GeneralsJoes Reviews SDCC 50th Anniversary “Desert Duel” Exclusive

Initially offered through San Diego ComicCon, and then available via ToysRUs.com, the “Desert Duel” set has a nice helping of some cool new stuff as well as repaints of existing figures.

I’ve broken the review up into two different parts, the G.I. Joe and the Cobra side.  You can check out the 50th Anniversary Review Page, or click the direct links below.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Boxed-Set (20)

ComicCon Exclusive Desert Duel G.I. Joe FOE Striker w/ Chuckles & Night Fox

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-FOE-Striker (34)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-FOE-Striker (24)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-FOE-Striker (19)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-FOE-Striker (42)

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.

CHUCKLES

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Chuckles (13) ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Chuckles (11)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Chuckles (12)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Chuckles (8)

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.

Accessories

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Chuckles (10)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Chuckles (9)

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.

NIGHT FOX

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Night-Fox (18) ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Night-Fox (16)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Night-Fox (17)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Night-Fox (8)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Night-Fox (11)

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.

Accessories

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Night-Fox (15)

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.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Night-Fox (14)

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.

ComicCon Exclusive Desert Duel Cobra Basilisk w/ Elite Horseman & Air Trooper

To see this set in action, check out the Kindle Worlds Novella Welcome to the Wolf Pack!

According to legend, the Basilisk is a legendary reptile reputed to be king of serpents and said to have the power to cause death with a single glance.  While I’m not sure I see weaponry on this Cobra vehicle that could potentially cause immediate death, I find myself loving the mythological connotations and the name is definitely a great choice for a Cobra vehicle.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Basilisk (18)

I’ve never really been a big fan of the Snowcat, mostly because as an arctic vehicle, it was somewhat pigeon holed into a certain specialty.  Even living in New England most of my life, I preferred my G.I. Joe adventures to be in the jungles or other land-based environments, aside from specific environmental concerns.  For that reason, even though I loved Frostbite, I never gravitated towards the Snowcat a whole lot.  Since its original release, the vehicle has been re-released many times, as a Tiger Force vehicle, as a Street Fighter vehicle, as updated arctic vehicles, and even as a refreshed G.I. Joe HAVOC, but this is the first time it’s been repurposed on the other side of the conflict.  I find myself surprised to say it really works.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Basilisk (12)

The shape and sculpt of the Snowcat certainly looks as if it could be a semi futuristic Cobra themed vehicle, with the halftrack build and ski-based torpedos.  Unlike the vintage Snowcat, this newly tooled version (which on its own has been re-released a few times in the past several years) has a contained spring-loaded rocket launcher rather than the rockets sliding in and barely being held in by a narrow slot.  I actually found the spring-loaded functionality to be a huge improvement and a ton of fun.  Sliding the switch along the rocket launcher, you can either selectively launch one or two rockets, or blast all four of them out in a vicious barrage.  Pretty neat idea.

One thing I really enjoy about this vehicle is the color scheme.  The shade of blue is nice and rich, calling back to Cobra’s origins, but still being really vibrant, and offset nicely by the equally vibrant red and silver.  I’m not sure what the key to good pantone color choices is, but whatever Hasbro designers used, it worked in this case as the colors balance really nicely and look bright and striking.  I’m a bit unsure about the canopy and its lack of transparency (except where the windshield wiper sweeps, which is a bit more see-through than the rest).  With the original Snowcat the “frosted glass” look worked really well, but in this case, the red is almost too opaque and one wonders how the driver can even really see his surroundings.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Basilisk (5)

Curiously, some Basilisks made it out of China in a pre-production format, and it looked like at least some of those had some deco based wear or desert sand on the vehicle armor.  I thought it was a great look, and unfortunately it doesn’t look like that technique was passed along to the final vehicle.  Of course, it’s possible the retail release will have that wear and tear, I’m not sure.  This interesting look appeared in press photos as well, and I was a bit surprised to not see it on the final product.

I would consider the Snowcat a pretty definitive G.I. Joe vehicle, yet this Basilisk repaint works remarkably well, and adds quite a bit of fun to the Cobra armory.  I enjoy the rocket-launching functionality, and for some reason the vehicle appeals more to me as a basic Infantry support vehicle than it did in its arctic capacity.

COBRA ELITE HORSEMAN

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Elite-Horseman (21) ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Elite-Horseman (19)

I’ve been buying into the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero universe for over three decades now, and as such, I always welcome new ideas and new concepts.  That was one thing I really enjoyed about the Pursuit of Cobra.  They managed to produce some great updates to the vintage characters, but also brought some new characters to the table as well.  One of those new characters was the Cobra Crimson Horseman.  The design was really appealing to me back in the day, and the thought of a tank driver also being a highly trained foot soldier was pretty cool.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Elite-Horseman (13)

I never would have considered the fact that Hasbro would deem the Crimson Horsemen worthy of revisiting, but they did as a driver for the Basilisk, and he works nicely.  The choice of blue as the color of an “Elite” branch is interesting, because in every other Cobra rank structure, the red colors are the “elite”.  That being said, the blue on the Elite Horseman is the same vibrant, appealing shade of the Basilisk itself, which ties the figure in nicely and just manages to look really great.  The blue is complimented nicely by black and silver throughout the figure (I’ll admit at least some hints of red would have really made the figure pop) and the overall structure of the figure is good.  Using the Pursuit of Cobra Firefly figure as a base with the Arctic Snake Eyes vest gives us a slim base figure with good articulation, though the range of motion isn’t perfect.  I do wish he could hold his weapon a bit better two-handed, but the somewhat restricted elbows and bulky armored vest both limit that ability.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Elite-Horseman (9)

Along with his base paint scheme, like the regular Crimson Horseman, the Elite version has painted “wear and tear” on the armor.  The results are… well, a bit mixed.  For whatever reason the effect on the Crimson Horseman looks pretty effective and subtle.  This blue repaint ends up looking like some sort of strange tribal markings more than armor scuffs and scrapes, but that’s a minor complaint.

Accessories

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Elite-Horseman (18)

The Elite Horseman doesn’t come with much for gear, unless you count the Basilisk itself.  He has what looks to be a laser gun along with his vest, and the same backpack that came with Firefly, complete with four remote mines.  It’s a fine assortment, though nothing particularly identifiable with the Elite Horseman’s specialty.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Elite-Horseman (17)

I had a pretty good idea that I’d like this figure considering how much I’d enjoyed Firefly and the Crimson Horsemen.  The updated blue paint scheme is very nice and compliments the Basilisk well.  Elite, indeed.

COBRA AIR TROOPER

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Air-Trooper (14) ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Air-Trooper (12)

The G.I. Joe “Desert Duel” set is an interesting one, as technically this version I’m reviewing is exclusive to San Diego ComicCon, though the majority of the set will be released to traditional retail via Toys “R” Us likely in the next few weeks.  What separates this set with the retail version is the great deco box, the slipcase, as well as the addition of the Cobra Air Trooper, which doesn’t come in the retail release.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Air-Trooper (7)

From a character choice perspective, I couldn’t be happier with the choice of an Air Trooper.  As a huge fan of the G.I. Joe: Renegades, any time I get a figure even loosely affiliated with that terrific animated series, I get very happy.  In my opinion, the more Hasbro revisits G.I. Joe: Renegades the better (how’s about a Roadblock, guys?!?!  C’mon here!), although, I have to admit the execution for the Air Trooper leaves a lot to be desired.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Air-Trooper (4)

All of the issues with this Air Trooper are carried forward from the previous version, and they mostly lie in the legs.  This figure uses the 25th Anniversary Ace legs, but with the larger rectangular knee pads of the Cobra Para-Viper.  Unfortunately, the top and bottom halves of the legs don’t fit real well together with the rectangular kneepads and not only can the Air Trooper not really straighten his legs, but he can barely stand.  This is a pretty major issue to me, and a disappointment because the figure is pretty good beyond this drastic misstep.  Hasbro went to great lengths to try and improve the overall look of the Air Trooper, coloring him in a lighter gray with some great hints of red and blue trim.  The blue and red colors are good matches for the Basilisk, and manage to make the figure look more animated, as well, which is great for us Renegades fanatics.

Overall, this figure is better than the original, due to a much improved and more dynamic paint scheme, but the clunky leg construction is disappointing to say the least.

Accessories

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Air-Trooper (11)

Air Trooper doesn’t come with much, just a machine gun, pistol, and his removable flight vest.  They’re fine, but nothing special.

ComicCon-Desert-Duel-Air-Trooper (10)

I’m not entirely sure why the Air Trooper was chosen as a ComicCon exclusive figure for a set that includes no air vehicles.  He’s a nice looking figure aesthetically, but has the same construction issues as the original, which detracts from the improved paint scheme.

Looking at the Cobra side of this boxed set as a whole, I find myself surprised with how much I can embrace and enjoy the Snowcat repurposed as a Cobra Basilisk.  The colors are very nice, and I like the Elite Horseman quite a bit.  While the Air Trooper does impact the set negatively, I think there’s still a lot to enjoy here.

Happy Hasbro Toy Shop Day!

But really, is anything about this day happy?

Today marks the day that Hasbro ComicCon exclusives go on sale on HasbroToyShop.com, and it’s a day that lives in infamy.

Typically these items go on sale around 9:30 – 10:30am Eastern Time, but only the gods of HasbroToyShop themselves can know for sure.

I know in years’ past, folks typically put a search string in for “SDCC” or “ComicCon” and kept hitting refresh to get a head start on when those categories might have product.  I have no idea if this will work, but if you want to give it a shot;

Again, no promises that any of those search algorithms will help…  but it’s wortha  shot.

Just as a reminder – the Desert Duel ComicCon Exclusive set was a joint Toys “R” Us/ComicCon exclusive and will NOT be available on HasbroToyShop. If you’re preparing your F5 fingers today it’ll be for the Crimson Strike set or the Slaughter Marauder/Iron Grenadier Kre-O set.

Gentlemen, start your refreshing!

HasbroToyShop2015

Hasbro G.I. Joe Q & A at ComicCon

During the chaos of San Diego ComicCon, friend of GeneralsJoes Chris Polansky took some time to stop by the  Hasbro booth and spoke with Mark Weber, Derryl DePriest, and John Violette about their roles in the latest iteration of G.I. Joe.  They talk 50th Anniversary, IDW Comics, Kre-O, and all sorts of other topics.  It was a great conversation, which I’ve transcribed below.  Big thanks to Chris for taking the time out of his trip to help out. Enjoy!

Continue reading

GeneralsJoes Reviews the ComicCon Crimson Strike Boxed Set

Last week I posted a review for the ComicCon Kre-O Slaughter Marauders boxed set, and this week I’m following up an exciting SDCC with a review of the exclusive Crimson Strike boxed set with the Cobra Scythe w/ AVAC & Alley-Viper Officer vs. the G.I. Joe CHIMERA w/ Steeler & Grunt.  They’re two pretty fun pieces of a cool looking set that you’ll only find at San Diego ComicCon and HasbroToyShop.

Check out the 50th Anniversary Review Page, or the direct links below.

box-02

ComicCon Exclusive Crimson Strike G.I. Joe CHIMERA w/ Steeler & Grunt

As  I mentioned in my review for the Cobra Scythe, there isn’t necessarily anything new or revolutionary about certain vehicles changing sides, but the way Hasbro has explored it with this year’s extension of the 50th Anniversary line is certainly different than they’ve approached it before.

Hasbro designers and story tellers have apparently built this year’s theme around capturing vehicles, and with the CHIMERA, G.I. Joe may have had their largest coup yet as they take control of Cobra’s trademark HISS Tank, repurposing it as the CHIMERA.  According to the Hasbro presentation at JoeCon, CHIMERA stands for C.aptured H.ISS I.ntegrated M.obile E.nergy R.ail Gun A.dvanced.  I like that they’re working towards anagrams again, that’s pretty neat.

As I mentioned in the Crimson Scythe review, we start off with some spectacular box art, which really helps showcase both toys as well as bring a striking new look to the way these toys are marketed.  It’s very collector oriented and exceptionally well done, and really starts this set off on the right foot.

G.I. JOE CHIMERA

Looking at the CHIMERA, I will admit it’s tough to get excited about a lot of the vehicle, simply because we’ve had the HISS and variations of that vehicle around for 30 years.  That being said, Hasbro went through the trouble of tooling up new twin cannons for it (the aforementioned Rail Guns) and the results are pretty cool.  Hasbro has experimented with other turrets for the HISS Tank in the past, using quad rocket launchers, four-barrel laser guns, and a single large tank barrel, but they’ve only had very mixed success.  The CHIMERA actually does a great job of updating the twin cannon look for the HISS, bringing something new to the table, while still referencing the classic look and succeeding quite nicely.

chimera-01 (21)

Like the HISS we all know and love, the CHIMERA has sloped armor and a sleek design, preferring speed and maneuverability over sheer firepower.  Remember, the HISS has always been the HIGH SPEED SENTRY, meaning a vehicle that’s designed for quickness and not to necessarily be the armored backbone of the Cobra (or G.I. Joe) fleet.  The green color of the HISS is a nice color shade, somewhat generic, but in fitting with the two figures that come with it, not to mention many of the other early G.I. Joe releases.

Where this vehicle shines, however, is the new Rail Guns.  Rather than two somewhat narrow round barrels, the guns here are larger and rectangular with lots of great intricate detail work, and small extending barrels.  They give off a sense of power and manage to take the existing HISS double cannon platform and make it functional with more modern technology.  It’s a great look.

chimera-01 (14)

I will say I had some trouble getting the canopy to stay latched, even without a figure inside, but that could be a one off issue with my CHIMERA, and not something that’s consistent across other releases.

Overall, the CHIMERA is nice.  It’s an appealing looking vehicle with the green colors and the upgraded cannons, even if, at its core, its the same thing we’ve seen a dozen times before.

STEELER

steeler-01steeler-02

When G.I. Joe captures a tank, it makes sense for them to have a tank driver, right?  Steeler fits the bill nicely.

Offsetting the great color scheme of the CHIMERA, Hasbro elects to go back to the early days to bring Steeler and Grunt back to the G.I. Joe fold.  Steeler is a modern retelling of the classic figure, feeling somewhat Pursuit of Cobra/Resolute like.  He has the same head sculpt he’s had since the 25th Anniversary and the Ultimate Firefly torso, which I’m always a fan of.  In fact, his parts are all relatively modern, even up to and including the Retaliation Roadblock legs.  These legs give Steeler a taller stature, which is good, because he’s supposed to be one of the largest and strongest Joe characters, especially from those early days.  Unfortunately those Roadblock legs do not have ankle swivels or double knees, so there’s some articulation limitation there.

steeler-05

In spite of the parts coming from somewhat different body types, the figure stands and moves well, though the plastic continues to feel somewhat light and cheap in comparison to past releases.  At this point it’s likely something we just need to get accustomed to, and as long as it does not impact the functionality and play value of the figure, I’m okay with it.  In Steeler’s case, he appears to stand and move just fine, though his hips are a tad on the loose side.

Honestly, I’m a little surprised at how much I enjoy this figure.  His mix of green and gray colors is balanced really nicely, and even without any webgear, his tall stature and new build does wonders to separate him a bit as a character.  The more I fool with Steeler, the more I start appreciating how simple, straight forward, but fun the figure is.

Accessories

steeler-acc-01

The G.I. Joe tank driver comes with his familiar helmet and visor as well as the G.I. Joe: Resolute Beachhead vest, which is a neat touch.  I’m always a fan of that vest, and it does call back a bit to the Pursuit of Cobra, which featured some very similar looks.  Many of those PoC driver figures were released in somewhat monotone green uniforms with new webgear, and I like that look for some reason.   Steeler fits in with characters like Kickstart and Double Clutch pretty well, and any way I can find to fill in my Pursuit of Cobra display, I’ll jump at the chance,

steeler-04

Along with the helmet and webgear, he comes with some firearms as well, including a pistol and basic machine gun.  I like both weapons quite a bit, he holds them both well, and even when not surrounded by the CHIMERA, I find Steeler to be a really enjoyable new take on the old school character.

GRUNT

grunt-01grunt-02

I’m afraid this figure review may end up sounding an awful lot like Steelers, because I feel much the same way about Grunt as I do his tank driver partner.

One thing Hasbro really put a focus on at the JoeCon presentation was that they wanted to address the issues with the HISS (and thus the CHIMERA) that they always came with a driver, but no gunner.  Well, Hasbro has resolved that here by including Grunt as the CHIMERA gunner, which actually makes a lot of sense.  In the 80s mythology, Grunt was an electrical engineer as well as G.I. Joe’s top Infantry specialist, so when you’re talking about next generation technology like a Rail Gun, it makes some sense to get an engineer behind the controls.

grunt-11

Like Steeler, Grunt is made up from existing parts, all relatively later generation.  He has the always huge Resolute Duke legs, which helps bring him into the Pursuit of  Cobra roster like I mentioned before.  I’m not a huge fan of the legs as time has gone on, and the softer plastic means Grunt’s hips are actually really loose.  Seriously, my Grunt even has some issues just maintaining a normal standing pose.

Beyond the legs, though, the torso and arms are pretty standard choices but work nicely.  Like Steeler, I really love the green and gray base colors throughout the figure, I find the hue really appealing, and they are offset nicely by the black webgear.  Without any of his gear, Grunt is actually a great basic figure, just like Steeler, a fact that truly surprised me once I got him in hand.

Accessories

grunt-acc-01

Grunt has a great helmet with flip-down night vision goggles, perfect for an Infantry specialist, as well as an excellent machine gun and pistol.  He comes with the MARS Trooper’s webgear, which is unfortunate, as it’s some of my least favorite webgear since 2009.  The way the straps space out and the funky pouches on one side just doesn’t look good, and this great basic figure deserves better.  Thankfully, I have plenty of alternate pieces of black webgear I can try out until I find one I like.

grunt-04

Grunt uses a similar formula as Steeler, but is a bit less successful, mostly due to those too wide, somewhat bland G.I. Joe: Resolute legs that don’t jive real well with the rest of this figure, or other figures as a whole.  The loose hips don’t help a whole lot either.  Beyond that, though, Grunt is a pretty fun update with some interesting, if somewhat formulaic traits.

Okay, consider me surprised.

I’m not afraid to say I was a bit underwhelmed with the product showing from Hasbro, but my first in hand experience has been a good one.  The CHIMERA is a small, but very fun little vehicle, and the two G.I. Joe figures have impressed me in spite of their somewhat soft plastic and generic paint deco’s.  As a package, when you consider the excellent painted mural packaging, this is a really nice combined set.  I’m not sure I’ll end up liking it as much as the other set, but it’s still provided some real fun during this review.  I’m sure some of that is due to the fact that it’s the first retail Joe product I’ve gotten my hands on in 2015, and also because there are actually some new concepts in here rather than vintage rehashes.  Whatever the reason, I was expecting ho hum, and I ended up pretty darn happy, I have to admit.

ComicCon Exclusive Crimson Strike Cobra Scythe w/ AVAC & Alley Viper Officer

If there’s anything I’ve written about time and time again over the past couple of years it’s that I’m ready for something new. Getting new versions of old figures has its appeal for a certain time, but I feel like that time is kind of growing thin and we need to look towards the future for the viability of the G.I. Joe brand.

With that in mind, this latest iteration of the G.I. Joe: 50th Anniversary line (yes, this qualifies as a continuation of that line, just like the 25th Anniversary line lasted 2.5 years back in the day) injects a small element of newness into a lot of the same old formula. The Crimson Strike set especially seems to follow that design.

First and foremost, the packaging is pretty fantastic. A bullet hole ridden slip cover slides off to reveal one of the nicest pieces of G.I. Joe related art that I’ve seen in a very long time. It perfectly captures the look and energy of the toys inside, but manages to be an appealing piece of art all at the same time. A truly great work by Hasbro and whatever artist they commissioned to do this work.

Once you get inside, you see what Hasbro was talking about when they mentioned a “twist” to the G.I. Joe philosophy, taking captured vehicles and spinning them to the opposite side. Some would argue that this isn’t much of a twist, especially when looking at Tiger Force back in the 80s, and Sky Patrol in the 90s, both of which had that element to them. That being said, the opposite side vehicles have their own appeal beyond just being swapped around.

COBRA SCYTHE

It’s hard to remember a time when the Skystriker was the “be all end all” of G.I. Joe vehicles. The only one I had as a kid was a used and abused ’83 original that I had traded a friend of mine for. It was missing both seats and half the missiles, and the stickers were worn and frayed, but I loved it and played with it endlessly. As I reached adulthood one of the first “major” purchases I made from the secondary market was a Skystriker complete with box, for a whopping $30. Now, over the past few years, we’ve received several different Skystrikers, and the appeal has quickly diminished. In fact, from San Diego ComicCon exclusives alone, this is the third Skystriker since Starscream was initially sold in 2011. That being said, even when a vehicle gets repurposed so many times over a certain period of time there are ways to make it desirable. I won’t say making the Skystriker a Cobra vehicle makes it desirable, but giving it a striking new paint scheme certainly helps.

scythe-01

The Scythe is an electric looking red and silver assault plane that simply looks terrific. The colors are vibrant and exciting, not just in their tone, but also in the snake-themed shape over the surface of the aircraft. It really stands out, and when you’re releasing a vehicle for the fifth time, that’s important. The Scythe succeeds there.

At its core, the vehicle is simply another Skystriker. Unlike the ComicCon Jetfire there are no real added parts or pieces to spark desire, it has all the same tooling as the regular release, but the paint scheme brings it to another great level.

Supplementing a great selection of colors is an array of magnificent decals, which are somewhat imposing upon first glance, but add some life to the vehicle as well, giving the Cobra aircraft a real sense of personality. Decks of cards, snake themed logos, and other trappings take this from being a generic Skystriker repaint to being something pretty new and unique. That being said, I did struggle with some of the decal placement. I’m far from a “sticker master” anyway, and I found a few of the stickers to be confusing and a hassle to try and place.

cobra-scythe (14)

Along with some sticker confusion, I’ve also had some real struggles with the canopy.  On both the CHIMERA and the Scythe it almost feels like the tab isn’t quite big enough to catch on the body, and thus it leaves the canopy floating around a bit, and not able to latch closed, even with nobody inside.  I’ve asked a few other folks who have these sets already, and nobody else has complained about it, so perhaps it’s just mine, but I figured it was worth a mention.

I think many folks will see this Skystriker and immediately associate it with the Crimson Guard. I think that’s certainly the intent. I’m not ready to do that myself. Even now with the rampant crimson themed repaints, I still hold true to the Crimson Guard being a small, select, elite unit, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around that unit having tanks and attack planes. For that reason, I’m not sure exactly where this fits. I kind of find some separation in my G.I. Joe world between “Crimson Guard” and “Crimson Strike” and I think I can find a way to fit this into the “Crimson Strike” category without putting it in the armory of the true Crimson Guard. I have no idea if that makes any sense.

At the end of the day, yes this is another Skystriker and it’s tough to rationalize that, but the paint scheme is exceptionally well done and quite striking, which definitely helps.

COBRA AVAC

avac-01avac-02

The Air Viper Assault Corps figure was one of my all time favorite vintage figures, and for that reason, the 25th Anniversary one has always torqued me off. They took a figure that I consider the highlight of the ’86 run and made him a mish mash of Zartan and HISS Driver, and…well… ick.

I can appreciate what Hasbro is trying to do with bringing the AVAC into this updated series, and as a pilot for the Scythe it makes sense. The part selection is an interesting amalgamation of Crimson Guard and the 25th Anniversary AVAC, and while the build looks great, it doesn’t function especially well. The older 25th Anniversary parts stand out amongst a group of more modern assembled figures, and while I think the dress uniform aspect of the character is interesting, he’s overly slender and not really exciting.

avac-08

There is some aesthetic appeal. His black base color with red trim is cool enough, and he certainly has the look of a regal air corps officer. I could see this AVAC leading other AVAC’s, perhaps as Wild Weasel’s squadron commanders. His legs don’t move all that well with these convoluted parts, so don’t be hoping for a real flexible figure.

Accessories

avac-acc-01

The Cobra AVAC doesn’t come with much, simply a pair of machine guns and his familiar knife, which are pretty neat weapons, but nothing overly new or interesting or key to his character.

avac-05

If you haven’t figured it out simply by reading my review, my feelings on this guy are extremely mixed. He’s a figure that if I catch out of the corner of my eye, I decide I really love him, but then I take a closer look and scrutiny reveals a litany of flaws. Granted, he spends most of his time in the cockpit of the Scythe, but I would have loved his functionality to have matched his appearance.

ALLEY VIPER OFFICER

alleyviper-01alleyviper-02

I don’t recall asking for another Alley-Viper, especially after we received so many in such a short period of time, and I can’t quite fathom how this figure fits into the theme of this pitched air battle in the jungle. All that being said, the Alley-Viper build formula has been one of my favorites over the years, and they didn’t mess with perfection here, bringing forward all the fun qualities of the other modern renditions of the Cobra urban troopers.

He has the exact same parts as the latest Alley-Viper, which was released with the G.I. Joe: Retaliation line. That figure was mostly the same build as previous iterations, only with the armored torso of Retaliation Duke and Flint with the jungle Duke web gear over it. That holds true here.

alley-viper-19

So with a fun build, it’s tough to complain a whole lot about this figure. Even with no new parts, he’s well articulated and relatively well detailed, nice sculpting evident from the later years of the 25th Anniversary line.

alley-viper-12

Where the figure excels, though, is the paint scheme. It seems as if Hasbro took the orange that made Alley-Viper what he was and reversed it, using orange as the trim with black as the main colors. Its works surprisingly well and in person much less resembles a “Halloween Viper” than I thought it might. It’s a nice pattern of camouflage, and even though I’m not sure where this Alley-Viper Officer fits between this Jet/Tank battle, he’s a neat figure that I enjoy, and it’s kind of a shame he’s only available through a limited SDCC release.

Accessories

alley-viper-acc-01

The figure comes with much of the gear you’d expect, with the Jungle Duke web gear with removable machete, machine guns, forearm knife, helmet w/ visor, and the familiar Alley Viper shield.  It’s all there and in some pretty intriguing paint schemes.  I think you’ll find that this release “borrows” quite a bit from the Retaliation Alley-Viper (as far as paint masks go) but flips the color scheme a bit to make the overall look a lot darker and more true to an urban setting.  They all work really nicely and compliment this figure terrifically.

alley-viper-04

Alley-Viper Officer ends up being more interesting and more fun than I originally thought he might. It’s the same pretty good build as the Retaliation version with a much more intriguing paint scheme to go with it. It’s a shame army building him will be so difficult, but I suppose if you treat him as an Alley-Viper commander of sorts, it won’t be so bad.

I’m generally a big fan of the bad guys, but in the case of the Crimson Strike set, I find myself enjoying the G.I. Joe side a bit more.  I like the Alley-Viper Officer and the color deco on the Cobra Scythe is a very nice surprise, but AVAC isn’t terrific, and the theme of this side of things doesn’t jive quite as well as the G.I. Joe figures and vehicle.  There’s terrific presentation here, and it’s always cool to see some new elements, but the Cobra end of the ComicCon Crimson Strike set leaves just a little bit to be desired.

GeneralsJoes Reviews the ComicCon Marauder vs. Iron Grenadiers Kre-O set

San Diego ComicCon is upon us!  Hopefully everyone out there is ready.  One of the joys of this annual gathering of geeks is the plethora of exclusive toys that are produced for it.  This year leading the list of awesome exclusives is the Sgt. Slaughter Marauders vs. Iron Grenadiers Kre-O set!

Kre-O may be MIA from store shelves, but Hasbro went all out with this fantastic boxed set.  Check out my Kre-O Review Page, or click the link below for the full review.

sdcc-slaughter-marauder-iron-grenadier-boxed-set-sgt-slaughter (5)

ComicCon Exclusive Slaughter Marauders vs. Iron Grenadiers Review

As strange as it may sound coming from an adult collector, one of the biggest disappointments from a G.I. Joe perspective I’ve experienced this year is the apparent end of a mainstream Kre-O toyline. After clearancing the majority of their stock, it appears as if Toys “R” Us has gotten out of the G.I. Joe Kre-O game, relegating us to convention exclusives.

That’s not a bad thing, and I really enjoyed the G.I. Joe Convention Kre-O set, but man, after getting that Terror Drome, Firebat and other great items, I can’t help but at least slightly lament the loss of a higher profile Kre-O presence.

This ComicCon exclusive set does two things… it satisfies me greatly, yet also gives the knife a little bit of a twist. It’s a terrific set that I love whole heartedly, but also puts a big magnifying glass on the bare shelves where G.I. Joe Kre-O used to be at Toys “R” Us.

The theme of this ComicCon exclusive set is spectacular. With a box designed like the classic VHS Boxed sets of old, each individual “video tape” pulls out into an individual component. One tape is the Iron Grenadier figure set, one tape is the Marauders figure set, and the third tape is the Triple T tank. Magnificent. The animated Kre-O themed artwork across the box and the inner tapes pulls me back to the FHE days where I’d go to my local video store and rent the “Revenge of Cobra” mini series back in the day…and the artwork is very reminiscent of the DiC series box art, too, especially with the Slaughter’s Marauders. Fantastic presentation with the box and artwork for sure.

Slaughter’s Marauders

sdcc-slaughter-marauder-iron-grenadier-boxed-set-sgt-slaughter (5)

I think I share most folks’ surprise in seeing that Hasbro was once again able to get license to Sgt. Slaughter’s character, even if it was just in Kre-O form.

Slaughter himself is a great looking figure, using the typically fantastic Hasbro design aesthetics. Kre-O designers seem imminently capable of focusing on some very key elements of the characters and translating them perfectly to toy form.

Footloose is another great looking Marauders update with just the right touches of green, brown, and blue, as well as a neat assembled RPG and machine gun.

Low Light has his familiar Marauder paint scheme along with a great sniper rifle and Uzi to call back to the vintage version that had the same equipment. It’s neat comparing these versions to their classic originals in the Kre-O line and see what was changed.

Using a gas mask, night stick, and submachine gun, Hasbro gives us a good looking Mutt in the updated Marauder paint scheme, again a nice separation from the classic version that already appeared in the Kre-O line. Just a note – Junkyard is bagged in with the Triple T, so if you don’t see him in the action figure package, look in the Triple T box, he should be in there.

Unlike some others, Spirit never actually received a classic Kre-O version yet, something that didn’t occur to me until I was doing this review. Spirit is the consumate Sunbow character that would have made perfect sense to have done in Kre-O form, and represents just one more reason why I hope to see Kre-O continue in some form somewhere down the line. We need a classic Spirit!

Lastly we have Marauder Barbecue who comes with a great flip up Barbecue mask and fire extinguisher, along with his handy battle axe. Like the others, he has a great Marauder paint scheme that’s very evocative of the figure, and awesomely colorful.

Iron Grenadiers

sdcc-marauder-iron-grenadier-boxed-set-destro (2)

On the enemy side of things we get the Iron Grenadiers, which serves as a great tie-in to the Convention Set this year, which also contained some key members of the IG crew.

Destro leads the team in his Pimp Daddy Destro deco, another ComicCon throwback, which is a great touch. The leopard print collar and red cape are both so tacky and fantastic.

Voltar is second in command looking great in his pink and gold uniform, with an awesome helmet (even though the eyepiece is on the wrong side), a great weapon, and even his trusty vulture.

Darklon is far and away my favorite figure in this set, with great chainmail deco, an awesome sinister face, his gatling dart gun and all the trappings of Destro’s cousin.

Taking a closer look at the three Iron Grenadiers as well, some things become apparent. First of all, one of them is an officer while two of them are troopers. The officer’s Kre-O deco is actually themed like the modern Iron Grenadier update (using the Battle Armor Cobra Commander body) while the two Troopers are the vintage design with the more familiar clasping buttons. All three figures have red bandanas, but if you remove them, you see the classic Grenadier visage glaring out from behind. As an unabashed Iron Grenadier fan, I love these three troopers and they compliment the rest of the set perfectly.

Also, using a Kre-O Grunt head and a random red beret I found kicking around, the Iron Grenadier Officer quickly becomes a nice looking Sgt. Major.

 

Sgt. Slaughter’s TTT

sdcc-marauder-iron-grenadier-boxed-set-ttt(22)

Just looking at the figures themselves this set would already be a sure fire winner in my opinion, but Hasbro took it one step further and didn’t just give us 12 great looking Kre-Ons, but they also gave us a full blown ready-to-build Triple T tank!

Like many of the Kre-O items we’ve seen, the Triple T really made its mark in the Sunbow cartoon especially when Slaughter made his dramatic entrace, leaping from the oddly shaped white tank and single-handedly dispatching with a few dozen Battle Android Troopers. To be honest, in its toy form, the Triple T never did much for me, but as has happened in the past a vehicle I might not have cared much for gets whole new life as a Kre-O set. No matter how many times I’ve put these sets together, it always amazes me that I can dump out a pile of random bricks, and moments later, an actual physical form begins to take shape, eventually resulting in a vehicle that actually resembles something that I know. Early Kre-O efforts were mixed, giving us vehicles that bore only the most passing resemblance to their vintage counterparts, but recently, things have gotten much better, and the Triple T is a perfect example of that.

This is a very unique looking vehicle from G.I. Joe history, and the fact that this Kre-O build represents it so accurately is simply amazing. Using a majority of white bricks, with a healthy mix of green and brown, the TTT is an amazing feat of brick engineering that completely lives up to my expectations for these Kre-O sets. From the size and shape to the “fit” with this year’s theme and the vintage resemblance, I may actually like the Kre-O TTT even more than the regular vintage one. It wasn’t a really complex build, and as always, I find myself incredibly amused with how small these items end up, but it was a lot of fun, and the final result is 100% worth it.

From the packaging to the Kre-On mini figures, all the way to the TTT vehicle, this set is simply amazing. A truly enjoyable and yes FUN addition to the already impressive Kre-O library. I thoroughly enjoyed this set while at the same time it made me lament the sparse offerings of Kre-O going forward.