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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Today I’m going to take a look at another figure from the G.I. Joe Collector Club’s 2016 Convention Set. The theme this year was Sky Patrol which pitted the Joe team’s air-based heroes against Cobra’s evil aerial troopers. The figure I’ve selected today is the commander of the Cobra Night Vultures, the villainous computer hacker known as Black Vulture.
The Sky Patrol sub-team was introduced into the Joe toy line in the early 1990s so most of this year’s Convention figures would be immediately recognizable to Joe fans of that era. However, even if you were an avid Joe collector in the 90s (I wasn’t) you probably don’t remember this guy. That’s because the original figure was only ever released in Brazil. He was called Abutre Negro which apparently translates into Black Buzzer. He was constructed using the head and legs of Dee-Jay, the chest and arms of Cesspool, and the waist of Marverick. Then he was painted black, red, and silver, and voila….a brand new character. He came packaged with a couple of guns, a backpack and a silver parachute. It was a pretty neat looking figure so it’s a shame that American (and Canadian) kids never had the opportunity to purchase him. I never even knew of his existence until I began collecting Joes again as an adult as I’m sure was the case for many other Joe fans. Before the internet how were we supposed to know that there were rare international figures being released?
Most Joe fans will never own a Abutre Negro, because he sells for about $1,000 on ebay these days, which is why I love it when the Club produces modern-era versions of foreign release figures. Over the past few years the Club has graced us with updates of highly sought after international figures such as Cobra De Aco, Cobra Mortal, Quarrel, T.N.T, Jammer, and more.
I imagine tackling an Abutre Negro update was probably a little more difficult for the Club to pull off than their past international remakes. The reason for that is Hasbro has not yet produced (and likely won’t) modern-era versions of any of the three characters used to build the original. The Club produced their own version of Cesspool in 2014 but it was lacking the uniquely sculpted torso with the protruding Cobra logo that the 1991 Cesspool shared with Abutre Negro. Despite the lack of needed parts I think the Club has managed to pull off a pretty darn good modern-era version of this Brazilian scoundrel.
This figure, whose name has been updated to Black Vulture, was built using the Accelerator Suit torso seen on multiple movie-based figures in 2009, Beachhead v.15 legs, arms I can’t place, and the head of 2011’s Cobra Trooper v.16 based on the G.I. Joe Renegades animated series. The parts all come together nicely to make a cool looking, well-proportioned, action figure that is faithful enough to the original. I really like the head they chose to reuse here. It shares a lot of similarities with the Dee-Jay head sculpt and could probably even be used to update him one day. Even though this head originally appeared on a Cobra Trooper it appears unique in my collection because I chose to display the trooper with an alternate masked head. When the first photos of this figure were shown online there was some chatter about the neck being too long but it seems alright to me. I’m very impressed by how the Club was able to recreate the look of the protruding Cobra logo using the existing Accelerator Suit sculpting with some creative paintwork. Due to some clever choices by the Club I think this figure turned out great.
The downside to this figure comes by way of his accessories. He’s got a display stand, a gun, and a knife, all of which are fine. His major accessory is a winged glider backpack with push-button pop-out wings. We’ve seen this pack before, I think the first time may have been with 2011’s Skydive v.2, and it makes a lot of sense to bring back here. It’s a cool pack and I prefer it to the cloth glider pack that came with Air Devil. The problem is that it doesn’t fit into the figure’s back. The glider’s peg is not compatible with the hole in the Accelerator Suit torso. I can get it to rest on his back for photos but if I even look at him funny it falls out. Other than that tooling issue I’m very happy with this figure. I always love adding “name” soldiers to my growing Cobra forces. 8 out of 10.
I really need to get back into the habit of blogging because I have been acquiring a ton of cool toys lately. Earlier this week I picked up two Funko Pop! figures and two Marvel Legends and then a couple of days ago my 2016 G.I. Joe Convention box set arrived in the mail. I pre-ordered this set back in March and it was made available for pick-up to Con attendees the weekend of June 16-19. As a non-attendee I had to wait for the Collector’s Club to ship my set out after the Con. I’m pretty stoked to have this year’s set in hand a mere month after the convention because last year I think two or three months passed before I finally got my set. Last years set was so late that I kind of lost my enthusiasm for it by the time it arrived; as evidenced by the fact that I’ve only reviewed 3 of the 11 figures so far (Wreckage, Lifeline, & Stalker). This year I’m going to try to get all the figures reviewed in a timely manner.
For my first 2016 Joe Con review I’ve selected Air Devil, Cobra’s front line aerial assault combatants. This figure was one of the set’s two army builders so there were 3 identical Air Devils included in the set.
I’ve told you many times before that I stopped collecting Joes in 1990. It’s probably more accurate to say I quit collecting in ’89 since I only acquired a single 1990 figure. For that reason I have little to no nostalgic attachment to the figures released between 1990 and 1994 (when the line ended). The original Air Devil was released in 1992 as part of the “Air Commandos” sub-set which was a continuation of the “Sky Patrol” sub-set launched in 1990. I didn’t own any of the Air Commandos or Sky Patrol figures myself but my little brother Brian had a couple and one of them was Air Devil. I liked Air Devil. He had a unique design with a strikingly colourful uniform. It was odd to have the face exposed on a Cobra Trooper but that was part of the figure’s appeal.
When the Club announced that Sky Patrol would be the theme of their 2016 convention set I wasn’t exactly jumping for joy. I was hoping for Battle Force 2000 vs Cobra La even though I knew it was a long shot. However, I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by the Sky Patrol decision. The Club has managed to create some great sets out of concepts I wasn’t thrilled about before (Eco Warriors, Tiger Force) so I trusted they’d pull off another desirable set. The revamped Sky Patrol figure I was most looking forward to was Air Devil.
Now that I have the set in hand I think I was right to be excited about Air Devil because he’s my favourite figure in the set. No new parts were used to create this figure so there’s nothing we haven’t seen before but it looks fantastic and its free of the issues that plague other figures in the set such as ill-fitting accessories.
Air Devil is constructed with the torso and legs of Jungle Viper, the arms of Alley Viper, and a head that was first used for Night Fox in 2012 and most recently for Sightline in 2015. The pieces come together relatively well and do a decent job of recreating the look of the ’92 Air Devil figure. The most glaring difference is the head. The modern AD doesn’t have the exposed mouth and nose that made the original so unique. I kind of wish his face was exposed for consistency’s sake but this is a great head sculpt and it feels more “Cobra Trooper” than the original did. This guy fits into Cobra’s established rank and file seamlessly.
For accessories Air Devil comes with a display base, a pistol that can be holstered on his ankle, a knife that can be sheathed on his wrist (awesome), a rifle, a glider backpack, and a face shield. The weapons are all fine but nothing to call home about. We’ve seen the backpack a few times before so it’s nothing revolutionary but its fold up/pop-out wing design is neat, it has a cool new Cobra logo with a Devil’s tail, and serves as an adequate replacement to the large Cobra glider the original AD came with. The face shield is an odd thing. Apparently the ’92 figure had one but Brian never had it with his (he got it secon-hand) so I was never aware of it. I’m guessing Air Devils wore them to keep bugs out of their mouths or something which made sense when their faces was exposed but makes less sense now that they’re fully covered. I find the shield too large and clunky and it detracts from the look of the figure so I’ve opted to display only 1 of my Air Devil’s with his shield on.
In conclusion this is a very nice figure that starts the 2016 Convention Set off on the right foot. He’s not the home run 2014’s Toxo-Vipers were but he’s close. 9 out of 10.
The first Interrogator figure was released in 1991. I had essentially stopped paying attention to G.I. Joe by then. I only bought one figure the year before (Rampart: my last childhood Joe) because my interests were shifting to other things. My little brother Brian had just started collecting Joes though so I still had a general idea of what was going on with the brand; such as the introduction of the Eco-Warrior and Sonic Fighter sub-teams. One ’91 character that managed to fly under my radar (or perhaps over it) was Interrogator. He came included with the Cobra Battle Copter and because vehicle drivers weren’t featured on the card backs I wasn’t aware of him. Before the internet card backs and department store catalogues were essentially the only way you knew what figures were released in a given year. A second version of Interrogator with a new paint job was made available as an exclusive mail-away figure in ’93 but I wasn’t aware of that one either. I didn’t discover the character until 2006 with the release of his third figure.
Interrogator v.3 was featured in a 6-pack called Viper Lockdown that also contained Joe Colton, G.I. Jane and 3 Vipers. That pack was a “must-have” for me back in the day. The first Joe and Jane figures, a “name” Cobra character, plus 3 awesome army builders made it a no-brainer. Interrogator quickly became a favourite of mine. I loved his Cobra Commander-esque helmet and formal dress uniform jacket. Plus the colour palette was very striking. His file card described him as follows:
He can usually break prisoners by simply talking to them. With a soothing voice that lulls captors into a trance, the careful application of logic and reason, and just a hint of sympathy, he soon as the information he needs. “Of course I could simply hurt them until they talk. But it’s so much more amusing to twist their minds until all they want to do is tell me every single secret they know.”
Sounds pretty badass. Interrogator was calculating and patient which made him a good counterpart to the impulsive Commander. That 2006 figure remains one of my favourites from the new-sculpt era.
A 4th O-ring version was released in 2010 as part of that year’s Con set. Version 4 had a removable helmet for the first time plus he looked more prepared for the battle field in a tactical vest instead of a dress jacket. I never got that version partly because of the price but mostly because I was fully invested in the modern-style of figures by then and a set of O-ring figures seemed immediately dated. Well thanks to the Collector’s Club I now have a modern-era Interrogator to add to my collection.
I’ve read some lukewarm reviews of this figure on other sites but I’m really digging it. It’s not 100% faithful to any past incarnations of the character but the design and colour palette are all familiar enough so that there’s no mistaking this figure for anyone else. His body is made up of Cobra Commander and Destro parts. Some have said that the legs are too long for the torso and they might be right but as long as he’s wearing his removable flak vest I don’t notice any proportion issues. I like the combination of the jacket with the vest. It’s like version 3 and 4 merged together. The removable knife and sheath on his shoulder is kind of oddly placed but it doesn’t look bad. There are some nice sculpting elements throughout such as the weird metal pieces attached to his boots. They look cool but I don’t know what purpose they serve. On Arctic Destro I assume they were there to help him walk in the snow but Interrogator has no need for snow grips. I imagine he uses them as some weird torture device, maybe poison tipped boots or hydaulics that allow him to crush bones.
His head is the face first used on Flash (2009) from the Rise of Cobra line. It’s a fairly generic masked head and it’s covered by the removable helmet from Interrogator v.4. I had planned to take a pic of him with his helmet off but it’s on there so tight I didn’t bother. I do like the fact that the helmet is removable though and I think the 2010 helmet holds up quite well. It’s a bit plain but closer to the character’s original appearance than the more elaborate 2006 version was.
For accessories Interrogator comes with a small knife and sheath, a display base, a blue pistol, blue handcuffs, blue nunchucks and a larger knife with a red cobra-shaped hilt. The blue accessories aren’t very realistic but it’s a pretty shade of blue that matches his equally sharp pants and I like them. The promotional pics of this figure didn’t really excite me but in hand I think its great. 9 out of 10.
In my last review I lambasted The G.I. Joe Club’s Figure Subscription Service (FSS) Barricade. It committed two cardinal sins; being a crappy character and being a crappy toy. Today I’m going to take a look at the other figure that shipped out with him, Night Creeper Ice Ninja.
The Ice Ninja is not a crappy character nor is it a crappy toy. The only issue I have with with this figure is its redundancy. Don’t get me wrong, I like trooper variations. Having Cobra soldiers in various colors is generally A-OK with me. It allows me to bolster my Cobra forces without buying duplicates of the exact same figure. However, ninjas are some of my least favorite troop builders and arctic ninjas seem especially impractical. To be fair, I wouldn’t think twice about buying this figure at retail for 10 or 12 bucks but at premium club prices it becomes glaringly obvious that ice ninjas are not integral to the Cobra organization. Having said all that, I do still like this figure.
Cobra’s contracted squad of high-tech ninjas first appeared in action figure form in 1990. The original wore purple and gray and it was pretty cool. The second version of the Night Creeper released in 1993 was a stupid pink Cylon look-a-like and it was complete garbage. That figure was re-released in 1994 with a new color-changing gimmick and it sucked even worse than the last one. The superior original mold made a return in 1998 for Night Creeper version 4. It was included in an arctic themed 3-pack along with Firefly and a Snow Serpent. The trio all had matching white and icy blue paint jobs. I never owned that pack but I’ve always thought they were a nice looking squad. In fact, I wouldn’t mind seeing a modern-era update of that Firefly to display with this remake of Night Creeper v.4.
I haven’t loved the previous 2 modern-era versions of the Night Creeper but they’ve been adequate. The first 2009 version was a remake of the purple and gray original and the Rise of Cobra version released later that same year with some tweaked arms and a new blue and black color scheme was essentially an update of 2004’s version 6. This new arctic version features a different set of legs and arms and it may very well be my favorite of the modern-era Night Creepers. The legs come from Storm Shadow v.43 which give this Creeper a more traditional sock footed ninja look as opposed to the booted legs of the previous two. Storm Shadow v.43 is my favorite Storm Shadow figure to date so I’m all for borrowing pieces from him. However, the ankle joints combined with shallow peg holes on his heels make it very difficult to get him to stand firmly on his display base. At a glance I’m not sure where the arms came from but they match up nicely with the rest of the figure.
The head is the same as the previous versions. I’ve always thought this head was decent but while I was taking him out of the package his headband and cowl fell off and I was surprised by how much I liked the look of him without it. I don’t think I’ve ever taken the headgear off of my other Night Creepers before but perhaps I should. Without it he kind of looks like an Ice Viper, my all-time favourite Cobra Trooper.
For accessories Night Creeper includes his standard backpack, curved blade sword, and multi-arrow crossbow. New to his trimmings is a shoulder scarf/cape which I guess he uses to keep warm while running around in the snow in his socks. It looks kinda cool and it differentiates him from his brethren but it does hinder a few things. His backpack doesn’t fit properly with the cape on and his right arm is completely useless under there.
The last thing I need to mention is the paint job. I thought it looked great in ’98 and it looks great now. The crisp whites and the silver and blue highlights look really sharp together. This figure may not be essential to your collection but if you signed up for the FSS 4.0 and you’re getting it anyway it’s not a bad addition. 7 out of 10.
Alley Viper is the 6th and final component for me to review from this year’s San Diego Comic Con exclusive G.I. Joe box set, “Crimson Strike”. I’ve previously reviewed the two vehicles, the Chimera and the Scythe, and the other three figures, Steeler, Grunt, and AVAC. Thus far the Joe figures and vehicle have proven to be my favourites. So does Alley Viper swing the odds in Cobra’s favour? Have I saved the best for last?
No on both accounts. I’m not saying this is a bad figure, in fact it’s a very cool figure, but much like the Crimson Scythe it fails to wow me.
The original 1989 Alley Viper was one of my favourite Cobra troopers. Like Ice Viper and Heat Viper I viewed my Alley Viper as an individual character rather than just a nameless trooper. Ice Viper was a psychopath and Heat Viper was a slacker but Alley Viper was a bad-to-the-bone, take-no-prisoners soldier. who knew how to follow orders. He was kind of a loner because unlike those other two he didn’t have a best buddy to pal around with. I always played G.I. Joe with my brother Doug and almost every one of my figures buddy’ed up with one of Doug’s figures. It usually worked out to be whatever toys we got at the same time. For example, he got his Night Viper when I got my Heat Viper so the two of them were inseparable. The same was true of Ice Viper and Worms, Shockwave and Charbroil, and some more obvious pairs like Flint and Lady Jaye and Tomax and Xamot. Doug must’ve either gotten a good guy when I got Alley Viper or maybe a bad guy that he didn’t really care for. Whatever the reason, my Alley Viper was a lone wolf.
Multiple variations of Alley Viper were released in the 90s but I had quit collecting by then and never acquired any of them. I did get some updated Alley Vipers during the new-sculpt years in the early 2000s but the less said about them the better.
When Hasbro launched the 25th anniversary line of modern-era figures in 2007 Alley Viper was high on my want list. They finally got around to releasing him in 2009 as part of the “Defense of Cobra Island” 7-pack. I loved the ‘09 Alley Viper (version 11). It had all the iconic characteristics of the original 1989 figure: the crazy orange and blue camo, the bizarre riot shield, the vision-obstructing face plate, and they all looked great on the modern style of figure. I would have been content if Hasbro never released another Alley Viper after that.
But they did release another; there were three variations of the Alley Viper released in 2010 (one of them being the first Alley Viper Officer) and then another in 2013. I’m not necessarily complaining about the multiple releases because they all look cool and I’m a sucker for a good repaint, but the figure does feel a little watered down at this point.
At the very least Hasbro could have taken this opportunity to release an Alley Viper with one of the well-known 90s paint jobs. The black and yellow one from 1993 that my little brother Brian owned would have been kinda cool. Instead we get an Alley Viper in a yet another new paint scheme. The paint deco on this guy is alright but somewhat underwhelming. It’s primarily black with a few random splashes of reddish orange. I’m not sure why Hasbro was so sparse with the camo pattern this time around but the end result reminds me of a salamander.
For accessories Alley Viper Officer version 2 has a display base, a helmet with face plate, a riot shield and a baton which can be stored on the back, two machine guns, and two knives which can be sheathed on his belt and forearm. It’s a decent assortment of weapons but it all seems pretty standard at this point.
This is a fine figure which I would whole-heartedly recommend if he were available at Toys R Us for ten or twelve bucks but if you were planning on buying the SDCC set just for this guy I’d tell you to save your money. He doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. The red version from two years ago looks nicer and is much easier to track down. 7 out of 10.
For the past week I’ve been reviewing my 2015 San Diego Comic Con exclusive G.I. Joe box set, “Crimson Strike”. Four reviews down, two to go. Today I’ll be taking a look at the second vehicle from the set, the Cobra Scythe. The first vehicle was the G.I. Joe Chimera. The Chimera was an iconic Cobra HISS tank repainted in Joe military colours. Conversely, the Scythe is the iconic G.I. Joe Skystriker repainted in crimson Cobra colours.
The Skystriker was first released in 1983. It was probably the biggest vehicle in my vintage collection. The Skystriker was very well designed and, as far as I could tell, pretty realistic. It had retractable landing gear and adjustable wings. The cockpit seated two back then. Both seats popped out and each of them had a working parachute tucked into the back. They came in handy every time Ace got shot down by Wild Weasel in a dogfight (Wild Weasel was one of my favourite Cobras so Ace never stood a chance). I used to enjoy throwing Joes, seated in the parachute chairs, up in the air from my deck and watching them drift down safely to my back yard. Unfortunately there were no seat belts on those chairs and the only thing keeping them attached to the figures was a small peg in their back. One particular toss led to the untimely demise of Tiger Force Roadblock. 😦
As impressive as the Skystriker was it was never one of my favourite vehicles. First off, the pilot Ace was one of my least favourite Joes. I wanted to like him but his outfit was kind of goofy and I lost his dome helmet early on which only made him look sillier and ill-equipped. Secondly, the vehicle was big and took up a lot of space on the bedroom floor. Thirdly, it was a plane and I’m not really a plane guy. Playing with it required me to run around the room making whooshing sounds. I usually had the Skystriker in one hand and the Cobra Rattler in another. You couldn’t really make them do any cool aerial moves like that and I just didn’t find it very exciting. I much preferred to have Ace and Wild Weasel duke it out man-to-man on the battle field. I think I still have my vintage Skystriker but I couldn’t find it when I went to dig it out for this review. I assume it’s gathering dust in the shed at my folks place.
When Hasbro re-released the Skystriker in 2011 I passed on it. The jet had been retooled slightly to accomodate the taller modern-era figures, which meant losing the secondary seat, but essentially it was the same as the ’83 toy. I try to avoid collecting vehicles for the most part because I simply don’t have room to display them and it sucks buying something only to put it directly into storage. Plus they can be expensive. And yet I got roped into buying a Skystriker in 2011 anyway because Hasbro released one painted to look like the Decepticon Starscream as a SDCC exclusive and I simply had to have it. Two years later they released one painted to look like the Autobot Jetfire which I also had to have. I was really hoping those would be the last two Skystrikers I would ever buy.
As it turns out, that is not the case. Hasbro suckered me in again this year by releasing a repainted Skystriker packaged with a repainted HISS, the one vehicle type that I actually seek out. In order to get the tank I had to get the jet. To make matters worse they took the standard HISS/Skystriker set and repainted it as a SDCC exclusive which meant I had to buy it twice AND pay a ridiculous price to obtain it. I actually don’t have the standard Toys R Us version yet but it should arrive in a couple weeks. The SDCC version however, known as the Scythe, is here in hand.
I think the Scythe is a cool looking vehicle. The Cobra motif painted on the top and the snake head on the cockpit is really neat. The red and silver colour scheme make for a sharp-looking jet. Beyond the unique paint job though this is the same old Skystriker we’ve seen plenty of times before. I have nowhere to display this thing so it will likely end up boxed up by the end of the week which seems criminal given that it was so damn expensive.
I should also mention that the Scythe included some pretty cool decals and it came with options so you could do a little customization. The large diamond pattern stickers that run along the four wings is a little odd but it breaks up the large areas of solid red and serves as a cute nod to a diamondback rattlesnake. I didn’t apply all of the stickers because I got bored. It comes with a ton of tiny useless stickers and i just don’t have the patience for them. It also came with some missiles which I forgot to put on for my photo shoot.
This past Monday my 2015 San Diego Comic Con exclusive “Crimson Strike” box set arrived in the mail. The set consists of two G.I. Joe vehicles and four figures. I reviewed one of the figures, AVAC, yesterday. AVAC’s role in the set is to pilot the Cobra Scythe, a G.I. Joe Skystriker, repainted in a Cobra deco. The concept behind the box set is that the Joes and Cobras have procured each others vehicles and repurposed them for their own arsenal. To rival the Cobra Scythe the Joes have turned a captured HISS tank into the G.I. Joe Chimera.
The repainted Skystriker looks pretty cool and the figures are all decent but given the secondary market price of this set I would have passed on it if not for the Chimera. I’m a sucker for HISS tanks and I simply couldn’t resist getting one in a new colour.
The original Cobra H.I.S.S. (High Speed Sentry) was released in 1983. It was one of the earliest Joe vehicles released and one of the first, if not THE first, Joe vehicle I ever owned. I would’ve been five or six when I got it. Most of the Joe vehicles released in the early years were based on real-world conveyances like tanks, jeeps, and helicopters but the HISS tank was pure science fiction. There was something fantastical about the angular design of the HISS that really appealed to me. I still have my 1983 HISS and it is in fact the only vintage Joe item that I presently have on display.
The HISS has been remodelled a number of times over the years. Some have been downright ugly while others have been respectable upgrades. I’ve amassed a decent little troop of the modern-era design (brown, blue, purple, and red) but there’s just no beating the original. I have the classic HISS tank in black (x2), red, white, mini, and now green.
When I first saw pictures of this green HISS tank online (it was revealed at April’s Joe Con) I knew I had to have it. The idea of the Joes capturing one of Cobra’s iconic tanks and making it their own was very appealing to me, much more so than if Hasbro had just made this a green Cobra tank. Seeing the Joe logo and the white star decals on this thing seems so wrong that I love it. Construction wise, this toy is almost the exact same as my ’83 HISS but even after 30+ years the design holds up. However the colour and the decals aren’t the only thing thats changed. Hasbro has added a brand new double rail gun to the back. The new guns look much more devastating than the double cannons usually found on HISS tanks. I like that the rail guns show how the Joes took the time to customize their captured tank rather than to just paint it.
As with all classic style HISS tanks, the Chimera has a cockpit that holds one driver and it has a glass canopy. It can also hold a gunner in the back and it has foot pegs on the very back to accommodate two passengers. You could also hide stowaways in the belly of the tank beneath the gunner station as I often did when I was a kid. The treads don’t really work but there are wheels on the bottom of the tank so it glides along the floor with ease.
This tank looks great displayed with my other HISS tanks but it also looks great displayed with my classic military Joe vehicles. The tank’s shade of green matches up nicely with that of the Vamp and the Skyhawk. It also matches up with the uniforms of the original 13 Joes which is appropriate since the box set includes new versions of Steeler and Grunt to man the Chimera.
The Chimera oozes retro appeal so its a shame it won’t be available at retail. However a variation of this set with a reddish-orange HISS will be available at TOYS R US for a much more reasonable price very soon. 9 out of 10.
Way back on March 31 (almost 4 months ago) I ordered my 2015 Joe Con exclusive box set. The Con took place the weekend of April 10-12 and the sets were supposed to be mailed out soon afterwards. My set has still not shipped. On the other hand, I pre-ordered the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) exclusive box set on July 7, the Convention was held the weekend of July 9-12, and my set arrived on July 20. Thats the way things should work. So a tip of my hat to ebay seller skdauntless for the prompt shipping and a wag of my finger at the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club for the complete opposite of that.
SDCC exclusive G.I. Joe figures have been around since the dawn of the modern-era. It started with Destro in his animal print “pimp daddy” uniform in 2007, then Cobra Commander in a 3-piece suit in 2008, then Destro’s ancestor James McCullen IX in 2009, then Sgt. Slaugther in 2010. The first three didn’t feel essential to me but I had to have Slaughter. That was the first SDCC exclusive I got and I never looked back. I picked up Zarana (both versions) in 2011 and Jinx in 2012. In 2011 Hasbro upped the SDCC ante from just single carded figures to exclusive Transformer/G.I. Joe crossover vehicle box sets as well. The first was Starscream as a Skystriker with Cobra Commander, then came Shockwave as a HISS tank with Destro and a B.A.T. in 2012, and lastly Jetfire as a Skystriker with Hound as a Vamp, Baroness, Snake Eyes, Ravage, and Bludgeon in 2013. All those crossover exclusives were awesome but I was glad to see them go; that s**t was getting expensive. I passed on the 2014 SDCC offering which was a simple repaint of the Flint, Vamp, Eel, and Raft 50th anniversary set, “Danger at the Docks”.
For the sake of my bank account I was really hoping the 2015 SDCC set would be something I could pass on as well. As it turned out Hasbro released two SDCC exclusive vehicle sets this year. The theme this year was that Cobra had captured and repainted some iconic Joe vehicles and G.I. Joe had captured and repainted some iconic Cobra vehicles. I managed to pass on the “Desert Duel” set (so far) but I could not resist the “Crimson Strike” set. The main reason for that was the inclusion of a green, G.I. Joe deco’ed, HISS tank. I’ll talk about that more in my next post. For now I’m going to focus on one of the four figures included from the set, A.V.A.C. (Air Viper Advanced Class).
Before I get to him though I just want to quickly comment of the excellent packaging these guys came in. First, I was quite surprised at just how large the box was. I had no idea what I was getting into when I walked 10 minutes down to the Post Office to pick it up yesterday. I must’ve looked quite pathetic lugging the massive box back home because some guy even pulled over to see if I needed a lift. The box had a protective slip case that looked weathered and shot up which was pretty cool on its own but inside was another box with a really cool painted mural of the contents. This was pure 80s throw-back awesomeness. Anyway, on to the figure…
The first AVAC figure was released in 1986. He was packaged with the Cobra headquarters play set, the Terrordrome. He was later available as a mail-away. My brother Doug owned the original. We never owned the Terrordrome and I don’t recall Doug ordering him through the mail so I’m not sure where he came from.
The second version was released 22 years later in 2008. That first modern-era AVAC was built using re-used HISS Driver and Zartan parts with a new head. I thought it was a pretty decent update despite the fact he was Frankenstein’ed from the neck down.
This new SDCC version of AVAC reuses the head, arms, and legs of the 2008 figure but uses a Crimson Guard body for the torso. It makes for a unique look. The Crimson Guard jacket has more of a dress uniform vibe so it makes this guy look like he could be a senior-ranking AVAC commander What really makes this figure stand out is the paint job. The helmet is still metallic silver but it has a red/orange visor this time. It also has a red winged crest on the forehead and a black paint app on the breather. The uniform is black with mostly silver highlights and red piping around the panel on his jacket. I think it looks pretty cool. There are a few subtle paint apps on the back but at a glance he looks to be solid black from behind.
My only major issue with AVAC is that the 2007/2008 parts used to make him are getting pretty dated. He looks scrawny and his articulation is wonky in places. This figure really would have benefited from some newer parts.
For accessories AVAC version 3 comes with a display base, a knife that can be sheathed on his boot, and 2 machine guns which are both pretty cool looking (one even has red paint apps).
Overall, I like this figure. If he were available at retail for around $12 he’d be a must buy. At Convention price though I cannot recommend him unless you are absolutely compelled to acquire one of the pieces from the Crimson Strike set like I was. 7 out of 10.