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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.