Category Archives: G.I. Joe

Top 17 Action Figures of 2017

Happy Holidays everybody. It’s been half a year since I last posted anything on this blog but I couldn’t resist returning for my annual year-end list. I love “best of” lists and my lack of blogging is by no means indicative of a lack of new action figures. New toys have been steadily flowing into my collection all year long (if you’re interested in seeing each one as they arrive you should follow me on Instagram @mikescollectionhalifax). I had begun preparing this list weeks ago but a few last minute additions bumped a couple of great figures off the list. Therefore runner-up shout outs go to Shin Godzilla and The Will from McFarlane Toys’ Saga line. Also Admiral Ackbar from The Star Wars 6″ Black Series line. Vanessa picked him up for me this week and he’s a long-time favourite of mine that definitely would’ve made the list but I can’t rank him because she’s holding him until my birthday next month.  My only criteria for the list is that ranked toys must have been released this calendar year and I must have personally acquired them. So let’s get started…

17. Axl Rose, Funko POP!: Last year I got so many great POP figures that I had to give them their own “Top of the Pops” list. I could have easily done the same this year because I picked up a lot of new POPs and they’re all fantastic. However, this year’s  purchases weren’t nearly as diverse as last year’s ensemble. 2016 was chock full of random one-offs like Labyrinth’s Jareth, Willy Wonka, Clockwork Orange’s Alex DeLarge, Elvira, and Mr. T. but in 2017 I tended to buy full waves such as 7 Master’s of the Universe figures, all 3 Home Alone characters, all 6 Hellboy offerings, and a half dozen Batman variations. Had I made an all POP list it would’ve been practically made up entirely of MOTU and Hellboy characters and that would’ve been rather dull.  Ergo, I selected the cream of the crop and ranked them with my regular action figures. First up is Guns N’ F’N Roses frontman, Axl Rose. I’ve loved GNR since Appetite for Destruction and a few years back I had the pleasure of seeing them live here in Halifax. Axl looked more like a bloated Mickey Rourke than the wiry energetic frontman of yore (he still put on an excellent show) but this adorable little guy captures Axl in his glory days. He’s got everything you need: leather kilt, mic stand with big red mic, mandatory 80s rock bandana, forehead sunglasses, midriff exposing half-jeresey, and tour stubble. If that’s not a recipe for success I don’t know what is.

16. Bludgeon, Transformers: The original Bludgeon toy was released after I had walked away from Transformers as a kid in 1989. I don’t feel I missed out on anything though because it was a pretty stupid figure anyway; a blocky generic green and plum coloured robot with no paint apps who transformed into a blocky generic tank. What made him unique, however,  was his pretender shell, a hollow plastic husk in the shape of a frumpy biological skeleton samurai. I came to appreciate this odd character many years later by way of new Transformers comics published by Dreamwave and ID which portrayed him as a formidable and cunning foe. Those comics made me love Bludgeon and I felt I needed a decent action figure of him in my collection but I didn’t want one that looked like the crappy vintage toy. I wanted one that looked like his comic appearance where the samurai is his true visage as opposed to a costume for a boring two-toned robot. I would’ve preferred Bludgeon in the “Generation 1” style but this one, based on his stylized animated appearance from the Transformers Prime cartoon, is definitely adequate. This version clearly presents a samurai skeleton but it’s a robotic true-version rather than a pretender shell. It’s more akin to how he appears in the comics which is exactly what I wanted. As a nod to the ’89 toy Bludgeon still transforms into a tank like his vintage “inner-self” did which is cool. I’m pleased with the colours, I like the accessories and I liked the price.  I was very close to spending $125 on a third party version of this guy before this Hasbro release came along which cost less than 15 bucks. Not too shabby.

15. Dazzler, Marvel Legends: I only have a handful of Marvel Legends on this list and it was not easy to pick favourites. I bought more than 40 of these things in 2017 and they’re almost all great. Hasbro has been hitting home runs with very impressive consistency.  Sunfire, Nebula, Moonknight, Bullseye…I could go on and on. So I would understand completely if you disagree with my “top” picks. I didn’t necessarily choose them because they had the best sculpting or best articulation or best accessories. My picks are driven by character and we all gravitate towards different characters. First up is Dazzler, the disco singer with the mutant ability to blast light from her fingers…or something. I never quite understood her powers.  Dazzler first appeared in X-Men issue 130 published in 1980. From ’81 to ’85 she starred in her own self-titled series but shortly after it was cancelled she joined the X-Men as a permanent member; that’s when I was first exposed to her. The disco look had been replaced by a contemporary 80s costume that looked like something you’d see in a Jane Fonda workout video tape.  In hindsight it’s just as dated if not more so than the disco look but its the costume I grew up with so it’s the one I like best. So even though I would’ve preferred Dazzler in the exercise unitard and headband she was my favourite X-Man of that era so I’m just stoked to finally own any figure of her. I’m only aware of one other Dazzler figure and its 20 years old and atrocious. This figure finally gives dazzler her due. The sculpting is great with the flared pants and feathered hair and the accessories are great with a mic, roller skates, disco-ball necklace, and light effects. She looks amazing and I think any disco fan would want this figure on their desk whether they know she’s an X-Man or not. Daring character choices like this is what makes Marvel Legends the best toyline on the market today. 

14. Michonne, Walking Dead: This was perhaps the toughest slot to fill. That’s because I knew I would give it to a Walking Dead figure but I really struggled with which one. I’m a fan of both the comic and the TV show but I have, for the most part, steered clear of the Walking Dead action figures. One of the reasons why is they’re produced by McFarlane Toys. Now I have a ton of respect for Todd McFarlane and I used to buy his figures all the time. He played a large part in creating the adult action figure market so it’s safe to say I wouldn’t have this blog without him. But years ago I decided his hyper realistic and extremely detailed products weren’t really what I wanted to spend my money on because they’re, often times, more statues than toys. But I do still pick up his figures from time to time. In recent years I’ve bought 7 Walking Dead and 4 Saga figures. Over the past few months I more than doubled my Walking Dead collection because I purchased two convention exclusive boxsets each containing 4 figures; one focusing on good guys and the other on bad. What caught my eye about them was that they’re homages to classic G.I. Joe figures. The good guys are dressed in tiger stripped outfits as a nod to G.I. Joe’s Tiger Force and the bad guys’ outfits are cross-hatched grey and green just like Cobra’s Python Patrol. I have no idea why they did this mash-up but I thought it was super neat and had to have them. These will be some of the rare toys that I keep sealed in their packaging because the vintage G.I. Joe style card art is a big part of their appeal. All eight figures are really nice but Rick, Michonne, and Neegan were my top contenders. I went with Michonne because the colours look good and surprisingly natural on her. I love the sculpt and the artwork on the blister card is dynamic. This is a weird and wonderful addition to my collection. Conversation pieces to be sure.

13. Avalanche, G.I. Joe: It was another rough year for G.I. Joe. Not to the extent where there were no figures, there were actually about 50 figures released this year, but not a single one at retail.  I purchased nearly all of those figures and it cost me an arm and a leg to do so because they were only available through subscriptions, clubs, and conventions. The average consumer would have no idea that G.I. Joe is still plugging away which isn’t good for the brand. There were plenty of decent figures released in 2017 but seeing as nearly all of them were made up of existing parts that we’ve seen time and time again it’s hard to get too excited about any of them. For example, Sneak Peak was on my list last year and Gung-Ho the year before that and those same figures were released this year with new paint jobs but the wow factor has diminished. This year’s 15-figure convention set featured Battle Force 2000 (The Joe team’s futuristic fighting force first released in 1987) vs an army of Battle Android Troopers (BATS). Getting nine identical Bats was pretty annoying considering the cost of the damn set but at least the Collector’s Club splurged for newly sculpted heads for nearly all of the Battle Force characters. As a kid my brother Doug owned 3 BF members (Dodger, Blocker, and Blaster) and I owned the other 4 (DeeJay, Knockdown, Avalanche, and Maverick) with Maverick being my favourite. Sadly, the convention set’s Maverick is probably the weakest of the bunch. If I had to pick the strongest it would probably be one of Doug’s old guys (Blaster and Dodger are great figures) but nostalgia is a funny thing and it sways my vote to Avalanche. His design is weird and his face sculpt looks a lot like Kevin Spacey which really isn’t a good thing these days but I can’t help but dig this figure; he’s fun. The knee-high silver boots, arctic camo pattern, and white weapons all work together to create a memorable toy which is superior to the original.

12. Darkhawk, Marvel Legends: Much like Dazzler, Darkhawk is an obscure Marvel character from my youth and I never thought I’d see him in action figure form. His comic launched in 1991 at a time when Marvel was trying out all sorts of new things. His comic lasted 50 issues and then he faded to the background.  Darkhawk has popped up sporadically over the last two decades and whenever he does I’m there to share in his adventures. I collected his appearances in War of Kings, Loners, and Avengers Arena. He was always a great looking character but I found writers and artists often let him down. Hasbro produced the first ever Darkhawk figure a couple of years ago in their 3 3/4″ “Universe” line. I was pretty excited about that figure but it wasn’t perfect. Most notably the wings were held on with teeny weeny pegs which meant they weren’t really held on at all. Well this year Hasbro made a Darkhawk figure which I have no complaints about. It looks totally badass and his wings are sculpted directly to his arms in a creative way so they look great when posed standing or in action. The metallic blue plastic used for the armour is the perfect colour and the body type suits the character; not too big, not too small. Sculpting detail is minimal and there are no accessories to speak of but Darkhawk doesn’t need them. This is a figure I would’ve loved as a kid and being a grown-up doesn’t change that.

11. Big Lob, G.I. Joe: If you had told 9-year old me in 1987 that I would be placing Big Lob on my top toys of the year list in 2017 I probably would’ve said “Why? Big Lob sucks”. And I would agree, Big Lob did suck in 1987 and I can’t be the only one who felt that way because Hasbro never bothered to make a figure of him. ’87 was the year of the animated G.I. Joe movie. It introduced a group of new recruits to the Joe team. They started out as goof-offs but ended up saving the day in the end. Those rookies were Big Lob, Law, Jinx, Lt. Falcon, Tunnel Rat, and Chuckles, all of whom got released as action figures in 1987…except Big Lob. The movie also introduced Cobra La and Slaughter’s Renegades all of which got action figures in 1987. But for some reason Big Lob (and Cobra La’s Pythona) got the shaft when it came to action figures. I was mad about the lack of Pythona because I really liked her but Big Lob wasn’t missed because I thought he was annoying. However, as the years  passed it started to seem odder and odder that a Big Lob figure was never produced. The Collector’s Club finally rectified that error in 2010 when they released an O-ring version of Lob as their incentive figure that year. Problem is, not only did that figure kind of suck, but it was released 3 years into the “modern-era” of Joe figures when many collectors like myself had stopped buying O-ring vintage-style Joes. So my collection has remained Big Lobless until a few months ago when the Club finally made a modern-ea version of him. Best of all they made a great version of him. He has a newly sculpted head which is clearly inspired by how he looked in the animated movie but far less goofy. Using Roadblock/The Rock’s body gives Big Lob the height he needed but it also bulks him up so he looks like he could kick your ass. His design may be relatively simple but I think it’s perfect and exactly what this character needed and deserved after all this time.

10. Death’s Head II, Marvel Legends: Getting a Darkhawk figure may have seemed fairly unlikely a couple of years ago but at least he’d made guest appearances in several comics throughout the 2000s so it wasn’t THAT unbelievable when he hit store shelves.  Death’s Head II on the other hand?  I would’ve thought getting struck by lightening while getting attacked by a shark was more probable.  He was a flash in the pan character who showed up for a year or two in some UK Marvel books in the early 90s and then he faded into obscurity for decades.  Even now he hasn’t returned and yet somehow this action figure got the green light from someone at Hasbro. I bought all of those Death’s Head books and, even though there weren’t many of them, the character made an impact on me. For years I designed my own characters that borrowed aspects of Death’s Head II. He embodies the 90s “everything but the kitchen sink” design style which is both awful and awesome. As busy as he is (horns, dreadlocks, torn melted face, liquid metal arm, etc) I was surprised by how boring his body sculpt was once I had this figure in hand.  He needs some pouches or something. So if taken at face value this figure may not seem like “top 10” material but the sheer miracle that he exists, and my nostalgia-fueled love of the character,  guaranteed Death’s Head II a spot.

9. Slag/Slug, Transformers: It’s about f**king time. I can understand why I haven’t gotten a Big Lob or a Death’s Head II figure for 30 years. Nobody other than hardcore adult collector’s like myself were looking for them. But why on earth has Hasbro waited so god damn long to give me Dinobots!! Every kid wants a Dinobot! It’s crazy! The original Dinobots were released in 1985. Repaints were released in 1993 when Hasbro tried to relaunch Transformers with little success. But since then….nothing! I consider the mid 2000s to be the beginning of the modern era of toy collecting; toys made for grown ups that grew up in the 80s. 2002 saw the relaunch of G.I. Joe and Masters of the Universe and those brands have been carrying on ever since. Generation 1 style Transformers came a few years later when Hasbro launched the “Classics” line in 2006 in the lead up to the first live-action movie. Over the years the G1 inspired line carried on alongside the stupid movie-based lines though its name changed several times to “Universe” then “Generations” then “Reveal the Shield” then “Combiner Wars” then “Titans Return” and most recently “Power of the Primes”.  That’s 11 years of Generation 1 inspired toys and other than Grimlock none of the other Dinobots got new toys. The Dinobots were introduced to the original toyline after only about two years so how on earth did it take 11 years this time?! It’s madness.  Anyway, rant aside, just this week I got a new version of Slag (now called Slug) who transforms into my favourite dinosaur, the Triceratops. This figure looks so much like the original toy that I’m beyond thrilled to finally have him in my collection again. He looks great in both modes and he’s got tons of articulation which the original lacked. Love it!

8. Lord Gr’Asp, Masters of the Universe Classics: It was a slow year for He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Mattel concluded their line of website exclusive MOTU figures at the end of 2016. Things looked grim for a while before it was announced that a little company called Super7 would be picking up the license and carrying on with the Classics line in a similar fashion. But rather than make people commit to an annual subscription or scramble online for the figures they want on the 15th of every month Super7 opted to go with a made-to-order model. They offered a window where you could pre-order their upcoming figures in manageable sets of 4 to be delivered at a later date. That date was supposed to be this year but due to production delays I’m still waiting for my first 8 Classics figures from Super7. Therefore I almost had no new MOTUC figures to even consider for this list but Super7 did manage to release a couple of exclusive 3-packs late in the summer for the annual MOTU convention, Power-Con. I only ordered one, a set featuring three characters that were developed for the original line but were never released: Terroar, Lord Gra’asp, and Plasmar. They’re all made up of existing parts but they all look great and any one of them could have made this list but Lord Gr’Asp just edged out the competition. He’s got a basic body with Clawful’s claw and Sssqueeze’s head. It’s an odd mix but it’s these weird designs that makes MOTU figures so unique. The paint job is really nice, especially on the claw, and it does a good job of differentiating this guy from Sssqueeze. A reused cape from Scareglow adds just the right amount of gravitas to this weirdo.

7. Raptor, G.I. Joe: For the past 6 years I’ve signed up for the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s Figure Subscription Service where for 6 months you get 2 exclusive figures in the mail. It’s expensive and it’s all or nothing; you can’t pick and choose your favourites. Every year I question whether it’s worth it. I hum and haw for weeks but I always cave when the deadline arrives. In fact I just signed up for FSS 7 last month. The problem is that the figures aren’t always winners. There are a few each year that I don’t really need or want and they make me question whether this is the best way for me to be spending my hard earned dollars. Then a figure like Raptor lands in my mailbox and assures me I made the right choice. Raptor is a very goofy but fan-favourite character originally released in 1987. Joe fans have been clamouring for an updated version for years but considering his unique look he seemed an unlikely candidate to be successfully assembled by the Club using existing parts and, sadly, those are the only Joes we get these days. But in 2017 the Club proved us wrong with this inspired reimagining. This character is still goofy as all hell but i wouldn’t want him any other way.

6. Man-Thing, Marvel Legends: Toy Biz put out a  decent Man-Thing figure in the 90s. And they followed that up with another good one in the mid-2000s. I never had either but always wanted one. Well, I no longer need them because Hasbro’s build-a-figure Man-Thing blows those two older toys out of the swamp. This figure is so gnarly I was willing to buy four $30 figures I didn’t want (and two I did) just so I could assemble him. Man-Thing is one of those weird Marvel characters that I shouldn’t love because he never really does anything but I do. He’s a big lumbering muck monster and this figure captures that perfectly. There isn’t much in the way of paint apps here but the sculpting is very detailed. Every inch of Thingie is covered in vines, weeds, and fungi. His physique is big and lumbering with a hefty hunch which is spot on for the character. The head sculpt is the cherry on top of this mud sundae as the face vines are just the right length and the big red eyes pierce right through you.

5. Super Harley Quinn, DC Designer Series: I like the idea of Harley Quinn but I rarely like the execution. I feel she’s a great looking character with tons of potential but I almost always hate reading her comics and as of this year I can definitively say that I hate seeing her movies too. But since it’s her look that appeals to me more than anything else her crappy portrayals in film and print do not deter me from buying her action figures. I purchased 3 of them this year bringing my total to 7.  I actually had to fight the urge to buy 2 more because I really wanted all 4 Designer Series Quinns based on the artwork of Amanda Connor. Connor is one of my favourite comic artists and she’s at her best when drawing super heroines.  Its crazy that DC Collectibles still hasn’t produced a Powergirl figure based on Amanda’s pencils but hopefully that’s coming. In the meantime I’ll enjoy these renditions of Harley. I passed on Classic Jester and X-Mas Harley and opted for Space Cadet Harley and Super Harley. Both are excellent and do Connor justice but Super wins out because Space Harley’s pigtails are constantly falling out of her head which is really annoying. This figure features a neat blend on Harley’s classic and modern looks. The sculpt is excellent and the paint apps, especially around the eyes, really elevate this figure.

4. Mer-Man, Funko POP!: As I mentioned above I bought every regular release MOTU figure this year. That includes He-Man, Skeletor, Beast-Man, Stratos, Orko, and Evil-Lyn (I haven’t yet acquired the exclusive Man-at-Arms, Faker, Moss-Man, Scareglow, and Trap-Jaw figures but I likely will eventually). These new figures join Spikor and Hordak on my shelf. Each one of them is cheek-pinchingly perfect but none more so than Mer-Man. The King of the Crystal Sea has been my favourite MOTU figure for as long as I can remember, literally. One of my earliest memories involves my dad hunting the original 1982 figure down for me for Christmas. Mer-Man is such a cool character with such a great look I don’t know how he isn’t everyone’s favourite character. The colours really “pop” on this figure so he stands out on the shelf even amongst an army of other brightly hued figures. It’s a little odd that they gave him this spear instead of his trident and I wish he didn’t topple over so easily but I can look past those things because this figure warms my heart.

3. Batwoman, DC Bombshells: Batwoman has become one of my favourite DC characters since she first appeared in 2006. Her book features good story-telling and beautiful artwork more often than not plus she’s a bat character that isn’t bogged down by a half century of continuity. She’s got a great looking costume but unfortunately the only action figure of her that existed prior to 2017, released around the time of her first appearance, sucked. The mask wasn’t right and the hair was just awful. I wanted to add an action figure of her to my collection but I refused to seek that stinker out. 2018 finally promises to bring us an updated version Batwoman in her signature crime-fighting costume but 2017 tided us over with this little gem. DC Bombshells started out as a line of statues showcasing DC heroines presented as 1940s-era pin-up girls. I loved the statues but they were too rich for my blood. The line has since expanded into a comic series, Funko POPs, and action figures. I picked up a few of the figures and sadly I think a lot of the beauty of artist Ant Lucia’s designs gets lost in translation. The figures are generally okay looking but hardly a suitable placeholder for the gorgeous statues. Batwoman is the Bombshell figure that impressed me the most. It’s cool and sexy, it captures the period-piece aesthetic of the statue quite well, and it’s finally a good figure of a character I’ve been wanting for a decade. Fun accessories and a great paint job (the shadow around the eyes could’ve gone horribly wrong) helped to secure this figure a spot on my list.

2. Warlock, Marvel Legends: Holy crap, it’s a Warlock figure. I started collecting comic books at 8 years old during the summer of 1986. In September ’86 Web of Spider-Man annual #2 came out.  Here’s the official synopsis: “Warlock of the New Mutants is on a rampage in New York City! What scientific experiments have driven him over the deep end? What can Spidey do to stop the mayhem?” Warlock is a zany shapeshifting techno-organic alien who refers to himself as “self”. I can imagine that some people find him annoying and maybe I would too had I encountered him later in life. But I was introduced to him just as my young mind was being blown for the first time by the miracle of comics. I will forever love Warlock and even though it took over 30 years I am super stoked about this toy. He was the build-a-figure in a wave of X-Men figures which allowed him to be appropriately tall and even have swappable limbs. The sculpting on this figure is pure perfection, it looks like he stepped right out of the pages of that Web annual. This toy is so rad that he almost secured the number one spot.

1. Trypticon, Transformers: In 2013 and 2014 my then girlfriend, Vanessa, surprised me with such an awesome toy for Christmas that I had to change the number one toy on my list just days before years’ end.  In 2013 it was Hot Toy’s Snake Eyes and in 2014 it was Hot Toys’ Crow. Awesome presents like that lead me to propose to her this year (she said yes!). For Christmas 2017 my now fiancé Vanessa bought me two amazing toys. The first was Hot Toys Storm Shadow which will make an excellent companion piece for my Snake Eyes. He likely would’ve topped my list but due to my rules he can’t be on this list (he was released in 2013, not 2017) however I’ll do a full review of him soon. The other toy she bought me was released in 2017 though and it was a surefire list-topper. Metroplex, the 2 foot tall robot that turns into a city, nabbed my number 5 slot in 2013. But Vanessa’s gift Trypticon, the two foot tall dinosaur that turns into a city, easily takes number one this year because he a god damn dinosaur. Trypticon is an absolute beast of a toy. I have no idea where I’m going to display him. I also don’t know where to even begin talking about this toy. I never owned the original but I always wanted him because he was so big and cool. I have no doubt that this new version dwarfs the original though because the new Metroplex make the original look like a micro machine. Trypticon is 24 inches of ferocious plastic awesomeness. Plus he includes a really cool 6″ sidekick named Full-Tilt which is a great toy all on its own.

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RAPTOR v.2 (2017)

G. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE (FSS) 5.0

The 6th and final shipment from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s  FSS 5.0 arrived a couple weeks ago.  The last 2 figures were Raptor and Steel Raven and the surprise 13th figure was G. I Jane.  Jane and Raven are both decent figures but Raptor is probably the highlight of the entire sub this year and maybe one of the best subscription figures to date.

The original Raptor was released in 1987. He was Cobra’s resident falconer and accountant. Obviously. He was a pretty odd looking character even amongst the other weird and wonderful Cobra soldiers.  He was a shirtless dude wearing a bird cowl over his head, with real cloth wings, and a pet falcon that perched on his wrist. My brother Doug owned the original when we were kids.  No later versions of Raptor were ever released so I never got a chance to acquire one for myself. Though I did eventually get my own version 1 Raptor (minus his accessories) courtesy of Eric in the Epic Haul of 2014.

This new version from the Club is the first  Raptor released in 30 years and it was worth the wait. Raptor has a loyal fan base so this was a highly demanded figure that the Club really needed to nail, and honestly, I don’t think they could’ve done any better with this release.  He’s largely made up of re-used parts from 2010’s Zartan version 20. I didn’t buy that figure at the time because I thought it looked like a poor man’s Raptor. I already had a perfectly fine Zartan figure (several of them) and I didn’t feel that I needed one dressed like a hobo and carrying a bird.  I later wished I had bought it so I could display it as Raptor because I knew my chances of ever getting a real modern-era Raptor figure were slim to none and I desperately  wanted to add him to my Cobra ranks.  I never did get Zartan v.20 though because it got rather pricey on the secondary market quite quickly.  I assume it’s because others had the same “pretend this is Raptor” idea as me.

Now I’m glad I never did get that Zartan figure because it makes this figure that much more unique looking in my collection. The head, torso, arms, and upper legs are all the same as Zartan v.20. The only body parts the club swapped out are the lower legs which they replaced with Destro v.22 legs. That Destro had weird claws on his boots for some reason (snow shoeing? rock climbing?) and they are perfect for giving Raptor the talons depicted on his card artwork. Even the original Raptor didn’t have talons like this.  The Zartan hood has been replaced by the bird cowl from the vintage Raptor. A brand new cowl would have been nice but the vintage one still works and it definitely establishes that this is undoubtably Raptor.

For accessories Raptor comes with the bird and staff that Zartan inexplicably had in 2010. The bird even has a removable hood which is awesome though it’s an accessory just screaming to get lost as it sits rather loose. He also has a pistol that can be holstered in his belt and a whistle that hangs around his neck. The pièce de résistance is the re-imagined wing harness. Rather than give us a gimpy piece of cloth like the vintage figure had, the Club has brilliantly re-used the Jungle Viper’s ghillie suit rig.  Seeing the articulated wings on Raptor you’d never know that they weren’t originally intended to be wings.  They remind me of the wings the Vulture wears in Spider-Man comics.  Needless to say, they’re much more threatening than the original’s beach towel.

This is a solid home run from the Club.  10 out of 10.

SALVO v.3 (2017)

G. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 5.0

Shortly before I moved out of my apartment I received a package from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club containing the two latest subscription figures. Since I was already in the process of boxing up all my belongings the new Joes just got tossed into a box. I didn’t get a chance to open them until I was settled into the new house. So now, nearly a month later, I finally get to enjoy my new Darklon and Salvo.

The original Salvo was released in 1990, the year I quit collecting Joes as a kid. Rampart was the only figure I bought that year. I did think Salvo was neat looking with his bizarre helmet and massive weapons but even as a kid I thought his “The Right of Might” t-shirt was pretty cheesy.  Since I never owned the original I have no real attachment to the character. I didn’t even get version 2 when it was released in 2005 despite the fact that I was back into collecting Joes big time by then. Salvo simply wasn’t on my radar as an essential member of the team.

version 1 (1990) pic from YoJoe.com

Regardless, I was excited to hear that Salvo was slated to be included in the Club’s 5th figure subscription service. I’m happy any time I can add a unique character to my modern-era collection.  My initial excitement quickly dissipated though once the Club revealed their photoshop prototype. Salvo looked like a scrawny little wiener. I wasn’t the only one underwhelmed by the reveal. Joe fans decried the horrible figure on every G.I. Joe site on the internet.  The Club quickly responded to the backlash by promising to go back to the drawing board.  What they came back with was a huge improvement and resulted in the figure you see here today.

Improvements aside, this figure is still far from perfect.   The arms, torso, and upper legs are all reused from a Dwayne Johnson Roadblock figure which makes perfect sense given that Salvo was always drawn as a muscly tough guy in the comics and cartoon. But I wish the Club had reused the entire Roadblock body. Instead they swapped out the lower legs for those of a Channing Tatum Duke.

The lower leg swap results in Salvo having wonky knees that can’t be fully straightened and poorly angled  ankles which make it nearly impossible to keep him standing on his own. The original lower legs would have worked out just fine and made for a much more solid figure. The Club’s poor decision means I have to keep Salvo hunched and backwards on his stand to keep him standing up.Reusing the Hit & Run head from the Club’s 2013 Night Force set was an inspired choice that no one expected. There aren’t many bald heads for the Club to choose from so I think most fans were expecting to see Serpentor’s head (which probably would’ve worked out okay too). The Hit & Run head had painted hair before but there’s no sculpted hairline so it works out perfectly for a bald dude and the variation keeps Salvo from looking like a clone of Hit & Run.

 

As for Salvo’s accessories, I’m okay with the fact that the Club didn’t replicate the original’s ridiculous shoulder-mounted 5 missile rocket launcher or massive mine launcher but I know others were disappointed. The Club still managed to arm him with an oversized shoulder cannon (as seen in the prototype pic above) but it only has one spring loaded missile.  It’s an ugly weapon but Salvo can’t support the thing due to his knee and ankle problems anyway so I chucked it into the extra parts bins never to be seen again. At least he comes with a pistol that he can carry or holster on his leg so he isn’t completely defenceless. Salvo also has a briefcase as the original did, a display stand, and his iconic helmet. I really thought the Club would have to sculpt a new piece in order to recreate this distinctive feature of the original but instead they just reused Sci-Fi’s helmet and it works surprisingly well.

 

The colors on this figure are true to the original and thankfully they’re toned down from the overly bright photoshop mock-up.  The Club even made the right choice of using the 1990 font on his silly t-shirt instead of the stiff text they showed on the mock up.

I wish this figure could stand up straight and hold his weapon but as long as he’s leaning I think he’s pretty cool. I really appreciate the fact that the Club responded to fan feedback and improved this figure before going into production. Had we gotten their first attempt I’d probably give Salvo a 3 or 4 but as is I give this a figure a 7 out of 10.  

COBRA VIPER v.29 (2017)

joe-viper-v29-fullG.I. JOE: FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE (FSS) 5.0

When the 3 3/4″ G.I. Joe toyline launched in 1982 there were 2 bad guys available in stores, the standard Cobra Trooper and the Cobra Officer. Those guys served as Cobra’s basic infantry.  All of the troopers that followed the next few years were specialized soldiers like frogmen and arctic troopers. In 1986 Cobra’s basic infantry got an upgrade with the release of the Cobra Viper. The original Viper design was awesome and iconic. Repainted versions of the figure were released in 1989 and 1990. In 1994, the final year of the original toyline, a 4th version of the Viper was released. V.4 featured a complete redesign made up of entirely new parts. It lacked the Viper’s trademark faceplate but overall the new mold wasn’t bad. The problem with the figure was the paint job. Cobra’s signature blue and reds were replaced with an over abundance of purple and rosy orange highlights. yuck.

1994 Viper

1994 Viper

When Joe figures returned to store shelves in the late 90s/early 2000s the Viper reappeared again but Hasbro wisely went back to the original ’86 mold. Since 1997 more than 20 variations of the original Viper design have been released but Hasbro has never revisited the 1994 design.

However, the Collector’s Club saw the potential in the mold and released the ’94 figure with a slick black, red, and gold paint job in 2005 as part of their exclusive convention set. The Club named their new creation Iron Anvil, a trooper in Destro’s Iron Grenadier army. 10 years later the Club updated the Iron Anvil in the modern figure style for their 2015 box set. The Club invested cash to sculpt a modern era head featuring Iron Anvil’s recognizable breather mask. Fans speculated that it wouldn’t be long before the Club reused the head to create a modern era Viper v.4 to get the most bang for their buck.  Sure enough the Club announced that the ’94 Viper would be updated in their next FSS.

joe-viper-v29-back

My first FSS 5.0 shipment arrived last Friday. It contained Charbroil and this Viper. I didn’t think I would like this figure but to my surprise I actually think it’s pretty cool. His body, with the exception of the arms, originally belonged to 2010’s Jungle Viper. The Club already used it to great effect for their box-set Air-Devil last year and it works well here too. It’s not completely faithful to the 1994 design but I think it’s an improvement. The ’94 boots were too high and the shoulder pads are pretty dated. I’m not sure where these arms came from off the top of my head but they work really well with the body. I loved this updated head design on 2015’s Iron Anvils and it still looks very sharp even in purple. This Viper sports the same garish colors as the 1994 figure but they don’t look as bad as I expected. I think the purple is a little duller which helps.joe-viper-v29-face

For accessories Viper comes with a display base, a shotgun, a rifle, a pistol that can be holstered on his ankle, and a knife/sword that can be stored on his back. I don’t love any of the weapons but they’re not bad. Once again the Club has changed my mind about a figure I wasn’t excited about. 8 out of 10.joe-viper-v29-compare

Oh, I nearly forgot to mention, this figure has the worst G.I. Joe card art I’ve ever seen. WTF is going on with this dude?joe-viper-v29-carded

TOP 16 ACTION FIGURES OF 2016

It’s time once again for my annual “best of” list; a tradition I began in 2012. I posted fewer toy reviews this year than I ever have before but that does not mean I purchased fewer action figures. My collection continued to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016 and as always it was very difficult for me to pick my favourites but pick them I did. The only criteria I had for toys to be named on this list was that they must have been released in 2016 and I must have acquired them personally. So without further ado let’s get started…

2016-sneak-peek16. TIGER FORCE SNEAK PEEK-I only have two G.I. Joe figures on my list this year so Sneak Peek may seem like an odd choice in the eyes of many Joe fans. We got a lot of excellent G.I. Joes this year between the 50th anniversary series, the Figure Subscription Service, and the Collector’s Club box set and I’d bet that most people would place Sneak Peek near the bottom of their “best of” lists. Not only is he completely made up of rehashed pieces, including one of the most over used heads in the biz, but this figure doesn’t even recreate the classic 1987 Sneak Peek we all owned as kids.  Instead the Club gave us an updated version of the lesser known European exclusive Tiger Force repaint. So why is this figure on my list?  Well, I simply love Sneak Peek.  The character was a favourite from my youth and one I’ve been clamouring to see updated since the beginning of the modern era 9 years ago. The reused parts work well together in my opinion and I quite like the face regardless of its familiarity. If the Collector’s Club had sculpted a new head for this figure I probably wouldn’t like it as much because they’d likely make it pudgy and round to match the vintage figure. I didn’t expect to like this Tiger Force paint job as much as I do but I think it’s a great mix of colours so I find myself really enjoying this more obscure deco.

2016-vultak15. VULTAK-The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been killing it since 2008 providing fans with awesome new versions of the property’s numerous iconic characters. But after so many years it was inevitable that the line would lose steam and fizzle out. In past years I bought Mattel’s latest MOTU offering on the 15th of every month as soon as it went up for sale exclusively on their website. I couldn’t afford to wait because new toys sold out almost immediately. Nowadays toys of obscure characters remain on sale for months so there’s no sense of urgency.  I didn’t purchase a single MOTU figure this year until they were discounted during Mattel’s Black Friday sale. Even though my excitement for the toyline has waned a bit there’s nothing more exciting than opening up a new box of He-Man figures from Mattel. My Black Friday shipment contained 6 figures (none of them well known characters) and they were all awesome.  Vultak is like a slap in the face reminding me why I loved MOTU in the first place. He’s like a mix of Marvel’s Vulture, Thundercats’ Panthro, and MOTU’s Hordak.  He’s bright, he’s big, he’s fun, and he’s awesome.

2016-rod-drill14. ROD DRILL-Hasbro’s Transformers were my jam growing up but I also enjoyed Tonka’s line of transforming robots called Go-Bots. I had a handful of the toys and while they weren’t as complex as Transformers their simplicity and their silly names made them charming. The line has been officially dead since 1987 but in the past couple of years some third-party companies have produced unofficial homages of Go-Bot characters. You may recall that DX9’s remake of Cy-Kill (named Salmoore) nabbed the number two slot of my best of 2014 list. I love seeing old Go-Bots characters revived after so many years. My fingers are crossed for new versions of my childhood favourites Cop-tur, Loco, and Water Walk. If those characters are ever to be reproduced it will likely be by way of a company called Action Toys. They’ve been doing a great job of  releasing spiffy new updates of classic Go-Bots. Vanessa got me Rod Drill for Christmas. He’s Action Toy’s version of Screwhead who transforms into a drill tank. This figure is immediately recognizable as Screwhead as they share of the same physical characteristics but Rod Drill is a far superior figure. He’s a bit larger and far more posable. He’s not as nice as update as Salmoore was but Rod Drill’s price point is a little easier to swallow.

2016-snowtrooper13. SNOWTROOPER-Everybody loves the generic Stormtroopers from Star Wars but as a kid I held the Snowtroopers from the Empire Strikes Back in much higher regard. My brother Doug and I both owned a Stromtrooper but he also owned the AT-AT Driver and the Biker Scout. I suppose that’s why the Snowtrooper was the only Stormtrooper variation that felt like mine because it was the only one he didn’t have. My original 1980s Snowtrooper was one of three vintage Star Wars figures I held onto when I got rid of my collection in my teens. There’s something about that long featureless mask that always appealed to me; I thought it looked more like a ghost than a soldier. I already have a very cool 12″ version of the Snowtrooper plus multiple 3 3/4″ figures but it was still at the top of my want list when I started collecting the 6″ Black Series figures. I just got this figure a week ago and he did not disappoint.  It’s not exactly what I was expecting because it’s far more “dirty” than previous versions.  The base uniform is more beige than white and his boots and skirt are speckled with grime. It looks really cool though so I don’t have any complaints.

2016-valkyries

 

12. MARAUDER VALKYRIESLast year I named the Marauder Task Force in my number six spot. I didn’t name a specific figure as I used the slot as more of a catch all for the whole wave of interchangable soldier figures produced by Marauder Gun Runners via a Kickstarter campaign. MGR put out variations of those same figures with new parts added this year so they could have easily made my list again. I’m a big fan of the yellow “Shock-Ops” and orange “Hazard Ops” they released this year. However they overshadowed those releases with the launch of their all-female Valkyries line this year via another Kickstarter. Thus far I have four complete figures in hand with another shipment on the way. These figures look excellent. MTF has given us a multitude of hair styles and colours, gear, and accessories so you can make unlimited figure variations. I wish Hasbro put this much care into their G.I. Joes. Hasbro has given us some pretty fugly ladies over the years but MTF has given us a squad of attractive ladies with realistic proportions. I can’t recommend these figures enough.  The only reason they’re not higher is that their tiny accessories don’t stay in place unless glued which is a pain in the ass and I have no childhood connection or elaborate backstory to latch onto.

2016-namor11. NAMOR-What a year for Marvel Legends. Hasbro pumped out 7 waves of figures this year. It was just a couple of years ago that I was writing on this blog that I had no interest in collecting 6″ Legends because I was committed to collecting the 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe figures. I found Legends to be gangly and awkward looking.  Well Hasbro has upped their game big time and now I’m buying Legends figures every other week. I bought over 50 Marvel Legends figures this year and I’m continually impressed. I could have made a top 16 list of Marvel Legends figures alone and I still would have had to exclude a bunch of stellar toys. To pick only a choice few for this multi-line list truly was difficult. After a great deal of thought the first Legend I’ve chosen to spotlight is Marvel’s King of Atlantis, Namor the Sub-Mariner.  When I first started collecting comics as a kid I didn’t like Namor. He struck me as an arrogant Mr. Spock flying around in his underwear. I’m not sure when that changed but somewhere along the way I really fell in love with Namor. His arrogance actually makes him a lot of fun to read.  The fact that he started wearing pants probably helped too. Truthfully, I don’t even mind the green speedo in the comics but it just doesn’t make for a very interesting action figure.  My 3 3/4″ Namor is a testament to how boring that design can be.  This Walgreens exclusive Namor is sporting a much cooler black and blue costume with a nice metallic sheen.  The elbows are a little weird and the trident looks dumb but those issues are out weighed by the phenomenal head sculpt. Depending on the angle you look at him he can appear regal, smarmy, pissed, or playful. This is the finest Namor ever produced.2016-k-2so

 

10. K-2SO– When I reviewed this figure a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t yet seen Star Wars Rogue One. Now that I have I like this figure even more. K-2S0 was a real scene stealer in the movie.  He was tough, sarcastic and funny and i was really bummed when things weren’t going his way.  I’m glad I picked this figure up when I did as I imagine it will be in high demand now that everyone has seen the movie. This figure just looks and feels cool.  As soon as I opened him up I wanted to pose him and fiddle around with him. He’s built nice and sturdy for such a lean figure. This sculpt, paint apps, and articulation are all great. No complaints.2016-batman

 

 

9. BATMAN-Putting Batman on a “best of” list seems like such a no-brainer that it’s almost a waste of a slot. He has such a cool and iconic design that you’d think it would be a snap to design an amazing Batman figure, right? So why are there so many terrible Batman figures? Have you walked down the action figure aisle lately? It’s full of Batmen and most of them look like crap. I feel bad for kids that think those are the only Batman figures available. If only they’d venture into a comic book shop like Strange Adventures they’d discover a whole new world of awesome action figures geared towards adult collectors. For example, DC Collectibles line of designer action figures based on the artwork of Darwyn Cooke. I bought the Supergirl, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn from this line and any one of them could be on this list but I think Batman edges the others out. This figure depicts Darwyn’s contemporary version of the dark knight as seen in stories like EGO. I think this figure is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant artist who we sadly lost this year. It makes me emotional every time I look at it.

2016-pythona8. PYTHONA- I wanted a Pythona figure SO BAD in 1987. She was one of the new characters introduced, and heavily featured, in the animated G.I. Joe movie released that year yet she got completely snubbed by Hasbro. Her absence from the ’87 line-up seemed like a huge oversight to me. Big Lob was similarly snubbed but I didn’t like him as much. He’s finally getting a figure courtesy of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club in 2017 but 2016 was Pythona’s year…finally. She was the free membership figure you got this year when you signed up as a member of the Club. It’s been a 30 year wait so thankfully the Club delivered a stellar figure to make the wait all seem worth it. Pythona’s got a very nice newly sculpted head with a removable ponytail which allows her to  don the hood of her cloak. The intricate facial paint is well done too.  The Club has been doing a great job making figures of characters long desired by fans, like Dr. Venom and Billy, but Pythona is the one I’ve wanted the most so I’m very glad the Club didn’t cut any corners. Awesome figure.

2016-gorgon7. RINGNECK GORGON-I backed a Kickstarter campaign by Boss Fight Studios back in 2014 to help them launch their own line of figures called Vitruvian HACKS. Those figures finally arrived in 2016.  I received over 30 figures and honestly I could have put each and every one of them on this list. BFS has constructed some of the nicest action figures I’ve ever seen in their Mythology themed HACKS line. Series one primarily consists of ancient warriors and gorgons. The construction of the gorgons alone is a thing of beauty to say nothing of the sculpting, painting, and accessories. The way their multi-jointed tails allow for them to be posed  in an upright position without the aid of a display base is amazing. I have seven gorgons including Medusa.  She seemed like the obvious choice for this list if I were to showcase just one gorgon but I just so happen to prefer the purple and orange colour scheme of the ringneck. I also prefer her closed mouth. This figure is perfect and I can’t wait to see what BFS does next.

2016-cap-britain6. CAPTAIN BRITAIN-Picking Marvel Legends for this list was really tough. I thought that Nico would make my list for sure. Silk, Black Panther, and Deadpool all seemed like shoe-ins as well. I wasn’t even sure I would buy this Captain Britain and I certainly didn’t expect I’d like him more than those other figures but here he is. CB was included in the most recent Captain America wave. The only figure I planned to buy from the wave was Eel. I really like Captain Britain as a character but this figure doesn’t feature my preferred costume so I planned to skip it. While in Chicago the other week I found the Cap wave in a comic shop (I haven’t found them here at home yet) and there was Eel. I picked him up and looked over his scrawny physique. Then I saw Captain Britain out of the corner of my eye practically bulging out of his packaging. I picked him up and was immediately won over.  See ya later, Eel. This Cap looks tough as nails. The standard “bulky” body is perfectly sized for him and the unique Captain Britain parts really look great.  The buckled boots, the wrapped forearms, the sunken eyes in the helmet, I love it all. Throw in an excellent and eye-grabbing paint job and you have yourself a winning action figure.

2016-venom5. VENOM– Next up is another Marvel Legends figure, Venom. I’m not even a big Venom fan yet this is the second time he’s made my “best of” list in just three years. 2014 saw the release of an awesome Agent Venom. This year we got two other versions of the character.  There was the large build-a-figure Space Knight Venom which looks neat but whom I have no affinity for because I didn’t read any of the short-lived Space Knight comics. The second 2016 release was this classic Venom. This toy looks like it leapt from the page of the character’s first appearance as drawn by Todd McFarlane.  It makes me very nostalgic for that late 80s era of Spider-Man. The body is the exact same one that was used for Captain Britain and it works wonderfully for Venom too. He has standard “sock” feet and open clawed hands. I’m not sure if those parts are reused or not.  The one piece that is definitely unique is the head and thats the piece that really elevates this figure.  The head sculpt looks so good that I can’t imagine anyone ever making a better Venom figure than this.

2016-talos4. TALOS-This is another figure from Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS line. It was exclusive to Kickstarter supporters so I don’t think you’ll ever be able to buy it from their online store. That’s a real shame because this is one of the nicer looking figures from the assortment. Most of the warrior figures share the same parts, they’re just painted differently. I don’t think there are any parts on this figure that can’t be found elsewhere. For example, Talos has the same bearded head as Leonidas and the same armor as the Myrmidon Warrior but what makes them unique to Talos is the bronze paint job. The figure is painted entirely in bronze with a green patina to add realism. It looks amazing; like a little metal statue. Whether you want to display this guy as a statue or some sort of living bronze warrior he really should be a part of your collection.

2016-malleus

 

3. MALLEUS 2016 saw the release of the Four Horsemen’s newest toy line called Mythic Legions.  It’s a fantasy-based line full or Orcs, Trolls, and Knights. I couldn’t afford to go all-in on their 2015 kickstarter but I did pitch in by pre-ordering 4 of the 34 available figures. My quartet arrived in June 2016 and all of them are awesome but Malleus is my favourite. This figure is amazing in every category. The sculpting, the painting, and the accessories are all incredible (the dual axes are sick!). He’s very well articulated right down to a movable jaw. The 6″ scale really allows the Horsemen to show off.  Originally I thought I might display Malleus as a minion of Skeletor but the level of detail on the Legions figures far surpasses that of MOTU figures so there isn’t much consistency there. If I had the space and the money I’d love to own all the Mythic Legions figures but if my collection never grows beyond the four I have  I’m confident that I have the best one right here. 

2016-tailgate2. TAILGATE/REAREND-Many times on this blog I’ve told you how great James Roberts’ “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” comics are. I think its the best comic on the stands. He has a way of making you fall in love with characters you never thought you’d care about. One of the stars of the book is a little Transformer named Tailgate. I never owned the Tailgate toy as a kid because he was just a crappy repaint of Wheelcharger, a Transformer who I really liked. Well Roberts has made Tailgate a far more interesting character than Wheelcharger ever was and so I desperately wanted an action figure that reflected his comic book appearance. Hasbro obliged me with this turd in 2014. Thankfully, a third party company called Make Toys answered my prayers this year. Because this is an unofficial release they can’t call him Tailgate so Make Toys has dubbed him Rearend. It’s a silly name but who cares, everyone knows this is Tailgate. This figure is quite small so it may be hard to justify the large price tag but thankfully Vanessa got him for me for X-mas so I didn’t have to. I’m actually glad he’s the size that he is because its true to the character. The likeness to the comic book art is perhaps the best I’ve seen yet.  This toy truly look like an Alex Milne drawing some to life. I love it.2016-underworld

 

1. UNDERWORLD WARRIOR-You shouldn’t be surprised that one of Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS figures tops my list. Almost every figure in this line is a showstopper. The paint work, sculpting, accessories, articulation, and customization possibilities launched HACKS straight to the top of the heap of quality action figure lines. Every toyline should strive to be this good.  As soon as my box of HACKS arrived it was almost a certainty that one of them would top my list this year. The trouble was in deciding which one.  I thought it would be harder to choose but I actually arrived at my answer quite easily. The Underworld Warrior was the figure that appealed to me the most when the concept art was first revealed at the launch of the kickstarter and once I had the figure in my hands I felt it lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It’s not the most detailed or innovative figure of the bunch but it sure does look damn cool.2016-group

 

 

 

FREEFALL v.2 (2016)

joe-freefall-v2-fullG. I. JOE

Every year there is a G.I. Joe Convention held somewhere in the United States. As a Canadian I have never attended and I likely never will. I’d totally attend if one was held in my backyard but conventions simply don’t thrill me enough to warrant travelling great distances. However, this year my buddy Sean did attend the 2016 Joe Con in Loveland, Colorado. Sean’s alter ego, the Wordburglar, is a bit of a Joe-lebrity so I’m sure many Joe fans were just as thrilled by his attendance as he was to be there. If you’re not familiar with Burgie I suggest you check out some of his music videos on youtube. “Rap Viper” is just one of the many gems you’ll find on his G.I. Joe-themed concept album, Welcome to Cobra Island. I would especially recommend you check out his latest video, Channel Halifax, which is a love letter to our home town.joe-freefall-v2-wordbuglar

Having an inside man at the con this year was handy because Sean was able to nab me one of the elusive attendee-only figures. The Collector’s Club, which organizes the Con every year, always produces a 15-figure Convention set that they sell at the show. Fortunately, for those of us who can’t attend, the Club also takes pre-orders for the set online. I have ordered the non-antendee sets for the last several years. The theme of this year’s box set was Air Patrol. I have slowly been working my way through reviews of those figures (i.e.Black Vulture, Air Devil, Airborne, Static Line). But in addition to the box set the Club also produces a handful of figures only available to con attendees. I have acquired some of those figures on the secondary market over the years (like this year’s Heli-Viper) but they don’t come cheap. The Club limits what attendees can buy, and Sean bought one of everything for himself, but he also somehow managed to get me the attendee figure I most wanted, Freefall.

joe-freefall-v2-back

Freefall is not a character I have any particular attachment to. The original figure was released in 1990 which is the year I quit collecting Joes as a kid. I never owned the ’91 Freefall until the epic haul of June 2014 (Thanks again Eric if you’re still out there). Freefall was a pretty basic figure but that was part of his appeal. For a toyline that was skewing weirder each year the 1990 assortment consisted of quite a few realistic looking military figures. Freefall was simply a paratrooper dressed in camo and carrying a rifle. He was made of all new parts and none of them flashy. He had a lot in common with Rip Cord, an equally basic but fan-favorite paratrooper released in 1984. I didn’t pay much attention to him at the time but Freefall is a character I’ve come to appreciate over the years.

The original Freefall was not branded as a member of the Sky Patrol sub-team which is rather odd since they also debuted in 1990. Yet it makes perfect sense that the Collector’s Club would piggy back their updated version of him into their Sky Patrol set. He was the perfect choice for the Club to select as their 2016 para-drop figure (every year they toss an army of exclusive figures on parachutes from the roof of the convention).joe-freefall-v2-compare

Unlike the 1990 figure, none of the pieces used to create Freefall 2016 are original.  He’s got a Snow Job torso, Snake Eyes legs, and Joe Trooper arms. His head is another Airborne repaint, the same one I talked about being over used in my recent Sneak Peak review, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen it blonde which differentiates it enough I suppose. Besides, it looks close enough to the 1990 figure to keep me from complaining.

Freefall’s accessories are all recycled too but they’re nice pieces. I like that his knife has a silver painted blade and his green machine gun is pretty snazzy. It’s a much tougher looking weapon than the rinky-dinky hose gun that came with the 1990 figure. The mask and helmet are the same as the ones that came with 25th anniversary Blowtorch. I wish Freefall had more unique headgear but this combo was also reused for Rip Cord so at least there’s consistency amongst the Joe paratroopers. Freefall also comes with a parachute which seems like a no-brainer but most paratrooper figures don’t. The parachute is appreciated but I honestly don’t have much use for it as it can’t really be displayed.

I think this is a great update of an obscure character. He’s nothing to call home about but he’s a solid soldier that looks great on display and has some solid play value for the kiddies. 8 out of 10.joe-freefall-v2-masks

SNEAK PEEK v.3 (2016)

Joe-Sneak v3 fullG. I. JOE FIGURE SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE 4.0

I’m really trying to finish posting all my reviews of the figures from this year’s Joe Con set but I’m going to take a brief interlude because there’s a non-convention Joe that I really want to talk about. The final package from the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club FSS 4.0 arrived the other day and it contained the final two known figures, Tiger Force Sneak Peek and Outback, plus the mystery 13th figure.  I’m pretty happy with the mystery figure but that’s not who I’m going to review today. Tonight I want to talk about Sneak Peek.

Joe-Sneak v3 back

The original Sneak Peek figure was released in 1987. He was the Joe team’s advanced recon and radio telecommunications expert. His file card described him as a legend with patience, endurance and guts, which made him sound pretty  cool.  However, the actual figure was not all that cool and the original artwork depicting him on the blister card was even less cool. Most Joes were drawn with intense scowls but Sneak Peek had a confused man-baby face. The figure itself didn’t look overly young but his face was rounder than most. His uniform was rather bland in color and kind of frumpy with all the padding. He had knee-high laceless boots which didn’t exactly look combat ready and then of course there were his accessories. He had a pretty decent looking rifle but beyond that he had a walking talkie, binoculars, and a giant periscope. They were all relevant to his military specialties but not as badass as a knife or a pistol might have been. Having said all that, you might expect that I wasn’t a fan of ’87 Sneak Peek but that’s not the case.  For some reason I loved this guy.Joe-Sneak v3 carded

I paired Sneak Peek up with fellow Class of ’87 recruit, Crazylegs. The two of them were best buddies and they worked very well together.  I’m not sure why I decided they belonged together, perhaps because they both had red and grey uniforms, but they made for one of the most effective Joe duos on my roster.  I didn’t make them ridiculously strong like I did Shockwave or complete hams like I did BattleForce 2000, they were just good soldiers. When the modern-era of Joe figures kicked off in 2007 both of them were high on my want list, in part because they were completely absent from the new-sculpt years of the early 2000s. In fact neither had been redone since their 1988 Night Force repaints (which were Toys R Us exclusives back in the day that I never even knew about). It took a while but Hasbro eventually produced a modern-era Crazylegs in 2011 as part of their “Pursuit of Cobra” series.  After that I waited anxiously for a modern-era Sneak Peek that never came…until now!Joe-Sneak v3 crazy

Hasbro never delivered but thankfully the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club put together their own version to close out their 4th annual FSS. Only they didn’t use the ’87 original for inspiration as I had been hoping for nor did they recreate the 1988 Night Force version 2. So what did that leave them with? The 1991 Tiger Force version released exclusively in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t exactly a surprise given that the Club likes to recreate foreign exclusives plus they seem to love Tiger Force; which was the theme of their 2015 Con Set.

Euro Sneak Peak

Euro Sneak Peak

I would’ve much preferred a red and grey Sneak Peak but the Club has already announced that an 87-inspired version will appear in next year’s FSS 5.0.  While it’s nice to know that I won’t have to wait long to get a classically attired Sneak Peek the downside of that announcement is that it almost immediately negates this figure. At least I thought it would. When the v.1 remake arrives next year it will no doubt become my default Sneak Peek but I like this figure more than I thought I would; far too much to simply box it up or relegate it to the back of the shelf.

I’ve seen lukewarm reviews of this figure on a few other sites so perhaps I’m letting my love of the character cloud my judgement but I really like it. I didn’t think I’d be pleased with a Sneak Peek made up completely of reused parts but  gosh darn it this really works for me. He’s got the same Cobra Shock Trooper legs as the Airborne I reviewed the other day, a Pursuit of Cobra Snake Eyes v.54 torso, Shock Trooper arms, and a 2008 Airborne head. The padded look of the original uniform is recreated using a Scrap-Iron vest and the collar of Beachhead v.17.  It doesn’t make for a perfect recreation of the classic uniform but it’s close enough and I actually think it’s an improvement. The combat boots look much better than the knee-high slip-ons.

Joe-Sneak v3 scope

I’d always prefer a unique head sculpt to a recycled one but the Airborne head and helmet combo work very well to recreate the look of the original.  As a result, Sneak Peek finally looks fit; no more big round head. He’s got a removable helmet for the first time and he looks good under there. This head’s been used a few times before but it usually looks different (it was green when it was Hit & Run and moustached when it was Footloose) so I don’t immediately associate it with any one character.

The paint job on this figure is nice and relatively faithful to the 1991 deco. I must say that I’m quite pleased to see, after thirty years of buying Tiger Force figures, somebody finally painted one in tiger colors.  How is it the Hasbro designers never painted a single Tiger Force figure orange?

For accessories S.P. has a dispaly base, a rifle, a radio, binoculars, and a newly sculpted periscope.  I never understood the periscope. Do soldiers actually use these things in the battlefield? If they did at one point I’m sure they don’t anymore.  Even in 1987 this thing look antiquated.  However, he wouldn’t be Sneak Peek without it so I’m glad it’s here plus it’s much better than the vintage one was. This one has handles so he can carry it and it even has some silver paint deco. Some might say I’m easy to please but I think this is a home run from the Club. 9 out of 10.Joe-Sneak v3 headsJoe-Sneak v3 compare

 

HELI-VIPER v.2 (2016)

Joe-Heliviper v2 fullG. I. JOE

It’s time to review yet another 2016 Joe Con exclusive figure. However, this one was not included in the 15-figure box set like all the others I’ve been reviewing lately.  This first-ever modern-era Heli-Viper was sold in 3-packs exclusively to Con attendees.  Unlike the box set, the Heli-Vipers and other individual con exclusives could not be pre-ordered online in advance by non-attendees.  Every year the Club produces a handful of figures and vehicles that are not revealed to anyone until the Convention actually begins.  The sales floor mystery items would make attending in person pretty exciting I imagine but they’re a real bummer to non-attendees like myself. Even though I spend hundreds of dollars every year to sign up for the Club’s figure subscription service and to purchase their Con Set there’s still a half dozen figures that I can’t get my hands on unless I’m willing to pay crazy secondary market prices. 2014’s Freestyle is a much desired Con figure that I’ll likely never own (she sells for over $200 now) and last year’s Tiger Force Frostbite is also too rich for my blood at $80.Joe-Heliviper v2 v1

Fortunately the prices tend to be a little more reasonable when it comes to the army builder packs. Since they come in groups of 3 there’s more supply to meet demand. People tend to sell the trios for between $100 and $150 and the individuals for $40 to $50. I bought this Heli-Viper from a dude online for $40 and I’m comfortable with that.

The original Heli-Viper was released in 1992. I never had one and wasn’t even aware of him. He’s one of those late era Joes I only became familiar with after I got back into collecting Joes as a young adult with the help of the internet. The Heli-Viper was made up of Night-Viper’s torso and legs, Techno-Viper’s arms, and Snow Serpent’s head. I’m fine with the build from the neck down but the Snow Serpent head is too recognizable to reuse. Cobra’s first Arctic Trooper was released in 1985 and it has long been a fan favorite. All I see when I look at Heli-Viper is a purple Snow Serpent with a helicopter. Hasbro really should have sculpted a new head or reused something more generic. And about that purple, the paint job on the ’92 Heli-Viper was ungodly. There was way too much red and purple and those hues did not compliment each other at all.

Joe-Heliviper v2 back

The Club’s recreation of the Heli-Viper stays quite true to the original, which I usually appreciate, but it’s to the detriment of this figure.  Heli-Viper v.2 is burdened with the same issues that sullied version 1. He’s too red, too purple, and too Snow Serpent. The other problem this guy has is his unwieldy helicopter pack. Instead of using the more compact helicopter gear we got with Annihilator and Matt Tracker we get the humongous pack that originally came with Cobra Commander v.53.  It’s way too big so I just know I’m going to be standing this guy up on my shelf over and over again. Top heavy toys can be the bane of a collector’s existence.Joe-Heliviper side

His other accessories are a display base, a pistol that can be holstered on his webgear, a machine gun, and two useless grenades.

This is a relatively weak figure but it’s not horrible.  The modern-era Snow Serpent head is such a cool piece that it elevates this otherwise ugly figure. I’d rather he had a unique head but since he doesn’t I do like how this paint job exposes the details of the sculpt better than the all black face of the Snow Serpent.  I’m glad I managed to add one of these guys to my collection but I definitely didn’t need 3 of them. 6 out of 10.Joe-Heliviper v2 heads

 

STATIC-LINE v.2 (2016)

Joe-Staticline v2 fullG. I. JOE

Next up for review is the Joe team’s demolitions expert and avionic mechanic, Static Line. The original Static-Line figure was released in 1990 along with the rest of Sky Patrol. It featured a brand new African-American head sculpt (complete with flattop) on a repainted Backstop body. It was a nice looking figure but I never owned one.

Since I never played with Static-Line as a kid, and he never appeared in the Sunbow animated series, and I’m pretty sure he never appeared in the Marvel comic, I have no nostalgic ties to the character. However, when the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club announced they’d be doing a Sky Patrol set for the 2016 Convention I was pretty excited by the prospect of a modern-era Static-Line.  I was sure they’d throw together his body using existing pieces but a new head  seemed like a must.  I was sure that there weren’t any existing heads that could replicate SL’s epic 90s ‘do. Sure enough, we got a new head sculpt but it wasn’t what I was expecting.Joe-Staticline v2 face

 

 

Rather than give us a new head with a flattop and a removable helmet the Club sculpted a new head with a helmet permanently attached; just as they did with Airborne.  I would’ve preferred a removable helmet but that might have resulted in some oversized headgear so I’m satisfied with the Club’s approach. It’a very unique head sculpt which I appreciate. It has a long protruding jaw line and an open visor which isn’t exactly faithful to the original toy but very true to the original card art. I’m confident the Club won’t be reusing this head anytime soon because it’s so specific to the character.

Joe-Staticline v2 back

Interesting sidenote, the free figure for Con attendees this year was a new character named Air Raid who happened to be a black guy with a flattop. Rather than sculpt a new head for him though the Club just repainted a Resolute Duke head with dark skin and black hair. It totally changes the look of the face and would have actually made an excellent helmet-less Static-Line head.

The rest of the Static-Line figure is made up of a Beachhead torso, Cobra Trooper arms, and Duke legs. He’s a little lanky but for the most part it works. It’s a very close approximation of the original 1990 look.  The sleek blue, silver, and white paint scheme really ties it together and sells it as Static-Line.

1990 Static-Line

1990 Static-Line

For accessories he comes with a metallic silver display base, a shoulder holster, a knife, a satchel, a submachine gun, and a glider backpack. The glider pack has manually retractable wings and looks pretty sharp. I believe it was first released with Rise of Cobra General Hawk.

This is a solid figure with good paint, good accessories, a newly tooled head, and is true to the original. What more could you want.  It’s definitely one of my favorites from this year’s set. 8 out of 10.

1990 Static line art

1990 Static line art

 

Interesting sidenote #2.  I had no idea what “Static Line” meant so I looked it up: In parachuting, a static line is a cord attached at one end to the aircraft and at the other end to the top of the jumper’s ‘D-Bag’ (Deployment Bag, into which the canopy is packed).  Now you know…Joe-Staticline v2 wings

ROBERT “AIRBORNE” SIX v.2 (2016)

Joe-Airborne Six v2 fullG. I. JOE

Recently I’ve reviewed two of the Cobra characters from the 2016 G.I. Joe Convention Set. Today, I’ll be taking my first look at a Joe from the set.

The first Airborne figure was released in 1983. The file card found on the back of his packaging provided that the Joe team’s helicopter assault trooper was a Navaho and his real name was Franklin Talltree. Most Joe fans probably falsely remember Spirit as the Joe team’s first Native American member (since he was rife with stereotypical imagery and was featured prominently in the animated series) but Airborne pre-dated him by a year.  As you might expect, Airborne v.1 had black hair and a dark complexion.  Which is why it seemed so odd that Airborne v.2, released in 1990, was a light skinned blonde guy. I’m not sure why Hasbro reused the code name but the v.2 file card reveals that blondie was in fact a different guy. His real name was Robert Six, a parachute assembler/battlefield medic and a member of the Joe sub-team, Sky Patrol.  The code name was rightfully returned to Franklin Talltree for Airborne v.3, released in 2003, and he’s held onto it ever since.

I never owned the 1990 Airborne so I have no history with that character. In fact I have no history or particular fondness for any of the Sky Patrol characters, but I kept an open mind when the Collector’s Club announced the aerial sub-team would be the theme of their 2016 15-figure convention set.  I felt that many of the characters had potential however Robert Six was probably the member of the team that I was least looking forward to getting in the modern-era style . The only reason being, I disliked that he hijacked the code name of a beloved veteran Joe from my youth. While it was actually my brother Doug that owned the original ’83 Airborne toy when we were kids I always thought he was a great action figure and character.Joe-Airborne Six v2 back

As it turns out, my distaste for Robert Six has been quelled. I still don’t like that he borrowed his code name from another Joe but Robert “Airborne” Six version 2 turned out to be a pretty great figure.

Joe-Airborne Six v2 v1The 1990 Robert Six featured a brand new head on a repainted 1986 Lift-Ticket body.  The Club could’ve done the same thing here, sculpted a new head and placed it on the existing modern-era Lift-Ticket body but they didn’t. Instead they cobbled together Lift-Ticket v.2’s arms and Firefly v.25’s torso with the legs of 2011’s Cobra Shock Trooper. I’m glad they did as this figure looks way better than it would have had they just repainted Lift-Ticket from the neck down. The parts look contemporary, they fit together nicely, and they’re well proportioned. The only issue would be a pencil thin neck but thankfully it’s mostly hidden by the raised collar.

Joe-Airborne Six v2 face

The Club splurged for a new head sculpt which is always nice.  It’s a nice looking head with an attached helmet and goggles.  It’s a bit of a shame that that the helmet isn’t removable but had they went that route the helmet probably would’ve ended up looking too big.  There’s speculation that this head will be used for the recently announced FSS 5.0 Scoop figure but I could also see it being used for a modern-era Lightfoot (fingers crossed).Joe-Airborne Six v2 top

 

 

 

 

The paint job on this figure is true to the original but better. I love the digital camo pattern on the pants and sleeves. Airborne came with a metallic silver display stand, a medic satchel, a parachute-style backpack, a knife, and a machine gun. All good stuff. Airborne is probably my favorite Joe in the set but Static Line (who I’ll review next) offers some stiff competition. 8 out of 10.