Pathfinder (Figure Subscription Service)

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I can’t quite explain why, but in my younger years, I couldn’t quite get my head around 1990.  Where the years leading up to then were a mixture of classic characters and new blood, the main line in 1990 was new blood soup-to-nuts.  Being someone that appreciates new characters now, I’m surprised that my younger self didn’t embrace that fact, but for some reason I didn’t.

It’s only now, over two decades later, that I recognize 1990 as perhaps being a “soft reboot” of sorts, giving us a whole series of new characters and taking play to a different level with many smaller, more intricate accessories making these figures unique.  Pretty much every single figure in that 1990 line came with elaborate and well detailed accessories that really enhanced the play value.  From Stretcher’s air sled to Bullhorn’s take-apart sniper rifle, not to mention Ambush’s camouflage tent and Topside’s backpack mortar launcher.  Pathfinder was no different, coming equipped with two hip-mounted heavy machine guns as well as a full blown weed whacker.  While parts and tooling restrictions made it so we couldn’t get the hip-guns with a modern release, I’m happy to say the updated Pathfinder is ready to go, weed whacker and all!

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The figure has Lifeline’s existing head sculpt, which matches the look of the original figure, and the removable hat does an okay job of replicating that look, too.  To copy the brim fold of the original figure, the hat is positioned in a way that doesn’t stay on the figure’s head very well.  Once I swapped the hat around it actually fit a lot better, though that small piece of vintage accuracy is lost.  I think I can live with that.

Pathfinder uses Kwinn’s torso and arms, which are a great choice, as they pretty accurately mimic the original, but are newer construction, offering very good range of motion.  If I have any complaints, the somewhat tight hand grip doesn’t fit the handle of the machine gun very well, but you can work with it.

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His legs are from the G.I. Joe: Retaliation era and also are excellently sculpted, with some great baggy effects, though the more I see these legs used, the more annoyed I get with the weird rocker ankles.  They end up pretty stiff and difficult to pose, and the footholes are becoming an increasing issue on existing battle stands.  This figure isn’t nearly as bad as the Night Creeper was with the last installment, but it can still be somewhat difficult to get him to stand.

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Paint deco is pretty fantastic.  Straight black on the upper body, and the camouflage pattern and colors on the legs are pretty close to spot on perfect.  Great articulation, effective parts choices, and the base figure for Pathfinder is excellent.

Accessories

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As we’re used to with the 1990 era Joe characters, Pathfinder comes pretty well equipped.  A couple of his accessories are pulled from the Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Strike Duke, which I’m completely cool with, including his backpack and flashlight.  He has a great pistol for the holster at his hip, a gray colored heavy machine gun, inspired by the original’s hip mounted weapons.  His removable hat works moderately well, and the removable vest does as well.  The plastic is a bit stiff, which makes the vest a challenge to remove, but it’s not insurmountable and the end result is a figure that looks much more like his vintage counterpart.

Of course the focal point here is the weed whacker, and I’m happy to say it fits his hands well, looks pretty nice, and ends up being a cool finishing touch to the figure.  If given a choice between the hip-guns and the weed whacker, I probably would have chosen the hip-guns, but I can understand the Club not being able to retool a piece (or a belt) to make that work.

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All in all, Pathfinder is a very effective figure.  The paint work is really nicely done, and he’s got a good number of fun accessories.  A pretty great installment for the FSS 4.0.

Jammer (Figure Subscription Service)

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Any day we get a modern update to our favorite European special missions force is a good day, and I’m a pretty big fan of Jammer.  Even back in the 80s, Jammer was a barely repaint of the original Stalker, essentially a slightly different shade of color with the trusty Zed Force logo in red on his chest as well as a red beret.

When the Club revisited the whole Action Force/Red Shadows conflict in the Convention set in 2010, we saw another update to Jammer, this time using the Comic Pack Stalker formula (o-ring version).  Now, for this final iteration of the infamous Zed Force Communications Specialist we get much the same, though with some interesting twists.  His head sculpt is from the Convention Tiger Force Stalker, which is nice for folks who might not have that figure yet (and it certainly helps that the head sculpt kicks all sorts of ass).  The torso is from the 25th Anniversary, which is a bit of an oddchoice, in my mind, as it makes the figure look somewhat short and misproportioned, and the torso is visibly less detailed than the rest of the figure.  I understand why they made that choice, to tie him into the vintage “original 13” aesthetic, but I would have loved to have seen something a bit different.

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His legs are the updated “Original 13” legs that were seen with Attack on COBRA Island Zap and the discount store Duke, which is a cool enough choice and fits the theme.  His arms are more modern, large and baggy with the updated wrist joints, which is all well and good, except they somewhat add to the misproportioned look, making the figure look somewhat top heavy and creating a mis-match between the exceedingly wrinkled arms and smooth torso.  As much as I love the Pursuit of COBRA Shock Trooper arms, I can’t help but think they don’t jive 100% with the rest of the figure here.  I am glad to see the increased articulation, though perhaps if the Club had used the Shock Trooper torso, the flow would have been a little better.

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Where this figure does really shine, however, is with the paint applications.  The shade of green and black is fantastic and fits well with the Zed Force look and feel.  The “streak” pattern of the black camouflage is exceptionally well done, and I love the striking color of red in the logo and the beret.  Great to see the Union Jack on his right shoulder, too, which blends him well with Quarrel, Big Ben and Blades, who both had that distinct patch on their uniforms as well.  Great touch.

ACCESSORIES

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Jammer comes with a removable beret and the same chest strap that Zap and the Duke came with, which is a departure from the vintage version, who shared the same torso as Stalker with the double-strap webgear.  I don’t mind the change, as this webgear fits the contour of the chest well and is detailed nicely, however it also covers up a big chunk of the great Z logo on his chest, which is a bit unfortunate.  I have to admit, though, that older 25th Anniversary double strap webgear does look a little dated.

He’s got Dial Tone’s backpack, which fits the communications theme as well as a nice machine gun and two holsters.  A nice touch is that one holster contains the traditional pistol you’d expect, but the other holster holds a smaller mobile phone to fit in with the communications motif.  Unfortunately the peg on Dial Tone’s backpack is a little on the large side, and doesn’t fit real seamlessly into his back hole.  You can generally rotate it and get it to sink in, but I’d be concerned about wear and tear on the peg of the backpack long term.

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When it comes to a figure trying to resemble the original 13 look, generally I love using that Zap template.  It retains the vintage look but with slightly more modern sculpting, and I am in love with the twin holsters and removable pistols.  Unfortunately, while I completely applaud the choice to use more modern arms for the enhanced range of motion, it does look a little off compared to the rest of the figure in a way that my eyes can’t quite reconcile.

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Jammer has great accessories, I’m a big fan of the character, and the paint apps are pretty terrific as well.  Overall, I approve of the figure in most ways, I just wish the parts formula looked a little bit more consistent and uniform.

Night Creeper (Figure Subscription Service)

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I loves me some Night Creepers!  Even with the strange purple and gray camouflage of the vintage versions, I always really dug the overall look and concept of the Night Creepers.  Ninja assassins and saboteurs who leveraged next generation technology was always a really awesome concept, and Larry Hama executed it pretty nicely in the Marvel Comics throughout the 90’s.  The way the legs were somewhat thick but still moved really nicely, as well as the elbows on those classic o-ring figures just made the toys felt really “natural” for me and made the figures really easy to play with, which was important back in the day.  More modern repaints (specifically the COBRA Urban Strike Force version) made me love the figure even more, especially because the softer plastic for the hands made the thumbs a lot less breakable.  And before anyone says anything, no I don’t really consider the Rise of Cobra Night Creeper to be a proper “Urban Strike” repaint.

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When Hasbro revealed an updated build for the much maligned 25th Anniversary Night Creeper at JoeCon a number of years ago, I was pretty ecstatic.  I wasn’t wild about the COBRA Island 7-Pack version with those dated 25th Anniversary parts, and the more modernized parts combination was fantastic.

The Collectors Club seemed to take a page from that book, but instead of giving us just a new classic looking (or even better, an Urban Strike version!) they used the parts combo as a modern interpretation of the 1998 Toys “R” Us exclusive Arctic 3-Pack.  I’m pretty sure I could count the number of fans who wanted a modern update to that figure on one hand, but as a devout fan of the Night Creepers in general, I’m pretty happy to see any iteration of that figure in modern format.

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Replacing some of those dated parts with limbs from the Wave 1 G.I. Joe: Retaliation Storm Shadow makes a world of difference, giving us a more modern iteration of the arctic Night Creeper with parts that are better sculpted, larger, and have far better range of motion.  The seamless integration of martial arts and technology lives on in these Storm Shadow parts and suits the Night Creeper to perfection.  I am a big fan of this updated parts recipe, that is for sure.

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Looking at the deco of the figure, he certainly resembles the arctic 3-Pack version from 1998, and from a cost perspective, I suppose I can see why the Club went that way.  By eliminating paint masks for elaborate camouflage, they can bring costs down, fitting this figure better within their constricted budget.  If money were no factor, I would have much rather preferred an updated vintage deco Night Creeper or the Urban Strike.

ACCESSORIES

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The COBRA Night Creeper comes with a decent set of accessories, including a crossbow and the trademark wavy sword that initially came with the vintage figure.  He’s got a modern version of the Night Creeper backpack as well as the shoulder cape that originally came with the Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper.  Somewhat strange is that he cannot wear the cape and the backpack at the same time, so you have to pick and choose one or the other.  While the cape does have the backpack hole, the peg of the backpack isn’t quite long enough to accommodate for it. He also has the familiar head dress and chest armor that we’ve been getting on versions of the Night Creeper since the COBRA Island set.

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I love the Night Creeper.  I don’t necessarily love the arctic version of him, and desperately wish the Club had found a way to use this much improved parts combination on a figure with a somewhat more exciting deco.  Even as this figure stands, he’s got a great selection of parts and decent accessories, and is a fun figure overall.  I just wish his paint scheme was a bit more exciting.

Here is my YouTube review of the figure as well:

Barricade (Figure Subscription Service)

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While many a G.I. Joe fan will bemoan the Battle Corps era for its outlandish colors, spring-loaded weapons and plethora of sub teams, I remained quite interested in G.I. Joe even through those somewhat strange years.

It’s nice to see the Collectors Club pay some attention to the Battle Corps years within the Figure Subscription Service, though I have to admit, somewhat begrudgingly, that the execution leaves a little to be desired.

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Back in the day, Barricade was a “Bunker Buster” soldier, the guy who broke down the doors, took volleys of gunfire, but led the rest of the team into the breach.  The vintage version of the figure was very large and blocky, yet managed to maintain the great range of motion of those classic o-ring figures, a combination that I really loved, even if some of the colors of the time were questionable.

This version of Barricade seems to want to continue that philosophy, but ends up looking more cybernetic than armored (likely a result of a lack of parts choices that fit the aesthetic well).  Using parts from the Rise of Cobra Accelerator Suit figures, the parts are exceptionally well sculpted and have great articulation, and from a pure visual perspective, the figure parts look outstanding.  Instead of the Accelerator Suit arms, the Club went with Battle Armor Cobra Commander arms, which is a little unfortunate, as the elbows aren’t quite as flexible as some others, and the arms end up looking just a little “stumpy”.  They’re also pretty distinct for Cobra Commander and it’s tough to see them utilized in a different way.

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The head sculpt here is a re-use of the 25th Anniversary Chuckles  Rise of Cobra “Aqua Viper Officer” which has been used here and there (I believe it was also Dice’s head sculpt) but it works okay as a generic head that doesn’t look too much like anyone else.

In the past, the Club has had a tendency to take really bright figures and mute their colors somewhat for a more modern release.  Barricade is actually somewhat the opposite.  The blue used is brighter than the vintage version, and even though they added some paint wipe detail to the deco work, the gold ends up looking a little brighter as well.

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As for the paint applications themselves, that’s where I really struggle.  There is a ton of sculpted detail throughout these Accelerator Suit figures, but Barricade himself is just mostly gold with just a few hints of the blue.  He could have been much better served with some additional areas of blue deco where there was armor separation, even if it didn’t completely match the vintage paint masks.  Looking at Barricade from the front, it just looks like there’s way too much gold, and they don’t quite capture the “metallic” look of the original.

ACCESSORIES

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One thing I have to give the Club some props on with Barricade are the accessories.  The figure gets a nice spring-loaded grappling hook launcher, a great shotgun, very nice submachine gun, removable pistol and helmet, as well as a really cool breacher tool/battle axe.  There’s a lot of gear here, and a lot of it looks really great.  I love the blue pistol, even if it does look somewhat futuristic (either that or it’s some kind of taser).  Regardless, I really like the blocky barrel and how well it fits in the holster, even though the holster really struggles to stay flush with the leg.

He’s got the Accelerator Suit helmet which doesn’t jive real well with the original look of Barricade, but it’s still a neat helmet that I really like the design of.

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Barricade has been one of my favorite characters and vintage figures, and I was really excited to hear the Club was bringing him into FSS 4.0.  Unfortunately the end result isn’t quite as good as I hoped it would be.

Check out the YouTube video review below!

Law & Order (Figure Subscription Service)

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Any day that I’m sitting down to review a G.I. Joe figure is a very good day. Heaven knows, those days feel pretty few and far between these days, and with rumors abound that the G.I. Joe Collectors Club may be losing the license after 2016, I shudder to think what the outlook will be next year at this time.

Regardless of the depressing part of this review, I was ecstatic to see my FSS 4.0 figures arrive today! That could be because I’ve been without new G.I. Joe figures for so long that this is like a cool glass of water in a desert, but actually, the figures themselves are pretty nice.

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First one up is Law, a figure build that should be very familiar to anyone who collected the 30th Anniversary figures, because it uses the same parts, from head to toe. The main structural difference here is that he’s wearing the 25th Anniversary Wild Bill vest to better mirror his vintage ’87 look than the tactical vest the 30th Anniversary/Renegades version wore.

I love the use of modern parts. Renegades Duke was a tragically unsung figure during that same era, with some simple parts that looked relatively generic, yet had fantastic articulation and range of motion. Really happy to see those parts used here, giving this figure a great look and feel.

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On top of those modern parts, Law has a much more vintage themed paint scheme with the olive green pants, red shirt, and blue vest, all topped off with the white helmet. The colors don’t perfectly match the vintage, but taking into account the modern construction, they do a pretty good job of approximating what an update would look like. The result is a modernized version of this character that looks much more in line with his ’87 look, and thus fits in better with his peers from that era.

Now, obviously the vest doesn’t have a sculpted badge, so the Club approximates it with a tempo to mixed success.  Still, I suppose I have to admire their effort to get things as accurate as possible.

ACCESSORIES

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Law comes with a relatively basic accessory load out, similar to what he came with in the 80s, including an Uzi, helmet, and the pistol  that comes default any time these legs are used. He also comes with his trusty Order, a very nicely decoed version of his familiar German Shepard.  It should be noted that Law does not come with the silencer that is typically seen alongside this pistol.  According to the GIJCC there were some factory production issues and the silencer was omitted from every figure.  Considering I have about 32 of these silencers kicking around, I don’t consider that a huge loss.

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This figure isn’t ground breaking in any particular way, but it uses an extremely effective modern parts template with the right combination of vintage colors, giving folks a nice update to Law. Heck, the 30th Anniversary version isn’t all that easy/cheap to come across at this point either, so this kills two birds with one stone. Nicely done on this one.

I have also done a YouTube video review for this figure.  You can check that out below:

Nunchuk (Figure Subscription Service)

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YAY Ninja Force!

As a kid in the late 80s, early 90s, ninjas were pretty much the be all, end all. My first ever exposure to the term “ninja” was with Storm Shadow, and that opened these doors for me into great films and stories throughout the next decade.

Ninja Force, first released in 91 felt like it kind of came on the tail end of the ninja craze, but it had some spectacular, somewhat outlandish designs that worked really well with the 90s era of G.I. Joe.

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Unfortunately many of those figures were hampered by spring-loaded action features that either ruined the aesthetics, or wrecked the play value of the figure. Thankfully the G.I. Joe Collectors Club has been making an effort in recent years to fix some of those mistakes.

Slice, Dice, and TJBang are a few of their modern revisits, and each one has been a very successful take on these colorful characters. Nunchuk is much the same.

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Using modern parts like Airtight’s legs, with 30th Anniversary Storm Shadow’s torso and arms, they’ve cobbled together a pretty effective Nunchuk update, who has the right ninja/martial arts elements, but also is more of a combat based figure, too. He’s got terrific articulation, and the use of modern parts means the sculpting and overall design of the figure is really great.

I will say I’m not real wild about the decision to just use the clunky mask from the Training Storm Shadow. I’m not sure what existing alternative could have been selected, but this doesn’t look a whole lot like Nunchuk from that perspective. Also, the singular Storm Shadow chest strap makes the figure look a little empty in the torso, too. Again, not sure what else could have been used, but this doesn’t feel like quite the right formula, and it’s not even vintage accurate.

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The color scheme is good, using the familiar green uniform with black tiger stripe camouflage, with black wrists and boots. It’s a good look and a very nice update to the original.

ACCESSORIES

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As one might suspect, Nunchuk comes with… nunchuks. As well as a pair of swords, sais, and the darts that Storm Shadow came with. He has the sheath on his back from the Storm Shadow strap, and that about covers is. Pretty straight forward accessories that work fine, though part of me would have loved for him to come with a crazy scimitar looking thing like the original did.

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Simply from the new parts and modern construction, I consider this figure a win, even though there are some cosmetic changes I would have recommended. The head and webgear are two changes that could have made a big difference, but even as it stands, I’m excited about a Ninja Force update and Nunchuk is a cool addition to the FSS. Now I need me some Dojo, Snake Eyes, and Scarlett! At the very least!

I’ve also done a video review of this figure on YouTube!  Check out that video review below:

Top 10 G.I. Joe Toys of 2015

The last couple of years as I sat down to write this up, I think ‘oh, this will be easy this year…there was barely any product’!

Then I go through all of my reviews over the past 12 months and realize that for a line that is supposedly on prolonged life support, we still got some GREAT stuff in 2015. Really great stuff.

Now, I migrated to a new review system in 2015, one that makes calculating review scores a bit more granular. But, I’ll be honest… I still went by the seat of my pants on this rundown, and looked at these figures from the perspective of a 100 mile view. It can be tough to write up a review “hot off the presses” right when I get a figure in hand, because honestly, that’s often when I’m in love the most. It can be tough to be impartial that close to the newness of that toy for the first time.

So I whittled down the list and ultimately looked at figures that I could step away from for a little while and gauge my appreciation.

The results are after the break.

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Top 10 G.I. Joe News Stories of 2015

At any given time throughout 2015 it felt like a pretty slow news year for G.I. Joe, but as always, when you stop and look back, suddenly things don’t look quite so small.

Granted G.I. Joe product at retail was pretty much focused to a singular burst in late summer as the 50th Anniversary exploded, then faded, even though we got Convention product and FSS figures earlier in the year. With all that being said, it still feels like there were plenty of “banner moments” in G.I. Joe news for the year that was.

News was breaking right up until the last moment, and I’m actually a bit worried that if I post this prior to December 31st I might end up missing something!

Click the “read more” link below to check out the full list!

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Kindle Worlds Fan Vote figures – let your voices be heard

One thing that has been abundantly clear throughout the process of the fan vote for the Kindle Worlds character to be made into a figure is that the G.I. Joe community is starved for new characters and there seems to be a lot of support towards getting all four of the Kindle Worlds figures made.

For obvious reasons, I think I speak for myself, Troy, and Jim when I say we are 110% behind this idea!

Bill has started a thread over on HISSTank.com about this topic and will be collecting information from folks who might want to send their support directly to Hasbro.  Please check the thread and let your voices be heard!

Bill has suggested collecting actual, physical letters since that tends to have more impact than Internet discussions, and I find it hard to disagree.  Bill has kindly offered up his mailing address to collect the letters, but for obvious reasons I won’t post it here.

If you need his address and cannot get on the HISSTank thread for whatever reason, please e-mail me at justin AT generalsjoes.com with the word “kindle” in the subject line and I’ll make sure we can get Bill’s address to you.

I can’t thank everyone for all their kind words and support throughout this process, and even though Whisper didn’t win, this has been a fun experience and I’ve appreciated getting to know the fellow Kindle World authors.

Thanks!

Who is Whisper, and where does she fit in the G.I. Joe world?

As the deadline for the Hasbro Pulse fan vote nears (tomorrow, November 9th) the question remains…which of these four characters will get the green light, and where do they fit in the G.I. Joe mythology.  The other three writers have done a great job jiving their creators with an overall timeline, but as I look towards the future, in the event that Whisper actually wins, I want to plan not just where she’s been, but where she will be going.

For anyone who follows my dio-stories, you know that “universe” more or less wrapped up this past year with Darkness Falls.  If Whisper wins the Fan Vote, I have already developed a follow up that Darkness Falls Dio-Story that I will be excited to launch!

The following contains spoilers to Darkness Falls, so if you haven’t read that yet, you may want to before continuing…

“Rescued” by COBRA from a South American fishing village after the entire village was massacred (see Marvel’s G.I. Joe #1), Whisper was brought in and raised by COBRA Commander as his own personal assassin.  Trained by the elite of COBRA operatives, Whisper learned martial arts, silenced weapons, sabotage, covert operations, and disguise by some of the most talented masters in the world.  Then employed those skills in sinister fashion for COBRA (as seen in The Price of Peace trilogy).

Time has passed…

The decades long battle between G.I. Joe and Cobra has more or less ended.  Casualties on both sides.  COBRA Commander as we know him is dead, as are Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.  Scarlett has retreated to the cabin in the Sierra Nevadas to raise her son Tommy and the world feels a little bit safer.

But the battle is not over.  Whisper has returned, and has returned to find her father dead and her support system decimated.  With only her blinding hate of G.I. Joe to guide and feed her, Whisper prepares for a massive campaign of revenge on former G.I. Joe leadership.  Meanwhile, the remnants of the COBRA organization have come together to form The Coil, a sinister underground devoted to furthering the COBRA cause.  But they may hit some resistance as a new and improved COBRA Commander comes on the scene…

I plan to use Whisper to kick start a new generation of G.I. Joe, focusing pretty strongly on the Pursuit of COBRA aesthetic.  While my old dio-story used a lot of those figures, this new universe will take that concept and run with it.

So, please consider voting for Whisper, and we can all experience this fun new world together!  You could also expect to see her show back up in my Kindle Worlds work as well.

Meanwhile, definitely check out all of the other creators behind their own Hasbro Fan Vote creations as well.  Lots of good stuff there.

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