Hasbro continues to have the Classified release gun set to full auto, and I sure ain’t complaining. I have had some issues with their other lines of late (some of those may not have been published here yet… but they will!), but it seems that I can continue to count on this line to be evergreen. I also love how impossible it is to predict what figures we’re going to see next. Case in point… Cover Girl was mainly known as the Wolverine driver and I’d probably rank her as a C-lister at best in terms of the G.I. JOE fiction, but I was still delighted to see her solicitation come up, and now I’m excited to check her out!
This is the first time I’m looking at a regular release Classified JOE without a window box. I talked about my issues with this back when I looked at Indiana Jones, so I won’t go through it again. The figure comes wrapped in a GI JOE branded paper bag with the accessories in another bag, stuffed in an illustrated cardboard footlocker. And that’s pretty cool. What isn’t cool is how much I absolutely hate this character art. I have no idea what were they going for here, and I’m not going to bother to speculate. If you’re going to take the window away, at least give us some decent art on the cover. Well, it’s all probably moot, since Hasbro just announced that they’re returning to plastic windows for their 6-inch lines. Anyway… Courtney is an interesting release, as she was originally bundled as the driver for the Wolverine, and I hate to break it to you, but there ain’t no Wolverine in that little box. That’s OK, though… let’s check her out.
And what we have is another Classified figure that perfectly strides that line between homage and modern update. Her trademark bomber jacket has some sculpted white fur fringe around the neck, and some great detail in the pockets, buttons and tailoring lines. It’s cast in soft plastic with the sleeves sculpted on the arms, and I think it looks great! The RAH figure had matching cream-colored top and trousers, but here we get the trousers in khaki, which adds a little more color. There are reinforced patches on the fronts of her thighs, knee guards, and high brown boots with olive green reinforcements on the fronts. I love the way her pants legs bunch up at the tops of the boots, and they gave her some finger-less gloves, which the RAH figure lacked. This figure also adds a double belt with a slot for her wrench and two thigh rigs, one for her pistol holster and one to hold her PDA. She certainly looks the part of a rough-and-tumble combat mechanic, and it’s a nice nod to her RAH file card, which listed her as having proficiency in diesel mechanics and gas turbine technology.
I was in love with the portrait from the original solicitation shots, mainly because I could see some likeness to J. Scott Campbell’s particular style, whether intentional or not. The final production head loses a little something, but I still think it’s pretty great. The curve of the nose, the arch of the eyebrows, and the full lips are where I see the most JSC in there. The eyes have some nice printing and I think the hair sculpt looks solid.
I’m at the point where I’ve looked at enough of Classified that running through articulation gets redundant. I will say that I’m thrilled to see the double-hinged elbows and bicep swivels in the ladies, and that this figure has some nice range of motion and balance to her. I had no issues with stuck joints allowing Cover Girl to skip the hot tub, aka microwaved coffee cup of water.
Her PDA is a simple but wonderful accessory with a sticker on the front showing the schematics to her beloved vehicle. The printing here is so on point, making it look like it’s an actual glowing screen. I’d like to think that she knows the Wolverine by heart and she just carries that around so she can look at it lovingly when the two are apart. The storage slot for it works very well too! She also has the simple black wrench, which I would have preferred be painted silver, but it’s a great inclusion.
Courtney comes with a very nice automatic pistol with some silver paint on the slide. She held proficiency in the use of the M1911, and this stands in pretty well as a modern version.
And finally she comes with a shotgun for when she empties all dozen of the Wolverine’s missiles and she has to climb out and take care of business herself. The sculpt here is a little softer than the pistol, but it sure isn’t bad, although it’s weird to see bolt action on a military shotgun. I like that Hasbro threw in some olive paint on the foregrip. It’s a unique and nice looking gun, and I wish there was a scabbard for it for her back like Flint got.
Damn, this is a great figure! Granted, I have mixed feelings about getting vehicle drivers as single release figures. Does getting Cover Girl mean we have no chance at a 6-inch scale Wolverine? Does it make it more of a possibility? Probably the former. I have no doubt that Hasbro could do a pretty good Wolverine in this scale as a HasLab project, but if it were a possibility I’m sure they would have saved Cover Girl to bundle with it. Besides, I’m sure there are a bunch of GI JOE vehicles that would be considered more iconic and more likely to have a chance. Either way, I’m happy to have Courtney on my shelf! But Hasbro really needs to do a do-over on Scarlett. She just does not hold up at all.
I’m easily half a dozen figures behind on my GI JOE Classified reviews, so today I’m dipping back into that line to finally check out one that I’m pretty damn excited for! I never had Zarana as a kid, having to make do with just Zartan and the three Drednoks. I don’t ever even recall seeing her in the toy aisles then, because I’m sure I would have wound up getting her if I did. Then again, by 1986, I was starting to move away from toys a bit and more into video games, so maybe I was spending a little less time in the toy aisles. Either way, I’m happy to have her in Classified, so let’s see what we got!
Oh, dear… that character art! Not only is it totally out of style with the rest of the Classified packages, but it’s just awful. My guess is they were going for some kind of misguided Harley Quinn vibe, but it sure as shit doesn’t work for me. That’s OK, though, because I’m going to toss the package, and what I’m seeing through the window looks pretty damn nice!
Thankfully, this is another case of Hasbro sticking close to the vintage figure for the Classified design, and I love what they did here. The pink half-jacket and shoulder armor are superb modernizations of the original costume. The jacket has some fine detail for the silver studs and zipper, and it’s sculpted separately from the figure, so it looks like something she’s actually wearing. It extends down just far enough to cover the ball joint under her chest, and to show off the killer abs she’s sporting. The black sleeves are textured, and she has brown fingerless gloves. Her blue trousers have ribbed reinforcements on her inner thighs, and pink areas on the front where her leggings are exposed through tears in the thighs. This is a great little touch, as when I first saw the figure, I assumed those were just pink patches. Her boots have extended knee pads, and I really dig the silver spurs, they look fantastic! Final touches to the outfit include a sculpted brown belt, a brown sheath belted around her right thigh, and a lovely little sculpted silver chain hanging from her belt. This is an absolutely beautiful update, and I love the colors!
Zarana comes with one head and two swappable hairstyles. The one that comes on the figure in the package is the modern look, with a mix of orange, pink, and purple. I actually think it works pretty well for the character, but this is the only time you’ll see it in this review, because…
Yeah, that’s the stuff! The alternate coif is patterned after the original figure, and it’s the one that I’ll be using all the time. As for the face, I really do love it. Zarana offers up a mean snarl, which works well as a battle expression. The printing on this one really breaks down as you get in close, especially the eyebrows which can look a bit crusty, but it all looks fine with the figure in hand. And take note, she’s got her earrings, so this is based on the earlier of the two heads produced for the vintage figure. Not a bad choice, because I seem to remember the second head being a big step down from the first. I think this portrait turned out great, giving Zarana that level of bad girl hawtness she deserves.
Zarana comes with a few weapons, the first of which is a simple dagger. This one is a nod to the sheathed dagger that was sculpted on the vintage figure. The dagger itself has a black hilt and a nice silver painted blade. It kind of reminds me of a Fairbairn–Sykes style fighting knife from WWII. Very nice!
Next up, she has this beefier piece of cutlery that’s stored in her backpack. I think this design is original to the this Classified figure, because I don’t remember seeing reference to it in any past media or previous versions of the figure. It looks like someone looked at an electronic kitchen knife and said, let’s make that for the battlefield! And that’s a little bit genius. The grip looks like it’s off a sawed off shotgun, while the middle part looks like it houses the electronics. The blade is red, which I’m pretty sure isn’t meant to signify blood, but… it’s blood. Yup, blood! I didn’t think I was going to dig this accessory that much, but it’s totally won me over.
And lastly, Zarana has her rifle with a circular saw attachment, clearly evolving from the vintage figure’s pinwheel-ripper-rifle. I think this is a wonderful update, as I always assumed the original wasn’t an actual gun, but just a spinning-spur-cutter, and now she has the best of both worlds! The rifle looks like an original design, but very grounded in reality. There’s a rail running across the top, and the buzzsaw is an under-the-barrel attachment with a foregrip. I would have put some kind of finger guard behind that blade, because… YIKES! But, I’m pretty sure Zarana scoffs at safety regulations.
The magazine can be removed from the rifle, and this makes me happy every time I see it!
I was a little worried that whatever Classified figure I spotlighted after Stalker was going to have to be a let down, but that’s not the case here. Yes, Zarana is a simpler figure for sure, but she hits all the right points right on target! Like Stalker, I did not expect the final release to look as good as the solicitation photos, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. Zarana is another five outta five for me, and she looks great on display beside her brother in arms. If she’s any indication of how the Classified Drednoks are going to turn out, I can’t wait!
If you weren’t a kid playing with GI JOE in the early years, it might surprise you to see how conservative the early figures actually were. A good number of them were straight up military style characters, completely oblivious to the Battle Android Troopers and zombie clone emperors that would come later. And while I personally have grown to love the batshit crazy spectacle that GI JOE would eventually become, I still have a burning nostalgia for those original grounded figures in their green fatigues and mostly real world weapons.
Enter Lonzo Wilkinson, aka Stalker: Army Ranger and all around Infantry bad ass. This was the kind of real world stuff that Hasbro would eventually drift away from to make GI JOE more appealing to parents who didn’t want their kids to grow up and have… what? Distinguished careers in the armed forces defending their country? I dunno. But to be fair, I think the eventual drift to the sci-fi stuff probably made the line more appealing toward kids as well. When Real American Hero launched, I was still watching stuff like The Guns of Navarone and D-Day with my Dad on Sunday afternoons, and my brother and I would go out and pretend we were storming German machine gun positions or scouting Japanese island fortifications. But much like Westerns, those genres were falling by the wayside in post-Star Wars cinema, and GI JOE evolved with the times. But I will always have a special place in my heart for these original straight-arms!
Out of the package and all geared up, Stalker is ready to take on all those high stress combat situations he specializes in, and boy is this figure beautiful! He’s clad in straight up camo fatigues with a long sleeved pullover and textured trousers. You get some sculpted elastic around the neck and wrist cuffs, fingerless gloves, high laced boots, and all the usual rumples and wrinkles in his fatigues. The camo coloring is a lot more subdued than the brighter green on the original figure, giving it a little more of a realistic punch. The shoulder straps, which were sculpted as part of the original figure are now cast in soft plastic and actually worn by the figure. This includes some pouches and a non-removable canister grenade and dagger.
His back has a removable scabbard for his sub-machine gun and a separate slot for the magazine. The scabbard has all sorts of great texturing and details. He also has a hard case holster on his right hip for his pistol and barrel extender, and a scabbard on his left leg for his fighting knife.
The head sculpt is a fantastic homage to the original figure, with tons of personality. Lonzo looks every bit the hardened combatant, born fighting the gang wars on the streets of Detroit. He looks like he’s assessing a fortified enemy position right before grabbing his gun and muttering, “well, let’s do this.” Or perhaps seeing Cobra’s latest hairbrained combat contraption hit the battlefield and unleashing his battlecry, “I’m getting too old for this crazy shit!” His bushy eyebrows and perfectly groomed mustache give him a distinguished look, and I just love every bit of this portrait.
The beret is removable and yet it fits the head well enough so it’s not constantly falling off.
The figure also comes with a scarf for his neck, which I kind of waffle back and fourth on. It’s a great sculpt, and I love the knitted texture, but it rides a bit high on the figure. I will likely wind up displaying him with it on, but when I’m handling the figure, I prefer to remove it, so you won’t see it in too many shots here. OK… let’s talk gear!
Starting with the small stuff, Stalker comes with a simple little combat knife with a black grip and a painted silver blade. It fits perfectly into his trigger finger hand, or the off hand for that matter. I’ve said it before, Hasbro is getting a lot better at making these knives feel more substantial and fun accessories, rather than something that gets lost or never removed from the sheath.
Following that, you get a pretty standard automatic pistol modeled after the M1911A1 listed among his specialties. It’s cast all in black with some very nice detail and a non-removable extended magazine jutting out of the bottom of the grip. It also comes with a barrel extender, which is not like any barrel extender I’ve ever seen. I own enough guns to call myself an enthusiast, but certainly no expert, so it could definitely be something I just haven’t seen before. It looks kind of silly, and I doubt I will get much use out of it.
Next up is his sub-machine gun, which is a pretty close match for the M-32 Pulverizer, that came with the original figure. It’s a fictional model, but definitely has a real-world style design and I really dig it. It certainly hits some of the beats of the M-3A1 “Grease Gun,” which was among the list of weapons Lonzo is proficient in. The magazine is removable and both store in the scabbard on his back.
And finally, we bring out the big boy, which looks to me to be the most fictional design in Stalker’s arsenal, but still not too far out there. Again, you get some really nice sculpted detail on this beast. It also has a removable box magazine with a belt of ammo coming from the magazine and feeding into the side of the receiver, which is a really weird design.
I’ll be honest, it surprises the hell out of me to see Hasbro release a figure like Stalker here. Apart from some fictional gun designs, everything about this guy is grounded and gritty. This is as close to a real-world Infantry figure as you’re likely to find in the toy aisles these days, and I’m actually proud of them for doing it. It also shows just how wonderfully diverse a toyline Classified has become by embracing both GI JOEs realistic roots and the crazy shit from later on. Frankly, I’m here for all of it! It’s only January and I have to say Stalker is already a candidate for one of my favorite figures of 2023!
A short while ago, when I reviewed Tomax and Xamot, I mentioned just how infatuated I was as a kid with The Crimson Guard and its Commanders. Some of it probably just had to do with the hot newness of new figures and a new dynamic in the cartoon, but I think it mostly had to do with just how unbelievably cool the Crimson Guard designs were. With their snappy red uniforms and their full helmets, they pissed all over the average Cobra troops, who in all fairness, by now were painted as mostly inept buffoons in the cartoon. Sure, the Crimson Guard wouldn’t wind up being much better, but at the time they were introduced, there was hope.
I also had hope that we wouldn’t have to wait too long to see these troops arrive in the Classified line, and as it turns out they came out even sooner than I expected. Yeah, as the 50th numbered release, that doesn’t exactly make them early releases, but with the way Hasbro has been cranking out the Classified figures, we didn’t have to wait too long. I mean, what’s it been, only two years since that first wave? Damn, Hasbro! Anyway, I’ve had this figure in hand for a little while now, but I was waiting to get a few more in before I finally sat down to spotlight them. Now, I’ve got a small squad of them, so let’s get started!
And Merry Christmas to me! Just look at this beautiful bastard! As I’ve pointed out many times in my Classified spotlights, Hasbro seems to be sticking to extremely conservative updates to these figures lately, and that suits me just fine. Doubly so in the case of The Crimson Guard, because you just don’t mess with perfection. This Classified version takes the original RAH figure design and just adds more detail, without making any drastic changes. You do get some well-defined knee pads, a double-strap thigh holster on the left hip, and a knife sheath on his right hip. There’s also the addition of a sword, which was an absolutely inspired addition to the figure design. The crimson fatigues are just the perfect shade of red plastic, with high black boots, gloves, and lots of silver trim to round out what is a visually stunning color palate. The buttons and edging on the front panel of the tunic were always part of the original figure sculpt, but now we get them beautifully picked out with that snappy silver, as well as the chest insignia. Meanwhile, the shoulder braid and epaulets are left gray. Oh, and the texturing on the tunic is superb! I dare say, this design hasn’t looked this good since Sideshow produced it in Sixth-Scale.
The helmet and mask also stick to the RAH roots, but again with lots more detail. The thin silver slit forms a visor and there’s a silver breather bisecting the rest of the black mask. The texturing on the tunic shows off really well in these shots, as does the epaulets, and the little details in the insignia on his left breast and the collar.
The backpack design is lifted directly from the original figure, only this time its cast in black, rather than red, and I approve wholeheartedly. The addition of black here just adds more balance to the deco. The edges have a leather-like texture with sculpted eyelets and straps, and there are angled slats running down the center. A peg on one side allows you to stow his rifle, while a peg hole on the other allows you to stow his sword and scabbard, and more on those in a bit. Yes, this figure can easily carry all the gear he comes with, and that’s always a plus in my book! Let’s breakdown all the gear, starting with the cutlery.
The combat knife is one of the better ones I’ve seen in this line. Nothing against past blades, but many have been a bit insubstantial and cast in all black. Here we get a silver painted blade, with a nice swollen edge, a serrated back, and a chunky grip. This knife not only looks great, but it fits perfectly into either of his very trigger-orientated hands. I love it!
And then there’s the sword, which as I said earlier, suits the figure so well, it’s hard for me to believe this didn’t happen sooner. It has a black hilt with a rather traditional modern military hilt with a curved knuckle guard, and a straight silver blade. The blade fits perfectly in the scabbard, which in turn pegs into a hole on his left hip. Yes, you can attach the sword to the backpack as well, but I’m not sure why you would want to. It looks great on the belt, and doesn’t really get in the way.
Moving on to the firearms, The Crimson Guard has a compact no-nonsense automatic pistol with a simple sculpt and cast in all black plastic. There’s a little checkered texturing on the sides, and all in all it has a solid realistic profile to it.
And finally, he comes with the real showpiece of his arsenal, a Colt M4 Carbine, which is probably my new favorite weapon issued in this entire line. This sculpt is absolutely fantastic and sports some amazing detail from the telescoping-style stock to the carry bar, and removable magazine, it all looks so damn good. But, I think it’s the bayonet with the silver painted blade that’s really the icing on this cake. Some may be disappointed that it isn’t the style of rifle that came with the original figure, but it pleases me to no end that Hasbro still went with a real world design for this figure’s weapon, and that they did such a wonderful job recreating it here.
With only a couple weeks left in the year, it’s not premature for me to throw out there that The Classified Crimson Guard is one of my top figures of 2022. Indeed, the fact that I’m not yet prepared to call it my favorite figure of the year just speaks to what an incredible year it was for action figures. Well, that and I don’t want to make any snap judgements like that without putting some more measured thought into it. But is he in the Top 5? Most definitely! Top 3? Very possibly. This is just an example of a design that I love so much being executed with absolute perfection. Classified has been an absolute treasure trove for amazing Cobra army builders, and this fellow may indeed be my favorite one yet. I’ve got six of these guys in my army so far, and I’m still open to picking up a few more. It makes me feel sorry for the Classified JOE’s, because they are getting more and more outnumbered with each passing release.
As someone who started playing with the Real American Hero toys back when the line was first released, I don’t think anything suitably prepared me for the bat-shit crazy rollercoaster that would envelop the toyline by 1986, when Serpentor arrived to take over the reigns of Cobra. Sure, Cobra Commander was portrayed as a buffoon in the Sunbow cartoon, but he sure looked the part of a serious terrorist leader in his smartly cut military uniform and terror mask. Silly snake lisp or not, he looked like a dude that you could take seriously. Then he got replaced by a freaking zombie-clone-military genius in a carnival snake suit, and somehow it all made sense. I’m sure part of it had to do with a bunch of Cobra agents getting so tired of being bested because of Cobra Commander’s hairbrained schemes, that they didn’t think they could do any worse. But a lot of it had to do with the way Serpentor was portrayed. Yes, he looked ridiculous in that suit, but he was so goddamn terrifying, that nobody was going to call him out on it. This was an undead warrior who could summon snakes and throw them like javelins. He was prone to rage, and not like the little tantrums that Cobra Commander had. When Cobra Commander got upset, he usually threw a chair into a TV monitor. When Serpentor got pissed, he seemed capable of twisting someone’s head off. And that’s why I love him and why I’m so excited to see him appear in the Classified line!
Unfortunately, Serpentor was released as a Pulse Exclusive, which I think was a pretty shitty idea on Hasbro’s part. Everyone was going to want this guy, and getting in on the pre-order was exactly the kind of white-knuckle affair that has been trying my toy collector patience as of late. Just the fact that he’s going for twice the retail price since selling out is proof positive that Hasbro needs to rethink its distribution strategy. But, with all that having been said… Boy did Hasbro go all out on the packaging here. There’s a corner-slipcase that slides off to reveal what looks like the Cobra Lab that engineered this big baddie, as well as the garage where his Air Chariot was built. Open up the slick hybrid DNA-Cobra Insignia and you reveal the figure and some cases containing his accessories. Pull out the entire tray and you reveal the unassembled Air Chariot. It’s some absolutely wonderful presentation that looks like a Convention Exclusive, and the character art absolutely kicks ass. Let’s start with a look at the figure first, and then we’ll check out the Air Chariot. Buckle in, Snakelings, this will be a long one!
And… Wow, what a gorgeous figure! I’m pleased to report that Classified Serpentor doesn’t deviate from his original vintage toy design. Indeed, this is a pitch-perfect update, which captures all the beautiful eccentricity of the snake suit we first saw way back when, only with a lot more detail and realism added to the sculpt. The scaly copper suit features a golden snake belly running up the chest, and a similar motif down on the boots. Green armor plates are added to the knees and thighs, as well as scaled green fingerless gauntlets on his forearms. His belt is a snake wrapped around his waist, with the centered snake’s head looking out with the most adorable little expression, which I will have to admit is kind of unintentionally hilarious. DOES ANYONE ELSE FEEL LIKE A HAVING A LITTLE CHORTLE WHEN THEY GAZE UPON MY CUTESY SNAKE FACE BELTBUCKLE???SIR, NO SIR! Similar green snakes touch tails at the center of his chest and coil under his arms, and up around the tops of his shoulders. The ensemble is punctuated with a green cloth cape, complete with a quilted scale pattern. Classified Serpentor definitely takes this ridiculous design and absolutely owns it. This guy looks like the worst combination of crazy and terrifying, just like a proper undead snake emperor should be. As far as the suit is concerned, Hasbro nailed it and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Hasbro did something rather interesting with the portrait, which I didn’t know about until opening the figure. He comes out of the box with a fixed cobra headdress, which prevents any neck articulation, as it essentially fuses his head to his upper back. I’m not sure this was entirely necessary, as I think the alternative that we’ll see in a bit is every bit as good, but I guess it’s nice to have options. Either way, the sculpt is fabulous with some lovely detail in the Cobra hood, and the way the snake’s mouth opens to frame Serpentor’s face. And what a face it is! Serpentor looks like he’s eternally cross with whoever happens to be in front of him. He has a dour scowl on his face and narrowing red eyes. Hot damn, this is an impressive sculpt, only brought down a few pegs by the pudgy snake fangs that dangle in front of his brow. Yeah, those could have been done better, but that’s literally the only thing I can find to nitpick with this figure so far.
To swap heads, the cobra hood and top of the snake head comes off as one piece and gets replaced as two. Thus, Serpentor’s head is no longer attached to the hood and can articulate freely. Again, I think this looks fine, and I can’t imagine ever again bothering with the other pieces. The face sculpt is the same, and to be honest, had Hasbro not included the fixed style headdress, I wouldn’t have missed it at all. All things being equal, I would rather have had a shouty angry face to swap out instead of the fused snake hood. Onward to the accessories!
First off, Serpentor comes with his extendable blades on his right arm, although they aren’t actually extendable, but rather create the illusion with two different pieces: One with blades retracted, and one with them extended. These simply tab into a slot in the arm. I remember my original figure having a sculpted silver thing on that arm, but I’m not sure I knew that’s what it was. It’s a cool weapon, but even the retracted piece is a bit cumbersome. I would have liked to have had a plain plug to pop into the socket as well.
Hey, remember in the cartoon when Serpentor would grab one of the snakes off his shoulder, make a javelin out of it and impale his enemies with it? Well, here you get one of those snake javelins! Can you imagine working at a place where your boss throws living snake harpoons at you when you don’t perform effectively? Yeah, no thanks!
Next up is this rather regal looking Cobra scepter. Because wearing an entire snake suit doesn’t quite drive the point home enough, right? This comes across as a bit much to me, and I may wind up giving it to Cobra Commander. It is a nice piece, though. I appreciate that Hasbro even painted the rubies at the base of the shaft.
How about a short sword? This bitchin piece of cutlery has a funky, futuristic-style silver blade and a gold hilt with yet another Cobra head sculpted on it. I love the fact that Serpentor carries a sword around instead of a gun, no doubt a callback to all that historic warrior blood he’s gut pumping through his undead veins. I kind of get a little bit of a Roman Gladius vibe off of it. Pity he doesn’t have a scabbard or a loop or something to carry it. OK, so we got a snake javelin, a snake scepter, a snake-hilted sword… what’s left?
An goddamned snake, that’s what! This is kind of weird accessory, since it doesn’t seem like it’s really made to interact with Serpentor, so I guess you just put it by him. Maybe it’s a pet? Or a distant relative? Maybe it’s transformed Cobra Commander? It’s a damn fine sculpt and I sure don’t mind getting it in the box, but it might have been cooler to have it sculpted so that it could wrap around his arm or neck, or allow him to wear it in some way. But hey… Bonus snake! And that wraps up Serpentor’s plethora of accessories, so let’s move on to his rather iconic vehicle, The Air Chariot!
Part of me was not absolutely sure that we were going to get this vehicle when Serpentor was first teased, especially since we didn’t get Zartan’s Swamp Skier, and boy am I still bitter about that! But it’s hard to stay mad when I’m holding this absolute work of toy art in my hands! The Air Chariot is big and beefy and absolutely packed with detail, and a few cool little features. The bulk of the toy is cast in gold plastic, but you do get some beautiful gold and copper paint applications to pick out the detail and make it shine. There are some panel lines and hatches sculpted in the hull, and the bolted panels on the wings give it a bit of a retro WWII vibe. I also love the hazard warnings and other practical markings that really harken back to the stickers on the original RAH vehicles. All it’s missing is a couple dozen NOT A STEP signs. These little touches give this crazy design a grounded sense of realism that sells it wonderfully. The massive guns can articulate indepentently of one another, and can also be removed and wielded by The Cobra Emperor himself, should the Air Chariot get shot down and Serpentor has to make a last stand.
Some fun features include three retractable landing gear, and a VTOL engine that can spin, but only by flicking it. It doesn’t have a trigger mechanism or anything like that. The cobra’s mouth even opens to reveal a gun and folding fangs. I think the only thing missing is a clear flight stand. I don’t want to complain too much, because I really am absolutely in love with this toy, but not including a stand similar to what Hasbro gave to the Star Wars Black Series Speeder Bikes feels like a huge oversight.
Serpentor can mount his Chariot by using the foot pegs and grasping the steering column. It’s a perfect fit, and I imagine that he would stay put, even if I were to whoosh it around the room making pew pew noises and shouting THIS, I COMMAND! But I’m a 50yo dude, and I would never do that, so I can’t say for sure, riiight?
At $80, I confess that I balked at the price a little, even when I slammed that pre-order down, but from the moment I took this out of the shipping box I have been beyond impressed with what we got. From the first class packaging and presentation to the superb figure and the intricate detail on the Air Chariot, this set is an absolute winner and well worth the price to me. And seeing how well Hasbro executed the Air Chariot makes me excited for future prospects of the Trouble Bubble and perhaps the FANG. After coming off the high of reviewing Tomax and Xamot, and now this, I have to say that GI JOE Classified has been one of the most consistently impressive toy lines of this year. I’d say only Super7’s Ultimate ThunderCats have been given Classified a run for its money, and that may not be a fair comparison, since one is designed for retail and one is not. Which brings me back to the Pulse Exclusive thing. Hasbro, you gotta fix that and make Serpentor available as a wide release through online retailers. A figure this great, and a character this important, shouldn’t be hard to get.
Hasbro’s Classified GI JOE line continues to fire on all cylinders and churn out some absolutely fantastic figures. Sure, Cobra seems to be getting the most attention, but when the figures are this great, I’m not going to complain. Today, I’m checking out the Crimson Guard Commanders: Tomax and Xamot!
It’s incomprehensible to me why Hasbro didn’t release these guys in a two-pack. I would have been really pissed if I was able to get one and had to hunt for the other. But, as luck would have it, the online distribution for the Twins was plentiful and I was able to get the pair without any troubles. Although, I found it a little vexing that Xamot did arrive a few days before Tomax. I think it would have been cool if they mirrored the boxes to match the figures, but I can understand why they wouldn’t want to redesign the box for just one release. Anyway, it’s hard for me to put my finger on why I was so infatuated with The Crimson Twins back in the day. Maybe it was because I was introduced to them in the Sunbow cartoon before I actually got the figures, but I remember endlessly bugging my parents about them, and when I finally got them, they were the main actors involved in every single Cobra mission for a long while. I just dig everything about them!
And boy did Hasbro hit a homerun with these Classified versions! I’ve commented many times about how Hasbro has maneuvered Classified to be more and more in line with the original character designs, and in this case, they unswervingly followed the vintage Real American Hero figure aesthetics when crafting these modern 6-inch versions. Naturally, the figures are mirror images of each other, with Tomax having the shoulder and neck guard on his right side, and the red sash on his right shoulder. For his brother, these are switched up to the left shoulder… and so on. The symmetrical parts of the figure are mostly identical, but you do get sheathed daggers on each figure’s opposite hip and leg. The uniforms are deep blue, which looks great with the crimson sash and accents on the legs and belt. A lot of the silver is cast in silver plastic, and while this is pretty light plastic, it looks fine and matches the silver on the boots and thigh guards quite well. The bodies contain the usual Classified points of articulation, and the shoulder armor is flexible so as not to inhibit the range of motion in those shoulders.
I expected Hasbro to just mirror the head sculpts as well, but there are some subtle differences, which make for a very nice surprise. Indeed, most of the mirrored effect is found in the way they part their hair. The key difference is the jagged scar sculpted onto Xamot’s left cheek. I haven’t gone back to look, but I am clearly misremembering that it was Tomax that had the scar on his right cheek. Whatever the case, the portraits here are excellent, and I really dig their evil smirks.
Each Twin comes with a pair of matched Kris (serpentine bladed) Daggers, with one sheathed on the hip and the other on the leg. These have black hilts with painted silver blades and round pommels. The twins have dual gun hands, but they can hold the daggers fairly well, especially if you tuck the guard between two of the fingers. Generally speaking, the cutlery doesn’t impress me all that much in the Classified line. Knives and daggers are pretty small at this scale, and there’s only so much you can do with them. That having been said, I love these!
Instead of the oversized blaster pistols included with the vintage figures, each Classified Twin also comes with a sub-machine gun, which is the biggest departure from the originals. These are cast in black plastic, and have removable magazines and silencers. I’d argue that Hasbro should have given us both options, but even though they didn’t, I’m still happy with these more realisitc weapons. They look great wielding them! Alas, we didn’t get the Skyhook included with the original figures, and that does seem like a rather big omission.
Classified has been blowing me away with each and every release lately, and the Crimson Guard Commanders are yet another example of that. These figures are exactly what I’m looking for in this line: 6-inch scale versions of the RAH designs, and boy do they deliver on that! The articulation gives them pretty much everything they need to show off their circus-style acrobatics, and while I would have liked to see the RAH weapons included as a bonus, I’m not going to complain about their omission. It would have been a shame to have these guys and not have some Crimson Guard for them to command, but thankfully Hasbro made sure their troops shipped at the same time as they did, and I’ll be checking them out next week!
It’s been too long since I dipped back into Hasbro’s outstanding GI JOE Classified series, and with some new figures stacking up in my backlog, it sure seems like a good time for me to get on that. Cobra has been getting a lot of the spotlight from me, so let’s have a look at one of the brand new JOEs… It’s Spirit Iron-Knife and Freedom!
If you’ve been away from GI JOE for a while, the name Spirit Iron-Knife may seem odd, but it’s just one of Hasbro’s little tricks to get around trademark legalities, by putting his real name on the box along with his Codename. My only gripe here is that I really do not like the character art they went with. It’s super stylized, and it just doesn’t stack up to some of the magnificent art we’ve seen on past packages. But, I mainly toss these boxes anyway, so it’s not a big deal. And I practically shredded this box, because I was so excited to finally get Spirit in this line. He was a fantastic release back in 1984, even though I’m pretty sure I didn’t get him until the following year. But once I had him, Spirit was on just about every team of JOEs I assembled, usually as a tracker, and often stepping in and picking off Cobra troops when his teammates got captured. I absolutely loved this guy!
And here’s Spirit out of the box and ready for action! And man, did Hasbro do a bang-up job on this update! Spirit hits all the right points of his vintage figure, from the high boots and khaki trousers to the blue shirt, rolled up sleeves, and red undershirt peeking out from the collar. This new figure sports the correct shoulder insignia, as well as the brown sheath slung vertically off the left side of his chest. The update adds a cross-strap and shoulder rig to hold the sheath. as well as a utility belt, and a regular belt with a bright silver buckle. The cross-strap has a couple of grenades sculpted onto it, which were sculpted as part of the shirt on the vintage figure, as well as that weird gizmo on his right shoulder that all the Classified JOEs have. Honestly, the only thing we’re missing here is the white feather necklace seen sculpted onto the original figure. I’m surprised they aren’t here, but I suspect something like that would be simple to make for him.
The backpack is a complete redesign from his old green one. Now it’s a mix of black and khaki, and instead of being stacked with arrow cartridges, we get four compartments, a peg for his rifle to hang off the side, and a perch for Freedom, but more on that in a bit!
And how about that portrait! This may be one of my favorite head sculpts in the Classified line to date. The definition in his facial features are splendidly realized, giving him a stoic, all-business visage. He has a thick, black hair, with one ear exposed, and a sculpted red bandanna, with some strands of hair spilling out of it and streaming down behind his left cheek. There are sculpted braids, which hand down over each shoulder, with red ties on the end. This is no doubt the face of Spirit! Let’s move on to his gear!
It may not be a surprise that Charlie Iron-Knife does love him some knives! Spirit comes with two combat blades, one stored in the chest sheath, and the other on a sheath that’s strapped to his left thigh. The former is a fancy knife with some patterns on the blade. I’m not sure if that’s supposed to signify a Damascus blade or a flint blade, but it sure looks cool. I only wish they had painted the hilt white to match the one sculpted on the original figure. The second knife is just a standard combat variety, similar to what we’ve seen other Classified JOEs carrying. Both his hands are gun-hands, but he can still hold the knives fairly well, if not quite as secure as I would like.
Next up, Spirit comes with an automatic pistol as a sidearm, which is stored in a holster double-strapped to his right thigh. It’s a decent sculpt, molded all in black, and I love it. There’s no sci-fi crap to the design, and it actually looks like a straight up Desert Eagle. Quite a nice addition, since the original figure didn’t come with a sidearm.
Possibly one of the biggest departures from the vintage figure is found in Spirit’s rifle. The original figure came with a scoped rifle that fired arrows. I never really got what it was all about, so I’m actually glad to see that Classified Spirit comes with a more traditional combat rifle. This beauty is mostly black, but with a brown foregrip, a suppressor on the muzzle, and a pretty serious looking scope. The magazine is even detachable, and I always love that! Yeah, some fans may be disappointed to not get an update to his classic weapon, but that thing never really became all that iconic to me.
And last, but certainly not least, Spirit comes with his trusty winged companion, Freedom! I really love what Hasbro did with this figure, and yeah it really is a figure all it’s own. There’s articulation in the upper legs, swivels in the feet, articulation in the neck, and the wings are on ball joints with a set of spread wings for flight, and tucked wings for chillin’. There are pegs in Freedom’s feet that allow him to perch on the backpack, and Spirit also has something like a Falconer’s Gauntlet on his left arm with peg holes for him to perch there as well!
Wow! Spirit turned out to be an absolutely fantastic figure, and he’s certainly high up there among my favorite JOEs in the line so far. Hasbro did a nice job paying respects to a lot about what made the vintage figure so special, while also tossing in a few new updates here and there. The fact that they were able to give him a solid assortment of weapons, in addition to decently articulated Freedom, really showcases the sense of value I get out of these figures. Especially when I see the price of Marvel Legends creeping up there. I guess it makes all the difference when you own the license yourself!
GI JOE Classified has been a dangerously expensive line for me to collect, because it’s full of so many darn troop builders! And troop building is one of those ultimate expressions of excess that I wished I could do as a kid. I can remember asking for another Cobra Trooper or Stormtrooper and being told, “No! You already have that one!” But, now I’m an adult with disposable income, and it’s only natural that I went kind of crazy with the Cobra Infantry and Battle Android Troopers, so I tried to restrain myself when it came to the Alley Viper. Three seemed like a good number, and that’s how many I wound up with… for now!
Truth be told, the original Alley Viper was first released during that Dark Age between when I was no longer getting toys to play with as a kid, and had not yet discovered buying toys to collect them as an adult. This guy first appeared on the shelves in 1989, which would have been the year before I went to college. As a result, I wasn’t even really aware that Cobra had an Urban Assault Trooper until I got back into collecting GI JOE around 1999 or so. And I’m all for getting to experience some Classified figures that I didn’t have as a kid! As always, the box is nice and colorful, his large array of weapons is laid out around him, and the character art even pictures a couple Alley Vipers to subliminally tell you to buy more than one!
Out of the package, it’s hard to first notice anything but the colors… Oh, the colors! The Alley Viper fatigues consists of an retina-sizzling orange and blue camo, with some black and brown thrown in just to keep things somewhat grounded. Love it or hate it, GI JOE Series Eight was knocking on the 1990’s door, ushering in an age of obnoxious toy colors. The Alley Vipers were billed as being brave, and let’s face it, you’d have to be to go into battle wearing this! Once we’re past the deco, I have to admire the attention to detail that went into the fatigues and gear. His vest is a veritable slab of pouches, which extends to his right shoulder. He’s got more pouches on his belt, sheathes for his knives on his right forearm and left shoulder, and a holster for his pistol on his right thigh. And then there’s that gorgeous blue shoulder pouch with the orange Cobra insignia! It’s a lot to take in all at once, and before you can process it all, he’s probably already killed you.
The Alley Viper’s head is encased in a form-fitting, open-faced helmet. with snake fangs emerging from the chin guard, and a textured blue mask beneath it, showing only his determined and hate-filled eyes. There’s a hinged visor, which can be lowered to shield his face, and has only a circular screen in the center for detail. I presume this is some type of imaging sensor that allows him to see, but it sure makes him look creepy and inhuman. The black embossed Cobra emblem at the forehead is a nice touch as well!
The black backpack pegs into the back of the figure and is a superb nod back to the original figure’s backpack. Like the Viper’s fatigues, there’s a crazy amount of detail in the sculpt. In addition to the Cobra emblem at the top, there are magazines sculpted into the sides, a cluster of grenades down at the bottom, more pouches, and what looks like a landmine in the center. The grapple gun, which I believe was sculpted into the original figure’s backpack, is even removable here.
I’m not sure if this is supposed to be a dedicated grapple gun, or just a rifle that also has the ability to fire the hook, but I’m leaning toward the later, because it seems like a pretty big piece of kit to haul around just for those times when you need to grapple somewhere. Regardless, the rifle has a scope, as well as a ring at the muzzle to attach a string (not included). The hook is removable, and it also has a ring to attach the other end of the string (still not included). Let’s check out what else this guy’s got!
Well, any good Urban Commando needs some blades, and the Alley Viper comes with two identical knives that fit in the aforementioned sheathes. I’m a big fan of the one on his shoulder, as it’s well placed and stays put, because it’s secured to the vest. The one on his right forearm is a lot more floaty. It tends to swivel on his wrist, and slide as well. It is removable, and while it hasn’t annoyed me enough to do that yet, it’s nice to have it as an option. Knife accessories in this scale are seldom all that interesting, but I still enjoy getting them.
Next up is his pistol, which fits very well in his thigh holster, as well as in either hand. I really dig this design, as it’s not too sci-fi-y, but rather looks like a fairly credible real-world design. I’ve got nothing much else to say about it, other than it gets my stamp of approval.
Now we’re moving into the heavier hardware with this compact bullpup-style carbine. This is a nice update to the weapon that came with the original Alley Viper, complete with a scope, foregrip, and a crazy positioning of the magazine, which juts out the back at an angle. The weapon is cast entirely in black plastic, the sculpt is great, and while I personally am not a fan of the design, it’s still a great-looking weapon. I was thrilled to see that the magazine was removable too!
And finally, the Alley Viper comes with a more traditional rifle featuring a detachable magazine in front of the grip, just the way I like them. Like the previous carbine, this rifle is cast all in black plastic and has some wonderful detail in the sculpt. This is probably the gun I’ll have these guys carrying most of the time for display purposes. My only nitpick with the Alley Viper and his arsenal is there’s no way for him to carry everything, or even anywhere to attach any of his rifles, except for the grapple gun.
I’ve saved the Alley Viper’s most iconic piece of kit for last, and that’s his riot shield, and boy is it a beauty. This defensive shield shares the same orange and blue deco as the Viper’s fatigues, and has a bold and beautiful Cobra emblem sculpted into the top center. It attaches to the figure’s arm with a pair of straps, and even has a pivot, so it can be positioned in a variety of ways independent of how the figure is posed. It also has a sticker on the interior side, which I presume is a viewscreen, so the Viper can still see what’s happening when taking cover behind it. A lot more safe and secure than the slits in conventional riot shields!
As I mentioned at the start, the Alley Viper is my first Cobra troop builder in the Classified line based off a figure I did not own as a kid, and that makes him a real treat. I wasn’t sure how I would take to the crazy colors, but now that he’s in hand I have to admit that he’s got an unabashed beauty about him that I wouldn’t dare change. There’s a sublime variety of weaponry packed in with him, that makes it possible to kit out multiple figures with some variety, and that’s always a plus. But whatever weapons I give him, that beautiful shield will always be a must! Hasbro hit an absolute home run with this figure, and it’ll take some serious restraint to keep me from getting a few more!
When I look back at Sunbow’s GI JOE cartoon, it’s amazing how they managed to make it so exciting when everyone was firing guns at everyone else, but nobody was hitting anyone. Sure, they found creative ways around this by featuring more melee combat. But the ultimate workaround was the introduction of the Battle Android Troopers. The BATs put the JOEs up against enemy robot soldiers that they could shoot, blow up, tear apart, and smash to pieces. As a kid, I loved the BATs, and I especially loved how it made the combat in the cartoon far more visceral.
It was only a matter of time before the BATs found their way into the 6-inch Classified line, and here they are! I actually have a ton of these on pre-order through a bunch of online retailers, but Amazon had some BATs in Stock last week and I was able to get an order in for one, which arrived a couple days ago. I was going to wait to review him until the rest of my BATs arrived, but who knows when that will be, so let’s go ahead and check out this lone BAT.
As time rolls on, The Classified series seems to be more confident with sticking to the original Real American Hero designs, and that’s quite evident with this BAT figure. There is one major difference, and that’s the armored chest plate that covers the window of circuitry that was always on display in the original figure. Of course, it was important to show that circuit panel in the cartoon so nobody could mistake them as real people. With that not being an issue any longer, Hasbro decided to button these guys up!
But when you take it off, you still get that panel of exposed circuits, including some prominent red and yellow components. I actually like the idea of the armor plate option, but I would have preferred an additional transparent chest plate for the more classic look. In fact, not including such a piece seems like a really big oversight. Sure, you can just go without the plate at all, but then you’ve got nothing protecting all that stuff, and I assume it’s probably pretty important to the BATs functions.
Everything else here is pretty much on point! The BAT wears black fatigues with bright yellow boots, belt, and holster with thigh strap. His other thigh is encircled with a silver strap. He has a yellow sholder strap to the left of his chest holding a pair of canister-style grenades, both left as bare gray plastic. I don’t know that these colors ever made any sense, but they sure look so iconic and snappy together. The sculpt features all the usual rumples and wrinkles in the fatigues, and I especially love all the fine detail in his robotic arms, which are exposed from the elbows down.
The head retains all the classic charm of the original RAH design. Was the featureless silver face plate supposed to be a tribute to Cobra Commander? I dunno. But the lack of any semblance of a face is both creepy and badass. There are two silver vents on the back of the helmet and a crested comb running up the middle of the helmet, and the whole thing looks slightly (and appropriately) too small to have an actual human head in it. It’s simple and absolutely awesome!
The backpack offers storage for all three of the BAT’s arm attachments. Two can plug into the top compartments and one can plug up into the side. The Classified BAT has two detachable fists, so you can equip the extra attachments on the left or right arm, or have him dual-wield!
Similar to the RAH figure, the attachments include a laser gun, a powerful looking pincer-claw, and a torch. These are easy to pop on and off, and they look really good. I’m particularly excited about getting some more BATs so I can make specialists like Double-Claw BAT, Double Laser Gun BAT, and… well, you get the idea.
The BAT also comes with a pistol, which fits into his holster and can be wielded in either of his normal hands.
The articulation here is pretty standard stuff for this line. The double jointing in the elbows is made very obvious because of the exposed robot arms. The dog-bone connectors in the hips on my figure are a little tight. But the one wonderful surprise here was the inclusion of the extra crunches in the shoulders. I don’t think I caught that in the promo pictures, and I was delighted to see it when I got the figure in hand.
And finally, The BAT includes two battle damaged pieces, which include a second chest piece and head. I like the head a lot, especially the way it shows off one of the eyes behind the damaged faceplate. The chest piece is well done also, with some tears to the metal and an impact crater that looks like he took a dead-on punch from Sgt. Slaughter himself! Still, I wish we got a chest piece that was a bit more damaged and showed a bit more of that circuitry underneath. A damaged arm attachment would have been pretty cool too. Hell, if Hasbro wants to double-dip, I’d be down for a two-pack of BATs with more interchangeable damaged parts.
In the end, this is an absolutely fantastic figure! Indeed, I’d say the only thing that holds it back from being a Perfect Ten would be the lack of a clear chest plate. Still, I have to tell myself this is the Classified version, and these guys just aren’t supposed to go into action with their circuitry on display. I think the best compliment I can pay the Classified BAT is that after getting one in hand, I’m happy to have a bunch more pre-ordered and on the way! This may be one of my favorite figures the line has produced yet.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been months since I last checked in with Hasbro’s excellent GI JOE Classified line. Needless to say, I’ve got more than a few figures waiting for the spotlight. But since it’s Saturday and the weekend is upon us, how about a Barbecue!
Gabriel “Barbecue” Kelly released under the Cobra Island tag, which meant that it’s another one of those pesky Target Exclusives. This one, however, was super easy to get thanks to a pre-order window that stayed open for considerably more than a nano-second. And it’s a good thing too, because I’ve yet to see him on the pegs at my local Target. I got the original Barbecue for my 13th birthday, along with a bunch of the other amazing figures released that year. It’s a testament to what a great figure he was, that he stood out among releases like Flint, Lady Jaye, Dusty, Bazooka, and Alpine. Wow! What a great year! Needless to say, I’m pretty excited to check out this new Classified version! After all, what’s even more badass than a firefighter? Someone who’s trained to do it while getting shot at!
I’m happy to say that Hasbro stuck pretty close to the original figure’s design, and boy does he look great! Barbecue sports his bright orange fire retardant jumpsuit with black boots and gloves. He’s got some gear strapped to his waist, a rather complex looking breather apparatus on his chest, and a black protective gorget. It’s a superb update that hits all the beats of my childhood figure and just refines it to accommodate the larger scale with a bit more detail and realism. And while there isn’t a whole lot of diversity to the color palate here, the black and orange really look quite striking together!
There’s an unwritten rule for when you’re 12 years old and playing with action figures… helmets and masks are cool, and Barbecue’s kick-ass head gear oozes that cool appeal. Sure, he wears it as protective gear, but it certainly has a palpable intimidation factor to it. The blacked out visor and the silver face plate would have no problem striking fear into the hearts of Cobra firebugs. Sure, I would have loved to get an un-helmeted head as well, or a removable face plate, but such things seem to be few and far between in the Classified line, and I guess that’s understandable. I’ll just have to wait for Super7’s inevitable release of Ultimate Barbecue to be able to get a look at Gabriel’s handsome mug.
The centerpiece of Barbecue’s equipment is his foam-dispensing backpack, and it is no small piece of kit! It consists of three red tanks protruding from the top of the black frame. Unlike the original figure, this is all one piece, but the detail is fantastic. You get valves, vents, pipes, and even little caution “stickers” printed on the middle tank. A flexible hose runs out the left side of the tank and connects to the pistol-nozzle, which can be stored in a holster on his left thigh. The hose is flexible enough for the nozzle to work in either hand, but I like him as a lefty, as it frees his right hand up for the chopping implements!
Because Barbecue also comes with a pair of axes! Both of these can be stored on his person, and I can’t tell you enough how much I love figures that can carry all their accessories at once. The smaller ax is patterned after the one that came with the original figure. It’s short, and has a studded knuckle-guard, making it quick to wield, and useful in a fight. This one clips to the strap on his right thigh.
The second ax is longer and more like a traditional fireman’s ax. I dig the fierce looking head on this thing, and it’s got sculpted grips for two hands. This beauty would be perfect for chopping down locked doors in a rescue situation, or Cobra fortifications in an attack. And if a Cobra Trooper should happen to lose his head along the way… well, sometimes shit happens!
I often thought it was cool that Hasbro peppered the GI JOE team with so many practical specialists, and Barbecue is easily one of the coolest of the bunch. As a kid, when a damaged SkyStriker made its controlled crash on the deck of the USS Flagg (but really our coffee table), Barbecue would be first on the scene to douse the flames and get those JOEs out of the cockpit safely. But because he was so cool looking, I often had him accompany squads on dangerous missions. Naturally, these missions often ended with him having a showdown with Torch! And while I was surprised to see Barbecue hit Classified so soon, I ain’t about to complain about it. He’s an excellent figure and pretty much a perfect homage to the original.