G.I. Joe: Renegades Cobra Black Dragon - PreProduction

While most of the G.I. Joe fandom was drooling and pining over the Skystriker revealed at Toy Fair this past February, my gaze was afixed squarely upon the black helicopter about 4 feet to the left. Don't get me wrong, I love the Skystriker as much as anyone else, but I've got three Skystrikers in great condition, and I've had them going on 20 years or more. Sure, it'll be cool getting one with some tooling adjustments, but in my opinion, the Black Dragon was where it was at.

While the other two new vehicles in the initial Bravo assortment of 2011 were mere repaints of the 2010 offerings, the Black Dragon dove headlong into G.I. Joe: Renegades territory, which immediately made me love it. I'm a huge fan of the animated series and I really love the vehicle designs sprinkled throughout it. I really wish we would end up with more of them in the mainstream line, but at this point, I'll just take whatever I can get.

Fortunately "whatever I can get" in this case is a somewhat small, but excellently crafted vehicle that makes for a perfect Cobra air fighter, and manages to have some serious play value built in as well.

I should preface this review by saying with big thanks to my old buddy Gyre Viper, I managed to get this item in my grubby little paws about 2 months before street release. Knowing what a huge Renegades fan I am, he gave me the opportunity to get this on my site, and I thank him for that. With that being said, keep in mind, this item is a pre-production item, and final details may differ once this vehicle hits retail shelves. It feels pretty close to a finished product to me, so I would imagine it will remain fairly close to this pre-production version, but I must state the caveat regardless.

The overall look and design of the Black Dragon was pulled straight from the animated model. It has the same sleek, sloping contours leading down to the cockpit nose. Even the wings seem to have a very serpentine flair to them as they slope outwards to the twin propellers at each wingtip.

Now the first thing many folks will comment on is the size. Yes, the Black Dragon is quite small in toy form. While in the cartoon, it's shown to be a rather large scale transport, capable of holding several Cobra operatives, the toy version is much more of a single person fighter. I know there will be complaints, but it doesn't bother me a whole lot. At this point we're lucky to be getting Bravo class vehicles at all, I really don't expect Hasbro would have much luck trying to entice retailers to jump to an Echo price point for a vehicle based on a now "hiatused" animated series. The design and play value are intact, and that's the best part, in my opinion.

Along with the familiar shape from the cartoon, the toy version has retained the great color scheme as well. With a black base color and the perfect amount of red trim, this attack chopper looks evil and very Cobra-esque. I love that they elected to do the front cockpit designs in paint ops rather than stickers...it's very smooth, straight, and looks almost elegant.

Now just about one paragraph back, I mentioned "play value". While many collectors would likely scoff at the notion of "play value" I certainly think there should be an element of play in every toy. I am never a proponent for the play features to detract from the overall functionality of the toy itself, however, and thankfully the Black Dragon does not disappoint in that regard. In other words, yes, there are plenty of play features, but no, they do not get in the way of the basic vehicle look or function.

Looking at the top of the Black Dragon, you'll see a pair of small circular buttons with crosses on them. These activate the play features. First and foremost, it should be noted that the Black Dragon is actually a "swing wing" aircraft, and the two wings swing backwards to take up less space when storing. Once you press that front button, the wings zip back into place swiftly.

The second button is even cooler. With a light touch, that second button rotates out a nice looking (if somewhat cartoony) chaingun that compliments the existing gun under the chin of the aircraft. But if you press that second button harder, it then pops open twin bomb bay doors in two cannisters underneath the body of the aircraft, releasing a load of bombs. A really neat feature, and I like how depending on how hard you press the buttons, different things happen.

Along with the spring-loaded features, there are other neat aspects to the vehicle. The propellors at the wingtips can be upright in VTOL mode, or can swing forward just as they do in the cartoon. The cockpit also slides forward a little bit, then tilts upward to open, revealing a nicely detailed interior. Also, there is a front landing gear and a rear landing gear, and each one folds in with an easy press.

This pre-production item did not include any stickers, so I can't say for sure what to expect in that regard. There also appear to be some peg-joints underneath each wing, but this pre-production vehicle did not come with anything that could fit there.

From my own personal perspective, this vehicle is awesome. It's the perfect update to the FANG II, and I think if Hasbro had simply called it an updated FANG, the fandom would be in love. Because it's marketed as the Black Dragon, there will be complaints about the size, but the overall feel, design and playability of the vehicle exceeds expectations. When flying it around, it's pretty much a perfect handful, so no two-handed ariel pursuits necessary here. A great addition to your Cobra arsenal, whether you're a Renegades fan or not.

When you see this at retail, pick it up. It's worth it.


Also, for the Black Dragon review, I branched out a little bit, and actually did a YouTube video review. Video really isn't my bag, but here it is. I'll probably regret this one in the morning.