GRUNT v.14 (2015)
After taking a break to gush about my awesome new JAWS toy in my last post I’m back with another “Crimson Strike” review. Crimson Strike is the name of the 2015 San Diego Comic Con exclusive G.I. Joe box set. It contained 2 vehicles (Scythe and Chimera), 2 Cobra figures (AVAC and Alley Viper), and 2 Joe figures (Steeler and Grunt). I thought Steeler was a pretty great figure so today let’s examine how his Joe teammate measures up.
Like his pack-mate, Steeler, Grunt was one of the original 13 G.I. Joes released in 1982. My brother Doug owned the original green uniformed Grunt and the tan repaint from 1983. I didn’t own my first Grunt until 20 years later when an updated version was released during the 2003 Spy Troops line.
Grunt never made a big impression on me. The 1982 Joe figures all shared parts and almost all of them were white guys in green uniforms. It made for a cohesive but somewhat generic looking team and Grunt was the most generic of the bunch. Steeler had his binocular visors, Breaker had his beard, Flash has his red padded uniform, but Grunt didn’t have any distinguishing characteristics or accessories.. Even Zap, who was almost the exact same figure as Grunt, had his signature bazooka and in the comics he had a moustache. Grunt had a helmet, a backpack, and a rifle.Thats about as basic as you get. Even his name essentially means generic soldier. Grunt was used on a lot of early G.I. Joe merchandise like bed sheets and birthday hats because of his generic soldier look. Doug even had a Grunt halloween costume but Grunt’s name was not mentioned on the packaging.
In 2007 Hasbro ushered in the modern-era with the 25th anniversary series; a toy line which featured classic Joe characters in their most iconic uniforms. Their original intent was to release the 25 most popular characters but when the line was a success plans were made to carry on beyond that. The expanded line-up got me pretty excited about the prospect of owning updated versions of the original 13. One by one Hasbro released them and I was able to collect them with minimal effort because my go-to comic shop, Strange Adventures, stocked them all. However, they were unable to stock 2008 Grunt because he was only available in a Toys R Us exclusive 3-pack. I was never able to find the 3-pack at my local TRU and I wasn’t willing to pay big bucks for it on the secondary market because I already had a Hawk and a Duke (the other 2 guys in the pack) and the Grunt was underwhelming because it featured a re-used Flash head instead of a unique head sculpt. I held out hope that we’d eventually get a better version.
Another version was released in 2009 but it was also included in a Toys R Us 3-pack and I couldn’t find that one either. I didn’t put any effort into seeking it out on ebay either because the set was part of the Rise of Cobra movie line. I was a little sour about the movie figures at the time and I didn’t want a Grunt in the ROC aesthetic. I held out hope for a better one.
I finally got a modern-era Grunt in 2013 by way of the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s figure subscription service. I was pretty happy with Grunt version 13; I rated it 8 out of 10 when I reviewed it 2 years ago. It featured Grunt in his 1983 tan uniform. I was happy to finally have a vintage accurate Grunt to complete my modern-era original 13 line-up but I was a little bummed that I didn’t have him in ’82 green. Also disappointing was that he still didn’t get a unique head sculpt; the Club reused the 2009 Zap head.
It took a while but I finally have a modern-era Grunt in a green uniform courtesy of this year’s SDCC box set. Grunt was included in the set to serve as the Chimera’s gunner. I’ll get my criticism out of the way first. This is the 4th modern-era Grunt figure and each one of them has had a different head.
What if I want to display all my Grunts next to one another? They’d all look like completely different dudes. And like the SDCC Steeler, Grunt’s hair seems to have gone from brown to red. (His hair has changed multiple times over the years, both in colour and style) These kind of inconsistencies really annoy me.
On the plus side, I think this is the best recycled head placed on Grunt yet. It originally belonged to Airborne version 5 from 2008. Airborne is Native American so the skin was darker and the hair was black in ’08. With the new pale skin tone and red hair you can barely tell that the two figures share the same head sculpt.
Grunt’s body is made up of the Cobra Shock Trooper’s arms and torso and some Duke legs. The removable webgear originally came with the 2013 Night Viper. All the pieces work well together to create a really nice update of Grunt.
As was the case with Steeler, the uniform is basic enough to honour the character’s roots but there are enough new elements to make it feel fresh and modern. The more I look at this figure the more I like it. He and Steeler make for a great looking pair. I really hope we see similar updates of other original 13 characters in the near future. I’d love to have a Short-Fuze of this quality.
For accessories Grunt comes with a display base, a pistol that can holstered on his chest, a rifle and a helmet. It’s a pretty basic arsenal which perfectly suits Grunt. However, the helmet has a night vision attachment which can be flipped down over Grunt’s eyes. It’s a cool little addition which finally gives the character a unique accessory to call his own.
I’m pretty happy with the Crimson Strike set overall but it’s hard to recommend given the price. I think the Joes and the Chimera are more interesting than the Cobra soldiers and the Scythe so if you if you come across someone who has broken up the set and is selling the items loose I’d suggest you grab the Joes. 8 out of 10.