G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary Comic Pack Wave 4
Issue #6 - Duke vs. Red Star
Something that we, as Joe fans, are going to have to get used to is constantly seeing Duke and Snake Eyes appearing at retail shelves in different assortments. Like it or not, they are the Spider-Man and Wolverine of the G.I. Joe universe, and like those two characters, they drive sales and drive the line. Toy retail is so different in the 21st Century than it was back in the day, so in my mind all I hope for is that at least the different versions of these characters are somewhat decent. Snake Eyes has had a fantastic success rate in my book (his two figures were, by far, the best figures in each of the last two single-pack waves), but Duke has been more hit or miss. So how’s this version?
I’d have to say that this version of Duke is a miss, by and large. Hasbro takes an interesting look at Duke here, putting him in a more “Original 13” style uniform. I’m not sure why, but maybe just as a way to work him into the classic team…the uniform doesn’t get any specific mention in the comic either, so it must have simply been a design decision, going for a somewhat “covert ops” generic military look. It’s not a bad look, really, but the figure has all of the blandness of the Original 13 with none of the classic character of those team members. Overall, the figure just doesn’t really strike me. What say you, Fred?
Me? I’ve always got something to say—it’s just a matter of how worthwhile the comments actually prove to be. Duke’s uniform is pretty generic—essentially the Snake Eyes/Stalker uniform rendered in a basic green with some brown highlight painted on. It’s such a simple uniform design that I’m surprised that Hasbro did utilize this for the GIJoe Command 3-pack version of Grunt instead of adding in the Cobra Trooper arms. While I don’t see this as a particularly great Duke uniform, it is a nice generic body which will work well as the basis for custom figures if Hasbro ends up not releasing Zap and Short-Fuse in this 25A style of construction. One point I would like to address is that this is the first “no-ring” Duke figure that has been released with a molded flesh tones on the head. I don’t know what the GIJoe line has an odd fascination for painting the skin tones of about half of the characters when the molded colors look so much better. (It’s just another one of those details that will continue to irk me when it comes to this line. “Consistency”—it’s a word! Look it up!) So, while this is “yet another” Duke in the 25A style, the body is different enough that I’m not feeling taken advantage of. Plus, the body will work well as the new home of the Grunt head!
As far as accessories go, that’s pretty generic, too. He does come with a new sculpt set of binoculars that are pretty nice (and will mesh well with your classic Duke figure as well). His knife is a decent design and fits in the sheath, and he’s got his familiar bandolier and an M-16. Nothing really new or exciting.
This is going to be a pretty short review since there isn’t much exciting or new about this installment, and this is definitely the worst figure in these 3 packs. Not a whole lot to get thrilled about. So, anything about this Duke figure “thrilling” to you, Fred?
I wouldn’t say “thrilling” but I seem to be somewhat more interested than Justin in this figure. While much of Duke’s kit is familiar (bandoleer, sidearm, Spirit’s knife, helmet) the inclusion of the comic pack M-16 works well for this figure and I have to admit that I actually like the new binoculars. The previous versions of Conrad S. Hauser have been packaged with binoculars that are so small female carpenter ants find them to be the “perfect size” to fit in their purses. This optics set, however, is larger and more in scale with the figure. In addition, they have a neck strap which means that they can be stowed on the figure when not “in hand”. So far in the anniversary line, accessories seem to have been tossed in as after thoughts—frequently with no real place to put them if the figure’s hands are already full. As with the “Trooper knife” these are practical and “stow-able” and that makes them okay in my book. I’m getting a bit tired of seeing every third figure equipped with the same bandoleer but otherwise this is a decent new version of Duke.
I think this figure threw everyone for a loop when it was first revealed. I mean… “Red Star”? No Recondo, no Ripcord, no Dr. Mindbender, but we’re getting “Red Star”?
I’m not really sure what the creative decision was behind working this character into an assortment here, and I’m not really complaining (I do love those obscure characters) but I can see why some folks might be scratching their head about seeing Red Star at this point in the line before a number of other characters, especially when those other characters would have required the same limited amount of newly tooled parts to get released.
But character selection aside, how successful is this figure? Not too bad overall. From a design perspective, Hasbro evidently kind of combined the Red Star and Colonel Brekhov figures and gave us some amalgamation of the two. We don’t see the familiar brown camouflage that Red Star wore back in the 90’s, instead it’s the familiar light gray uniform that Brekhov wore in the Comic Packs in 2005. But adding that blue cap makes it resemble Red Star more than the Oktober Guard Colonel, but that’s about the only identifiable characteristic. The figure itself, though, is actually remarkably successful, and I like what it does in spite of some of the tooling shortcomings.
Of course he does come complete with the infamous “Duke arms” that drive so many fans so crazy. But that is really the only shortcoming to what ends up being a very solid figure. He’s got a newly tooled head sculpt which is well detailed and looks very nice, and his new lower legs are also quite well done, too, giving him the appropriate "jack boots". His holster is absolutely humongous, but besides that the figure works quite well from a tooling standpoint, even with existing torso, upper legs, and arms. I'm using all self control possible to avoid ranting and raving yet again about the Duke arms...maybe I'll save that for the Clutch review. *sigh*
I’m a long time GIJoe fan who has purchased all of the products released thus far in the 25A-style construction. I do have one suggestion that might prove beneficial for future product releases.
STOP USING THE FREAKIN’ “DUKE ARMS”! THEY WERE SUB-PAR WHEN THEY WERE FIRST USED AND THEY’RE STILL SUB-PAR NOW! FIGURES SHOULD HAVE A GREATER RANK OF MOTION THAN A 90 YEAR OLD MAN WITH DEBILITATING ARTHRITIS!!
Sigh… If it weren’t for the head sculpt of this figure resembling the original ARAH Red Star figure so closely I’d almost assume that this was meant to be Colonel Brekhov from the beginning. (Of course, I also think this head bears a strong resemblance to John Wayne, which is incredibly ironic. “How about that, Comrade Pilgrims?”) The body combination works well enough as a generic uniform with the exception of the sculpted Ranger tab over the right pocket. I do like the new boots, however as they help to distinguish this figure from the Duke and Flint figures that have come before it. I don’t find the holster to be quite as gargantuan as Justin does but then again he didn’t have any problems with the HISS Driver’s holster and I did. (Guess it’s all down to preference.) Red Star is a nice figure for a repaint but he’s not anything that I feel was necessary in the line at this point. (I feel pretty much the same way about the inclusion of MASK’s Matt Trakker in a forthcoming wave. Wouldn’t the “case slot” have been better utilized by an actual GIJoe mythos character?) I doubt we’ll be seeing many more Oktober Guard figures released in the line before the movie hits so, in the end, Red Star just comes across as superfluous to me. (Although I’m loving the whole John Wayne gag. Seriously—right out of “Searchers”!)
While I try to figure out what the heck "superfluous" means, let's talk about the accessories. What always identifies these figures as hits or misses are the accessories, and Red Star has those in spades. From an excellent backpack to awesome web gear, this figure is loaded with cool secondaries that give him a whole new identity. Hasbro also took this opportunity to get us a very familiar Oktober Guard machine gun that we haven’t seen before, in spite of the fact that the original Red Star came with a more familiar AK-47. The gun itself is very nicely sculpted (and has a great removable drum magazine) but the lack of a handle does detract somewhat from the usability of the weapon. It adds to the realism, but it really does sort of take away from the functionality of the gun and this is a trend I wouldn’t mind if they pushed aside.
What do you think of his gear, Fred? Good or bad?
I think that Hasbro sometimes walks a fine line between “accuracy” and “practicality”. Case in point—the afore-mentioned automatic rifle that is included with Red Star. Much like the rifle that was packaged with the 2008 wave 3 single-carded Spirit figure it is lacking in any sort of handle. This means that, while the figure can hold the weapon, he can’t hold it in anything resembling a practical firing pose. Now, factor in the useless “Duke arms” and the end result is an accessory that is nice to look at but completely unusable. I do like the more detailed backpack and the satchel which surprisingly isn’t a reuse of an existing Indiana Jones accessory. Red Star’s hat is a great homage to the original Red Star figure and serves to further emphasize his Soviet heritage. I’ll be honest—with the satchel and the web gear, Red Star ends up coming across as bit over-encumbered but cosmetically the gear works well. I do find it ironic that a great many fans defended the “wee tiny” head on the Wild Bill figure stating that it was because of his removable hat when Red Star has a larger head and a removable hat to boot!
So, even though the inclusion of a character like Red Star leaves us a bit confused, we can rest assured that it’s a pretty neat figure regardless of character choice. Nice paint apps (with some great added paint details throughout), cool accessories, and enough newly tooled parts to make him stand out. Pretty decent figure, all told, though the 2-pack itself only ends up being marginal.
Fred, what do you think of this set in general?
While Duke is a new amalgamation of existing parts, I like the combination. It’s a bit different and offers up some great custom possibilities if Hasbro sees fit to release other non-Joe figures in favor of the missing Zap and Short-Fuse. I’m not entirely convinced that this set was meant to include Red Star originally when the comic was written as Larry himself wrote the death of Brekhov and Horrorshow down in South America. I think this set was intended to be Brekhov and Duke and something was changed in the production process that resulted in this set instead featuring Red Star. (Note: In the original Marvel Comic series Red Star was a dead-ringer for the deceased Colonel Brekhov—something that was never truly explained.) While I don’t understand the release of an Oktober Guard member at this point in the line, I do find this set to have a great deal of appeal. It’s the one that I was looking forward to the most, after the Storm Shadow and Firefly set. So, continuing design issues aside, I’ll recommend this set to fans of the new 25A “no-ring” style of construction.
Comic Plot (Potential Spoilers included)
We should probably talk about the comic a little bit, too. It’s not clear where this story takes place in “continuity” since the issue numbers don’t really have any baring on that. All we know is that the Oktober Guard is still alive (at least Horror Show is…he, Daina and Red Star himself are the Guard members that appear here). I suppose you could say this is either a flashback or Horror Show somehow got “un”killed, since none of the other deceased Oktober Guard members appear. We get some neat cameos by the Night Creepers, and some decent military action, so not a bad comic by any stretch.
The comic story takes place in a familiar location in Eastern Europe as three Joes (Duke, Scarlett, and Roadblock) are pursuing a train in the familiar AWE Striker. On the other side Red Star, Horror Show, and Daina are pursuing the same train. Duke and Red Star leap aboard at the same time, engage in fisticuffs, but quickly decide that they best work together to stop the terrorists aboard the train.
They were originally thought to be your run of the mill terrorists, but they are instead revealed to be COBRA Night Creepers! Red Star and Duke team up to battle them as the train barrels towards a populated area, which is also a fuel depot, which could have disasterous results. Enlisting in the aid of their teammates, the Oktober Guard and G.I. Joe combine forces and stop the train. There is, of course, more to it in the typical Larry Hama style (with some familiar twists and feints as usual) and the overall story is quite solid. Even though it features at least one dead Oktober Guard member (Horror Show) you get the impression it could co-exist at nearly any point in G.I. Joe continuity. It works great as a stand alone, yet would still fit fairly well into any existing universe you want it to.