GeneralsJoes Wraps the 2016 G.I. Joe Convention Reviews

Whew.  Is everyone as sick of reading these as I am of writing them??

With today’s update, I am officially finished with my written reviews for the 2016 G.I. Joe Convention Set.  While more videos may still be to come, my reviews today of the Sky Sweeper, Skystriker, COBRA Hydra, and JUMP Jet Packs constitutes my last gasp at the written word for Sky Patrol and the G.I. Joe Collectors Club.

Check out these last reviews at the G.I. Joe Collectors Club Review Page or the link below.

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G.I. Joe Convention 2016 Sky Patrol Sky Sweeper

AirborneAirwaveAltitudeDrop ZoneSkydive
Static LineAir DevilBlack VultureFlying ScorpionNight Vulture
Sky CreeperCloudburstSkymateHeli-ViperAir Raid
FreefallSky SweeperSkystrikerHydra w/ Aero ViperJUMP Jet Packs
Con Set Recap

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Not only is the 2016 G.I. Joe Convention “Sky Patrol” themed, but it’s also “Sky Sweeper” themed.  The COBRA Hydra in a former life was a G.I. Joe vehicle called the Sky Sweeper.  Now, we have this Sky Sweeper, which is an update to the original Rise of Cobra vehicle also called the Sky Sweeper.

Confused yet?

The Rise of Cobra Sky Sweeper was one of my favorite vehicles released in that line, which is surprising since it leverages so many elements from the COBRA Firebat.  Obviously the entire core of the vehicle is the Firebat, with the addition of some gun-mount skids and external engines, which honestly make a lot more difference than one might initially suspect.  They take an iconic and unique COBRA vehicle and make it look different enough and cool enough to appear completely separate.

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Ever since I got my first Terror Drome for Christmas in 1986 I’ve been infatuated with the Firebat.  A small, nimble, and potent vehicle, at that time it was one of COBRA’s only real viable air-to-air attack craft.  The Rattler was a bomber (though not really treated as such) and the Night Raven was a high altitude surveillance plane, which left the Firebat controlling the skies.  The fact that it was small enough to comfortably fit my 12 year old hands and the functionality of the Terror Drome launch silo only helped things.  It remains one of my all time favorite vehicles 30 years later.

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It’s no surprise then that the G.I. Joe version, with some added enhancements, retains a good deal of the charm and joy of the old school Firebat.  The rounded, sleek shape, awesome sculpted armor panels and the fold-up wings all remain intact with this vehicle, but some minor tweaks have greatly improved parts of it, too.  Blocky external engines are now mounted on each wing, adding a sense of “oomph” to the vehicle, and in a much more subtle adjustment, sculpted guns on skids enable the vehicle to land more logically and add some great firepower.

Since this is a Sky Patrol version, obviously the main color scheme here is a very vibrant and shiny metallic silver, an especially eye catching and interesting color scheme, balanced off nicely by black trim on the wings and a great shade of olive green throughout.  The Sky Patrol logos break up the blank spaces very nicely and I am always in favor of tampos over decals.  This version of the Sky Sweeper maintains the spring-loaded missile launchers on the wings, but compliments those with the standard Firebat rockets to offset the gimmick (which really doesn’t look all that gimmicky to be honest).

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Speaking of gimmicks, the Collectors Club has fully admitted it was a mere coincidence, but if you wedge the Sky Sweeper between the tail fins of the Sky Striker, it fits in there and holds almost as if it’s meant to.  A neat little touch, an homage to the Sky Patrol Night Raven (even though that plane actually didn’t come with its drone), and a way to tie the two air vehicles together.  Neat!

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The Sky Sweeper is a very fun addition to your Sky Patrol arsenal.  It’s a small vehicle with a very pleasing design aesthetic complimented by equally pleasing and vintage themed Sky Patrol colors.  I really dig it, in fact, I like this vehicle far more than the Skystriker.


G.I. Joe Convention 2016 Cobra Hydra w/ Aero-Viper

AirborneAirwaveAltitudeDrop ZoneSkydive
Static LineAir DevilBlack VultureFlying ScorpionNight Vulture
Sky CreeperCloudburstSkymateHeli-ViperAir Raid
FreefallSky SweeperSkystrikerHydra w/ Aero ViperJUMP Jet Packs
Con Set Recap

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Say what you will about the infamous “new sculpt era” but there really wasn’t much question that the toys developed from 2002 – 2005 were developed with one audience in mind first – the kids.  Yes, if Hasbro could do things to appeal to the collector demographic they would, but by and large, the design focus was really on figures and vehicles that would be exciting for a new generation of fans, and for a little while, it seemed to work.

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The Cobra Hydra is a clear example of ways Hasbro did this right and ways that they did this wrong, and while I’m pretty honestly surprised to see the Collectors Club venturing into the arena of new sculpt vehicles to satisfy their collector demographic, they are at least doing it in an interesting way.

Back in the day, this vehicle was known as the Sky Sweeper, and as most of us should be able to tell, it’s based vaguely on the F-117 Stealth Fighter.  The design of the vehicle is much smaller and a bit blockier than the real world Stealth, with proportions and an overall size that looks woefully out of place.  G.I. Joe vehicles have always, from day one, been pretty compact in their size and scale, however, it’s just that in the case of this particular vehicle that size discrepancy is extremely obvious.  Hasbro tries to make up for this, however, by adding some neat play features, and unlike many collectors, this is a strategy that I appreciate.  While the look and feel of this Cobra Hydra is pretty far from the level of typical 80s greatness that we’re all accustomed to, I can’t help but love the flip out top panels revealing deadly offensive weapons, and the awesome drop-down escape pod/attack jet latched onto the bottom.  These are small additions that add at least some play features to this vehicle.

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The last time we saw this at retail was in 2009, I believe, and it was also called the Cobra Hydra then, released as part of the Rise of Cobra retail line.  It was colored in red and came with a cobbled together Aero-Viper with a healthy infusion of Rise of Cobra aesthetics.  This time around, the Hydra is a very nice shade of Cobra blue, a color that I find strangely appealing, to be honest, even if the foundation vehicle itself is from a questionable era in the line’s history.  I would have to agree with the majority of my collector friends who say that most of the vehicles in the new sculpt era struggled with their aesthetics, but managed at least to leverage some interesting play features.  In the case of the Cobra Hydra, I’m not sure the play features make up for the size and shape of the vehicle…but at least the Aero-Viper has some redeeming qualities.

COBRA AERO-VIPER

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Speaking of the Aero-Viper…

One of my favorite Cobra pilot figures (one I liked far more than the Strato-Viper for sure), the pilot of the Cobra Condor was a great figure back in the day, filled with character and intriguing design.  Aside from the fact that apparently Cobra mandated that all Aero Vipers wear goatees, the figure had a fantastic design aesthetic, awesome looking helmet, and was just really well put together.

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The update in 2009 was… not so much.  They smartly eschewed the bandana/half mask, going with a full mask instead (only Cobra Commander knows if they’re all still wearing goatees under there) and gave him a great new helmet, but the majority of the figure was the Rise of Cobra Neo-Viper base, which wasn’t so hot.

This figure uses the same head, torso, and legs, but switches up the arms, which actually makes the most difference, since it was those weird elbow/forearm pads that really drew people to the questionable design of those new age Cobra Troopers.  With a knife sheath and more slender, well-articulated arms, this Aero-Viper feels like a considerable improvement, even if there are only a few adjusted pieces.

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His color scheme is nice, managing to reflect the vintage look with the distinct green color complimented by the gray, all topped off by the helmet of vibrant gold.  The colors are a bit brighter than the vintage version, and a completely different hue from the Rise of Cobra rendition, much more green and less black.  It’s a decent figure.  The articulation of the Alley-Viper arms is far better than that of the Rise of Cobra Neo-Viper, and the design looks a lot more distinct as well.  Even though it’s a small change, the different arms do make for a nice update, even though it’s tough to tell if its an update worthy of the $85 price tag.

Accessories

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Aero-Viper comes with a removable gold helmet, removable gray vest, removable knife and a pretty neat heavy pistol (the same one that the G.I. Joe: Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper came with).  A relatively small accessory compliment, but a good one, and I like all the removable aspects that have a place to go on the figure itself when he’s piloting the Cobra Hydra.

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This feels like a steep price for a Rise of Cobra era repaint, though the new Aero-Viper arms are certainly a big improvement.  I do like the vibrant blue of the new Hydra attack plane, and if this were a retail item, I might love it a lot more than I do.  As a convention item it doesn’t feel like it delivers the $85 value (especially with collector opinions towards new sculpt vehicles).


G.I. Joe Convention 2016 JUMP Jet Packs

AirborneAirwaveAltitudeDrop ZoneSkydive
Static LineAir DevilBlack VultureFlying ScorpionNight Vulture
Sky CreeperCloudburstSkymateHeli-ViperAir Raid
FreefallSky SweeperSkystrikerHydra w/ Aero ViperJUMP Jet Packs
Con Set Recap

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Like every kid of the 80s who loved G.I. Joe, the JUMP jet packs were pretty much a “must have” back in the day.  Throughout any particular episode of the animated series, characters were using JUMPs as if they were a normal part of every day life (part of the reason why I scoff a bit at anyone who claims G.I. Joe was more “real world military” than fantasy, even back in the 80s).  The design was great, and I had a few of them back then.

In the 25th Anniversary line, Hasbro retrofitted the JUMP jet packs for modern style figures, and we got a few of them released over the years, first with the COBRA Air Troopers, and the scattered throughout some other figures as the line went on.  The combination of the jet pack and the hose/cannon combination has always been a lot of fun.

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So, from that perspective, it makes sense for the Collectors Club to include some of these JUMPs for a set that utilizes a lot of airborne assault troopers.  I think it’s a fine idea.  But the whole bundled 6-pack concept seems to be a bit of overkill.  Essentially there are two 6-packs, one themed for Sky Patrol, one themed for COBRA, and each 6-Pack was around $55.  That definitely feels a bit extreme for what you’re getting, though it is kind of cool having the packs available for the characters in the set.

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Curiously, though, half of the Sky Patrol members come with their own jet packs anyway, so I’m not sure why they’d need a second one to go along with it.  On the COBRA side, I’m not entirely sure who these jet packs are for, but they do have a cool Crimson Guard type deco that can work for many different air specialists.

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Ultimately, the jet packs are neat items, and cool compliments for the Convention figures, but I’m not sure they’re entirely worth the price of admission.


G.I. Joe Convention 2016 Sky Patrol Skystriker

AirborneAirwaveAltitudeDrop ZoneSkydive
Static LineAir DevilBlack VultureFlying ScorpionNight Vulture
Sky CreeperCloudburstSkymateHeli-ViperAir Raid
FreefallSky SweeperSkystrikerHydra w/ Aero ViperJUMP Jet Packs
Con Set Recap

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I still remember when the launch of the Skystriker during the 30th Anniversary line was considered a monumental event, something to be celebrated and cheered from the rooftops, and to be fair, it was a pretty damn awesome event.  The first new iteration of G.I. Joe’s flagship aircraft was a pretty major thing, and Hasbro knocked it out of the park.

However, it’s been a few years since then…a few years and more than a few more Skystrikers.  In fact since its debut in 2011, we have seen this vehicle used as Starscream & Jetfire, used by the Collectors Club as a Night Boomer, and used in the 50th Anniversary as the Wolf Squad Sky Striker and as the Cobra Scythe.  So yes, since this vehicle’s debut 5 years ago, this is the 7th iteration of the Sky Striker.

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Is that a good thing or a bad thing?  The vehicle is awesome.  It continues to be a great update to the classic vehicle, but especially when you’re looking at a price tag north of $150 you can’t help but wonder how much “new” is here, and is it worth the steep price.  I know throughout many of these reviews I will reference “cost” and “value” because that’s a tough thing to get away from.  I think many will agree that purely from a design and execution standpoint, much of what the Collectors Club does is very good, but at Convention prices (which could be justified due to low production runs) you need to consider such things as what you get for your money.

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Just from a design standpoint, the Sky Patrol Skystriker is a heck of a cool vehicle.  The metal surface isn’t chrome like the old school Sky Patrol vehicles (a limitation due to environmental hazards according to the G.I. Joe Collectors Club) but the polished shine of the metal paint is pretty impressive and does a great job almost approximating the same silver look.

For whatever reason I find the silver color exceedingly appealing, even though I was never deep into Sky Patrol as a kid (not the vehicles, anyway, I LOVED the figures).  It’s polished, shiny surface really draws the attention, and the dark tampos on the plane contrast really nicely, giving you a vehicle that looks sharp, clean, and very nice.

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Like the previous versions of this venerable vehicle, the missiles work well, and stay on a bit better than some of those first released versions of this plane.  It’s only a single-seater like every other one is (but I’m totally okay with that) and has the same swing-wing functionality.  It’s a really nice plane that unfortunately does suffer somewhat from a lack of excitement due to the fact that so many iterations of this vehicle have come and gone in the five years since its initial release.

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That being said, for Sky Patrol fans, this is a nice addition to your vintage line up, even if it’s not quite as shiny as its predecessors.