I could spend hours extolling the virtues of Duke as a character, but let’s face it, after over 50 different versions of the character, almost everything that could possibly be said about Duke has been said. While there isn’t a whole lot of new ground to cover when it comes to Duke the character, it’s interesting to look at this particular Duke action figure.
After the original 50th Anniversary run, there were rumblings among the fandom asking why we couldn’t get an updated version of Duke similar to Flint that we got in 2014. It was something that many folks asked for, in spite of the numerous versions of the character we’d already seen, because interestingly, Hasbro has never really done a modern update (past the questionable 25th Anniversary versions) that tied directly back to the vintage look.
Well, in 2016 Hasbro does a little bit of both, but I’m not certain the figure is better off for it.
While they certainly mirror the vintage look of the figure from a color perspective, Hasbro elects to modernize the figure with a bulkier, almost arctic looking uniform (using components from the Data Viper). The range of motion and articulation is really great, though the choice of different parts than, say the 2014 Flint does raise some eyebrows. Duke’s legs are from the G.I. Joe: Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper, though thankfully seems to have deeper foot holes that fit in the pegs better than some other figures that have shared these parts.
From a color scheme perspective, Duke obviously pulls homage from the 1983 version, but is cast in a strangely bright hue, his shirt looking much more vibrant (and thus a little less realistic) and his pants a deeper, richer green.
All in all, Duke definitely has the look of the character, though the colors don’t quite jive with a more realistic looking version of the figure. The sculpting and articulation are both really good, thanks to more modern figure components, but they look like a more arctic version of the figure. Also, for whatever its worth, once you take off Duke’s vest, his torso is from Rise of COBRA Breaker and looks really skinny next to the baggy cloth of the arms.
Duke comes with a wide array of cool weapons, though none of them especially stand point. He’s got a familiar machine gun and pistol, the green Shock Trooper tactical vest, smaller M249 heavy machine gun. He also has a green backpack. Pretty traditional looking weapons assortment that works fine, though isn’t especially remarkable.
Duke is one of the timeless characters of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero lore. Rather than go full bore vintage, Hasbro uses some vintage homages with some new twists, which generally I’m a fan of, though in this case it doesn’t work especially well. It’s a decent looking figure, but doesn’t bring a whole lot of new elements to the table, which feels necessary for yet another version of this character. Either go full vintage or go full on new, this walking the line in between isn’t especially effective.
Interestingly, in stark contrast to the other figure in this two-pack, rather than a long time established character with over 50 separate iterations, Tombstone is a brand spanking new character, something very much appreciated by this long time fan.
But is this being a new character enough to wow a discriminating collector?
Along with being a new character, Tombstone also has a great new head sculpt full of character. He’s a former COBRA trooper who has been through the wringer, and that’s immediately evident with one look at his face. The sculpt is good to boot. Looking at the figure build, it’s a decent one, with the G.I. Joe: Retaliation Snake Eyes arms, which I’m always a fan of and the Pursuit of COBRA Firefly legs. The result is a pretty skinny, but flexible figure, a character that looks especially lanky buried underneath the long and heavily armored tactical vest from Firefly.
Obviously the shining point of the figure is with the new head, and the new head is pretty great and pretty gnarly with a nasty scar over his right eye making the character look like he’s seen some stuff. It’s a really neat “battle worn” look for sure. One thing Hasbro does a good job with in looking at the part selection is the range of motion is great. Long limbs and non-restrictive joints means the figure can achieve all sorts of great firing positions, which is a nice effect of the way the figure was built.
There’s a healthy run of purple and black throughout the figure, which leaves it nicely dark, but with some interesting colors, though I’m really not sure what’s up with the stark white shoulder armor. It’s not an especially realistic color and it stands out in distinct contrast to the rest of the dark figure. It’s not a bad look, just a bit on the odd side.
The backstory for Tombstone is certainly interesting, as a psychological operations guy who is now essentially the field commander for the COBRA Viper corps. It gives him some intriguing twists and lends some credence to his strange accessory compliment. The figure itself aesthetically looks decent, but doesn’t quite come together in all areas with some off color combinations and very lanky parts selection. That being said, he’s a figure that even with existing parts manages to stand out from the crowd, which is a good thing.
I’m not really sure what to make of Tombstone’s accessories other than to assume, they were more or less randomly chosen without a clear indication of purpose. He’s got a great assault rifle, but then comes with the old school gas grenade launcher alongside futuristic laser weapons. It’s possible these are meant to be some kind of state of the art pyschosis weapons to go along with his psychological warfare specialty, but that’s not clearly stated anywhere. The weapons are fine, they’re just kind of there.
I’m always a fan of new characters and great new head sculpts and Tombstone has both of these, which gives him a major edge in my book. Some of the construction choices leave me scratching my head a bit and the color combinations are interesting. The newness of the character and head, however, overcome some of those design choices and leave me with a sense of satisfaction with the figure.