BLACK OUT v.2 (2013)
So here he is at last, the mystery 13th figure from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s 2012 Figure Subscription Service. I paid a good chunk of change to the Club for 12 exclusive figures to be mailed to me in pairs over the course of 6 months. The cost worked out to be about $30 a figure which is by no means cheap but not preposterous either considering the work that must have went into this project. The 12 figures were Jinx, Nano-Bat, Big Boa, Topside, Sure Fire, Quarrel, Dice, Barrel Roll, Grunt, T.N.T., Iron Klaw and Cover Girl. It was an eclectic assortment of characters in which I think every Joe fan could have found something to enjoy. The characters ranged from members of the 1982 original 13, foreign rarities, fan-favorites, new-sculpt era characters, Extreme characters, and even brand new characters. Overall I would say that the inaugural FSS was a resounding success. One of the biggest selling points of the FSS back when it was first announced was the inclusion of a mystery 13th figure which would be mailed with the final shipment. There were lots of predictions made this past year as to who it might be. I wasn’t worried about being disappointed considering the impressive line-up of the known 12 figures, I was just wondering how excited I would be. My top pick would have been Pythona whom I’ve wanted ever since her prominent introductory role in the 1987 animated Joe movie. My second choice would have been Cobra Commander’s son Billy simply because he’s been such an important part of the Joe mythos for so long and has never received an action figure. Beyond that I would have liked to have seen either another classic character like Fast Draw or another revisited new sculpt era character like the Neo-Viper or the Cobra medic, Scalpel.
Well there was no such luck with my top two choices and none of my beloved classic characters like Fast Draw or Maverick got updated either. However the club did opt to go with another new-sculpt era character akin to Barrel Roll. Very akin actually as the Club surprised us with Barrel Roll’s brother Black Out. As you may have read in my Barrel Roll review from a couple of days ago, those two characters, along with their younger sister Bombstrike, were introduced into the world of Joe during the new sculpt years (2002-2006). The early 2000s was a fun time to be collecting Joes because they were plentiful, affordable, and for the first time in a long time backed by a big marketing push. There were vehicles, and DVDs, and coloring books and all kinds of other stuff available to help draw attention to the brand. Classic characters had new looks and brand new characters were introduced. Some of my favorite newbies were this trio of siblings, two of which were Joes while the other was a Cobra. Most of the drama was played out in their file cards only, but Devil’s Due had begun to touch on the fractured relationship between the brothers just before they lost the license to produce Joe comics. In their series Cobra had created an elite team of 13 soldiers known as The Plague which was basically their answer to the original 13 Joes. Black Out had been recruited as a member of the plague after washing out of Joe training. I feel that it could have been a story with legs if Devil’s Due had retained the license. IDW has since introduced Black Out into their new Joe continuity so we may still get to see the sibling rivalry play out in their pages.
Black Out was one of my top picks for a new sculpt era character in need of a modern update. Sending him out in the same shipment as his brother was a nice touch. Their sister Bombstrike has now become a character in dire need of an update so I wouldn’t be surprised to see her pop up in the near future. Fingers crossed.
I know that some people were let down by this surprise reveal. If you weren’t collecting Joes in the early 2000s then I would totally understand that reaction. Personally I’m quite pleased with the character choice. Where my disappointment comes in is with the execution of the figure, primarily the head. The body is actually pretty cool. It’s made up of a mish-mash of parts including Zartan’s torso but they all come together nicely to give us a decent new version of Black Out which is reminiscent of the original. When the original Black Out was released in 2003 I liked the idea of the character more than I liked the actual toy. It suffered from the same proportion issues than plagued (no pun intended) many figures released during that period. The broad shoulders and small torso gave him an almost ape-like physique. The worst part about that figure was the head. It was well made and distinct, but not distinct in a good way. He had a red flat top, a pointy nose and an odd expression on his face. He kind of reminded me or Archie. That wouldn’t be a great association for any Joe figure let alone one who was supposed to be a cold-blooded traitor hand-picked by Cobra Commander to join his team of elite assassins. The face just didn’t work for me. He came with removable goggles which didn’t help matters. They just made him look like Archie in glasses. So you can understand why I would be excited about this character with so much potential was finally getting a makeover.
Well the Club cobbled together a good body; the ape-like proportion issues have been resolved. But what they didn’t do is give us a new head. They took the 2004 head and retooled it slightly to work with the modern figure construction and, voila, a new Black Out. Some people might be happy to see that his distinctive face has not changed but I would’ve been happier with a repainted Duke face or something instead of getting this head again. I just can’t take this guy seriously as a threat with that goofy mug of his. I can practically see his freckles. I really wish the Club had put some of their resources into designing a new head for this character as he really needed one. This version includes the same goggles as the original and they still don’t help to make him any cooler.
Other than the goggles Black Out also came packaged with a display base, a excellent 3-toned sniper rifle, a pistol, a pack of bullets, and a scope with tripod. Most of these items were originally packaged with Low Light, the Joe team’s sniper. It was a noble effort by the club but design wise I feel that this figure is one of the biggest “misses” of the 2012 FSS and it’s all because of that re-used head. The Club did the same thing with their recent Iceberg figure that members received for signing up for the 2013 club newsletter. I haven’t received mine yet but the basic consensus on the net seems to be that reusing a head from 1986 doesn’t fly on a 2013 figure. I feel the same is true of this head from 2003. I’m glad to see, that for the upcoming 2013 FSS, the Club seems to have invested in new head sculpts for more characters. Hopefully this retooling of old heads is not a trend that will continue. So while I ended this on a bad note I still think that from the shoulders down this is a very nice figure and just as I did in 2003 I’m willing to overlook the lackluster face because this is such a cool character. 7 out of 10.