GI JOE 25th Anniversary Dreadnoks by Hasbro

This Friday I’m putting the Sigma 6 line on hold to check out some 25th Anniversary stuff, which still happens to be my all time favorite line of modern JOEs. Completing my team of the original three Dreadnoks, however, was a real pain in my ass. The first two, Torch and Ripper, came in a Comic 2-Pack that was easy enough to score, but Buzzer came single carded and I could not find him anywhere. Even on the secondary market he was going for more than I wanted to spend on a lone JOE figure. Eventually, I bit the bullet, paid what I had to and added him to my collection. He’s hung in my Toy Closet ever since waiting for a time for me to open him up and take a look at all three. Well, grab your grape soda and chocy donuts, because that time is now!

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Buzzer comes on a gorgeous card with foil lettering and that always amazing character art. I’m rarely tempted to collect a line MoC, but if I had the extra money and the wallspace to hang them, this 25th Anni. line would be the one I would do it for. I almost hate to open this guy up, but dammit, my Dreadnoks need to be together! Not to be outdone, Torch and Ripper came as a pair in a Comic Pack, and sadly I don’t have an in-package shot to show you. Suffice it to say the presentation was flawless, complete with a reprint of GI JOE #30 as the backdrop. Let’s go ahead and start with Buzzer because I’ve been waiting a year or so to take the time and open him…

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Easily the most conservative looking of these three bastards, Buzzer dons a button down khaki shirt, blue pants and combat boots. His more mainstream look supports his backstory, although for some reason he thought it necessary to reinforce that one shoulder with a piece of plate armor and slap an elbow guard on his right arm.  The detail on Buzzer’s outfit is fantastic. You get some grenades sculpted onto his shoulder strap and belt and skulls sculpted onto his boots. But it’s the tiny silver skull and crossbones belt buckle on this guy that really impresses me.

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The portrait includes Buzzer’s silver sunglasses and his ponytail with some really nice sculpting on his hair and a little bit of paint for his tiny beard.
You’d have to be batshit crazy to go into a warzone with a gasoline tank strapped to your back, but Buzzer doesn’t care and he needs extra fuel for his only weapon, a custom chainsaw.

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This chainsaw remains one of my favorite GI JOE accessories of all time. It’s so lovingly crafted with so much detail and the flame deco on it is just icing on the cake. With a grip on the back and a side grab bar, Buzzer can wield it quite convincingly, which sadly wasn’t always the case with these 25th Anni. figures and their accessories.

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Moving on to Ripper, here we’re getting to what looks like an extra in a Mad Max movie. He sports a cut-off camo shirt with a sculpted combat knife on his shoulder strap and a pair of grenades clipped to his shirt. His right arm is bared to show a beautifully sharp tampo tattoo. Like Buzzer’s belt buckle, Ripper has a little skull hanging from a chain on his belt, which is such an awesome little detail. The sculpt below the waist is the same we saw with Buzzer, but with black boots and the skulls picked out with some silver paint.

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Ripper’s stocky meathead includes a full beard and a full head of hair styled into a mohawk. He has a pair of red punk glasses and a grimace that says he wants to murder you and possibly eat one or two of your internal organs.

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Ripper comes with an elaborate backpack and “jaws of life” rig, which I presume is for prying open vault doors or the cockpits of JOE vehicles, rather than saving lives. In theory, it’s a nice piece of kit, complete with a hose running from the hand unit to the backpack and you can store the hand unit on the backpack. It’s still not a favorite of mine, just because it’s so specialized and that hose is so unwieldy. The hose is so long that it’s obtrusive and it pops out all the time when I pose him.

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Fortunately, Ripper also comes with one of my favorite JOE accessories: That iconic Dreadnok rifle with curved bayonet. Man, I love this thing! I’ve always been a bit unsure about who this was intended for. It comes right in the middle of the tray and it looks like it’s positioned to favor Torch rather than Buzzer.

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And that brings us to Torch, who he is easily my favorite sculpt of the three figures. We’ve left Mad Max territory and gone to full on contemporary biker thug. Torch’s biker jacket is possibly one of the best executed outfits I can remember Hasbro ever doing in this scale. It’s sculpted separately and attached to the figure’s bare chested body and it looks amazing. The chains on the shoulders and the buckles on the front straps are neatly painted in silver and the back of the jacket is tampo’d with his gang emblem and “Melbourne Maulers.” It’s almost a shame to put his backpack on him and cover up that beautiful piece of work.

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The head sculpt here is pretty great too, with copious sideburns leading into his mustache, dark glasses, and a red bandanna. Torch even has a tiny tattoo tampo’d on his left forearm. Hasbro put so much love and detail into these guys!

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As his name suggests, Torch’s weapon of choice is a blowtorch, with a tank on his back. Jeez, don’t stand next to Torch or Buzzer when the bullets start flying! Unfortunately, a few things conspire to make Torch’s torch not so great. The plastic hose that connect the torch to the backpack is rather restrictive and his right hand isn’t sculpted to grip the handle very well. Getting him to hold this thing can be a chore. Fortunately, I have a spare one of those Dreadnok rifles to give him. There’s also a holster on his leg where you can clip the torch when it isn’t use.

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Articulation on all three of these figures is identical. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, and ankles. The wrists swivel and the knees have double hinges. There are ball joints in the torsos and in the necks. While it all sounds good on paper, the 25th Anniversary figures have become notorious for some poor articulation designs. It’s virtually impossible to get these figures to hold rifles across their chests with both hands and the forearms are pegged in to allow the swivel and they frequently pop out. It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances that mar some otherwise great sculpts.

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With the Dreadnoks always being a favorite of mine, it’s great to finally have this trio together and on my JOE shelf. Considering how much I love the 25th Anni. line, it’s no small compliment when I say that I think these three are among the best this line has to offer. They capture everything I loved about the original characters, give them some highly detailed gear and made them lots of fun to play with. It’s a pity I’ll never pony up for that 25th Zaranna figure, but at some point I’ll still have to double back and pick up that Dreadnok 7-pack that Hasbro did a while back.

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GI JOE SIgma 6: Tunnel Rat by Hasbro

I’m pressing on with this whole GI JOE thing on Fridays this Summer as I work my way through a box of Sigma 6 figures sprinkled with some 25th and 50th Anniversary stuff I never got around to looking at. I had so much fun playing with Snake Eyes last Friday that I decided to knock out another S6 figure and today it’s Tunnel Rat. There’s no packaged shot, so let’s get right to the figure…

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And here he is! Tunnel Rat is certainly no newcomer to the JOE team, but this S6 version of the character is a pretty big departure to what I’m used to. And that’s OK, because this line is all about new directions. Can I tell you right now how freaking terrified I am at the very concept of Tunnel Rat’s job. I’m not talking so much about the explosive ordinance disposal, although that’s pretty scary on its own. No, I mean the going through enemy tunnels shit. If you want some great nightmare fuel get yourself a copy of The Tunnels of Cu Chi. Holy shit! What? Oh yeah, back to the figure.

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TR features the standard buck that this line uses for the slighter built characters. It’s the same we saw for Snake Eyes only with orange highlights and a new pair of sculpted boots. The lean body works well as he has has to snake his way through some tight spots. He also has an equipment harness, which is a combination of elastic and plastic and buckles around his chest and waist. There are peg holes galore on both the body and the harness so you can stick accessories all over him.

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Since it’s the same body as Snake Eyes you also get the cool flip up arm computer. I love this thing!

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I like the head sculpt a lot. The features are particularly well defined, especially the nose and mouth and ears. The paint for the eyes and eyebrows is super crisp. He has a skull cap and a pair of goggles with an elastic strap, which can be worn up on his forehead, down around his neck, or over his eyes. Naturally, you also get the standard issue metal dog tag on chain for around his neck.

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Tunnel Rat features the same articulation as Snake Eyes, which means a ton of rotating hinges. You get them in his shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. He can swivel at the waist and you get ball joints in the torso and neck. As usual, the joints are strong and satisfying and the figure is wonderfully durable.

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GEAR!!! I love gear and weapons and accessories! Sigma 6 is a line that delivers and Tunnel Rat is no exception. The biggest showpiece in his collection is his sled-backpack. This thing clips onto his harness and while it’s fairly large and bulky it isn’t unreasonable as a backpack. I dig how the two snake lights angle up on his shoulders making them useful in both modes.

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When you take it off of him and extend out the lower wheels it becomes a sled similar to the creepers that mechanics use. He can use this to inch his way through tunnels or perhaps under explosive devices. Pretty neat.

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Next up, he has this totally bitchin butterfly knife that really works. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these included with an action figure before. It’s such a cool piece and I could imagine him using it to pry plates off of bomb casings, cut wires, or just fight with when he runs out of ammo.

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Grenades! Tunnel Rat comes with two grenades with pegs that allow them to be held on various parts of his body. These include some neon green paint that highlights most of his gear.

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And then we get to his guns. For starters, he has an automatic weapon with a peg so he can wear it on his hip or on his back. The tiny magazine is even removable. The gun works really well with the figure’s articulation. You can get all sorts of great poses out of him with it.

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And lastly, there’s his assault rifle. Again, some of the detail on this piece is picked out with neon green paint, which I think looks rather cool. Maybe it’s designed so he can find it in the dark. It includes a strap so you can sling it on his shoulder or across his back. Surpringly, the magazine does not come out. Weird that they would make that a feature on the tiny gun and not the larger weapon.

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So yeah… Tunnel Rat is all sorts of awesome. The sheer playability of his articulation combined with all that neat gear make him so much fun to pick up and so hard to put down. Even for a figure that shares almost an entire buck, he feels so unique and he’s loaded with personality. After a couple years of not having him, it’s damn good to welcome him back to the collection.

GI JOE SIgma 6: Snake Eyes by Hasbro

I realize that I’m at odds with a lot of JOE fans when I say that my love of Snake Eyes diminished the more the franchise went on. By the time I set toys aside for a while in the 90’s I had a bad case of Snake Eyes fatigue. The simple Commando that I knew and loved turned into some kind of uber-ninja. I won’t hold that against him as I check out the Sigma 6 version of the character, because I absolutely love this figure, which is probably evidenced by how long today’s entry wound up running and the fact that I couldn’t stop taking pictures.

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I’ve got no packaged shot, but now is as good a time as any to point out that the early figures in this series used plastic tops and bottoms for the blister cards and you could assemble these into a cool foot locker to keep the accessories. They had foam inserts to keep everything neat, but with a lot of the figures you had to gut out the foam inserts if you wanted to get all the accessories in there. It was always an impossible decision for me. As my collection grew, these began to take up a lot of room, but they also worked well as risers for displaying rows of figures behind others. This one is missing one of the locks and the foam is gone, but at least I can get all of Snake Eyes’ shit in there.

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And here he is… Snake Eyes is perfectly suited to a line like Sigma 6, which focuses on accessories and the creative ways in which they can interact with the figure. Taken on his own, Snake Eyes is about as simple a figure as you can get. He sports the angular and highly stylized aesthetic of the line with what looks like a hi-tech armored Ninja suit. His outfit is black with olive green accents. There’s some really nice texturing on some areas of the suit and he is covered with ports to peg in accessories. It’s taken right out of the old Centurions action figure line and I love it! Snake Eyes also sports a really cool set of soft goods web gear with shoulder pads and working buckles and the usual metal dog tag.

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One of my favorite little touches on this figure is the pop up computer on his left arm. I forgot all about this feature until it happened to pop open while I was playing with him. So damn cool!

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The portrait shows only a pair of rather large anime-style eyes with what looks like a hint of some creepy scarring. Frankly, I find unmasked Snake Eyes rather unsettling, but thankfully we can remedy that. You have three display options with Snake Eyes’ mask to cover up those creepy peepers. You get his traditional segmented visor, in this case painted silver. He also comes with a set of night vision goggles and a gas mask with a complete face shield. OK, the gas mask actually magnifies his scary eyes, so… nope. All three pieces fit the figure’s head quite well and will usually remain in place while I play around with him. s6eyes14

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Articulation consists of the usual medley of rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, and ankles. You get a swivel at the waist and ball joints in the torso and neck. The joints all feel so wonderfully chunky and strong and he just invites you to play around with him and see what he can do. This must have been a great line for kids because the figures are very nearly indestructible.

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Let’s talk gear! For starters, Snake Eyes comes with no less than three blades: One short and two longer swords, all three of which come in plastic scabbards. The shorter weapon’s scabbard has an elastic strap to go around the figure’s leg, while the other two have pegs so you can put them on his hips or on his back. The pommels of the swords are also socket-ed so you can join either two swords together or the sword and the dagger to make a bitchin’ double bladed pole arm. Sweet!

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Snake Eyes also comes with his trademark Uzi. It’s gray and black and sports some really nice sculpted detail. There’s a peg to attach it to the figure and the magazine is removable with a tiny painted bullet at the top.

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You also get a plethora of other weird gear. There’s a set of grip bars for a zip-line and two giant suction cups for him to climb walls with.
And then there’s this crazy-ass thing. It’s like a giant yo-yo of death. It has retractable blades, but it’s so damn big, it isn’t of much use to me. There aren’t many accessories in this line that I have no use for, but Snake Eye’s yo-yo is one of them and it’s going into the dreaded Tote of Forgotten Accessories.

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Snake Eyes was one of those figures that I lost in the closet flood several years back. In fact, I believe he may have been the first figure I picked up in this line. While there are plenty of figures in S6 that have more interesting designs and more complex weapons, I’d dare say that if you were only going to get one figure to see what this line is all about that one should probably be Snake Eyes. He tells you all there is to know about the spirit of Sigma 6 and he is an absolute blast to play with. Naturally, I’m very happy to have him back in my collection. He’s a super fun figure that’t truly hard to put down. Now all I need to do is replace my Storm Shadow so I have someone for him to fight again… And maybe that Ninja Cycle… And a few of the other Sigma 6 versions of Snake Eyes…

GI JOE Sigma 6: Lockdown by Hasbro

It was about five years ago that I lost three banker boxes of toys to a minor flood in one of my closets. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I had noticed earlier, but by the time I did the boxes and contents had mold damage and everything had to go. Among these boxes were the two that housed my entire collection of Sigma 6 figures. It was a sad day. I’ve finally begun not only replacing the ones I’ve lost, but picking up some that I never had that brings me to this week’s GI JOE content. Let’s check out Lockdown…

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I’ve got no packaged shot, so let’s get right to the figure, because this guy is one of my absolute favorites, and I’m going to try really hard to not say that in every S6 Feature that I do. While many of the JOES of S6 were re-imagined versions of what we all knew and loved, I believe SWAT officer Lockdown was a brand new character. I don’t recall him ever appearing in the cartoon and he was a rather late release in the line. It was a time when Hasbro was really exploring some great possibilities with this scale and format, but they also unfortunately discontinued the cool foot locker aspect of the packaging. Ah well, those things took up a lot of space anyway. Also, the Centurians-style peg system that let you attach stuff all over the figure seemed to take a backseat to the sculpts.

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The angular style and chunky proportions of these figures always reminded me a bit of Kenner’s Small Soldiers figures. It takes some getting used to and in truth it wasn’t until I had one of these figures in hand to play with that they really won me over. But despite the super stylized design, the sculpt on this guy is wonderfully detailed. The uniform includes folds, buttons, pouches, and belts. The blue and black color scheme is simple, but effective. And as with all of these guys, Lockdown features a metal dog tag on a chain around his neck.

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The head sculpt is loaded with personality and features a pair of permanent sculpted sunglasses. This guy looks like one tough customer. As much as I dig it, I will probably never display this figure without his kick ass helmet. It fits over the head beautifully and looks so great on him. OK, maybe I’ll display him holding the helmet in the crook of his elbow because that looks pretty great too.

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A huge part of Sigma 6’s appeal is the articulation and Lockdown doesn’t disappoint. You get rotating hinges in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, and knees. There are swivels at the tops of the boots and hinges in the ankles. Lockdown can swivel at the waist and he has ball joints in the torso and neck. What’s even better is that every one of these joints is tight and effective making this figure crazy fun to play with. Also, the chunky boats and great balance makes Lockdown really good at holding poses.

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Of course, the main attraction of S6 is the gear. In true spirit of the original 70’s JOEs, these guys come with all sorts of neat equipment and weapons. Lockdown’s gear is great, but it tends to lack the customization that some of the earlier figures’ accessories had. Also, there’s not as much interactivity with the figure in terms of being able to attach it to his body, so we’ll have to look for that stuff in a future review. That having been said, there’s some neat stuff here. For starters, Lockdown features a chunky sub machine gun, which he can hold in either or both hands. This thing is wonderfully ridiculous and includes a silver and black deco with some blue and green accents.

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He also comes with a riot shield, which is designed to be held or stand up on its own as a barrier. It’s cast from a slab of blue plastic and has SWAT printed across the front.

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You also get a pair of handcuffs that work surprisingly well on the figures.

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And lastly, he features a huge spring-loaded battering ram for busting down doors. Knock-Knock, Cobra!

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It’s so hard for me to play with a figure like this and reconcile the hatred that so many fans have for this line. I like to think it goes back to a time when 3 3/4″ JOE was almost soley available through that Direct-To-Consumer line and longtime JOE fans saw these as weird and unworthy replacements. I can dig that. But as a fan who’s love for JOE predates the Real American Hero revival of the 80’s, I have nothing but love for these guys. Hasbro tried something incredibly original here and as far as I’m concerned it paid off big time. Give me a fun, poseable figure like this, a great assortment of gear, and I’m good to go for hours.

GI JOE 25th Anniversary Comic Pack: Tomax and Xamot by Hasbro

As promised, I’m going to be spreading some GI JOE love around FFZ this Summer, so look for this kind of thing popping up every Friday until I run out of stuff in my closet or just lose interest and move on. The main thrust of GI JOE Friday is going to be Sigma 6, but I plan on peppering it with some 25th and 50th Anniversary stuff just to mix things up. Also, because I realize a lot of people hate Sigma 6. Anywho, today I decided to go with the 25th Anniversary Collection’s release of Tomax and Xamot!

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Ah, The 25th Anniversary Comic Pack! How I adored you! Unlike the vintage-style JOE Comic 3-Packs from Hasbro, these 25th releases came with only two figures, but that made it a perfect venue to get The Crimson Twins out in this new format. Doubly so when you consider they were originally released as a 2-pack way back when. I can still remember when this deadly duo was released in 1985. I was first introduced to them as part of the Sunbow mini-series, Pyramids of Darkness, which was definitely the weakest of these mini-series for me, but made up for it by introducing Extensive Enterprises. These guys were like nothing in GI JOE before and who didn’t fall instantly in love with their elite troopers, The Crimson Guard? I can still remember finding the twins 2-pack at the mall and successfully begging my father to get them for me. There was a time when Tomax, Xamot, and hooded Cobra Commander were the upper echelons of my Cobra Command leading an army of (well, actually I only had two) Crimson Guards, leaving Destro and Baroness to take their boring old Cobra Troops and fend for themselves. I freaking loved these guys!!

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Oh, and f’ck me for not getting on board and ordering that Doc. What the hell was I thinking?

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I think a big part of the appeal for me here is the uniforms. Yeah, I thought it was cool how they mirrored each other, but more importantly they were just neat designs. The Twins were kind of like superhero villains the way they would appear all chill in their business suits in one scene and then be charging into battle in their costumes in the next. The sculpts on these guys are quite well done. The cobra-style knee and thigh armor is superb and I like how the shoulder armor is hinged and removable. It stays on pretty well too. And naturally they have to have make each other wear the silver codpieces, because if one gets kicked in the balls the other one feels it! You also get a nicely detailed combat knife and pistol, each sculpted onto the belt. To top it all off, you get some beautifully vibrant colors. The Cobra blue with the silver armor and red sash and accents makes for a fantastic deco. God, I love these uniforms!

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The portraits follow the same mirrored pattern as their costumes. It’s the same basic sculpt only with the facial scars on opposite cheeks. They also have the same strands of hair dropping down over the forehead, only on opposite sides. That always gives me a chuckle. Do they actually style it that way? Also, my loose Tomax has some weird black speckling around his mouth. My carded set doesn’t, but that’s not for opening, it’s for hanging on the wall and looking at.

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Articulation on these guys is pretty standard from what we got in the 25th Anniversary figures. The arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders, hinges in the elbows. and swivels in the wrists. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinged knees, and rotating hinges in the ankles. You get a ball joint in the torso and another in the neck. It’s a far cry from the more modern JOES that have come out since, but it’s certainly serviceable. And fortunately, these guys don’t share the problem of arms popping out like some of the figures in this line do.

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Tomax and Xamot come with their signature weapons, which is something like a laser sub-machine gun. Obviously, they’re the same weapon because… twins! These feel a little oversized to me, but I still dig them well enough. They can comfortably grip them in either hand and witha litttle work you can get them to hold the weapon in both hands. You also get the standard 25th Anniversary Cobra figure stands, with the sculpted Cobra emblems and the personalized name plates. The only thing missing here is the zip line, which I recall coming with the original vintage two-pack.

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Yes, opening up this pack instantly transported me back to the glory days of 1985 when it was such an amazing time to be a JOE collector. We had brand new teams appear, like The Crimson Twins and The Dreadnoks, and the line was going into such creative and interesting new territory. The 25th Anniversary versions of these guys really scratched an itch and the fact that I found the 25th Crimson Guard figures to be relatively plentiful meant that I could finally have a little squad of these guys to go with my Tomax and Xamot. Ah, good times! Now, I really want to pick up a pair of Cobra Ferrets for these guys to drive around on.

GI JOE: 50th Anniversary “Arctic Ambush” 2-Pack by Hasbro

As promised, I’m back today to once again start spreading a little Joe loving around these parts. In a perfect world the stores would have been crammed full of toys to honor the 50th Anniversary of one of the greatest action figure lines of all time. In this world, the line is all but dead and the 50th was quiety acknowledged by Hasbro and Toys R Us with some exclusive figure packs and a couple of vehicles. Seeing as how I don’t have a TRU within 50 miles of here, these passed largely unnoticed to me until browsing an online retailer and finding some of them up for sale. I grabbed two and the first of those is what we’re looking at today… Behold the Arctic Ambush!

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The packaging here is pretty damn cool. You get a blister card with a large bubble showing off two figures and a shitload of weapons and gear, The top of the bubble is molded to look like part of a star and the insert on the front features the GI JOE logo, the 50th Star and the names of the figures: Snow Job and Arctic BAT. I absolutely had to get this when I saw it because Snow Job was my very first Joe figure when I was a kid. I can still remember going to get pool supplies with my dad in Newark, NJ. There was a huge pool-slash-toy store there and he got me Snow Job and the Poler Battle Bear. There was no coming back from that and ever since then Snow Job has had a special place in my collection. The back of the card has filecards for each character and a little saying about how GI JOE has filled our imaginations with exciting adventures for fifty years and it makes me want to cry. Before I get all weepy, I’m going to open this baby up and start with Snow Job.

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Snow Job comes all bundled up for action in a set of toasty warm arctic combat fatigues, which include a parka with high collar that prevents his neck getting frostbite and his head falling off (Trust me, that joke is going to be a lot more tragic when we get to the end of this Feature). As a result, there isn’t a lot of variety to this figure’s outfit, but it sure looks great, right down to all the sculpted stitching and the painted camo patterns. The head sculpt includes a sculpted cap with a set of goggles permanently down over his eyes and about the only thing you can see that’s actually Harlan under all that is his glorious red beard. I do kind of wish the goggles were removable or maybe have an extra head in there, but it’s hard for me to criticize the lack of a spare head when I see how much stuff comes with this guy. Let me just run through it all…

  • Backpack with Sculpted Bedroll, Antenna, and Removable Equipment Rack.
  • Cloth Bedroll
  • Cookstove and Frying Pan.
  • Skis and Ski Poles
  • Gasoline Can
  • Ice Pick
  • Radio
  • Machine Gun with Bipod.

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God, I love all this gear and I particularly love the fact that just about all of it attaches to his backpack in one way or another. The bedroll is about the only thing I can’t find a way to attach, but you can still tuck it in there somewhere. As a kid, I used to picture Snow Job as a survivalist and a loner who was always out there in the white wilderness maintaining some god-forsaken JOE base camp and waiting to be called on when some strategic piece of satellite happened to soft land up there and Cobra wanted it. This figure really gives me the feeling of the original 12-inch figures from the 70s, because they used to come with all this great stuff. It’s beyond cool that Hasbro is able to make it work with such a small scale action figure.

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Snow Job also features far better articulation than anyone wearing this much cold weather gear should possibly have. His arms have rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows, and swivels in the wrists. His legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double hinges in the knees, and rotating hinges in the ankles. He can swivel at the waist and he has a ball jointed neck.

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What possible match could Cobra have to go up against Snow Job’s cold weather combat skills? An Arctic BAT of course! Why go bundling up humans to brave the bitter cold climates when you can just send in machines? I always loved the Battle Android Troopers. They were an ingenious way to cash in on the robot craze of the 80s while also giving Cobra a disposable army that GI JOE could smash to bits on the cartoon without censors crying foul about violence. Frankly, Hasbro was missing out on a great opportunity by not repainting the hell out of these things into various different specialties like Desert BATs, Jungle BATs, Stealth BATs, etc. Well, I guess it’s never too late because here we have the Arctic BAT and he is freaking glorious.

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The sculpt and deco on this BAT is absolutely crazy. He’s got the same arctic camo pattern on his fatigues as Snow Job plus a transparent chest unit so you can see all the doo-dads and what-nots of his inner android workings. The BAT includes a total of five different Borg-like attachments for his arms and he can tote two of the extras around in his backpack. He also comes with an automatic pistol in a functional holster, a machine gun with a bipod and a HUGE capacity magazine, an assault rifle that’s all taped up, and a pair of ice picks, which aren’t painted as nice as Harlan’s.

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The BATs articulation is pretty standard stuff for modern JOES. The arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and elbows and a swivel in the forearm where the arm pieces detach. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, double hinged at the knees, and have rotating hinges in the ankles. There are ball joints in the torso and neck. If all that gear wasn’t enough, each figure also comes with a personalized display stand. These are the same style of stand that was introduced back in the 25th Anniversary line only with the GI JOE and Cobra emblems painted, which makes them look mighty snazzy.

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Oh, wait! Did I mention that the BAT also comes with a battle damaged head and chest plate? How cool is that? Did I mention that when I swapped the head the second time the entire neck post snapped off my figure? How cool is that??? Nope, that’s not cool at all Hasbro. Here I am making a point to talk up GI JOE and you stick me with poor quality control. This is seriously the first time I’ve ever had this happen, and I’ve been collecting action figures nearly all my life.Oh well, I guess it’s better the BAT broke rather then Snow Job. Crippling QC issues aside, everything about this set feels like it was aimed right at me. It has a great new version of one of my earliest JOE figures, an environmentally specific BAT, you get a ton of gear, and with one good guy and one bad guy, it has that battle pack mentality that I love so much. Just leave me alone with this 2-pack and I’ll be staging battles on my desk all afternoon long… at least until the head snaps off one of them and then the fun stops short. Next week, I’ll circle back and take a look at the other one of these sets I picked up. Hopefully noone will get decapitated.

GI JOE WILL RETURN AFTER THESE MESSAGES…

Folks, I’ve had GI JOE on the brain lately and for a number of seemingly unrelated reasons. At first it was mostly feeling bad about never getting around to the Features that I planned for the 50th Anniversary, most notably looking at my other two 25th Anniversary 5-packs as well as my finally complete set of the 25th Anniversary Dreadnoks. Then the topic of this year’s JoeCon came up on the last episode of 2 Drunk Geeks and Ryan and I was pretty vocal about how sad and pathetic I thought the showing of product was. It was at the end of the show, and the Jameson had me in a proper state by then, but listening to it made me feel like I was being pretty harsh toward a loving fan base who were clearly just happy to be getting anything. Part of it was the booze talking, but part of it was just inner rage.

When almost every single toy line from the 80’s has had (or attempted) a comeback these days, it angers me to no end that the Targets and Walmarts can’t set aside 4ft of space for GI JOE and that Hasbro can’t make this happen. It’s all the more irritating considering how great the modern figures have become. Hell, even with two totally shitty movies to work with, Hasbro still managed to turn up some amazing figures. I doubt I’d ever sit through GI JOE: The Rise of Cobra more than once, but I sure have a lot of the figures, and most of them are excellent. Hell, I even ponied up for the massive PITT playset. OK, it was on clearance, but I still bought it and love it. It was the last truly huge vehicle the line would see and now fans have to be excited about yet another remold of the bloody AWE Striker. It’s a sad state of affairs for the property. And when I still see The Corps figures are still hanging on the pegs at my local Target, that just rubs salt in the wound.

And yeah, I’m sort of part of that fan base. Because I’m not willing to join fan clubs or hunt down many store exclusives, the brand has more or less died out for me. But GI JOE was such a huge thing to me growing up, both the original 12-inch figures that were handed down to me by my uncle and later the 3 3/4″ stuff that replaced Star Wars as the focus of my toy world. I still have a ton of GI JOE stuff and while the figures are all neatly bagged with their accessories and easily accessible in Toy Closet Alpha, and I proudly hang a Skystriker on my wall, the rest of the vehicles are relegated to half a dozen Rubbermaid Totes and stowed far out in Toy Closet Zulu. I don’t have the space to display them so it becomes an “out of sight, out of mind” situation.

But the other thing that brought GI JOE back to the forefront of my alcohol addled brain lately is that I’ve actually bought some Joes for the first time in a while. A few days back I picked up two of the Exclusive 50th Anniversary Two-Packs, one of which I’ll be looking at tomorrow. I’ve also recently replaced a handful of my Sigma 6 figures, which were lost to me in a flood several years back and which I’ll probably start featuring here sometime in a week or two. Yeah, I know most JOE fans see S6 as an abomination, but I loved these figures simply because they were such fun toys. So, as the title says, GI JOE will be returning to FFZ. It’s going to be one of my side projects over the Summer to get the brand represented here with some regularity again and help bolster those three dozen or so Joe Features that appear in my Index of Reviews.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back with a look at the 50th Anniversary Arctic Ambush set. Yeah, I know it’s the weekend, but I’m trying to make up for some of the downtime last week. YO JOE!

GI JOE: Destro (Enemy Weapons Supplier) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow, Part 2

Alrighty, I’m back to wrap up this long overdue look at Sideshow’s Destro figure. I went really long yesterday and it’s Saturday so I’m already in overtime for the week. With those things in mind I’m going to try to be brief today while still giving all of Destro’s cool stuff their proper due. Let’s start with the weapons!

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Destro comes with his trusty chrome finish automatic pistol which fits nicely into the holster on his right hip and I’m not surprised to find that the sculpting on the weapon is every bit as good as what I’m used to seeing in Sideshow’s sixth-scale arsenals. Really, these guys do a great job on the firearms!

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The slide on the gun is articulated and pulls back to reveal a painted bullet in the chamber. The magazine is removable, again showing a painted bullet at the top. You also get two more mags, which can be stored in the ammo pouches on Destro’s left hip. It sounds like a little throwaway thing, but the ability to store extra mags on their person is one of my favorite little things about many of these Sideshow Cobras. I’m also really pleased to see that Sideshow is sticking with magnets to secure the straps on the ammo pouches and holster, rather than working snaps, which tend to tear the fragile leather. These are easy to get in and out of and I’m not afraid to use them. This is a key reason as to why I almost never take the pistol out of my Hot Toys Captain America figure. Stupid fragile snaps!

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Destro’s other weapon is his laser pistol and man do I love this thing. Some may remember that I was a little put out by the fact that Cobra Commander didn’t come with his iconic hair-dryer pistol. It’s nice to see that wasn’t the case with Destro as his primary weapon is a gorgeous sixth-scale interpretation of the laser pistol that came with the vintage figure. It’s a highly detailed and very realistic looking design or a fictional gun and it includes a scope and a detachable magazine. Everything on this weapon is beautiful right down to the coloring. Since it’s a laser gun, I’m assuming that in this case the magazine is some kind of replaceable battery. Either way Destro looks great brandishing this beauty.

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The next big item on the agenda is his MARS briefcase and this thing is just full of surprises. It’s got a matte green finish, a hinged handle and has two strong hinged catches on one side to open it up. It opens to reveal…

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A satellite guidance computer! The LCD screen graphics look really nice, but we’re not done yet, because the bottom plate lifts out to reveal…

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Yeah! A hidden compartment for his laser pistol. The gun breaks down into four pieces and each piece fits snugly into the plastic cutouts that are made to look like foam. I love this little extra as it gives Destro an option for when those sketchy arms deals go south and he needs to blast his way out.

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One of the simplest and yet coolest extras in the set is this tiny manila folder full of one-sheet blueprints for some of Cobra’s most iconic weapon systems. You get one for the HISS, one for the ASP, and one for the FANG. All three fit into the folder and the folder can be placed into the briefcase. Brilliant! I don’t know who had the idea to include something like this with the figure, but I’d sure like to shake his hand!

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To go along with the Satellite Guidance Computer, Destro comes with a PDA-style satellite tracking device. This simple piece clips onto his belt and features a graphic to simulate the LCD screen. I don’t have much else to say about this piece, but it does look nice clipped to his belt.

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The last thing I have to mention is the key. I have absolutely no idea what this is, but I’m guessing that, like the ruby medallion, this is some kind of McCullen family heirloom. It can be worn around Destro’s neck, but I have no use for it, so it’ll stay in the box.

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I mentioned yesterday that Destro is sadly the last of the sixth-scale Cobra figures that Sideshow has planned as the line is going on hiatus. As sad as that might be, I’d prefer to focus on the awesome figures that we got in this line, rather than what’s been left behind on the table. Sure, it’s always possible that Sideshow may come back and give us some more figures, but with the sad state of the GI JOE franchise right now, that sort of thing seems unlikely to happen. I would have loved a Serpentor, Scrap Iron and even a Tele-Viper to go with this collection, but as things stand, I’m sure glad that we got what we did. Sideshow did a beautiful job with these figures and I think more than anything else, they show how much the company has evolved in their craft. One things for sure, these figures will always have a place of honor secured on my display shelves. COBRA!!!!!!

 

GI JOE: Destro (Enemy Weapons Supplier) Sixth-Scale Figure by Sideshow, Part 1

I’ve been chomping at the bit to get to Destro here for a long time, so let me start out by chronicling the hold up. Destro sat on my pile of “To Open” stuff for a few weeks and then when I finally did open him I found he was missing some pieces. His vest wasn’t in the box and instead of getting his right “gun holding” hand, I got two of his right “suitcase holding” hands. I was worried because I didn’t want to have to return the whole figure just to get one with the missing parts. Also, since I waited so long to open him, Sideshow would have been within their rights to refuse me any kind of resolution. Thankfully, Sideshow’s customer service has always been impeccable and no less so in this case. After a few emails clarifying the problem they had replacement parts on their way to me in a couple of days and the box arrived just a few business days after that. This is exactly why I love doing business with them and the only time I ever order a Sideshow or Hot Toys figure from another e-tailer is when it’s the only way to go. And with that preamble out of the way, let’s get to the review!

Destro arrives in the wake of the bitter news that Sideshow has decided to put their GI JOE line on hiatus, and while that decision disappoints me greatly (I was hoping against hope we might see a Sixth-Scale Scrap Iron! I LOVE SCRAP IRON!!!), I’m mighty glad they got Destro out before pulling the plug. As usual with these guys, I’m going to do this feature in two parts. Today we’ll check out the outfit and the portraits and tomorrow I’ll wrap it up with a look at his accessories. Let’s start things off with a look at this glorious packaging…

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The box consists of the same brilliant design and deco that we saw with Cobra Commander and Baroness. It mimics the vintage Real American Hero card art beautifully right down to the animated explosive backgrounds on the side panels and the “COBRA ENEMY” stamp on the front panel. The rear panel also has a file card, again just like the old cardbacks. I love it! There’s also an excellent piece of character art inside the cardboard tray.

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The box has an opening front flap that’s held snugly down by a magnet. Open it up and you reveal a window showing off the figure inside with a blurb about Cobra on the reverse of the front flap. I do prefer the older style boxes, used for Crimson Guard and Zartan, where the box opened up to reveal two windows, one with the figure and one with the gear and had a detailed inventory of the figure’s accessories. I’m guessing they switched over to this style to cut costs, and it still looks fantastic, but it doesn’t offer quite the same premium level of presentation. In this case, the figure’s accessories are held in nesting clear plastic trays behind the figure. On the plus side, these boxes are a lot thinner than the older ones and make use of a better economy of space. Let’s get this bastard set up…

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Destro comes out of the box wearing his more Sunbow-styled head and his trench coat, so let’s start there. To set him up all you need to do is put on his arm bracers and his bling necklace. At least theoretically. My figure actually came out of the box with stuck elbow joints. I had to take his coat off, then remove his shirt so that I could find and finesse those elbow hinges without fear of breaking them. I’m still not sure why they were stuck, because the arms are molded in bare black plastic with no paint. It didn’t take much effort to get them working and then I had to put everything back on again. The bracers were a little tough to get on because the combination of the t-shirt sleeves and the coat cuffs don’t give you a lot of room to work with. On the other hand, once they’re on, they stay nice and snug. This is as good a time as any to point out that Destro’s torso is molded in black plastic as well as his arms, which is a tad disappointing. Had they done it in flesh, we would have had the option for the bare-chested look. Not a big deal, but it’s nice to have options.

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So, let’s talk outfit first. My initial reaction to the reveal of this figure’s outfit left me a bit tepid, but now that it’s in hand I’m totally in love with it. Most of my trepidation rested in the trench coat, which is made of a thick felt material. I think the big problem here is that it looks so much better in person than in photos. It’s got a rugged, almost oily texture that looks like it would work for back ally meetings as well keep Destro toasty warm during a secret arctic rendezvous. It’s pleated in the back and has a red liner and some red piping across his chest and across the back of the shoulders. The coolest thing about it is the collar, which can be folded down or worn up. I do think the faux pockets look a tad puffy, but then Sideshow isn’t quite up to Hot Toys standards with their outfit tailoring, but they’re getting better all the time. Under the coat, Destro sports high boots, a pair of standard black trousers and a grey long sleeved t-shirt. I wish the shirt were a tad longer because I have to hike his pants up a little higher than I would prefer in order to keep the shirt tucked when I articulate his arms. He has a standard belt and an integral pistol holster with two thigh straps. There are also a couple of ammo pouches to hold his extra magazines, but more on that later.

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Destro’s bracers are quite well done. The one on his left arm features three grenades and the right bracer has three rocket darts. The bracers themselves are sculpted to look like they fold closed when in fact they really just slip onto him. The grenades are highly detailed and nicely weathered. The rockets look as if they could be removable, but they are in fact glued into place.

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Before we get into the other outfit option, let’s talk portraits. The Sunbow-styled head gives Destro that more organic aesthetic to his mask. The Sunbow Destro had that weird thing going on where his mask was expressive as if it was painted onto his head. There are some black panel lines and some slightly exaggerated contours in his face to suggest that it is indeed a mask of some sort. Destro is wearing a grim expression with green eyes squinting, mouth downturned, and one eyebrow jutting up. He definitely looks pissed off, as if he showed up to buy a warehouse full of weapons and the seller just asked for more money. Don’t ya just hate that! I’ve seen some complaints about his “giraffe neck” but I’m not seeing a big problem with it. It does look rather elongated from the sides, but looking straight on its fine to me. This portrait is by far my favorite of the two, which is why you’ll see it on the figure for the bulk of this review.

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The alternate portrait is more angular and looks like an actual metal mask. If you look carefully into the eye sockets you can actually see his eyes sculpted and painted inside. I really like that effect, and I’m not totally hating on this head, but in the end I think it just looks too large and clunky on the figure to make it work for me.

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If you’re going for a more “realistic” Destro look, this head might be the ticket since the articulated organic metal one doesn’t make much sense in the real world. Honestly, if I were designing a live action movie Destro, this is exactly the kind of likeness I would go with. So, yes, I guess in a sense I do like what Sideshow tried to do here, but it’s just not the one that I’ll be using for display.

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And that brings us too his alternate outfit which removes the trench coat and gives him a vest. The vest is just puffy enough to make it look like it might have some bullet proofing in it, but ultimately it has a pretty trim fit. The zipper on the front is faked out and the vest actually goes over the head like a poncho and then the straps on the front secure it snugly with velcro. It’s a good effect and I think the tailoring on the vest is overall better than the trenchcoat. The only downside here is that it really shows off the rather lean body build that Sideshow used here. I think Destro should be bulkier than than the body used here and the trenchcoat adds a bit of that bulk to him. That having been said, deciding which look to go for is going to be really tough for me. They each have their merits. His trenchcoat is definitely great for conducting those blackmarket arms deals, whereas if he’s going to be sitting in the turret of a HISS Tank in battle, the vest is the way to go.

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Ok, I’m running ridiculously long today so I’m going to break here and when I come back tomorrow we’ll wrap up with a look at Destro’s weapons and accessories.

G.I. JOE: 25th Anniversary Battle Pack #1 by Hasbro, Part 6

Here we are at the Sixth and final part of my look at the first 25th Anniversary Battle Pack for G.I. JOE. If G.I. JOE isn’t your bag, I appreciate you indulging me this week. On the other hand, if you’re just stopping back to see if I’m still doing G.I. JOE… go to hell and come back on Monday!!!! Ahem… so far we’ve looked at Duke, Scarlett, Snake Eyes, and Gung-Ho and that brings us to everybody’s favorite rhyming and machine gun-toting chef, Roadblock. The character has garnered a lot of attention since being played by The Rock in that questionable follow up to the equally questionable G.I. JOE live action movie. Let’s see how he fared in the 25th Anniversary line.

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Well, he looks pretty damn great! Ok, so his shoulders kind of look like Whoppers malted candies, but otherwise I’d say Hasbro presented us with a nice amalgam of Sunbow and vintage figure. There’s nothing too crazy here in the sculpt. You’ve got a nice camo wife-beater and brown trousers. He also sports a separate web gear piece with some pouches and a grenade. I should also note that the head sculpt looks exactly like somebody I work with, facial hair and all, and ever since I met the guy, I can never look at this figure the same way again. Anyway, Roadblock is a simple, understated but effective figure. Nice job here, Hasbro!

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In addition to his removable helmet and personalized figure stand, Roadblock comes with his trademark machine gun. The gun is a nice sculpt and comes in two parts if you include the detachable tripod. Unfortunately the gun is cast in green plastic, which was an odd choice since all the other weapons in this set are appropriately cast in black. I should also note that the tripod is fairly useless. I can’t get Roadblock into a convincing prone position to have him firing it. The only time I’ve ever used the tripod for display was to have the gun standing next to him or to have it standing on the hood of the VAMP while he’s firing it.

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Along with the machine gun, you get a belt of ammo and a magazine backpack. I love this idea, and connecting the ammo belt to the gun and the backpack looks fantastic, although you really have to work at it to get the backpack, the belt, the gun, and the figure all play along together. Which brings me to…

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Playing around with Roadblock and his gear is a frustrating endeavor. First off, the peg holes in his feet are larger than the other figures, so the figure stands I use tend to fall right off of him. More importantly, his arms have Duke arm issues, where the hands are clearly sculpted to get him to hold the machine gun in both hands, but because his arms don’t bend at the elbows as much as they should, and because the wrists aren’t hinged, it’s tough to get him to hold his weapon with any conviction. Posing Roadblock brandishing his kick ass gun and mowing down Cobras by the dozens should be fun, but I can’t count the number of F-bombs I dropped trying to get him ready for a shot, only to have the gun pop out of his hands or the figure stand fall onto the floor. It’s amazing that even with all of these frustrations, I still love this figure.

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And that puts this week long feature to bed. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while and I kept putting it off because I didn’t think I’d get too into it. Turns out I loved pulling this set out and looking at it again. So much so, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see the other two Battle Packs in the 25th Anniversary line turn up here before too long. In fact, I may pencil in the Cobra set for a week in July.

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I’ll freely admit that a lot of the 30th Anniversary figures were nearly perfect from a technical standpoint. I don’t think I’ve seen better 3 ¾” figures in terms of articulation, sculpt, and gear. And yet I hardly bought any of them. Why? Because I still prefer the style and charm of these 25th figures. These are the JOEs I grew up with and these are the ones that made me into an avid collector again. When they went away, I wandered away from the franchise. I’d like to say the reason why JOE isn’t a major player in the toy aisles anymore is because Hasbro abandoned this line, but I don’t think that’s the case. The 25th figures were all over the clearance aisles and I was able to pick up more than a few for next to nothing at Marshall’s and Ross. For some reason kids just stopped loving JOE and that… well, that’s just a bummer. I don’t know why, but I’m open to hearing speculation.