TOMAX & XAMOT v.5 (2005)

Joe-Tomax v5 fullG. I. JOE: VALOR VS VENOM

Friend of the site and regular reader and commenter, Guy, recently requested that I review some Tomax and Xamot action figures (side note: More of you should leave comments). I already reviewed the vintage 1985 versions of those characters a couple years ago so my first thought was to review the modern-era versions released in 2008.  However, I have a whole slew of modern-era figures in my “to be reviewed” queue so I thought I’d go for a less obvious choice. These figures were released in 2005 during the new-sculpt years…and yet they’re completely made up of vintage parts so the “new-sculpt” moniker isn’t exactly apropos in this case.Joe-Tomax v5 back

Tomax and Xamot are identical twin brothers who run the public face of the Cobra organization, Extensive Enterprises, but they’re not just business men; they’re skilled fighters and acrobats. Often times, in the 80s cartoons and comic books the brothers were shown flipping around and swinging about like professional trapeze artists. Their flair for showmanship was evident in their choice of clothing when out getting their hands dirty in battle. They wore sleeveless blue jumpsuits, knee-high Cobra themed boots, metal half-collars, silver codpieces, and red sashes. Those were the outfits the version 1 action figures were wearing which made sense because those were their battle-ready outfits and most kids want to play out battles.Joe-Tomax v5 animated

But as often as the twins were shown wearing their flashy sashes they were shown just as frequently, if not more so, in their suits and ties. These boys from the Mediterranean had a corporation to run after all and they needed to look presentable in board meetings. I’m sure an action figure in a 3-piece suit would not have sold as well as a soldier or a ninja on the mass market but speaking personally I really wanted a sharply dressed Tomax when I was a kid (and my brother Doug wanted a Xamot.)Joe-Tomax v5 back to back

When we played Joes back then Doug and I often housed the twins on the top of a dresser which was a stand-in for the Extensive Enterprises skyscraper seen on the show. We would sit them behind a Kleenex box office desk where they would taunt the Joes who couldn’t touch them because as far as the general public was concerned the twins were legit business men with no connection to Cobra. This required some suspension of disbelief however because the twins were sitting there literally covered in Cobra logos. Variant versions of the twins in suits would have been very welcome and it seemed like a no-brainer. Hasbro released a version of Gung-Ho in his dress uniform so why not Tomax and Xamot in their Sunday best?

Tomax version 2 (2003)

Tomax version 2 (2003)

Well somebody at Hasbro finally realized it was a good idea 20 years later.   2003 saw the release of the twins in red military outfits and then in 2005 we finally got these suited versions.  These figures mark the first and only time to-date that Tomax and Xamot have been sold separately.  Each of them came packaged with 4 Crimson Guardsmen and Firefly. The Crimson Guard is the faction of Cobra which the twins command (its why they’re often referred to as the Crimson Twins) so their inclusion made perfect sense but the addition of Firefly to both packs was odd.Joe-Tomax v5 carded

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crimson multi-packs never showed up in my neck of the woods so I ordered these two figures online.  I was very happy to get them at long last but sadly they failed to live up to their potential. The biggest problem is the body Hasbro used. It’s the zoot suit originally used for the character Headman, released in 1992. Headman was a Dick Tracy villain type of character created to do battle with the Joe team’s new Drug Elimination Force (D.E.F.). I‘m not a fan of the Joes fighting street level gangsters concept but fortunately that all came about after I had quit collecting Joes in 1990.

So while I do appreciate that this was the only suit-wearing body available at the time, and that the Hasbro designers did the best they could with what they had, it really doesn’t work for a couple of CEOs. A neck tie and dress shoes would really have helped to make this sculpt feel more contemporary.  I was going to knock the double breasted jackets as well but when I googled images from the old cartoon it turns out that those were the style of jacket they wore.Joe-Tomax v5 animated 2

It doesn’t help that the whole suit is painted with a metallic blue sheen. A flat blue jacket and some gray slacks might have been better and more ‘toon accurate.

As for the heads, they’re the exact same ones that were used in ’85.  They may seem a little soft but I like them…they’re classic.

These figures aren’t perfect but they are pretty cool and they filled a long standing hole in my collection.  I hope we get modern-era suited twins at some point because Hasbro has many more “suitable” pieces to work with nowadays.  7 out of 10.Joe-Tomax v5 compare

CAPTAIN AMEXICO

Mex-Cap fullFUNNY TOYS

My best friend Miguel has lived in Canada since he was a teenager but he hails from the land of drug-dealers and rapists (Donald Trump’s words, not mine), Mexico.  A few years back Miguel returned home for a visit and he brought me back some terrible knock-off action figures of Batman and Nightwing as a souvenir.  Those were exactly the type of figures I was hoping to find when I visited Mexico this past April for Miguel’s wedding.  Unfortunately we were staying in a nice touristy area so junk like that was hard to come by.  I talked about my failed search for Mexican action figures in this post when I returned from the trip.Mex-Cap back

After the whole wedding party and the invited guests enjoyed a week on the Mayan Riviera, Miguel and his new bride spent an additional week in Mexico in Miguel’s home town while the rest of us travelled back home.  In true best friend fashion Miguel sought out some crappy Mexican toys for me once out of the tourist towns.  Upon his return to Canada he told me that he found me some but he didn’t have a chance to give them to me until this past Saturday when we got together for some poker. (side note:  I won five whole dollars but drank too much and spent the night puking my guts out. You gotta take the bad with the good I suppose.)

Miguel came through big time in the crappy action figure department.  Not only did he get me a translucent light up ninja turtle but he also got me a 3-pack containing Captain America, the Hulk, and that other Avenger…Batman.

Mex-Cap group

These things are atrocious.

The Captain, whom I have dubbed Captain Amexico, is a solid chunk of blue plastic which is probably slowly killing me with toxins the more I handle it  (it does smell weird).  It has some paint apps but they appear to have been applied by a 2-year old.  The boots and gloves are sloppy but acceptable, the chest isn’t too bad either, but the face and shield are just wow.  The giant gash of red paint on his leg is a nice touch too.

I wish his arms moved like Batman’s and Hulk’s do but this thing is glorious even if it can’t be posed in any way.  This toy rules.  Thanks Miguel.  An ironic 10 out of 10.  A realistic 1 out of 10.

 Mex-Cap compare

MTF: FIELD OPS TROOPER (2015)

MTF-Field fullMARAUDER TASK FORCE

A couple of years after I started buying G.I. Joe figures as an adult collector in 2002 I discovered Marauder Gun Runners; a website that sells custom-made guns, weapons, and accessories for action figures.  The Marauder homepage explains it best:

“The source for weapons & accessories scaled for use with ALL collectible 3-3/4 inch action figures. We carry accurate 1:18 scale miniature replica versions of authentic looking weapons or designs based on military & science fiction originals. Sturdy & highly detailed items are NOT “soft & bendy” rubber or “fragile & brittle.” Similar feel to vintage 1980s 1:18 scale weapons. The weapons are perfect for the ADULT COLLECTOR to “upgrade” the equipment of their collectible 3-3/4 inch (1:18 scale) figures or to finally provide those incomplete or custom figures with COOL & INEXPENSIVE accessories.MTF-Field back

 

Basically, it was the perfect website for guys who wanted to replace the crappy blue rocket launchers and pink ninja swords that Hasbro tended to include with its figures.  I appreciated what the gun runner guy was doing (a fella who goes by the name Marauder John) but I’m not really a weapons guy.  Perhaps it’s because I’m Canadian.  Of course I would’ve preferred for all of my Joes to have cool, realistic looking weapons but it wasn’t so important to me that I’d pay for them separately.  John also made accessories like folding chairs, ladders, and flags which were great for collectors who make dioramas but my figures are displayed rather statically so I never had much use for chairs and computer terminals and the like either.  I placed one order of guns with John just so I could see his stuff up close and to lend my support but that was many years ago.  Since then I’ve just admired his handiwork from afar.

MTF-Field vest

Tactical Padded Vest

Nearly a decade later I had another chance to support one of John’s endeavours.  In April 2014 he launched a kickstarter campaign in hopes of funding his own line of action figures called the Marauder Task Force (MTF).  He recruited Boss Fight Studios to sculpt the base figure which was a great idea since they’ve worked on a ton of great toy lines like G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Star Wars.  The prototype Boss Fight produced for the MTF trooper looked fantastic.  If the kickstarter achieved it’s funding goal of $29,500 the figure would be released in 3 different variations: Desert-Ops (tan camo), Urban-Ops (grey camo), and Night-Ops (solid black).  I had never backed a kickstarter before but this one seemed like a no-brainer considering the quality of work produced by those involved.  I knew I was going to back the campaign but I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to contribute so I waited to see how things went.

Things went well.  By the end of the month backers had contributed just shy of a quarter of a million dollars ($244,155).

The base figure

The base figure

 

As the funding skyrocketed John announced that additional figure variations would be available: Special-Ops (green camo), Security-Ops (solid blue), Arctic-Ops (white camo), and Command-Ops (solid red).  Besides the figures themselves you could also purchase accessory packs.  I contributed enough to get all 7 figures plus one accessories pack consisting of 4 alternate heads, a gas mask, and some goggles.

Shortly after the campaign ended backers such as myself received an email from John giving us the opportunity to purchase an eighth figure, a solid green Field-Ops trooper.  Apparently he had received several requests for an all green figure and I’m glad he did because the Field-Ops trooper is one of my favourites.

Goggles and breather head

Goggles and breather head

All of the figures are essentially the same so I could’ve lumped them together for one large review but instead I’m going to focus specifically on the Field Ops Trooper today.  The body on this figure is excellent.  He’s wearing a wrinkled jump suit detailed with sculpted (and painted) zippers, straps, and pouches.  I really like the boots which have armoured shin guards.  There’s articulation at the ankles, double-jointed knees, ball jointed hips and shoulders,  and swivel joints at the elbows, wrist and neck.  The body is constructed almost exactly the same as modern G.I. Joes so an MTF figure can be displayed seamlessly amongst your Joe collection.  One improvement that Marauder John and Boss Fight made to the body is that this figure has waist articulation like the vintage Joes instead of the awkward mid-torso joint that you see on all modern Joes.  Not only is the waist joint more realistic but it’s easier to hide at the belt line.  I’d praise this figure even if it didn’t come with any accessories because the base figure is just that good but the accessories are what really make the MTF figures shine.

All the MTF figures came with a bunch of stuff but this guy came with the most.  With the other figures you can buy additional heads and vests but the Field-Ops figure came with one of everything.  I was going to list everything but figured it would just be easier to show you so see the checklist at the end of this review.MTF-Field helmet

 

 

Needless to say, this thing is absolutely crazy with accessories and customizable options.  If you mix in the pieces from the other seven figures there are even more variations.  You could spend all day just swapping out parts so it’s really tough deciding how to display them.  For my Field-Ops trooper I think I’ve settled on the armoured vest, the masked face from my Night-Ops figure, a pair of goggles and a beret.  As soon as I put that combo together I thought that this guy looks like a leader.

I could go on and on about this figure but I should save some stuff for the other MTF reviews.  9 out of 10.

MTF vs G.I. Joe

MTF vs G.I. Joe

MTF-Field list

INDOMINUS REX (2015)

JP-Indominus sideJURASSIC WORLD

On it’s opening weekend Jurassic World grossed over $524 million (just hit a billion as of today).  I think about half of that came from me and my family.  My girlfriend Vanessa, my brother Doug, his wife Alaina, their kids Alex and Luke, my sister’s kids Carter and Ty, my Dad and myself went to a matinee together on Sunday.  We’d all been looking forward to it for some time except for Doug who isn’t impressed by dinosaurs for some reason.  Although afterwards he told me it was his favourite Jurassic Park movie yet so I guess they won him over in the end.  I really enjoyed it but there’s no topping the original in my opinion.  There was just something magical about seeing Steven Spielberg’s and Stan Winston’s dinos on screen for the first time. I’ve really enjoyed all of the JP movies, my least favourite probably being the Lost World, and I think World has clinched the number 2 spot.

JP-Indominus movie

I went into Jurassic World with fairly high expectations and I’d say they were met.  It was very familiar at times but there were enough new elements introduced to keep it feeling fresh.  For example, the iconic JP dinos (T-Rex and Raptors) were on hand but there were some pretty rad new ones brought in as well.  The most notable addition was the fictional Indominus Rex.

In the movie, the Jurassic World theme park has been up and running for about 10 years.  Things were great for a while but attendance is beginning to drop because people are getting bored of the same old dinosaurs.  In order to drive interest the scientists whip up a new creature named the Indominus Rex by mixing the DNA of a T-Rex, Raptors, frogs, cuttlefish and other things.  The result is a big smart monster with a number of unique biological abilities.  So naturally all hell breaks loose.JP-Indominus box

Before seeing the movie I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Indominus Rex.  You saw glimpses of him in the trailer and he looked kinda cool but other than his white skin I didn’t think he looked all that different from other dinosaurs we’d already seen.  My first good look came when I saw this toy on the shelves at Walmart.  I was pleased to see that he looked like a believable dinosaur.  They didn’t go too far by giving him bat wings or anything crazy.  Considering all the boney protrusions I decided that he looked different enough from my T-Rex figure to seriously contemplate buying him.  After looking him over thoroughly though I was turned off my his unrealistic proportions so I left him behind.

JP-Indominus front

Then I saw the movie and I knew I needed to go back for this toy.  The Indominus Rex was definitely cool but it wasn’t his portrayal alone that won me over.  The whole movie just got me excited about dinosaurs again.  If the other Jurassic World toys were better I probably would’ve bought them all but most of them are underwhelming.

When I went back for a second look at this figure I was still bothered by the wonky proportions.  However I was pretty sure that a big part of the problem was that his tail was not attached to him in the box which threw off the overall look.  After some coaxing from Vanessa (who loved the movie) I took my chances and shelled out my thirty-five bucks, all the while hoping that he would look better once I got him home and attached his tail.  Fortunately, adding the tail did help a lot.  His head and arms still seem oversized but its not nearly as noticeable as it was sans tail.

Now that its home and on my shelf I am happy I purchased him to display next to the 1993 Jurassic Park T-Rex; an item I inherited from my little brother Brian a few years back.  This toy is a worthy follow-up to the Rex but just like the movies they’re based on it falls short of the greatness of the original.JP-Indominus mouth

The ’93 T-Rex is a work of art.  His whole body, with the exception of his little arms and lower legs, is covered in soft rubbery dinosaur skin.  There are almost no seams in the rubber so it looks and feels quite realistic.  I absolutely love the thing and I was very jealous of Brian when he got it for Christmas way back when because it completely blew any dinosaur toys I ever owned out of the water (exhibit A, exhibit B).  Thankfully he outgrew it and it ended up in my collection.  The Indominus Rex has similar rubbery skin but only on it’s head.  The rest of the figure is sculpted in hard plastic.  There are visible seams at the tail, the hips, the shoulders, the neck, and along the spine.  You might think all those seams would mean increased articulation but you’d be wrong; this figure is just as stiff as the T-Rex.  Indominus does have movement at the hips that Rex didn’t have but the lack of tail articulation seems like a glaring oversight.  Rex’s rubbery wire tail was able to be posed all kinds of ways.

JP-Indominus compare

The T-Rex also sported an excellent paint job with a greenish belly and brown spots on the back.  Indominus is almost completely lacking in paint but at least he has it where it counts.  His eyes are well done with multiple apps and his teeth, inner mouth, and claws are painted too.  If you do find him too dull you can take comfort in the fact that if you install a couple of AA batteries in his belly his back will light up pink.  It might seem silly but it’s Hasbro’s way of replicating Indominus’ cuttlefish camouflage maneuver from the movie.  The batteries would also allow him to roar.  I haven’t bothered putting batteries in mine and I likely won’t.JP-Indominus bite

A couple other fails to point out are that right side of Indominus (the side that wasn’t visible when he was still in package) is riddled with screw holes.  There are six very noticeable holes that really detract from the look of the figure.  And lastly he doesn’t stand up very well.  It can be done but it usually involves pointing his head up to the sky.

On the plus side, when you pull down on his arms Indominus’ mouth opens big and wide just like it does in the movie thanks to what appeared to be a distended jaw.  The play feature works well and doesn’t require any unsightly joints or screws on the face.

Despite its flaws I still think this is a cool toy.  It’s big, it’s fun, and it’s a dinosaur.  7 out of 10.JP-Indominus groupJP-Indominus full

BIG BEN v.7 (2015)

Joe-Big Ben v7 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

This is the final figure for me to review from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s third annual Figure Subscription Service (FSS).  All-in-all it’s been another impressive line-up of figures.  The highlights for me were Spearhead, Bombstrike, and Frostbite.  Slice, Repeater, Hit & Run, Vypra, and Alpine were also very nice figures.  And rounding out the set were Psyche Out, Muskrat, Night Creeper Leader, and Crimson Guard Immortal.  Big Ben is a great looking figure who would easily make my highlight list if I had any nostalgic attachment to the character but since I don’t I’d place him in the middle tier.

The original Big Ben was released in 1991 which is the year after I stopped collecting Joes as a kid.  Big Ben hails from England; as you may have guessed from his choice of code name.  He is a member of the British Special Air Service (SAS) and he works with G.I. Joe on special assignment. It’s nice to see that Hasbro added a little international flavour to the team.  Being Canadian I would’ve liked to have seen more of that but I suppose it would have went against the whole “Real American Hero” (RAH) concept  (In Canada some of the character’s file cards were altered to show that some Joes were born in Canada but none of that is canon).Joe-Big Ben v7 carded

A second Big Ben, repainted in a brown uniform, was released in ’93 and a third version, repainted in white, was released in 2000.  During the new-sculpt years of 2002-2006 three more Big Ben’s were released in various colors.  Six figure variations is pretty impressive for a character who was created so late in the RAH line.  The last newly-created character I got as a kid was Rampart who was released in 1990 and to this day there has not been a second Rampart figure produced.

Even though I was collecting Joes during the new-sculpt years I never acquired any of the Big Bens of that era.  It’s because I missed out on all six versions of him when they were originally released that I have no nostalgic ties to him from my childhood or even from my 20s.   However, I did get Big Ben versions one and three years after their release. Version one came to me in last summer’s epic haul and I found version 3 carded at a flea market not long after that.Joe-Big Ben v7 compare

Looking at the original figure now it’s impressive that such a realistically sculpted and painted military figure made it into the line in 1991.  Things had gotten pretty bright and science-fictiony by that time.  I think I would’ve really liked that figure when I was a kid had I owned it then.  It’s simple design harkens back to the early days of Joe.

The Club’s modern-era Big Ben is modelled after the original which was a wise decision because none of the later repaints looked as good as version 1.  The look of the original has been recreated quite faithfully here using existing pieces for the body plus a brand new head from Boss Fight Studios.  The body parts all appear to be fairly recent pieces so he’s not plagued with any carry-over issues from the early modern-era figures.  There are plenty of sculpted details in the uniform like pouches and wrinkles and I especially like the sculpted fabric texture in the pants.Joe-Big Ben v7 back

This BFS head is perhaps the most impressive newly sculpted piece we got in this years subscription.  I absolutely love it.  The face has a unique look and depending on the angle you view it from it can look stern or friendly.  There’s a small silver bluetooth sculpted in his right ear which is true to the original’s earpiece and the hat with the fur flaps is perfectly proportioned.

For accessories Ben has a sniper rifle with bi-pod, a knife, another gun, a TNT satchel, a couple of grenades, and a massive backpack which can hold some of the other items.  It’s an impressive arsenal for one dude.

Joe-Big Ben v7 face

The paint job is very true to the original and it looks great.  There’s just the right amount of highlight colors (golds and reds) peppered in to break up the primarily green color scheme.  I really like that the Club added a Union Jack on his right sleeve as it matches up nicely with his fellow brit, Quarrel’s, uniform.   On his left sleeve he has a logo for the SAF.  Is that the same as the SAS?  I don’t know.

Between the sculpting, the paint job, and the accessories this is a nearly perfect G.I. Joe figure.  My only gripe is that the legs don’t line up with the torso as well as they should.  It creates a noticeable gap and it makes for some really loose legs.  He stands up fine and is a solid display figure but if you hold his head and shake him his legs rattle around like some of my vintage Joes who only got that loose after years of play.  By no means is it a deal breaker though.  This is still a must-have figure.  9.5 out of 10.

Joe-Big Ben v7 Brits

CRIMSON GUARD IMMORTAL v.3 (2015)

Joe-Immortal v3 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

About a week and a half ago I reviewed a Crimson Guard Officer figure. Loyal reader and frequent commenter Guy requested that I follow that up with a review of the leaders of the Crimson Guard, Tomax and Xamot. The modern-era versions of the twins are on my short list of pending reviews but before I get to them I’m going to first take a look at another member of the crimson clad  family; Crimson Guard Immortal.

The first Crimson Guard figure was released in 1985. The Crimson Guard were said to be the soldiers who were most loyal to Cobra Commander. However, that proved not to be the case in the G.I. Joe comics published by Marvel in the 1980s as it was a CG that murdered the Commander and stole his identity. Over the years Hasbro has released numerous variations of the classic Crimson Guard. Like when Pink dyed her hair blonde the CGs refuse to be fashion slaves to their namesake. The Guards have donned uniforms ranging in colors from yellow to tan to black.Joe-Immortal v3 carded

One of the first Crimson Guard uniform variations came in the form of 1991’s Crimson Guard Immortal. I had stopped collecting Joes by ’91 so I never owned the original Immortal figure. I always assumed they looked different because they were higher ranking CGs but upon reading the file card I now see that there was no mention of the Immortals being squad leaders. The card describes them as fanatical super soldiers and the most formidable fighters in the Cobra Legions.

The ’91 Immortal figure was rereleased with a new blue paint deco in 2003.  I never acquired that one either even though my passion for collecting Joes had been renewed with a vengeance the year prior.  Version 2 came packaged with a vehicle I didn’t want so the added cost deterred me buying a brand new one. Plus I didn’t suffer from completest fever in those days so I didn’t feel compelled to seek a loose one out on the secondary market either.

version 1 (1991)

version 1 (1991)

Since I never owned either of the previous incarnations of this character I have no nostalgic ties to the Crimson Guard Immortal and wasn’t clamoring for a modern-era update. When the Club announced last year that Immortal would be included in their third Figure Subscription Service (FSS) I was rather indifferent about it. I’m always happy to add new trooper types to my Cobra ranks but I would’ve preferred to see a Secto-Viper or a Sea Slug.

Often times proposed FSS figures that I’m lukewarm about end up wowing me once I have them in hand.  That is not the case with Crimson Guard Immortal. Overall I think he looks pretty cool and he fits in nicely with the rest of my crimson army but there are just a few too many issues keeping him from being a great figure.Joe-Immortal v3 back

A lot of people out there don’t seem to like the vest the Club gave him.  They say its a poor approximation of the armour chest plate of the original.  I personally don’t have a problem with the vest.  It adds some bulk to the figure and I think it does a decent job of recreating the armoured look of the original’s torso.  The head sculpt is pretty good but there’s something a little off about it.  The goggles seem to sit a bit low making it hard to imagine someone’s face fitting inside there.  However the original looked that way too so I can’t knock the Club for replicating the design of the vintage figure.

What I don’t like about this figure are the arms and feet.  The feet have really annoying rocker joints at the ankles.  Sometimes too much articulation can be a bad thing and that is the case here.  These type of joints make it difficult to line up the  figure’s feet holes with the pegs on the stand and even when you do the holes aren’t deep enough.  The result is a very wobbly figure.  The arms used here are brutal.  The shoulder joints appear to be lower down on the torso than they should be and the vest accentuates it.  The elbow joints are goofy and the silver gauntlets don’t look good.  Worst of all are the hands, he’s got incredibly long hands with ape-like fingers.  He can barely hold onto any of his accessories. So now I’ve got a wobbly guy who drops everything; it’s like he’s a drunk.Joe-Immortal v3 guns

Speaking of accessories Immortal comes with two guns.  The smaller one fits in his hand okay but the larger one is useless. He also comes with a missile launcher and 3 missiles just like the original but he can’t hold that either so it’s pointless too.  Lastly he comes with a flag featuring what I guess is the Crimson Guard logo.  I love the flag but for the love of god why didn’t the Club give him a display base with a hole to place the flag in? The Club’s FSS 2.0 Keel Haul got a hole for his flag.  How come the guy whose hands don’t work has to carry his?  It’s cruel.

Despite all of those issues there’s still enough here to like to not give this figure a terrible score.  Let’s go with a 6 out of 10.Joe-Immortal v3 group

 

FROSTBITE v.13 (2015)

Joe-Frostbite v13 fullG. I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

The G.I. Joe Collectors Club’s third Figure Subscription Service (FSS) has come to a close. The final package containing figures 11 and 12 plus the mystery 13th figure arrived in the mail last week. The line-up for FSS 3.0 was first announced at the 2014 Joe Con. Faithful readers may recall that I promptly provided my 2 cents on the character selections in a post titled G.I. Joe Convention 2014 News. In that post I made my guess as to who the 13th figure would be. My guess was Golobulus based on two things.

One: the Club promised an exciting mystery figure for FSS 3.0 largely because fans were overwhelmingly disappointed with FSS 2.0’s 13th figure, Grand Slam and you can’t get much more exciting than Golobulus.

Two: Boss Fight Studios was at the Con that year showing off the prototypes for their upcoming Vitruvian Hacks action figure line. Boss Fight has worked with the Joe Club in the past and the fact that their Hacks line features a snake-bodied Gorgon practically guaranteed that we’d eventually see it used for a Golobulus figure.Joe-Frostbite v13 carded

It turns out I was wrong.  However, I now think there’s an even better chance of us getting Golobulus next year because the Club has already announced that his Cobra-La compatriot, Pythona, will be their 2016 incentive figure. My fingers are crossed that next year’s 15-figure Convention Set will be Cobra-La themed and contain a full squad of Royal Guards. Maybe we’ll even get some flying slugs as exclusive convention vehicles. That would awesome.

I already knew this year’s mystery figure wouldn’t be Golobulus a few months back because Boss Fight has been dealing with production delays on their Hacks line meaning no snake body was available to the Club.  So then I started thinking it might be Billy, Cobra Commander’s son. But as of the 2015 Joe Con weekend (April 10-12) I knew that wasn’t the case either because the Club announced that Billy is going to be included in their FSS 4.0. Unfortunately the Club pretty much spoiled their own FSS 3.0 surprise that same weekend by releasing Tiger Force Frostbite as one of the attendee exclusive figures.Joe-Frostbite v13 accessories

The original Frostbite figure was released in 1985 as the vehicle driver of the Snow Cat. I had that set growing up (still do) and I had a lot of fun with it. The Snow Cat was an awesome vehicle and Frostbite was a pretty cool figure. Frostbite struck me as an extremely likable Joe. Not only because he had a big smile on his face but also because his black beard made me associate him with one of my dad’s military co-workers, Bob Bilodeau, who always seemed like a pleasant guy.

In 1988 the original ’85 Frostbite was rereleased with a drastically different paint job.  He was made a member of the sub-team Tiger Force so in place of an all-white arctic deco he and his vehicle got a bright yellow, tiger-striped make-over.  Frostbite took his role on Tiger Force very seriously apparently because version 2 even had orange hair and an orange beard for some in explicable reason.  In truth, version 2 was much more interesting to look at but I almost always prefer the original character designs so the white uniformed Frostbite with the black beard was always my favorite.

During the new-sculpt era of G.I. Joe that ran from 2002 to 2006 Frostbite was released a whopping 8 different times.  For some reason Hasbro marketed him as the Joe team’s preeminent Arctic Trooper thus pushing the original, Snow Job, to the side (he didn’t get a single figure during the new-sculpt years). Some of those new-sculpt Frostbite figures were quite nice (and some weren’t) but none of them looked like Frostbite because most of them were clean shaven and the uniform was completely different.

1985, 2015, 2002

1985, 2015, 2002

When the modern-era figures hit the market in 2007 Hasbro ditched the redesigns and began releasing updated figures of classic characters in their most iconic outfits.  I was looking forward to a classically attired Frostbite but all we got was this figure in 2009.  I actually think Frostbite v12 is a cool looking figure but again it looks nothing like the original.

As more and more obscure vintage figures got modern-era make-overs the lack of a 1985 design Frostbite seemed all the more blasphemous.  The Club heard the fan outcry and finally rectified the situation with this figure.

Joe-Frostbite v13 goggles

As I mentioned above, the Club first made this figure available at the Joe Convention in April except that version had the yellow pants and the orange beard because the theme of this year’s Con was Tiger Force.  That figure looked amazing and I hope to own it one day but the cheapest one available on ebay at the moment is $105 + shipping and import charges so thats gonna have to wait.  As soon as I saw that figure though I knew the Club would soon rerelease it in the classic white outfit which is the version I most wanted.  As it turned out I didn’t have to wait very long because it ended up being the 13th mystery figure of FSS 3.0 and he’s now in hand.

1988 and 2015 Tiger Force Frostbite. Pic is from GeneralsJoes

1988 and 2015 Tiger Force Frostbite. Pic is from GeneralsJoes

This figure is awesome.  It may not look it because my crappy camera skills have flushed out a lot of the details in the sculpt but trust me; this is a must-have figure.

The body is made up of re-used parts that work really well together but the head and fur collar are newly sculpted pieces by Boss Fight Studios. The head sculpt is very well done with lots of personality in the face and fine detail in the fur hat.  This Frostbite isn’t nearly as cheerful looking as the original but I’m fine with that, fighting terrorists isn’t supposed to be fun.  The removable fur collar would be an easy component to overlook but its an excellent piece that really ties this figure together and completes the vintage look.

Joe-Frostbite v13 back

For accessories Frostbite has two pistols that can be holstered on his belt and chest, a rifle, a wrench, a European carry-all, and a pair of removable goggles.  I struggled a bit to get the goggles on over his hat but once they’re on there they look great.  This figure is a total home-run and probably the best of FSS 3.0.  10 out of 10.Joe-Frostbite v13 shades

2015 vs 2009 Frostbite

2015 vs 2009 Frostbite

 

GROOVE (2015)

TF-Groove fullTRANSFORMERS: COMBINER WARS

This was a nice little week for me toy-wise. On Tuesday my latest Masters of the Universe Classics figures, Two-Bad and Blast Attack, showed up in the mail. Wednesday afternoon the final G.I. Joe Figure Subscription Service (FSS) package arrived which included Big Ben, Crimson Guard Immortal plus the bonus mystery figure. Then later that night I went to Walmart and found three new Combiner Wars Transformers: Motor Master, Viper, and Groove.

Groove is a member of the Autobot sub-team the Protectobots.

1986 Groove art

1986 Groove art

The Protectobots were originally released in 1986. They were five individual robots, each of whom transformed into a rescue vehicle, that could combine to form the heroic gestalt Defensor. Equally sized Groove, First Aid, Streetwise and Blades formed the limbs while the larger leader of the team, Hot Spot, formed Defensor’s head and torso. I had all five of them when I was a kid and I loved them. The Protectobots were the only other full Combiner team I owned other than the Constructicons who formed Devastator. The Constructicons were the original combiners and they looked great but Devastator wasn’t much fun to play with because he was so fragile. Hasbro vastly improved their combiner design and construction by the time the Protectobots came out so Defensor was a much more stable toy that was a lot of fun to play with.

1986 Groove figure

1986 Groove figure

First Aid, who transformed into an ambulance, was my favorite Protectobot but Groove and Blades were close seconds. Blades was a helicopter and Groove turned into a police motorcycle; both of which were quite unique among my collection of Autobots that mostly turned into cars. I often curse myself for selling off my vintage Transformers collection when I was an adolescent.  I have to continually remind myself that the toys were not as good as I remember them to be. The combiners of old were a prime example. Defensor was a pretty rad toy as a whole but the individual Protectobots were not so impressive.  Hot Spot was decent but the figures that formed the limbs were small and stubby, lacked articulation, and had pea-sized heads. The ’86 Groove was especially stumpy because of his alt mode. His legs and torso were basically a solid hunk of plastic and he had these horrible narrow feet made out of his motorcycle seat that looked like witch shoes. The arms were wide and nubby and they didn’t extend more than a centimetre or so past his thick chest. My childhood imagination allowed me to believe that Groove was cool but objectively the toy was a clunker.TF-Groove back

I love that 30 years later those short and stubby combiner limbs are finally getting their due as legitimate action figures. If you’ve read my reviews of Fireflight of the Aerialbots or Breakdown of the Stunticons then you know how vastly superior these modern figures are when compared to their vintage counterparts. I now have the complete waves 1 and 2 of Hasbro’s Combiner Wars collection which means I can fully construct Superion and Menasor.   They’re both great but to me they’re like appetizers to wave 3’s Protectobots main course.   I’ve been eagerly anticipating updated Protectobots for years and soon I will finally have fully-posable, adequately-sized, well-sculpted figures of First Aid, Blades, and Streetwise…..but not Groove.

TF-Groove pose

Hasbro has decided to replace Groove with a newly conceived member of the Protectobots named Rook who will now fill the role of Defensor’s right leg.  It’s a bit disappointing that Groove lost his spot but it makes some sense. Groove is a motorcycle…Blades is a helicopter….they should not be the same size. Not that scale has ever made sense in the world of Transformers but I appreciate the attempt by Hasbro to make things a little more believable at least within the confines of a single sub-team. Besides, founding members of the Aerialbots and Stunticons also got the boot and scale wasn’t even an issue with them. Thankfully Groove didn’t get omitted from the team completely. While his peers will soon be released as 6” DELUXE class figures Groove gets this 3” LEGENDS scale figure.TF-Groove compare

This figure looks pretty small to me, especially when compared to the other combiner figures, but in fact this figure is about as tall as the original 1986 Groove. I think it seems extra small because this modern Groove is much leaner than the tubby ’86 model and also I’m much bigger than I was when I owned that original toy.

This Groove figure is nothing to get too excited about but it’s not bad at all.  The build of the figure is significantly different from the original but there are enough similarities that you can tell they’re the same character.  I always found Groove’s most distinguishing feature to be his gold face and this figure retains that.  This figure is way more posable than the vintage Groove.  He’s articulated at the ankles, the knees, the hips, the shoulders, and the elbows and many of those are ball-joints.  This allows for all kinds of poses.

TF-Groove bike

The areas where the original figure has an edge over this one is that this Groove has no weapons whereas the original had a hand gun and leg cannons.  Also the old figure had lots of stickers which added some color to the figure and lastly it had chromed pieces which I always like to see.  This Groove would look much better if his flat grey-colored arms and legs had that classic metallic sheen.

Groove on Groove

Groove on Groove

 

Groove’s alt-mode is still a police motorcycle though it looks a bit more modern than the old one.  This guy could be driven by Robocop whereas the old Groove was more suited to Ponch and Jon.  And even though he lost his spot as a limb Groove still has a place as part of Defensor; he now has a third mode where he form’s Defensor’s chest plate.

I would’ve preferred a 6″ Groove (which I think may be released eventually anyway) but this is a decent upgrade to the character and it’s hard to complain about a figure that only costs around ten bucks.  7 out of 10.

TWO-BAD (2014)

MOTUC-Two-bad fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

For those of you not in the know, this is how Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics toy line is sold. On the 15th of each month at least one new figure is made available on their website, matty collector.com. The figure remains for sale on the site until it sells out which can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days depending on the figure. Fans tend to scoop up old favorites like Beast Man and Trap Jaw quite quickly but lesser known and new characters like Netossa and Sir Laser Lot may sit around for a while.

To ensure they hit a certain amount of sales each month Mattel offers a subscription service at the start of each year. The benefit to Mattel is that it locks buyers into purchasing all of the figures released that year. The benefits to subscribers is early access to the monthly sales, discounted prices, and subscriber exclusive figures.MOTUC-Two-Bad faces

I buy the new MOTU Classics figure almost every month so you’d think it would make sense for me to subscribe. However, I never have because I feel Mattel set up the subscription option very poorly in a major way in that they don’t allow for combined shipping.

I live in Canada and our dollar is pretty much always worth less than the American dollar. Presently a $28 MOTU figure costs me $34 Canadian. The shipping for a single figure is at best $15 US which is about $19 CA. Therefore, a single figure purchase costs me $53. PLUS I occasionally get dinged at the boarder for customs fees which can tack as much as $20 more onto a figure’s overall cost. That is why I occasionally do not buy the monthly MOTU figure. Each figure I buy has to be justifiably worth $73 to me otherwise I pass on it. To Mattel’s credit their figures are so good that I buy from them about 10 months out of the year.MOTUC-Two-Bad attack

Presently, as a non-subscriber, when I buy 2 figures a month, which is often the case, the shipping costs are combined thereby bringing the overall cost per figure down which is great.  But, if I were to subscribe I would have to pay the full shipping costs on my obligatory subscription purchase and if I made any additional purchases I would have to pay full shipping on those items as well; even if they shipped out on the same day and from the same location. It costs me extra cash needlessly and that is why I’ve never subscribed.

Having early access to sales and getting minor discounts would be nice but the only time I ever felt royally screwed for not being a subscriber was when Mattel made Two-Bad a subscriber exclusive figure in January 2014. Two-Bad is one of my favorite MOTU characters. I love the original 1985 figure and I love the updated 2002 figure. Two-Bad was one of the characters I was most looking forward to getting in the Classics format and to deny me the chance to purchase him was downright cruel.  Shortly after his release BigBadToyStore was selling this figure for $80 plus shipping and I considered buying it many times.  I never did though because paying $80 for a figure I feel I should have been able to purchase from Mattel for under $30 really pissed me off.

Well it took a year and a half but Mattel finally gave me the opportunity to purchase Two-Bad for $27 last month and now I have him in my collection.  It did require me to subscribe…sort-of…but I’ve rambled on long enough in this post so I won’t get into that.MOTUC-Two-Bad back

According to the origin story on Two-Bad’s packaging, which is inspired by an episode of the 200X cartoon, Two-Bad was once two separate guys; bounty hunters named Tuvar and Baddrah.  After they failed to complete a mission assigned to them by Skeletor he punished them by merging them via an irreversible spell.  When the halves work together Two-Bad is a brilliant strategist but unfortunately they’re usually fighting amongst themselves and strategies are few and far between.

I gotta say, that was a real dick move even for Skeletor.  All of his evil warriors have horrible track records and yet none of the other guys are forced to share abdomens.  Poor bastards.

As much as I love the previous two incarnations this is definitely the best Two-Bad yet.  It’s an excellent homage to the 1985 figure.  The only element retained from the 2002 redesign is his weapon, a double mace.  The mace is pretty cool though it would be better is it was articulated like the 2002 version.  He also comes with a vintage style shield which looks fine but it doesn’t attach to his arm very well.

motu-two-bad-animatedThe sculpt on this figure is really nice.  The left side (the Tuvar side) is a mix of new and re-used pieces but the right side (the Baddrah side) is entirely new.  Baddrah is covered in scales and it has lots of boney protrusions.  The realistic sculpting on his leather boot and glove is very impressive too.  Tuvar’s skin is smooth and lacking in detail but his new medieval looking boot and gauntlet pieces compensate for that.  The torso is wider than that of most MOTU figures for obvious reasons but it doesn’t look overly so.  That unique design element was pulled off with much more finesse here than it was on the awkwardly shaped original.  Lastly, the head sculpts are both awesome.  Each face has a neutral expression which seems to say these guys mean business.  They don’t have any of the goofiness that was present in the original toy and the animated look.

The paint work is also very well done.  The skin tones are nice and crisp and most of the accessories have subtle two-toned paint jobs.  The metallic orange paint used on his chest armour flair is especially cool looking.  I’m very happy to finally have this figure in my collection.  10 out of 10.MOTUC-Two-Bad compare

ELITE VIPER v.1 (2009)

Joe-Elite viper v1 fullG. I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA

In my last 2 posts I reviewed the Crimson Guard Officer and the G.I. Joe green shirt Troopers. I bought them in a lot from a dude on facebook recently. Today I’m gonna take a look at the final figure from that lot, the Elite Viper.

I’ve said all this before but I’ll say it again. My relationship with the first live-action G.I. Joe movie, Rise of Cobra (ROC), is a complicated one. I was super stoked when the movie was first announced. Then I was continually let down as each new cast member was announced and each new piece of concept art was revealed. When the movie finally came out I was both disappointed and pleasantly surprised. It definitely wasn’t the G.I. Joe movie I would’ve made but it was a lot of fun to watch.Joe-Elitve viper v1 art

 

I had a similar reaction to the movie-based action figures. The actor likenesses were quite good for the most part, they were well built and showed some major improvements in articulation and sculpting when compared to the 25th anniversary figures, plus they had lots of accessories and vehicles. But I didn’t feel like I needed a Duke that looked like Channing Tatum or a Ripcord that looked like Marlon Wayans. The color palette for the figures was dark and drab. Almost everyone, good guys and bad guys alike, was wearing black and grey. I really ramped down my Joe collecting during the ROC years. I decided to only buy one version of each main character and I passed on most of the secondary characters that didn’t even show up in the film like Shipwreck and Snow Job.

Joe-Elite viper v1 closeup

Cobra has a wide array of troopers, from Alley-Vipers to Zombie-Vipers, and they come in every color of the rainbow.  Which is why it was so frustrating to see the film makers populate the movie with dreary uninteresting new trooper types. The main troopers in the film were the Neo-Vipers.   I really disliked them at first but I must confess they’ve really grown on me over the years.  I cannot say the same for the other movie-based troopers.  They all have a similar generic look that pales in comparison to the beloved classic trooper types of the 1980s.   Some of them were okay, like the Desert Viper and the Ice-Viper.  And some of them I really hated, like the ROC Eel (but I still bought one).  The Elite Viper was one of the ones I really hated.  So much so that I didn’t buy any of the 3 versions of him that came out in 2009 and 2010 and thats saying a lot because I pretty much buy all of the various troopers.  Absolutely nothing about it appealed to me.

The only movie still of an Elite Viper that I could find.  At least I think thats an Elite Viper.

The only movie still of an Elite Viper that I could find. At least I think thats an Elite Viper.

Years have passed since the Elite Viper’s release and more and more I find myself wanting to fill in those ROC holes in my collection.  Thus I reluctantly added the Elite Viper to my want list a while back.  Well it took a while but now I finally have one in hand.  Now that I have examined him thoroughly for this review I no longer hate him;  but I still don’t like him.

Joe-Elite viper v1 back

 

The Elite Viper shares a waist and torso with the MARS Troopers and Neo-Vipers so I suppose its nice to have a cohesive looking Cobra team, but that consistency also diminishes the uniqueness that made the old troopers so fun to collect.   Elite Viper at least got brand new arms and legs and they’re not bad.  He also received a brand new head.  I would’ve sworn he had the same head as the Eel but apparently he does not.  They’re very similar but there are a few subtle differences that can be spotted when scrutinized.  The main reason its so hard to see the differences is because both have a shiny black head with zero paint apps.  The head was the thing I liked least about the Eel and its the thing I like least about the Elite Viper too.  The sculpting is okay, it kind of looks like a Neo-Viper helmet mixed with a Snake Eyes mask, but the lack of paint really hurts it.  None of the details can be made out and it looks unfinished.  It seems like it belongs on a completely different figure.  Some silver paint on the visor would have made a world of difference.  Both versions 2 and 3 of the Elite Viper have painted visors so perhaps I should seek them out next.

Elite Viper and Eel

Elite Viper and Eel

 

 

The Elite Viper came with a healthy dose of accessories. He’s got a display stand, a pistol that can be holstered on his leg, 2 machine guns, a missile launcher with missile, a backpack, and an axe that can be stored on the backpack.  I don’t know why he has an axe but it makes him that much scarier.

Lastly I should mention his paint job.  While lack of paint is this figure’s biggest downfall the black paint wash over his silver armour actually looks pretty awesome.  It adds a real-world whethered look to the figure.  5 out of 10.

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