To see this set in action, check out the Kindle Worlds Novella Welcome to the Wolf Pack!
The first AWE Striker was released in 1985, thirty full years ago, and heaven knows we’ve seen plenty of re-releases since. Since its first inception back in the hay day of G.I. Joe, it’s been released over half a dozen times under the same AWE Striker banner, not to mention in the Stargate line, the ECO Warriors line (both in the vintage days and as a recent Convention attendee exclusive), as well as for the G.I. Joe: Retaliation movie line. Fans of the AWE Striker have certainly had their opportunity to appreciate its greatness.
So, with tooling libraries running low, what options does someone like Hasbro have to continue releasing vehicles, especially one that has been at retail more often than not in the past three decades?
Simple… add some limited new tooling and give that vehicle some extra mileage.
At its core, the FOE Striker is essentially just a desert themed AWE Striker, done up in a light gray/tan. It even has a majority of the same decals as its had throughout the years. But this time around, Hasbro designers tooled up a few new pieces, including a rear stand, a front cage, gas cans, supports, and also a nice pseudo-fabric tarp. These few simple added pieces go a great deal towards reinventing the AWE Striker into a terrific new updated vehicle.
Along with the new parts, the same minigun that was released many times with the VAMP now gets a new articulated arm that plugs into the dune buggy’s roof. The rear stand adds some footpegs and a way to store the supports, while the front cage gives the driver some nice protection, holds the other side of the supports, and also provides two mounting points for machine guns (Chuckles and Night Fox both come with one, naturally). These small additions almost completely reinvent this vehicle and convert it from a tired rehash to an exciting new fast attack vehicle. But Hasbro even went a bit further. With some nice design nuances, they made the rear platform removable as well as the two supports and designed a tarp to be detached from their mounts and create a terrific little forward observation station. Just a small little twist to the vehicle, but it makes a world of difference.
Everything about the AWE Striker becomes exciting and new with these small key additions to the dune buggy, providing a lot more flexibility and a much cooler looking overall vehicle. The changes aren’t major, but they make a major difference.
Along with the FOE Striker, we get a somewhat desert themed version of Chuckles. His floral t-shirt are variations of brown, with a cool shirt pattern very closely matching how the character looked in certain images from the IDW Publishing COBRA comic book series. According to Mark Weber, G.I. Joe brand manager, Chuckles’ new head sculpt was also designed with the same idea in mind. As a character who was so crucial to that comic series, this is a pretty neat homage.
The overall Chuckles build is pretty good, though I would have much preferred the arms from the Night Force Convention version. These arms have somewhat restricted elbows and a lack of the multi-faceted wrist joints, but aesthetically they still look all right. Considering Chuckles comes with a great automatic machine gun it would have been nice if he could hold it better, but that’s unfortunately not the case.
He’s got the PoC Snake Eyes legs, which are great and work nicely for a combat oriented Chuckles, especially because it gives him a nice silenced pistol for him to use. The floral pattern on his shirt is interesting, a somewhat different take on his Hawaiian shirt pattern, in a more desert themed color pallet.
If I have any complaints about the paint work, it’s an issue that has become somewhat familiar in the 50th Anniversary line. Chuckles’ eyes really have some paint issues, with pupils that are a too tiny and look a bit squirrely. It’s a problem that has plagued some of the other 50th Anniversary figures, and unfortunately it looks to still be an issue.
As mentioned, Chuckles comes with the familiar pistol with silencer and ankle combat knife. He also has a machine gun, shoulder hoster, and heavy machine gun, which can also plug into one of the mounts on the FOE Striker. He’s got a pretty great assortment of gear that allows him to go full on combat mode, or take things about quicker and quieter.
Ever since the COBRA series from IDW Publishing, Chuckles has gotten a big spotlight inside and outside the G.I. Joe community. Paying homage to how he appeared in that series makes a lot of sense, and Hasbro pulled it off fairly well. I would have loved some better arms and a bit more care to the paint work on the eyes, but beyond that, it’s a good figure.
As the driver of the Pursuit of Cobra AWE Striker, it makes sense for the least well-known G.I. Joe Navy SEAL to make a re-appearance here in the 50th Anniversary line. Night Fox was one of my favorite new characters in the Pursuit of Cobra era, and I’ll be honest, I’m not really sure how important an update is, but I can see why they did it.
This version of Night Fox appears to use a similar build from the waist up, with what looks to be the Rise of Cobra Duke’s arms and a Beachhead head sculpt. Where Hasbro deviates here, though, is using the Wave 1 G.I. Joe: Retaliation Roadblock legs, which interestingly makes Night Fox a lot taller than his previous iteration. While it was mostly due to the parts combination, and not necessarily intrinsic to his character, Night Fox’s height nonetheless was an aspect of the original character and it seems weird to now see him so much taller. I suspect Hasbro made a conscious decision to try and avoid the short stature of the first figure, but I think I actually prefer the look of the PoC original.
Along with the height discrepency, Roadblock’s legs also have some articulation issues. These particular legs don’t have double jointed knees or ankle joints, which is kind of a shame.
Instead of going full on desert, Night Fox uses mostly selections of gray, with a base gray uniform and lighter tiger stripe camouflage throughout the upper body. The lighter camouflage stripes are pretty reminiscent of the FOE Striker colors, but overall he definitely looks a lot more gray than tan. Aside from the camouflage the gray color is somewhat monochromatic and bland.
Night Fox is unique in the fact that he’s only available in this ComicCon version of the Desert Duel set, but the overall execution doesn’t seem as high end as a ComicCon exclusive figure might seem to be. I love the character, but overall think I prefer the Pursuit of Cobra version.
Night Fox comes with a wide array of cool accessories, from his automatic grenade launcher to the great web gear that originally came with Retaliation Snake Eyes. The same neck scarf that he came with originally, as well as the helmet and flip-down night vision goggles. He also has the large square ammo pack, Ma Deuce with ammo belt. Like Chuckles’ heavy machine gun, the Ma Deuce fits into the front mount on the FOE Strike and compliments the other heavy machine gun well.
Night Fox is a neat character and a serviceable update. Hasbro can put themselves in a Catch 22 because they want to provide an air of exclusivity when it comes to ComicCon exclusives, but if they do anything too critical, it can result in fandom backlash. I think Night Fox was a good addition with his connections to the AWE/FOE Striker, but the figure itself is a bit one-colored. I would have really enjoyed seeing some additional color applications here and there and the end result be less gray.
In spite of some of my issues with Night Fox and Chuckles, I find myself really loving the G.I. Joe side of this set. Heck, I enjoy the Cobra side of this set as well.
Far and away the most impressive aspect of the Desert Duel set is the FOE Striker, which takes the essence of G.I. Joe’s venerable dune buggy and adds a wealth of fantastic new elements to the vehicle really providing some additional mileage to the old classic. I love all of the additional tooling and ramped up capabilities, providing a nice amount of flexibility to the G.I. Joe vehicle underneath. Add to that the IDW accurate Chuckles, a ton of great gear, and you have a “Battle in a Box” that is exceptionally entertaining and fun.