You know, looking back at 2010, it was a pretty paltry year for G.I. Joe, quantity wise. When you think back 12 months to the end of 2009, we had been absolutely inundated with toys, essentially from July straight through to December, non stop. It was crazy. Then 2010 hit, and there was a sudden lapse in the beginning of the year…a miniature flood of product in the middle of the year, then another short lapse, and we’re now in another mini flood. It seemed to come in bursts.
However, unlike 2009 where we got absolutely drowned in product, yet much of it was the same sort of stuff regurgitated ad nauseum, 2010 gave us much smaller quantity, but a far better quality of toys. The Pursuit of Cobra hit and hit hard, and made a LOT of Joe fans forget all about their misery over the end of the 25th Anniversary line a year ago.
So, wading through this list of toys, I decided to take some time to pick my ten favorites, which are very likely NOT your ten favorites, but hey, that’s what gets discussions started, right?
Click the “Read the Rest of this Entry” link below to check out the full list.
You know, considering there weren’t all that many toys released this year, this list should have been pretty easy and straight forward. Uhhh… no.
Even though there weren’t many figures released, what we got was such high quality, that culling the list down to 10 was surprisingly difficult. Insanely difficult, actually. I battled all the way through it. For better or worse, here we go.
10 – G.I. Joe “Jungle Assault” V.A.M.P. w/ Double Clutch
Honestly, this is the one I expect to generate the most discussion. I was amazed to see the level of distaste for this vehicle that I did. From my own personal perspective, I thought it was a nearly perfect update to a military battle jeep. It had some great style, great detailing, a ton of awesome weaponry, and it could hold a whole bunch of figures. What could go wrong?
Turns out many folks didn’t like the red under carraige, and other folks complained about the rear guns falling off too easily (I didn’t have that problem, interestingly enough). Others wanted real rubber tires. Personally? I absolutely loved it. Wasn’t a huge fan of Clutch, but the vehicle was a perfect update in my opinion, and fit the Pursuit of Cobra style to perfection.
9 – Zartan (G.I. Joe: Resolute “Cobra” 7-Pack)
When word came out of the G.I. Joe: Resolute 7-Packs, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that Zartan would likely not make the cut. Sure, he’s an important character in the feature, but simply too much new tooling would have been required, and there were far more characters that could have been done for a far smaller investment. Imagine my surprise when we learned that not only would Zartan be included, but he would be an almost perfect representation of his Resolute self!
I loved the G.I. Joe: Resolute Zartan from a design perspective. The fantastic armor, the nicely conceived hood, and even the freaky flesh tone. While his attitude was a horrible change from Zartan’s normal interesting character, he looked downright awesome.
While there were certainly some height issues with the Resolute figure, by and large it captured the spirit of Zartan perfectly. The armor was great, the hood was great, and we even got some newly tooled weapons that made excellent additions to any Joe or Cobra arsenal. Lots of stuff to love with this figure, and it certainly deserves a spot in this top 10 list.
8 – Sideshow Collectibles 12″ Duke
From everything I’m hearing, the recently released Sideshow Collectibles Beachhead is amazing, and likely trumps Duke as the best Sideshow Joe figure released this year. Well, I don’t have Beachhead, so I can only report on what I know, and what I know is that Duke is amazing.
I’m not a Duke fan in the least, but what Sideshow was able to accomplish here was nothing short of incredible. They took one of the most iconic characters in G.I. Joe lore, and managed to not only make him very reminiscent of his twenty-five year old design, but also modernize him just enough to work in today’s military. Slightly newer gear, a newer weapon, and Duke was immediately the “Top Kick” of today’s G.I. Joe, even with a design over two decades out of date. Including the familiar Sunbow rifle was an awesome touch as well. This figure was, soup-to-nuts, one of the most enjoyable toy experiences I had in 2010.
7 – Flint (G.I. Joe: Resolute “G.I. Joe” 7-Pack)
Perhaps it’s just because I love the Flint character so much… perhaps it’s just because I don’t feel like Flint got a quality update since his original release in 1985… perhaps it’s that I was such a huge fan of G.I. Joe: Resolute, and I loved seeing Flint have such a huge part in it. Whatever the reason, this figure just resonated with me on every level. He is, essentially, mostly reused parts (with a nicely updated head and webgear) but he comes together so flawlessly.
This version of Flint retains all of the awesome qualities of the old school Warrant Officer, but with just the right updates. Twin suspenders with shotgun shells becomes highly detailed and well sculpted webgear (with shotgun shells, naturally). A black dress shirt becomes a fitted black t-shirt, and with just a touch of gray hair to add the needed maturity, we finally got a new version of Flint that does the character proud.
He lacks the amazing and intricate detail of the Pursuit of Cobra offerings, yet he’s a fantastic toy, a great character, and a very fun figure to play with. What’s more important than that?
6 – G.I. Joe: The Pursuit of Cobra “Desert Battle” Zartan
So, how is it that we can go well over twenty years without getting a decent Zartan update, but then within a single 12 month period, we have two excellent versions of the character that do the Master of Disguise proud? I’m not entirely sure… maybe it’s the Hasbro design team is just more in tune with what G.I. Joe is these days? They’ve gotten away from the overly science fiction feel of the new sculpt era, and are really grasping what’s important about the character?
Lord knows there really isn’t much about this version of Zartan that calls back to the original. There’s no armor, no biker punk feel…just a strange Mongolian nomad with eye makeup. Yet it just works. It works perfectly.
Where the Resolute Zartan took all of this technical elements and captured them all to a “T”, this version seems to take a more mystical approach, yet still manages to incorporate the indelible spirit of G.I. Joe into the figure. His design is great, the articulation is fantastic, and his accessories are simply incredible. Coming with a full G.I. Joe character disguise in a single carded format is an amazing feat, and something the Joe design team should be damn proud of. Good stuff.
5 – G.I. Joe: The Pursuit of Cobra “Desert Battle” Dusty
I mean, come on now. I don’t even LIKE desert figures. Yet here are Zartan and Dusty back-to-back on a top 10 list for 2010. Dusty is another figure where the designers took a totally different approach. We’re used to a purely military desert trooper where this version goes a bit further into the fantasy realm, giving him some really unique body armor, some futuristic weaponry, and a very cool, yet science fiction like helmet. Yet even with all of these injections of a more unrealistic universe, the figure still works. He is nice and bulky, yet retains some fantastic range of motion. His hands have some generic sculpting to them, yet fit his weapons perfectly. Both heads have a great unique quality to them, and his “dirt” overspray is such an awesome design element.
And those folks who want a whole desert squad can use his indiscriminate head sculpt (which lets you even see a face beyond those translucent goggles!) to make faceless desert troopers. A character I don’t really care about in an element I’m not crazy about, but the end result is a figure that I’m absolutely wild about.
4 – Destro (G.I. Joe: Resolute “Cobra” 7-Pack)
There seems to be a theme going on here… Zartan was a figure that was awesome upon first release, but had a hard time getting a decent update. Flint was a character who knocked it out of the park when he first came out 25 years ago, but had hit several stumbling blocks until his Resolute re-imagining. Now we have Destro, and once again we get a character which evolves to an amazing extent with some very subtle changes.
Rather than the open jacket and crazed red fur lined collar, this version of Destro has a button down Euro-trash trench coat with a subtle red collar, and plenty of attitude. Destro is one of my all time favorite characters, yet he simply did not get justice done to him until now. I absolutely love this figure. Sure, there are some articulation issues due to the length of the coat, but the overall look of the figure combined with the removable pistols, the cybernetic arm, the unbelievably cool briefcase. There is just way too much here to love.
I would have really enjoyed seeing a purely animated style Destro with the barrel chest and the massive jawline, but I’ll take what I can get. They managed to inject the Resolute style into a realistic figure pretty much perfectly, and it’s a method I hope they can also capture with G.I. Joe: Renegades.
3 – Pursuit of Cobra “City Strike” Cobra Alley-Viper
I’ve always been a huge fan of the Cobra Alley-Viper. Love the bulky, urban operations look, love the specialty, and just love the character. However, Hasbro always had issues properly capturing him. The original ’89 version was obviously the best from a design and execution standpoint…and the 90s follow ups pretty much paled in comparison.
I really loved how Hasbro tried to evolve the character with their 2000+ lines, but using Duke’s legs just didn’t work all that well, and they weren’t able to use the ’89 tooling either. Obviously, once Hasbro worked the figure into the Defense of Cobra Island set, they chose the right inspiration, yet still used the garrish orange and purple color scheme.
Thankfully they finally rectified that with the Pursuit of Cobra line, and rectified it in a huge way. We get all of the style, all of the detail, and all of the awesome removable knives of the regular Anniversary version of the figure, yet in much more palatable, much more Cobra themed colors. The dark gray, black, and red color pallet we now have with the Alley-Viper really makes this a near perfect figure. He’s got the immense flak vest, the flip down visor, the assorted weaponry, and the perfect colors to go along with it. Not only that, but they used a Resolute head sculpt, too, to help better integrate this figure with the Resolute version. This was one hell of an update to an already cool character, it’s only too bad that these are so tough to come by for fans who want them.
2 – Pursuit of Cobra “Jungle Assault” Duke
Oh, God, what have I done? Here the fandom is clamoring for less Dukes and less Snake Eyes, and here I am putting Duke #2 in my top 10 figures list. Well, how can I help myself? This figure is freaking perfect.
Yes, it’s Duke…but it is an AWESOME Duke. The head sculpt is a massive improvement over the prevalence of Channing Tatum we were forced to deal with throughout 2009. His tied headband, slicked back hair, and determined grimace are all excellently sculpted. Sure, he’s got the typical reactive armor tunic, but it’s mostly covered up with insanely cool web gear, which holds his terrific knife. His backpack is large, holds a couple of his accessories, and has real elastic built in. The figure comes with a great pistol, an awesome machine gun, and even a heavy machine gun, and the weapons are all stowable throughout the figure. His articulation is damn near perfect, being one of the few figures who can bend his elbows as much as he needs to in order to hold a rifle realistically. Duke is infused with some very jungle themed colors, with an awesome camouflage scheme and some nice, subtle overspray throughout his arms.
Yes, this is Duke. No, it does not matter.
Hell, at least it’s not Snake Eyes.
1 – Pursuit of Cobra “Desert Battle” Snake Eyes
Hopefully everyone knows which Snake Eyes I’m talking about up there, considering there are two “Desert Battle” Snake Eyes’ for some baffling reason. Why not make this one a “City Strike” version?
Regardless, this figure is simply breathtaking. If four-inch plastic can be considered an art form, this thing is an absolute masterpiece. Sculpting perfection from head to toe, insanely detailed webgear pulled perfectly from the 12″ Sideshow Collectibles version. A wealth of functional accessories, with room for most of them to be stored on the figure. The perfect blend of sleekness, bulk, and articulation. Swappable heads so you can have a purely commando Snake Eyes, or ninja-fy him. And if you decide to ninja-fy him, his epic sword will compliment the figure perfectly.
Hasbro never, ever, ever has to make another Snake Eyes again. This one has it all.
As I said above, I found compiling this list ridiculously difficult. Considering the relatively few figures that were released this year (especially compared to 2009) I cannot fathom why it was so damned hard to pick out the 10 best. So many others deserved a mention.
Cobra Shock Trooper? Absolutely. It has all of the qualities of an awesome toy…but in the end, it was the generic nature of the figure that left it off the list. Sure, it’s a very nicely detailed and sculpted toy, but it really doesn’t strike me as a “Cobra Shock Trooper” and seems more like generic SWAT Breacher.
Jungle Assault Spirit? Another close call. The Billy resemblance and the awesome accessories were all big pluses, but the fact that he reuses a lot of parts from two other figures on the list already gave me reason to leave him off.
JoeCon 2010 Exclusive Red Shadow? This one nearly made the list simply for what it represented…in essence the “last gasp” of the o-ring figures, and a terrific representation of a two and a half decade old concept. I thought it deserved some serious props for that, but in the end, the somewhat dated design elements simply could not compete with the level of detail and sculpting we’re getting right now with the more modern toys.
G.I. Joe: Resolute Roadblock? This one was probably the closest to making the list, but likely suffered because most of his tooling was used for other figures already in 2009.
City Strike Beachhead? Another completely awesome figure serving as a great update to a pretty cool character…but ultimately the somewhat clunky vest and the overabundance of gear he can’t carry moved him a bit farther down the list. It was a very close call, but he didn’t quite make the cut.
There were plenty of others as well, but ultimately I had to make some hard choices, and what you see is what you get. Agree? Disagree? Discuss!