So the site has been inundated with G.I. Joe: Retaliation news and articles…so when the always awesome Monte Williams offers to submit a list of Overrated and Underrated Joes of the “Modern Era” I just can’t help but jump on it.
Even if it ends up sitting in my mailbox for a week or so first.
Seriously, this was a great article, and a huge thanks to Monte for taking the time to write this up for the site. It’s greatly appreciated! Click the “read the rest of this entry” link below to view Monte’s list and argue it out in the comments below!
Howdy, toy fans. Monte Williams here, hijacking Generals Joes again to bring you another life-changing G.I. Joe list:
The Most Overrated and Underrated G.I. Joe Figures of the Modern Era
Overrated: Pit Commando; Rise of Cobra
I don’t mind when someone unwittingly exaggerates the quality or usability of a toy, but there is a related phenomenon that agitates me to no end: when a nostalgia-blinded fanboy sings the praises of a mediocre toy at the expense of superior toys. That drives me nuts!
This happens all the time with the Rise of Cobra toys, and more often than not, the lackluster toy my stunted Joe-nerd brethren choose to celebrate is the Rise of Cobra Pit Commando figure.
Does the Pit Commando feature an impressive (for its time) accessory load? Sure. But most of his ostensibly awe-inspiring vests and helmets are awkward and ill-fighting, and should you strip those adornments away, you’re left with a repaint of the uninspired 25th Anniversary Dusty figure, topped off with one of the most underwhelming head sculpts in the entire 25th Anniversary series.
If you admire and have use for the Rise of Cobra Pit Commando figure, than huzzah and congratulations. What quickly grows tiresome, however, are the blog and forum comments suggesting that the Pit Commando is the only worthwhile figure in the Rise of Cobra series, when in fact the Rise of Cobra series, for all its faults, represented a towering and unprecedented leap forward for the G.I. Joe brand in terms of engineering and articulation. All those figures you hate because of their reactive armor and accelerator suits and Chaning Tatum and Marlon Wayons head sculpts? They all had better sculpts and better articulation than the Pit Commando.
Underrated: Duke; Pursuit of Cobra
I call him “Backpack Duke”, ‘cause his backpack is such a subdued, subtle, inconspicuous piece of hardware.
I like the backpack, alright? But really, I can take it or leave it.
But the Duke figure who comes with that backpack? Holy mercy.
Everyone is falling all over themselves proclaiming 30th Anniversary Storm Shadow and Pursuit of Cobra Snake Eyes to be the definitive versions of those characters, but what few Joe fans seem to have noticed is that Hasbro also released the definitive Duke last year.
He looks for all the world like a 21st century update of the first Duke figure from 1983, and he poses like dream and he comes equipped with a gun straight out of Alien and a delightfully absurd backpack. Why did this figure warm pegs?
Underrated: Flash; Rise of Cobra
Sometimes, Joe fans look at a daring redesign of an iconic character and say, “That’s just not Spirit” or, “I like the figure well enough, but it doesn’t feel like Zartan to me”.
This is understandable. Where such vintage-loyalty crosses the line is when someone responds to an outstanding figure like Rise of Cobra Flash with, “That doesn’t look like vintage Flash, so it sucks.”
If Hasbro opted to reinterpret every single classic G.I. Joe character in the daring, exciting manner in which they reimagined Flash, I would be thrilled. And if it’s true that Rise of Cobra Flash would not exist if not for the Rise of Cobra video game, then I desperately hope there will be a sequel to the Rise of Cobra video game.
Rise of Cobra Flash features an all-new, amazing sculpt—which has inexplicably yet to be reused—and accessories that are… alright, yeah the accessories are weak, although I love the use of a string for the hose, rather than the usual plastic tube that’s always too rigid to be of any reliable use.
Hasbro could release this figure once a year as a simple repaint and I would buy it every time. If you avoided Rise of Cobra Flash because he doesn’t resemble the Flash you remember from the early 1980s, you are doing yourself a serious disservice.
Overrated: Snake Eyes; City Strike/Resolute
I love the City Strike Snake Eyes figure. I bought two of them at retail, plus two of the Resolute 7-pack that included a repainted City Strike Snake Eyes. I also ordered the Target-exclusive Rise of Cobra Rescue Mission 4-pack from eBay just to get my hands on the all-black City Strike Snake Eyes repaint. Unfortunately, it arrived just two or three days after I left the States for Pakistan, so I’ll have to wait until next summer to photograph him. I intend to procure a Renegades Snake Eyes at some point, too, which will bring my collection of City Strike Snake Eyes-based figures to an even half-dozen. And I love them all!
But yeah, he’s overrated.
City Strike Snake Eyes is a versatile figure, but he essentially has to be versatile, because there are limits to the extent to which he works as-is. His skinny arms provide useful articulation, but they’re almost too skinny to work on an aesthetic level. Meanwhile, his belt looks cool, but because of the large protruding chunk required to accommodate the peg from his scabbard, the belt rides up too high on his torso. As for the head, it needs more paint because it looks nearly monochrome, and overlooking the paint issue, the head sculpt itself is fine, but not particularly exciting.
The recent “Ultimate” Pursuit of Cobra Snake Eyes figure has erased City Strike Snake Eyes from history to some extent (though he is still the figure who gets to adorn the site logo at JoeDios.com), but make no mistake: for a year or so, many people were suggesting that City Strike Snake Eyes was perhaps the greatest action figure of all time.
Those people were wrong.
Underrated: Specialist Trakker; 25th Anniversary
Matt Trakker is not a perfect figure by any means. He boasts many of the failings of your average 25th Anniversary figure, chief among them his restricted articulation (particularly at the elbows). But his head sculpt is realistic—and angry!—and his backpack and helmet are fun, and more than anything, Hasbro made a G.I. Joe-scale Matt Trakker action figure!
Of course, that was the problem, for many collectors. Rather than regard this unexpected treat as a thrilling (or even merely pleasant) surprise offering from Hasbro, too many G.I. Joe fans saw the Matt Trakker figure as a betrayal, in that a slot that supposedly belonged to a yet-to-be-produced classic G.I. Joe character was dedicated instead to a character from a non-Joe toyline.
I for one loved the idea and most aspects of the execution, and I would be delighted if Hasbro opted to sneak other ‘80s “cameos” into the G.I. Joe series—is it too much to hope for a 30th Anniversary Storm Shadow repainted to resemble Karate-1 from The Bionic Six? After all, Agent Helix already resembles a slightly grown-up Rock-1.
Underrated: General Hawk; Rise of Cobra
I have come to accept that JBL’s Alexx and I are the only G.I. Joe enthusiasts who are inordinately delighted to have a lifelike Joe-scale Dennis Quaid head sculpt, but objectively speaking, there is still plenty worth celebrating about the Rise of Cobra General Hawk figure.
I do wish his beret were removable, and I am discouraged at the scarcity and the secondary market inflation of the Wal-Mart-exclusive Laser Artillery Weapon repaint (I want one, dammit!), and I don’t know what happened with the Rise of Cobra General Hawk that was included with the Pit playset, ‘cause hoo-boy, he’s hideous. But the single-pack Rise of Cobra General Hawk is a great toy!
I’ll concede that most G.I. Joe fans might find the Dennis Quaid head sculpt limiting (though I like to think we can all agree that it is a quality sculpt), but from the neck down he is a perfect “buck” for any number of military-themed customs. The T-shirt is strangely refreshing (and the same idea was used again to great effect for the Resolute 7-packs), he looks ready for battle in a badass sort of minimalist manner, he comes with a goddamn jetpack (though I prefer the black and silver version that was included with the Resolute 5-pack Duke), his articulation is aces… what’s not to love?
Underrated: Arctic Destro; Pursuit of Cobra
I don’t care for the sloppy application of the green paint on Arctic Destro’s eyes. Arctic Destro utilizes the Christopher Eccleston head sculpt, but when the Pursuit of Cobra series abandoned its Hollywood flavor, Hasbro went the vintage-style route and filled in the entire eye sockets with green paint. It was perhaps the worst choice they could have made, because really, any given Destro head could have been reused to greater effect; the Christopher Eccleston head sculpt was not designed to accommodate the green-eyed look.
But you know what? Look past those sloppy eyes (or simply replace the head, as I did) and Arctic Destro isn’t merely underrated—he is perfect.
The “frosted” highlights of the paint apps are clever and effective, the sculpt of the body and the coat are flawless, and the overall effect is more menacing and intriguing and simply cool than either the suitcase-of-cash Destro or the Iron Grenadiers that use the same body from the neck down. Just pop a new head or helmet on him for an easy Captain Cold or Mr. Freeze-inspired custom, or troop build the damn thing for a quick squad of winter-themed Vipers.
Arctic Destro has replaced Sigma 6 as the butt of lazy jokes at Hasbro’s expense, and there’s not a single reason to justify it, ‘cause Arctic Destro is a kickass action figure.
Overrated: Spirit; 25th Anniversary
I recently discovered that not everybody recognizes that the 25th Anniversary Spirit figure is the ugliest, crappiest G.I. Joe figure of the decade. A fellow Hiss Tanker even recently offered a counterintuitive statement along the lines of, “I don’t like the Marauders 7-pack Spirit. I prefer the 25th Anniversary Spirit. The Marauders version is a racist caricature.”
If you can explain that to me, I’ll give you my Pursuit of Cobra Low Light.
In the meantime, taking time to explain why 25th Anniversary Spirit is the bastard-ugliest chunk of plastic to hit the shelves in a dog’s age feels kinda like explaining why water’s a good idea when you’re thirsty, so all I’ll say is this: look at his head and look at his mid-torso joint and tell me with a straight face that 25th Anniversary Spirit is anything but a spectacular failure.
Underrated: Skydive; Pursuit of Cobra
I pride myself on being more logical and pragmatic than the average toy collector. There are times, however… no, that’s not right. There are toys that reduce me to the nine-year-old I once was. That nine-year-old could distinguish good toys from bad, but on occasion, if a toy looked cool enough, then that nine-year-old lost all his critical skills.
Such was my response to Skydive. More to the point, such was my response to Desert Battle Ripcord, which hit retail in repainted form as the slightly less amazing Skydive. Ripcord/Skydive simply looks so neat that his flaws remain irrelevant to me. So for this entry, I will not try to persuade you that you are wrong… with one exception:
If your chief concern about Skydive is that his awesome gear restricts his leg articulation, I have a solution: cut it off from the waist down. I performed this unlikely operation on both of my Skydives, and once it’s done, he can do the splits, if that’s what you require of him. And the gear still looks cool.
My response to Alexx’s lukewarm review at Joe Battlelines summarizes my feelings for this figure nicely:
“This is one of those figures; when I first saw a photo of it, I fell senselessly in love, and no amount of logic was gonna interfere with said love.”
Oh, wait. That was my response to the Volcano Viper.
Hmm… I think I’ll start a new list.