DUKE v29 (2008)
I have reached nearly 300 posts on this blog (this is 291) and I can’t believe I’ve made it this far without reviewing a Duke figure. Not because Duke is such a great figure that warrants being talked about but just because I have so many damn Duke figures. Other than Snake-Eyes, Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander Duke is probably the character of which I have the most different versions. Hasbro loves this guy and insists on cramming him into our collections every chance they get. It gets kind of old seeing new Duke figures released constantly but I guess somebody needs to be the face of G.I. Joe and who better than this blonde haired pretty boy. Snake-Eyes being a wicked cool ninja dressed all in black seems the obvious choice but the problem with Snake-Eyes is that he doesn’t talk. His muteness and facelessness do not make him a good candidate for spokesman.
Duke first appeared in 1984 as the Joe’s field commander. I was luke-warm on him from the get go. I don’t hate Duke but I never much cared for him. It didn’t help matters that I never owned a Duke figure as a kid, Doug did, so I don’t have any real sentimental attachment to the character either. He always seemed to hog all the air time on the show while other favorites of mine were relegated to background shots in battle scenes. Would it have been too much to ask for to have Lightfoot save the day or to have Spearhead get thrown into the arena of sport? I also didn’t like how Duke was portrayed as Scarlett’s love interest in the cartoon when every real Joe fan knew that she was Snake-Eyes’ girl.
I never heard of a Joe fan loving the character of Duke. He’s nobody’s favorite; he’s just kind of there. In fact I’ve grown to like him more over the years out of pity since I’ve heard him dumped on so many times. My abundance of Dukes mostly comes from the new sculpt era of the early 2000s. In those days figures came in 2 packs and Duke was often packaged with other characters I wanted. Despite the sheer number of Dukes being released I never found any of them all that appealing. They were always kind of boring. It wasn’t until 2009 that a Duke figure that I genuinely think is cool was released. This isn’t him. The one I like was based on the animated film G.I. Joe: Resolute. I’ll get to him another time. This Duke is just one of the mediocre ones…or is he?
The first Duke figure released in the modern era was a disappointment. He had his original outfit on which I appreciated because none of my 2000 era figures had that classic tan shirt look. But the color scheme was just as bland as the original. The figure had a little pin head, pretty dull accessories and some serious articulation issues. In fact the arms used on that Duke figure have been re-used several time on other characters and every time they re-appear the internet is flooded with nerd rage rants about those hated “Duke arms”. Hopefully Hasbro has retired them for good by now.
This figure was released in a DVD Battle Pack in 2008. There were a 5 Battle Packs released that year and they were a great bang for your buck. Each pack contained multiple figures, usually some repaints of previously released toys plus a new character, and a part of the infamous MASS device. Once you purchased all 5 packs you could assemble Cobra’s ultimate teleportation weapon. The Battle Packs also came packaged with a DVD containing 5 episodes of the 80s G.I. Joe cartoon.
Duke came in a pack with Alpine, Cobra Commander, a Cobra Paratrooper, a Cobra Claw glider, the MASS device component and the “Best of the ‘80s Episodes” DVD. Alpine was the real draw to the set for me but the whole thing was pretty great. I can always use more Cobra blueshirts so the Paratrooper was welcome, the Cobra Commander was the first of the modern era to have a chrome faceplate, and the CLAW is a great little vehicle. The whole set was clearly inspired by the opening credit sequence of the animated movie. In that sequence Cobra is attacking the statue of liberty. Cobra paratroopers are everywhere and the Commander is strapped into his fang glider. Then from out of nowhere the Joes swoop in on jet packs lead by Duke. Duke announces the Joe’s arrival with an energetic “Yo Joe!”. After the Joes save the day they stand atop the statue of liberty with the American flag waving behind them. It’s a fantastic sequence, go check it out on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DN034sBeF4c
Now while this Duke shares many of the same components of his less than stellar predecessor there have been some improvements made. First off his color scheme is much more “animated” and not nearly as bland looking. His tan shirt is now a bright yellow. The second and most obvious change is the head sculpt. No longer meek and pinheaded, this Duke is ready for action. Never before has a Joe figure appeared in mid battle-cry. I kind of love that they gave his this crazy yelling face as it separates from the pile of other Dukes I have. Lastly there’s his awesome accessories. His silver display base has an American Flag on it. Why don’t all Joes have this? And the man has a frig’n jet pack. How cool is that? He’s not the first to have one but how can you go wrong with a jet pack in your arsenal. I wouldn’t want this day-glow testosterone fueled flyboy as the only Duke in my collection but seeing as he’s just one of many I think this is a pretty sweet figure. 7 out of 10.