GI JOE Classified: Duke by Hasbro

At some point my Classified Snake Eyes may actually ship out and arrive, but until then I’m now down to opening my last GI JOE Classified figure from the initial assortment. I started with Scarlett because she was one of my more anticipated, but Duke was easily the second, so I saved him for last.

Once again, the packaging for this series has been first rate. It’s colorful, it’s collector friendly, you get plenty of great artwork, and even some details about the character expressed through creative use of iconography. I wish I had the room to keep all these boxes, but sadly I do not, so let’s tear this open and see what Sgt. Hauser is all about.

So far, Classified has been a mix of old and new, with Duke’s design falling a little more in line with the familiar. He’s sporting a beige shirt, similar to his rather iconic look from the original Real American Hero figure and the Sunbow cartoon. It’s got an open collar, some black trim on the shoulders, and his medal pinned to the right side of his chest. Duke has one piece of elbow armor on his left arm, which is admittedly kind of weird. His sleeves are sculpted to be rolled up to his elbows, making it look like Duke is ready to get down to business. And that business is punching in Cobra fangs. The trousers have sculpted pockets, some reinforced patches, and he’s got gold and silver armor on his knees and shins, which have some light blue accents. Yeah, the gold armor thing is kind of an odd ongoing style choice with these figures. I don’t hate it, but I could probably have done without it too. It felt a little more natural on Scarlett, but here it feels like something they just tacked on to give him more of a sci-fi flavor.

Duke’s uniform also features some pieces that are sculpted separately from the actual figure. These include his belt, pistol holster, and bandoleer strap. These are each cast in green plastic with sculpted pouches and some nice detailing. The belt has a silver buckle, and the chest strap has some fixtures sculpted up near his left shoulder, similar to what we saw on Roadblock. Overall I do like the look of his uniform, even with the armor pieces. When I look at him my mind still goes back to the Duke design that I knew and loved as a kid, plus there’s enough new elements to keep him fresh for a new generation of collectors. Personally, I just would have added an American flag patch to his shoulder.

Likewise, the portrait here is quite reminiscent of the Duke of old. I’m not going to lie, I would have loved if we got something with a little more resemblance to 80’s Sunbow Duke, but I still think that this is a great head sculpt for the character. The blonde hair is sculpted into a short regulation-style coif, his eyes are blue, and his chiseled features include a jawline that goes on for miles, a cleft chin, and a mouth that is pressed together and sealed with determination. I also really dig the scar over his right eyebrow. This portrait has a ton of personality and it works fine for me as the Duke Hauser of the current era.

Duke is sporting some excellent articulation, which results in just a couple of drawbacks. The shoulders have rotating hinges set into some rather limited lateral crunches. The elbows are double-hinged, and he has swivels in his biceps. The wrists are odd in that they’re pegged and can be removed, but he only comes with one set of hands. His torso sports a swivel at the waist, and an ab-crunch similar to what we see in the Marvel Legends line. His legs are set on two ball joints up in the hips, with double-hinged knees, and swivels in the thighs. The ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers and the head is on both a hinge and a swivel. Besides the weird wrists, my only other gripe here is that the shoulders look odd at certain poses, like balls separated from their sockets. Sometimes it feels like Hasbro is experimenting with different articulation systems with this line and have yet to settle on a standard.

In terms of gear, Duke comes with a backpack, which is very reminiscent of the one that came with the original figure, and pegs right into his back. Unfortunately it has a habit of popping off on my figure. It might have helped if they had put a hole through the shoulder strap and have it line up with the hole in his back. The backpack is a very detailed sculpt with pouches and even two canteens, all cast in green plastic. There is also an entrenching tool (shovel!) in the middle of the pack, which is painted in a dark gray.

Duke comes with a set of binoculars, which can peg into the back left hole in his belt. This accessory is sculpted all in dark gray plastic and there isn’t a whole hell of a lot else I can say about it. It’s likely an homage to the more traditional binoculars that came with the original figure and could hang around his neck.

Next up is his pistol, which fits into his holster and can be held in either hand. It’s sculpted to look like a futuristic automatic with a gold slide. Hasbro seems to be content with giving all of these JOEs futuristic style weapons and quite frankly I’m fine with that. I grew up watching them fire laser guns in the cartoon, and the series cast off realism pretty early on in the game.

And finally, Duke comes with his rifle, which is clearly supposed to be some kind of laser gun because of the blue emitter at the muzzle. Happily, this weapon is also designed to look like it has ties to a realistic weapon with some AR-15 characteristics, so I’m OK with that. The level of detail is really nice. It has a skeletal style stock, a scope, a detailed magazine, and a foregrip. Like the pistol, the upper areas of this weapon are painted gold. I really appreciate that the figure’s articulation lets him draw the scope up to his eye for aiming poses. Very nice.

With Duke, Classified continues to toe that line between new and old. So far Destro is clearly the one figure that got the least amount of makeover, but Duke here isn’t all that much different to what I’m used to. And with four of these figures on my shelf I can safely say that I really like what we’ve got so far. Given my druthers, I would have preferred direct updates to the Real American Hero figures, or even realistic takes on the Sunbow designs, but I’ll still happily take these instead. They look great on display and are fun to play around with. Indeed, all the Classified JOEs have been residents of my desk since I got them. And I’ve had a blast fiddling about with them on my downtime. Hopefully I’ll be able to put Snake Eyes in the spotlight, if he ever does turn up.

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