Monthly Archives: May 2015

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.

G.I. JOE TROOPER v.1 a-d (2008)

Joe-Joe Trooper v1 groupG.I. JOE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY

In addition to the Crimson Guard Officer of my last post I also recently purchased four G.I. Joe Troopers from a facebook seller. Rather than blog about them separately I’m just going to lump them all together for a single review.Joe-Joe Trooper v1 brown

The idea of generic troopers being members of G.I. Joe is somewhat controversial amongst Joe fans. G. I. Joe is supposed to be a highly trained special missions force made up of the best of the best. Traditionally, Joes have had fancy code-names like “Blowtorch” and “Roadblock” and they have unique military specialties and flashy outfits. So perhaps you can understand why some people find it odd that there would be a bunch of unspecialized nameless grunts on the team. I’m neutral on the topic. I don’t necessarily like the thought of the Joe team being padded with cannon fodder but at the same time I understand the need for them.

Joe Troopers, or “green shirts” as fans call them, have been around since the earliest days of the Real American Hero. They were often seen in the background of the cartoons, comics, and merchandise. However their presence was never really addressed back then as far as I know. Were they actually members of the G.I. Joe team or were they just there as back-up?Joe-Joe Trooper v1 blonde

The first sort-of generic Joe was introduced into the toy line in 1986; the Steel Brigade Trooper. I don’t think the SB Trooper really counts though because he wasn’t intended to be a generic nobody; he was intended to be you. Kids could send in an order form with a code name and military specialty of their choosing and Hasbro would send them a generic masked figure with a file card that was unique to them. It was a neat idea and I’m sure most kids that ordered the figured used it as an individual character as opposed to an army builder  (My Steel Brigade Trooper’s code name was Blackout).  But in the years since that figures release in 1987 most fans regard the Steel Brigade as a sub-team of G.I. Joe.

Devil's Due greenshirt

Devil’s Due greenshirt

The first acknowledgement of green shirts actually being part of the G.I. Joe team that I’m aware of came during the run of comics produced by Devil’s Due in the early 2000s. The Devils’s Due green shirts had a kind of sci-fi flair which would’ve made for a cool action figure.  But when Hasbro released the first green shirt action figures in 2005 in a Toys R Us exclusive Infantry Division 6-pack they went with a more traditional look.  All six of the figures shared the exact same build. Their bodies were made up of parts from various vintage Joes dating all the way back to 1982 and they all had the same head which originally belonged to the Joe’s mortar specialist, Downtown. To differentiate the infantry soldiers from one another the head was repainted in 6 different ways. There were a couple of black guys, a redhead, a blonde, a brunette, and a Latino. None of them were given names but they each had a unique file card describing their individual skills.  The cards had a blank space on them where a code name could be written. The idea being that once the infantry division recruit proved himself as a valuable member of the team he could choose a code name for himself and become a true Joe. It was another neat idea that added some extra play value to some otherwise dull figures.

2005 infantry division

2005 infantry division

Three years later Hasbro revisited the infantry division idea.  These modern-era green shirt figures also came in a Toys R Us exclusive box set. The 2008 set was called “Firefly vs G.I. Joe Troopers” and it featured 4 Joe recruits along with a repaint of the Cobra saboteur. Many of those exclusive sets were hard to come by in my area.  I never managed to find one in the wild and I never bothered to buy one on ebay because the prices were too steep for what I considered a fairly lackluster set. But it went on my want list and I waited, hoping that one day I would find the figures at a decent price.  That day came recently when Robert from one of the G.I. Joe discussion groups I’m a member of offered up the troops for $6 a piece.Joe-Joe Trooper v1 boxed

I’m pretty happy to finally have these four figures after seven years of waiting, however, my initial assessment of the figures was accurate, they’re pretty lackluster.  All four of them share the exact same build from the neck down.  They’ve got Snake Eyes’ legs and torso which is fine but then they have the dreaded 2007 Duke arms.  Duke arms are the worst.  They’re long, lanky, poorly articulated and they have an awful looking joint on the forearm.  These things should have been banished from use after they first showed up but unfortunately they were reused multiple times in the early years of the modern-era.  Each of these figures has a different head which is nice and a big improvement over the 2005 pack.  All the heads come form other Joes.  The blonde bearded trooper has Breaker’s head, the ginger has Duke’s head, the brunette has Hawk’s head, and the tan-haired dude has Flash’s head. They’re not the best looking of faces but at least they’re relatively generic so they can pass for everyday Joes and they’re not immediately recognizable as name characters.Joe-Joe Trooper v1 duo

I really like the paint job on these figures.  They have dark green pants and olive green shirts and helmets which is how I believe they looked in the cartoons.  It’s a very basic military look that blends in very well with the original 13 Joes and the old-school vehicles.

For accessories each Trooper comes with a knife that can be sheathed on their leg, a pistol that can be holstered on their belt, a rifle, a machine gun, a helmet, and a display stand. The weapons are pretty standard but perfectly suited to these retro looking troopers.  My only gripe about the accessories is none of my troopers’ helmets fit except for the blonde guy who has a huge noggin when compared to the other guys.  Like the 2005 file cards these troopers have a card that has a blank space where you can write your own code name. The novelty of the gimmick has worn off over the years but I’m still happy to see it.  6 out of 10.Joe-Joe Trooper v1 vehiclesJoe-Joe Trooper v1 OG13

CRIMSON GUARD OFFICER v.1 (2008)

Joe-Crimson officer v1 fullG. I. JOE: 25TH ANNIVERSARY

I’m not on ebay very often these days. Making an ebay purchase usually means I’m on the auction site seeking out something in particular that I can’t find anywhere else. For the past couple of years I’ve pre-ordered many of my toys from BigBadToyStore so it’s rare that something new slips past me forcing me to turn to the pricey secondary market. Also, I only browse ebay when I have some disposable income burning a hole in my pocket. Between the G.I. Joe convention sets, the G.I. Joe Figure Subscription Service, my monthly Masters of the Universe purchases from Mattycollector, the influx of Transformers Combiner Wars figures at local toy stores, and the multiple action figure kickstarter campaigns I’ve backed this past year, I’ve pretty much bled my disposable income dry. There are still plenty of holes in my toy collections that I’d like to fill  one day but the steady stream of new product has diverted my attention from seeking out those older items. And yet, despite the fact that I’ve stopped looking for them, those “want list” figures still manage to find me and bleed my wallet just a little bit drier.Joe-Crimson Guard Officer v1 back

I’m a member of a couple G.I. Joe discussion groups on facebook; at least two but possibly even three or four. I didn’t set out to join those groups; I was “invited” by friends and once invited I’m automatically a member. And so everyday my newsfeed is flooded with posts from strangers debating things like “What’s the best water-based Cobra vehicle” or “Should your collection be arranged alphabetically or chronologically?” I actually enjoy reading the posts most of the time but sometimes it can be a bit much.

One of the benefits of these facebook groups is that members will often offer up figures for sale and trade. Because we’re all “friends” in the online G.I. Joe community people tend to offer items at pretty good prices most of the time. You may recall a post I wrote a few weeks ago where I reviewed a Crimson Cobra Viper. That was a purchase I made through one of the facebook groups. There’s another dude named Robert in one of the groups who is constantly posting pictures of huge lots of Joe figures for sale ranging from $5 to $8 a pop. I’ve bought a handful of figures from him now in three different transactions. A couple days ago my most recent acquisitions from him arrived in the mail.

Pic from yojoe.com

Pic from yojoe.com

My latest batch of figures from Robert included 4 G.I. Joe troopers from 2008, an Elite Viper from 2009, and this Crimson Guard Officer from 2008. All of them are figures from the early days of the modern-era that I either passed on initially or they eluded me at retail.

The Crimson Guard Officer came in a 3-pack which was part of a series called “Senior Ranking Officers”. The pack also included a red hooded Cobra Commander and a standard Crimson Guard Trooper. All of the Officer 3-packs were exclusive to Toys R Us stores.  I was buying all my Joes from my local comic shop, Strange Adventures, at the time and didn’t get over to Toys R Us very often.  I managed a couple of trips but the only Senior Ranking Officer sets I found were the the one with Ace, Starduster, and Wild Bill and the one with Cutter, Torpedo, and Deep Six.  The other four 3-packs frustratingly eluded me.

My brother Doug scored the Crimson Guard themed pack on one of his visits and he doesn’t even collect Joes. It’s annoyed me for the past 7 years that he had this figure and I didn’t but finally that wrong has been righted.Joe-Crimson Guard Officer v1 squad

This is the only figure I got from the 3-pack but that’s okay.  The Crimson Guard Trooper doesn’t really matter to me because I already have a few of them and the red Cobra Commander is neat but not essential (I already have more than a dozen CCs and the red one is kind of dated). It was only this Crimson Guard Officer, with the gold faceplate and the black panel on his jacket, that I needed for my collection.

The build of this figure is identical to the Crimson Guard Troopers I already had.  The only difference is the paint job but what a paint job it is.  As you can see from the pictures above and below there have been several paint variations of the standard Crimson Guard.  Some of them are subtle ( a silver faceplate or a silver visor) and some of them are drastic (the python patrol and desert versions).  This version is the best of both worlds because  the differences are obvious so you know immediately that this guy holds a higher rank than the average trooper and because he’s still a CRIMSON guard.  I always found it odd when Hasbro released Crimson Guards in colors other than red.  They might look cool but it kind of clashes with the name.

The sculpt of this figure is pretty great.  It does the fan-favorite 1985 original proud.  I prefer the rounder head of the original for nostalgic reasons but this helmet design looks more menacing.  I’m glad Hasbro has released so many variations of this figure over the years as its given me an excuse to army build a small squad of them.

For accessories the Crimson Guard Officer has a standard CG backback, a rifle with bayonet, a display base, and a pistol which can be holstered on his leg.  Many of the early 25th anniversary figures have not aged well but I think this one has stood the test of time.  9 out of 10.

Joe-Crimson Guard Officer v1 group

RAINBOW SAM

BB-Rainbow sam fullBATTLE BEASTS

For their fourth and final wave of Battle Beast figures Takara did away with the Transformer-esque heat-activated rub emblem found on the first 3 waves and replaced it with a round magnifying lens.  The idea was that you would hold the figure up to a light source in order to see the character’s secret team affiliation: Wood, Water, or Fire.  My Rainbow Sam happens to be a Fire soldier but he was available with all 3 symbols.  Perhaps one day I’ll become such an obsessive collector that I’ll need to track down one of each for all of the Battle Beast figures.  Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

BB-Rainbow sam artI’ve mentioned many times before how much I loved Battle Beasts when I was a kid.  I think its the most under appreciated toy line of the 80s.  The characters were a clean slate and you could use them however you wanted without being a slave to a predetermined TV show or comic book play structure.  The 2 inch figures generally came in 2-packs and I always assigned one as a good guy and one as a bad guy.  Rainbow Sam was the good guy in the case of his 2-pack which meant his pack mate Tiger Burn had to be a bad guy.  The choice seemed obvious to me.  How could you make this lovable little red bird a bad guy?  Then again Disney did it in Aladdin so I suppose it wouldn’t have been too far a stretch.

Because I didn’t know the characters names when I was a kid I named this figure Battle Parrot.  In my Battle Beast universe he was a no-nonsense tough guy who often double talked and squawked between sentences.  His speech pattern was modelled after Polly, Shipwreck’s parrot from the G.I. Joe cartoon.

BB-Rainbow sam carded

Both the sculpt and paint job are really nice on this figure.  His armour is relatively simple with a subtle wing motif on the shoulders and really cool boots with spikes on the back.  I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a kick from this guy.  There are absolutely no paint apps on the armour.  It’s a solid shade of beige.  Normally this would be disappointing but the figure is so colorful otherwise that apps on the armour might have made it to busy.

The feathers are a bright shade or red, his beak is orange, his eyes are yellow, and he has white circles around his eyes.  Apparently there are variants out there without the white circles. Something else I’ll need to track down if I ever go fully Battle Beast insane.  The wings have a nice rounded design and they’re proportioned well.  They go from red to yellow to blue which really makes this figure stand out on a shelf when displayed with other figures.

BB-Rainbow sam backMy only gripe would be that the wings hinder his arm articulation a bit which isn’t good since his arms are the only part of him that move.  Luckily the plastic is soft enough that you can push the wings back out of the way if you want him to outstretch his arms.BB-Rainbow Sam gun

Where the first 3 waves of Battle Beasts all had bladed weapons the Laser Beasts (or Shadow Warriors) of wave 4 all had guns.  The guns were all very creatively designed to resemble their carrier.  Sam’s gun looks like a parrot’s head and yet still looks likes a pretty cool gun too.

 

A cool little figure.  9 out of 10.

RAZOR TROOPER v.1 (2004)

Joe-Razor trooper v1 fullG.I. JOE: VALOUR VS VENOM

In order to take a side-by-side comparison shot for my recent Bombstrike review I had to haul out my box of new-sculpt era G.I. Joe figures.  “New-sculpt” is the designation assigned by Joe fans to the figures produced by Hasbro from 2002-2007.  By and large those years don’t get a lot of love from Joe fans but I get more nostalgic about them all the time.  Digging through the box looking for my 2005 Bombstrike I came across so many cool figures that I don’t get to see very often because I haven’t had my new-sculpt Joes on display since 2007 when the modern-era figures took over their spot.

If I had the room to display all of my toys I would but I don’t so some things have to remain boxed up.  It makes sense that of the 3 eras of 3 3/4″ G.I. Joes (Real American Hero (RAH), new-sculpt, and modern) that the modern figures would be the ones displayed for a couple of reasons.  Not only am I still actively collecting them but also because they’re geared towards the collector market so they have a level of detail not seen in the first two eras.Joe-Razor trooper v1 art

As an adult collector who displays his toys I  think the modern era Joes are perfectly suited for display purposes.  However, if I was a kid who wanted to play with his toys the modern-era figures would fall short.  The RAH and new-sculpt figures had a fun and playability factor that is sadly lacking in the modern Joes.  When I was sifting through the new-sculpt box I kept coming across figures that I wanted to play with, not just stick on a shelf for display.  The Razor Trooper is a perfect example.

Joe-Razor Trooper v1 face

 

 

In 2004 Hasbro followed up their “Spy-Troops” theme with “Valour vs Venom”.  The idea was that Cobra was infusing their soldiers with animal DNA to enhance their abilities.  Most of the “V-Troops” were new army builders like Swamp Rats and Electric Eels but a few new “name” characters were introduced as well such as Venomous Maximus and a new Croc Master.  One of the new individual characters was Razor Claw; a warrior trained by ninjas and infused with the DNA of a tiger.  Nothing about his costume read “tiger” which seems kind of odd but perhaps they didn’t want him to look like a member of the Joe sub-team, Tiger Force.  Razor Claw had a black and red uniform with grey highlights and black goggles.  His defining characteristic was a couple of sword blades attached to his forearms.  Razor Claw was a decent looking figure but I didn’t care much for the head sculpt.Joe-Razor Trooper v1 fight

Later that year Hasbro decided to give Razor Claw some underlings to boss around.  They repainted his body, plopped on a new head, and created the Razor Trooper.  The Razor Trooper’s file card read almost the exact same as Razor Claw’s.  It said the venomization process erased their memories and filled them with unrestrained anger.  They are proficient with high-tech weaponry but they don’t rely on it.   They prefer to use the retractable claws gifted to them as a result of the tiger DNA.  There’s no evidence of retractable claws on the figure and it seems like a tad bit of overkill to give a guy claws if he already has sword-arms but who am I to second guess Dr. Mindbender.Joe-Razor trooper v1 back

I think the Razor Trooper is a pretty cool figure.  It’s proportioned fairly well which can’t be said of many new-sculpt era figures.  I like the sculpted cobra emblem on the chest and the raised black piping on the torso gives the figure a pretty distinct look.  The trooper has a similar color palette to Razor Claw (black, red, and grey) which ties them together nicely and yet the outfits are still quite different.   The arm blades are a cool idea but what I find especially neat about them is that they are articulated at the base.  That way the blades can be pointed up or down.  The fact that the Trooper can flip the blade back and forth makes it seem much more functional than just a blade for stabbing.  I can imagine him swinging them about and using them defensively to block attacks as well as using them as offensive weapons.  I bet it would look awesome in a cartoon or live-action.

The head was the only newly sculpted piece for this figure which is fine with me because that was the only piece I didn’t like about Razor Claw.  The helmet shape is similar to the one worn by Razor Claw but instead of black goggles and an exposed face the Razor Trooper has a solid black faceplate akin to the classic Viper.  It’s a very cool look that fits in perfectly with the established Cobra aesthetic.  The Razor Trooper was one of my favorite V-Troops and I’d love to see him updated in the modern style someday so that he could once again be put on display and enjoyed on a regular basis.  8 out of 10.

Joe-Razor trooper v1 kick

BREAKDOWN (2015)

TF-Breakdown fullTRANSFORMERS: COMBINER WARS

The first wave of Combiners Wars figures arrived at local toy stores at the beginning of March. It included 4 of the 5 Aerialbots and 1 of the 5 Stunticons.  I’m not sure why Hasbro decided to release them that way because it was kind of annoying trying to build a completed Combiner with one of the pieces missing.  For 2 months now I’ve had a Superion displayed on my shelf with a  yellow race car for an arm.  Fortunately wave 2 was set to include the missing Aerialbot needed to finalize Superion as well as the other 4 Stunticons which would allow me to build Menasor.  Wave 2 went up for pre-order on many retail toy sites at the same time as wave 1 so it seemed as though there wouldn’t be a long wait between the two waves.  And yet, the two month wait seemed extra long; and the reason for that is my brother Doug.

TF-Breakdown art

Doug and I collected Transformers together when we were kids but he hasn’t bothered to keep up with the brand.  I think he’s maybe bought one or two Transformers since the 80s.  I on the other hand am as big a fan as ever.  I’ve collected the comics religiously for the past 10 years and I have a amassed a pretty impressive Transformers toy collection.  I have two bookshelves worth of modern-era Transformers, well over a hundred of them, plus a handful of vintage ones.TF-Breakdown back

I’ve been singing the praises of the Classics/Generations series of Transformers ever since I bought my first one, Bumblebee, back in 2006. Just like the G.I. Joe 25th anniversary figures or the Masters of the Universe Classics line, Transformers Generations was updating classic toys from my childhood with a modern spin geared towards the adult collector market.  Despite the accolades I heaped onto the Generations figures both vocally and on this blog Doug never felt the urge to dive back into collecting Transformers.  But when I showed him my wave 1 Combiner Wars figures I finally broke him.

Doug owned the original 1980s Aerialbots and Stunticons when we were kids and he has a soft spot for them.  The day after I showed him my wave 1 figures he went out and bought the entire wave for himself.  And then, with seemingly no effort at all, he stumbled upon wave two like a week later.

I don’t normally hunt for toys,  I don’t have a car so getting around to toy stores and malls isn’t always easy,  I usually just look for new stuff when I happen to be out.  But knowing that Doug had wave 2 and I didn’t drove me nuts.  I began hunting feverishly for my own set but my efforts were fruitless again and again.  I hate when he’s got cool shit that I want.  We always were a little competitive in certain aspects of our lives.

TF-Breakdown pose

Well my hunt ended on Monday night.  Vanessa was out on a Walmart run to return some shoes and she called to ask the names of the Transformers I had been looking for.  Vanessa is supportive of my hobby but she is in no way a toy-girl. She can tell Snake Eyes from Storm Shadow about as well as my mom can.  So the fact that she would rifle through pegs and pegs of Transformers with her phone to her ear while I rhymed off names like Dead End and Air Raid should tell you how special she is.  But as much as I appreciated the gesture I expected it to be a lost cause. To my surprise they had them all.  Vanessa drove over to my place afterwards to drop off my four new figures, including Breakdown.

Breakdown was my favorite Stunticon back in the day.  Red and Black cars had been done to death so Breakdown’s white and blue color palette was a refreshing change.  I also liked his bright red face.  The original 1986 figure was nothing to call home about though.  It was blocky, clunky, and stiff.  It only had about 5 moving parts so the transformation was overly simple and articulation was practically non-existant.

1986 Breakdown

1986 Breakdown

I don’t recall the character being very well developed in the cartoons or comics but his packaging describes him as being very paranoid which might have been a fun angle to explore.  I’m hoping to see Breakdown and the other combiners fleshed out further in IDW’s Combiner Wars tie-in comic which they’re currently publishing.

This updated version of Breakdown is pretty awesome.  It features a brand new mold which harkens back to the original but surpasses it in every way.  No longer is Breakdown blocky, clunky, or stiff.  This figure is bigger, more detailed and far more articulated.  I like that his head is actually big enough this time around so that he can have a little personality in his face.TF-Breakdown car

His car mode looks almost exactly like the original.  Apparently its a Lamborghini.

For accessories Breakdown comes with a purple hand/foot/cannon and a long rifle with a bladed edge.  It can be held as if it were a gun or a sword.  It’s actually pretty sweet.

It’s a real shame that this figure is so good because he’s going to end up displayed simply as a limb and breakdown deserves to be seen. 9 out of 10.

TF-Breakdown gun

NIGHT CREEPER LEADER v.3 (2015)

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

Yesterday I reviewed Bombstrike from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s third Figure Subscription Service (FSS). As a subscriber to the FSS I get 2 exclusive G.I. Joe figures in the mail each month. I was very excited to receive Bombstrike last week, however, I was much less enthusiastic about her pack mate.  Bombstrike out shipped out with the Club’s updated version of Night Creeper Leader.Joe-NCL v3 face

You may recall that I reviewed a couple Night Creeper figures not too long ago. The Night Creepers are a clan of cyber ninjas who work under contract with Cobra. The first Creeper figure was released in 1990. A much uglier version was released in 1993 and an even uglier version was released in 1994. For the first few years of their existence the Creeper clan was without a leader in the toy world but in the sub-par G.I. Joe cartoon produced by DIC in the early 90s the Night Creepers had a boss that fraternized with Cobra high command. The leader in the animated series looked just like the standard purple and grey 1990 Night Creepers but his mouth and nose were exposed. When Hasbro finally released an action figure of Night Creeper Leader in 1993 they decided to go a different route.

DIC's animated Night Creeper Leader

DIC’s animated Night Creeper Leader

The ’93 Night Creeper Leader figure featured a mostly brand new sculpt and he bore little resemblance to his ninja henchmen. Instead of being covered from head to toe in purple and grey armour and camouflage NCL sported tiger-striped orange pants, a blindfold and skullcap, and no shirt.  It was a pretty wild design for the leader of a stealth ninja army.  I didn’t own Night Creeper Leader version 1 but my little brother Brian did.  As was the case with many 90s figures in Brian’s G.I. Joe collection I was not impressed with Night Creeper Leader.

1993's version 1

1993’s version 1

One year later a repainted NCL was released as part of the Battle Corps subset.  It was the exact same figure as version 1 only this time it was painted purple and yellow instead of orange and black.  I wasn’t a fan of the v1 paint job but I don’t think v2 was an improvement.

1994's version 2

1994’s version 2

I had zero attachment to this character when I was a younger because I was 15 by the time the first NCL figure came out.  I didn’t collect the toys anymore, I didn’t read the Marvel comics anymore, and I didn’t watch the cartoons anymore.  Even now as an adult, having gone back and watched those cartoons and read those comics that featured him, I was not clamouring for a Night Creeper Leader figure.  When the club announced that he would be included in their FSS 3.0 I felt pretty indifferent about it.  Now that I have the figure in hand I can tell you that my opinion hasn’t really changed.

Joe-NCL v3 cardedThis first modern-era Night Creeper Leader is made up of Storm Shadow parts with a Serpentor head.  Those parts combined with Snake Eyes’s webgear make for a pretty decent recreation of the classic NCL look.  He’s got the wrapped shins, the bare chest and arms, the wrapped forearms, and the fully loaded chest harness.  The head works pretty good because it’s not immediately recognizable as Serpentor, since Serpentor always wears his hooded Cobra helmet, but the execution of the blindfold and skullcap fall short.  When the Club originally showed us their mock-up prototype of this figure it had a fully bald head.  Some fans complained about the lack of his black skull cap so the Club added it on at the last minute before it went into final production.  I’m not sure how I feel about it.  Would a bald head have been better?  At first I thought so but the skullcap is growing on me the more I look at it.  As for the blindfold, the original figure’s was sculpted on and it was wide; reaching right up to the cap.  This version is equipped with the thin removable blindfold originally packaged with Jinx.  It works reasonably well but I think a thicker one would have been better.  It looks kind of odd to see his exposed forehead between the blindfold and the skullcap; but honestly, it looks less and less odd to me with each glance.

Joe-NCL v3 closeup

Color wise the Club opted for the purple and yellow version 2 look instead of the black and orange version 1 colors.  Lots of collectors have been griping about that online too.  Since I have no nostalgic ties to either version I really don’t care one way or the other.  I assume we’ll get a tiger striped repaint at some point down the road anyway.  Perhaps they simply didn’t want him to get confused for a member of Tiger Force since that was the Club’s convention set theme this year.Joe-NCL v3 back

For accessories NCL is fully loaded with a bunch of ninja stuff we’ve seen before.  He’s got two swords, two knives, two throwing stars, two uzis, and a crossbow.  I wish his webgear allowed for some storage of the smaller weapons because otherwise they just end up in my spare parts bin.

Joe-NCL v3 weapons

 

 

All in all this is a pretty adequate figure.  I’m always happy to add new “named” Cobras to my ranks so this guy will find a home on my top Cobra shelf with the Commander, Destro, Mindbender and the others.  7 out of 10.Joe-NCL v3 group

BOMBSTRIKE v.2 (2015)

Joe-Bombstrike v2 fullG.I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 3.0

The third series of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service (FSS) is winding down.  My second to last shipment arrived in the mail this past Friday.  That means there’s only one shipment left which will contain Big Ben, Crimson Guard Immortal, and the mystery 13th figure. Ben and the Crimson Guard were two of the best looking figures from series 3 and I can’t wait to find out who the mystery figure is so, needless to say, I’m quite excited for next month’s package.  However, this month’s package was perhaps the one I was most anticipating.

If you read my “Convention News” post from April 2014, where I first reported the announced line-up for FSS 3.0, you may recall that I said the figure I was most excited about was Bombstrike.  Well here it is, a year and a month later, and I finally have that figure in hand.Joe-Bombstrike v2 carded

 

Back in 2003, during the new-sculpt era, Joe collectors were introduced to the Stall family.  The Joe team’s new marksmanship instructor was Dwight Stall a.k.a Barrel Roll and Cobra’s new sniper was his brother Thomas Stall a.k.a Black Out.  The Stall family drama was mostly played out in our imaginations because there was no Joe cartoon at the time to flesh out the story described in the file cards of the back of the packaging.  Devil’s Due addressed this family conflict when they held the G.I. Joe comics license but I would have liked to have seen it played out further.  Devil’s Due lost the licence and had to quickly wrap up their story before we had a chance to meet the third Stall sibling, the younger sister Alyssa.

Joe-Bombstrike v2 back

 

Alyssa was first mentioned on Black Out’s 2003 file card.  It read that Black Out flunked out of G.I. Joe training after it was suspected that he was involved in the disappearance of his sister, Cadet Bombshell.  On Barrel Roll version 3’s file card it said that his sister, Bombstrike, had been rescued and that it had been confirmed that Thomas Stall was working with Cobra.  I’m not sure why her name changed from Bombshell to Bombstrike.  Perhaps Hasbro lost the rights to the name Bombshell, perhaps they didn’t want to reuse a name already associated with a popular Transformer, or perhaps they decided naming a female character Bombshell was a tad sexist.  Name aside, she seemed like a character with a lot of potential.

We got our first Bombstrike action figure in 2005, 2 years after the introduction of her brothers.  I loved the original Bombstrike figure.  It wasn’t perfect but I’m a fan of female characters and it had been more than a decade since we got a new female character who wasn’t just a repaint of an older female figure; the 2005 Bombstrike was constructed with 100% brand new parts.  Her shoulder length blonde hair set her apart from all of the other ladies on the Joe roster and her “G.I. Joe” Tee-Shirt gave her a youthful vibe.  I thought the Stalls were one of the best things to come out of the new-sculpt era relaunch of G.I. Joe.Joe-Bombstrike v2 weapons

In 2007 Hasbro retired the new-sculpt style of figures and launched their 25th anniversary line.  The anniversary line was more focused on revisiting the past rather than spotlighting new characters so new-sculpt additions like the Stalls were all but forgotten.

Fortunately the Collector’s Club hasn’t forgotten about the hidden gems of the early 2000s.  In their inaugural FSS they gave us modern-era versions of Barrel Roll and Black Out.  After that I figured Bombstrike was a shoe-in to be included in FSS 2.0 and I was thoroughly disappointed when she didn’t make the cut.  Fortunately the Club rectified that oversight a year later and produced this figure.

Joe-Bombstrike v2 closeup

Unlike her 2005 figure, this Bombstrike is made up almost entirely of reused parts.  Her legs and arms originally belonged to Covergirl and her torso originally belonged to Scarlett. Even her seemingly unique accessories are rehashed.  Her drone originally came with Data Viper and her computer briefcase has been used a number of times, most recently it was included with Vypra who was also part of FSS 3.0.  However, all these pieces work great together to  provide us with an excellent updated version of Alyssa Stall.  The drone and computer make perfect sense for her primary military specialty: Forward Air Control, and the use of the Scarlet torso gives her some protective clothing as opposed to the simple Tee-shirt of the ’05 version.Joe-Bombstrike v2 compare

Bombstrike also includes a small backpack, a pistol, and a machine gun.

The Club probably could have gotten away with reusing Agent Helix’s head, like the did for Dialtone, but thankfully they didn’t.  Instead they had Boss Fight Studios sculpt a brand new head and I think its a great one.  Bombstrike’s hair is layered and it looks quite realistic as far as plastic hair goes.  I actually think she may have the best head of hair of any Joe figure.  Her face is cute and shows her youth plus it has a playful smirk.  It’s a very unique face so even if you removed the hair you wouldn’t mistake her for any of the other female Joes.  I love it.

I really wanted this figure to be a highlight of FSS 3.0 and the Club did not disappoint.  A must-have.  10 out of 10.Joe-Bombstrike v2 group

DARTH MALGUS (2015)

SW-Malgus fullSTAR WARS

I preface almost all of my Star Wars reviews the same way and I’m gonna say it again: I don’t usually collect Star Wars figures.  I love the Star Wars universe but I got burnt out on collecting the figures sometime after the release of Episode II.  I have a ton of late 90s/early 2000s figures but none of them are currently on display.  My passion was slightly reignited when Hasbro launched their 6″ Black Series line a couple years ago but that line has plodded along so slowly that the momentum seems to have been lost.  It’s extremely rare for me to purchase a 3 3/4″ Star Wars figure these days but it does happen.  Most new Star Wars figures are just updated versions of characters I already have in my collection a dozen times over but every now an again I see a new character that’s just to cool to pass up.  The last time this happened was when I found Savage Opress at Winners a few years ago.  Well it happened again the other day.SW-Malgus side

I was at Wal-Mart looking for Transformers: Combiner Wars wave 2. They didn’t have them but I did find a couple of Marvel Universe figures I needed.  As I was walking down the action figure aisle I noticed this guy hanging on the pegs of the Star Wars section.  At first glance I thought it was an unmasked Darth Vader figure.  I picked it up and discovered that it was actually a completely different character named Darth Malgus.  I knew absolutely nothing about him but he was just to cool looking to leave behind.

When I got home I looked him up on the Star Wars encyclopedia site, Wookiepedia.  Apparently Darth Malgus first appeared in the online role playing game, Star Wars: The Old Republic.  He has since appeared as a major character in the novel, The Old Republic: Deceived.  The site describes a lengthy origin story that I didn’t have the patience to read in full.

SW-Malgus art

To sum it up, Malgus was originally a kid named Veradun who worked at his dad’s zoo.  He showed a sensitivity to the force and, after he established himself as a dickhead by killing a girl, he was sent to Sith School.  At some point in his Sith career he got f***ed up by a Jedi and had to wear a respirator to survive; similar to Darth Vader.  Honestly I don’t really care about all that “expanded universe” stuff.  All I know is that this is a cool figure and I wanted it in my collection even if it is going to go directly into a bin in the closet.SW-Malgus face

Star Wars figures, even these small scale ones, have improved a lot since I collected them.  Most of the figures of the early 200os still only had 5 points of articulations just like the 80s figures.  This figure is articulated at the ankles, the knees, the hips, the waist, the shoulders, the elbow, the wrists, and the neck.  It only took 30+ years but Star Wars figures are almost as articulated as G.I. Joes now.

The detailed sculpt of this figure is also very impressive.  He’s covered in padding and panels with buttons and lights.  The outfit is very Darth Vader-esque but still unique. The large shoulder pads and chest plate are a separately molded but non-removable piece which adds to Malgus’ imposing figure.  A cloth cape is attached to the shoulder pads.  I find that cloth capes usually look better than sculpted plastic ones and that’s the case here.

SW-Malgus capeThe head sculpt is great and made even more impressive looking due to the stellar paint job.  I love the dark circles around his eyes and the veins on his forehead.

For accessories Darth Malgus comes with 2 lightsabers and a hooded cloak.  One saber is bladed (Sith red) and the other is sheathed (if those are the correct terms..I dunno).  The sheathed one has a peg on the handle so it can be plugged into his belt for storage.  The cloth hooded cape is a neat idea and it has a bendable wire around the neck so I thought it would attach nicely but I can’t get mine to look right.

Overall, this is a great looking new baddie for the Rebellion.  8 out of 10.

14 points of articulation vs 5

14 points of articulation vs 5 points of articulation

SHIELD MAIDEN SHERRILYN (2013)

MOTUC-Sherri fullMASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS

I already reviewed 2 of the figures from Mattel’s MOTU Classics “Fighting Foe Men” 3-pack earlier today so I might as well review the last one too.  These days I usually only have enough time/motivation to post 1 or 2 reviews a week so you may be wondering why I’m posting 3 in one day today.  Well it just so happens that I’m on vacation this week but nobody else I know is off work so I’ve had plenty of time to bum around my apartment alone thinking about action figures.

As I told you in my Ditztroyer review, the Fighting Foe Men was the working name for the Masters of the Universe toyline while the brand was still in development way back when. The name was revived in 2013 and assigned to this group of 3 figures which are based on artwork seen on MOTU model kits produced by Monogram in the 80s.MOTUC-Sherri art

This particular figure is based on the artwork seen on the Attak Trak model kit.  She’s been given the name Shield Maiden Sherrilyn.  She’s named after Sherri Lynn Cook, a member of the Four Horsemen Studios team.

As was the case with Dawg-O-Tor, the pilot on the Attak Trak box is mostly obscured by the vehicle’s cockpit. The Four Horsemen really had to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps and turn the barely visible 2D character from the painting into a fully realized 3D action figure; and use their imaginations they did.  Nothing about the painting indicates to me that the Attak Trak pilot is female.  You can’t really tell what sex the pilot is since all you can see is one muscular arm, one muscular leg, and a silver helmet with gold goggles but if I had to guess I would assume it was intended to be a man.  I think it’s pretty cool that the Horsemen thought outside the box and made the third Foe Man into a Foe Woman.

MOTUC-Sherri gun

As they did with the other 2 figures from this set the Horsemen did a great job of matching the parts and paint apps used for this figure to the character seen in the painting.  Both have furry brown shorts, both have shoulder pads with a feather pattern, both have a red breast plate, and both have a silver helmet with gold goggles.  I’d say its a pretty impressive translation.MOTUC-Sherri shield

 

 

Sherrilyn’s accessories are based on the vehicle she piloted.  Her chest emblem is a blue bird logo with 2 yellow lightening bolts on the wings.  The logo isn’t immediately recognizable as being related to the Attak Trak but the bird and bolts are inspired by the decals on the vehicle.  Her weapons have a much more direct connection.  Her double barrelled laser cannon looks just like the cannons seen at the back of the Trak and her shield looks like one of the vehicle’s rotating tracks.  It’s as if she ripped the tread right off of her transport and used it to protect herself.  She also has a swappable Horde logo that can be worn in place of the bird emblem.MOTUC-Sherri horde

I appreciate how true to the original design this figure is but as was the case with Dawg-O-Tor I simply do not like the head design.  It’s just too goofy or sci-fi looking and I don’t feel it blends in well with other MOTU figures.  I’m considering displaying this figure with an alternate head.  Unfortunately I only have 3 or 4 alternate female heads and none of the skin tones match up.  I think my extra She-Ra head looks best but the difference in skin tones is very obvious.  If only she had a scarf or something to make the discoloration less noticeable.  Perhaps I’ll ask my mom to make me one;  she did an excellent job on Imperious Leader’s robe.MOTUC-Sherri she-ra

 

This is a solid figure with a great costume design, nice colors, cool accessories, and ample articulation.  I just wish it had a better head.  6 out of 10.