Russia to dig up trinkets to use three ghosts to fight the G.I. Joe team. The concept is pure fantasy, but as long as you can get over that, there are certain things you can potentially enjoy with this episode. For me it’s “product placement”. I love seeing my favorite vehicles and characters in animated action, so even with the rediculous content, seeing AVAC’s, Firebats, and a Major Bludd that I now have an accurate plastic representation of made this a bit more enjoyable. But perhaps just a bit. For a full recap of this episode, check the always-excellent JoeGuide.com episode summary here.
Why I like it: Major Bludd and the Firebats, that’s pretty much it. Always cool to see some Firebat action when they really weren’t seen much, especially during Season 1. It made a pretty early appearence, as the Terror Drome and other ’86 items didn’t debut until the next season. It’s also interesting to note that the Firebats are gray here, not red, which would indicate that the Sunbow designers had an early prototype to pull from during their storyboarding an animation process. G.I. Joe shows up in the nick of time, and we even get a little jealous tension between Scarlett and Cover Girl…
Why I like it: The Baroness was always a pretty duplicitous agent, who changed allegiances based on the situation, and this scene really accentuated that. Her revealing COBRA’s plans was a pretty neat touch, and she showed her typical deviousness.
Why I like it: The Joes and COBRA come head to head at the end in a pretty fierce battle featuring a large cast of characters. The WHALE, Snake Eyes, Snow Job, Airborne & Ripcord, a bunch of cool characters and some decent action (by Sunbow standards, anyway). A decent clip and decent wrap up to what could have been a pretty silly episode with that fantasy concept.
Season 1: The Viper is Coming
At first glance, this is another somewhat silly episode, with the Joe team getting supposed secret information from a COBRA agent calling himself “The Viper”. While the end result comes across looking rediculous, there’s actually some neat action throughout the episode with COBRA agents second-guessing themselves, and some pretty intense battles and actually some really good animation. This is probably the only episode that I would say actually belongs on this list. As I said before, check JoeGuide.com for a full recap.
Why I like it: The idea of a mystery caller giving the Joes the coordinates to secret COBRA facilities seems pretty rediculous…almost as rediculous as the fact that COBRA Troopers are in a “recreation center” in a tank top, shorts, and their trusty helmets and facemasks! All of that quirkiness aside, I really like the Firebat action, the arctic battle, and Snow Serpents galore. Just some cool characters and some decent action.
Why I like it: Another mysterious “tip” brings the Joe team to Extensive Enterprises and there’s another pretty cool battle within the buildings as a Joe strike team attacks Destro and the Crimson Twins. Some neat action.
Why I like it: G.I. Joe gets their final call from “The Viper” so they prepare to combat the COBRA agent…when the “agent” finally shows up, it isn’t what they expected. It’s a funny ending to an episode that was actually pretty enjoyable, even though it was pretty silly.
While I discovered a strong affinity for the Sunbow mini-series while I was composing the “Memorable Moments” articles, I’m sorry to say, the same can’t be said for these individual episodes. While each of them had certain aspects that I did enjoy, for the most part they came across as pretty juvenile and really not what I want in my G.I. Joe “universe”, especially the Season 2 stuff I’ve checked out. There are still aspects to the Sunbow series I absolutely enjoy, and really I found that I liked pretty much all of the Season 1 episodes, but for whatever reason “My Favorite Things” from Season 2 was almost painful to sit through. But we’ll put that one off for a bit while I talk about “Skeletons in the Closet”.
Season 1: Skeletons in the Closet
This was an episode I actually really, really loved as a kid. For whatever reason I dug the fact that Lady Jaye and Destro had this family connection, and back in the day Flint and Lady Jaye were my two favorites. The cast of characters was exceptionally narrow in this particular episode, but I loved the characterizations, loved the mystical nature of Destro’s family background, and really loved the Destro/Baroness and Flint/Lady Jaye dynamic. As an adult it didn’t necessarily live up to all of my childhood memories, but it wasn’t bad. There was still some enjoyment there. As usual, check out JoeGuide’s excellent Episode Summary for a full synopsis.
Why I like it: Destro and a mysterious woman meet up and discuss Destro’s feelings about the Baroness. While it’s pretty obvious to all of us that this woman is the Baroness is in disguise, but Destro is evidently oblivious. This scene sort of sets up the episode, and I think just the nature of Destro sitting with a normal looking woman in a normal looking sports car in his get up is just humorous to say the least.
Why I like it: Lady Jaye has been captured by Destro and his mysterious followers, but she gets rescued in the nick of time by a stranger, who’s not quite as strange as she originally thought. I’m not sure why I like this scene so much, I just think it’s a neat sequence, especially the part with Destro using his wrist-rockets, which is something he never used much in the Sunbow cartoon. Flint going undercover to rescue Lady Jaye was another neat aspect as well, I thought.
Why I like it: COBRA reinforcements are at the castle (and I’ll take any chance I can get to show Firefly in his animated goodness) but get driven away by some movie-based special effects. The Joes end up victorious, but at the end, Destro and the Baroness have a reckoning of sorts, and we find out what sort of sinister creature lived under Destro’s family castle. Baroness again shows her dark side, which is cool, and the somewhat cliffhanger ending was a nice touch, too.
Even as a kid, I thought Season 2 took a turn for the worse when compared to Season 1. The action seemed a lot less focused, the animation took a stumble, and some the character development didn’t really rock my world. The “fantasy” elements seemed consistent with Season 1, but with character designs that came across quite a bit “chubbier” and not as fluid as the earlier installments, Season 2 really didn’t do a whole lot for me back then. It doesn’t do much for me now, either. My Favorite Things is definitely the weakest link of this “Best Of” set, and even though there’s a cool focus on Serpentor and the backstory for his characters, there really isn’t a whole lot here to love. I managed to cobble together three clips, though mostly to explain the story, because honestly it was tough finding scenes that really made me want to capture them.
Season 2: My Favorite Things
Everyone knows the backstory of Serpentor at this point, with his DNA being pulled together from leaders and warriors of ancient times, and this episode sends him across the world gathering artifacts that will supposedly enhance his powers. Of course, the Joe team must try his best to stop him and COBRA from making Serpentor even more powerful than he already is. The JoeGuide summary for this episode can be found here.
Why I like it: A B.A.T. steals a painting of Rasputin and tosses it in a Night Raven, which, in turn, delivers it to COBRA high command. I picked this particular clip because it sort of introduces the story and explains a bit of why Serpentor is after these items. There’s the typical Serpentor vs. COBRA Commander dynamic and a little peek into Serpentor’s storied past.
Why I like it: Serpentor and COBRA are infiltrating Dracula’s castle, but the G.I. Joe team is right behind them. This clip is sort of the “midway” point of the episode with the Joes launching from a Tomahawk helicopter and having a little skirmish with some COBRA Vipers. By the end of this sequence (though it’s not shown in this particular clip) Leatherneck has been poisoned, and the Joes must follow COBRA to retrieve the anti-venom. The action is pretty clunky, there really are no real interesting characters (though I do still like the interesting Wet Suit/Leatherneck conflict) but it’s sort of the next step of the story progression.
Why I like it: Serpentor has uncovered the last of the items he needs to enhance his powers, and has fully embraced his “snake form”. Serpentor with a snake face doesn’t look as imposing as one might think. Serpentor reveals one of his past lives as being “King Takasha”, Lord of all Serpents. With Leatherneck poisoned, Wet Suit must face off against the large snake to retrieve the venom. For length reasons I didn’t include that portion in the above clip, but this sort of starts that sequence.
As I mentioned already, while I loved the Mini-Series, these episodes did not really rock my world quite as much. I do really like Skeletons in the Closet and The Viper is Coming, but I can’t help but wonder if there were some better choices. I wish the poll had perhaps been better advertised or promoted so that there could have been a better sampling of Joe fan opinions. There were still some pretty interesting sequences throughout these episodes, and I do enjoy seeing some of my favorite characters in animated form, but honestly stories about resurrected ghosts, mythical creatures under Destro’s castle, and Serpentor transforming into a super-powerful Snake Lord are all stories that don’t really mesh with my personal Joe universe.
I can understand the appeal, though, and fans with a more fantasy bend to their own universes will certainly find some things here to enjoy, but I can’t help but wonder if this could have been a better set with a better sampling of fan’s voting for the poll.