G.I. JOE (Retro Collection) AWE Striker and Crankcase by Hasbro

The love that GI JOE has been getting these days is causing my heart to swell, and I’ve been doing my part to support the return of the Real American Hero in every way possible. Case in point, I probably have five or six AWE Strikers in storage and yet I simply could not resist picking up another one when I saw it on the shelf. I was also surprised to see that I had never reviewed any of the pass releases here, so this one got pushed to the head of the line.

The original Real American Hero line had some of my favorite package art, and that’s really saying something, because the 80’s had a ton of toy lines with great looking packages. But the GI JOE stuff felt so iconic to me, even back then, and the action scenes on the front of the boxes and cards always made me want to play with the toys. This 2020 release of the AWE Striker mimics the original 1985 box quite well. From the artwork and window for the figure on the front to the filecard on the back, Hasbro nailed it.

The box even feels like it’s made out of the heavier corrugate stock they used to use as opposed to the flimsy cardboard employed now. My only complaint is that Crankcase’s filecard is multi-lingual and rather abbreviated. Inside the box, the vehicle comes wrapped in plastic and in need of some assembly and it even includes a sticker sheet! But before I put it together, let’s have a look at the figure.

Crankcase is styled to fit right in with the modern JOES introduced in the 25th Anniversary Collection, meaning that they are a bit bigger than the vintage JOEs and a little better proportioned. I’m thrilled they went this way because I don’t think they plan on releasing a lot of figures in the Retro line and so these toys can just slide right into my existing collection. Heck, Crankcase even comes with the same style of personalized stand that we got with those 25th Anniversary figures! I’m happy to say that this new figure’s design sticks close with the ’85 version of Crankcase. He has the same green top, with sleeves rolled up, black gloves, khaki trousers, and brown boots. He also has brown web gear, which is removable, although the gun sculpted in the holster is not. And that’s the only shame about this figure: He doesn’t come with any weapons.

He does have a removable helmet and an excellent head sculpt. The detail is great and his orange hair color matches that of his predecessor. The only big difference is this version has a beard, where I’m pretty sure ’85 Crankcase just had a mustache. OK, let’s move on to the AWE Striker…

The required assembly is quite simple. You just have to snap on the roll cage, attach the wheels, and pop on the cannon, antennae, and a hose. Then slap on the stickers and she’s good to go! It’s hard for me to think of a more versatile and fun vehicle for the JOEs. Oh, there were plenty of vehicles that I liked more, but you’d be hard pressed to pick a better all-purpose way to get your JOEs into trouble.

It’s been a long time since I played with the original toy, but this one looks like the spitting image of what I remembered. Is it the same mold? That I couldn’t tell you, but it is date stamped 1985 on the undercarriage. I can say that it looks nearly identical to the 25th Anniversary release, with the most notable change being the color of the seats. [Sadly, I don’t have easy access to that vehicle right now, but I do plan on digging it out of storage in the near future and I will update with comparison shots when I do!] Either way, I cannot overstate how impressed I am with the detail on this vehicle. For what is a rather small and inexpensive toy, the designers went absolutely crazy making sure every little bit was crafted with a sense of purpose and realism.

For starters, the AWE Striker has a working suspension, which you can test just by pushing down on the chassis. The front wheels do turn, as does the steering wheel, but they are not linked together. The front ramming bar has two headlamps with clear plastic on the fronts, there are mesh running boards on the sides for JOEs to ride on, and the engine cover can be removed to show a very detailed engine under it. That’s a nice touch if you want to have your JOEs performing maintenance or have it blown off by a direct hit from a Cobra weapon.

 

The cabin has sculpted padding in the seats, a static shifter, and the passenger side has a targeting camera which connects to the cannon on top with a hose. The cannon cannot only rotate, but also pivot up and down a bit, and I can’t say enough how happy I am that Hasbro resisted putting a giant missile into this weapon. Indeed, there are no play gimmicks, no bells or whistles, no lights, just pure 100% fun!

The AWE Striker set me back $24.99 at Walmart and I think that’s a great value. The craftsmanship on display here is top notch and with a figure included, you’ve got everything you need to go on some adventures in the backyard. You’re even better off if you can dig out three 25th Anniversary figures and load this puppy up! Sadly, this vehicle sold out damn fast on Walmart’s site and my store hasn’t restocked. I was smart enough to pick up two of the HISS Tanks (review coming soon!), but I really wish I had grabbed one more of these as well!

GI JOE Classified: Cobra Commander by Hasbro

After the frustrating hunt that was the Cobra Island exclusives, it feels like I’m suddenly getting hit with a whole bunch of great figures from the new GI JOE Classified series. I just reviewed Gung Ho last week, finally found a Baroness at Target, and got my pre-ordered Arctic Storm Shadow. But I don’t think I was anticipating any figure more than old Bumper Face himself! Let’s take a look at Cobra Commander!  “…Wasssss once a man…” Holy shit, that still creeps me out every time I think about it.

That’s right, fans of the hooded serpent will be disappointed, but that’s OK, because I’m sure we’ll get that variant eventually. I’ve always liked both looks, but you only have to look to the Sideshow Cobra Commander that I have to realize that when given both options, I do prefer the helmet and chrome face shield. Maybe they could have tossed in a hooded head with this one, as I think the hood would look fine on this body. Ah, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s a shot of him in the package, and everything looks as great as ever. Hasbro continues to number these, and Cobra Commander ranks in as Figure Number 6, but the actual system for numbering them doesn’t always make a lot of sense.

The box features some really nice wrap-around art, which surprisingly gets a lot of the coloring on the figure completely wrong. In the artwork, the silver trim on the figure is replaced by gold. That’s really odd, considering this is an original design, but whatever. I also really dig his skill icons. The puppet icon is hilarious, but what the hell is the lightning bolt brain supposed to be? Mind control, maybe?

Classified Cobra Commander looks regal as all hell, and I love that! While I may waffle between hood and helmet sometimes, I was never a fan of Battle Armor Commander. To me The Commander is all about puffing himself up on pomp and circumstance and shouting at his troops from as far away from the battlefield as possible. And boy does this figure design fit that bill perfectly. Yeah, I’ll admit that I was worried about what we were going to get for Cobra Commander, because a couple of the designs choices have strayed a little too far from the Real American Hero originals than I would like. Turns out I worried for nothing, because this guy looks amazing.

Our Leader sports a dress uniform with a very spiffy tunic, complete with silver lined front flap and two rows of buttons that may or may not be painted to look like serpent eyes. I’m going to just give Hasbro the credit and say that’s intentional.The shoulder area has a snake scale texture to it, as does the panels on the sides of the tunic, and the red stripes running down the sides of his trouser and disappearing into his high boots. The Cobra insignia is printed in red on his chest and partially covered by a gold ornamental chain. His forearms have silver bordered bracers, each with their own Cobra insignia as well. This is a snappy uniform and I absolutely love it. My only gripe is that I wish the blue were a tad lighter. Based on leaked pictures, it seems like we may be getting a brighter repaint, but I guess I’ll have to wait and see. The Commander has a double belt and shoulder strap, which connects to a left pauldron, which also secures his half-cape. The pauldron sports some silver paint and there’s a golden Cobra fixture holding it in place, while the cape is black on the outside with a painted red liner. The belts all have a snake-skin pattern to them. Nice!

The helmet is very form fitting and I dig how the sides are separate from the face shield. The silver “mohawk” is there as well as some black cut-outs above the ears and a silver border painted along the bottom edge. The helmet looks great, but the paint on mine is a little disappointing here, as there’s a bit of silver slop on the side. I do like the finish they used for the shield quite a bit. It’s obviously not a mirror polish, but it does have a nice luster to it.

I won’t run through all the articulation here, because it’s pretty much identical to the Classified male figures we’ve seen so far, and that means it’s very good. The lower part of the tunic does inhibit his leg movement a bit at the hips, but not terribly so. Cobra Commander comes with two sets of hands. These are a right accessory holding hand, a right pointing finger, a left grasping hand, and a left fist. I’m always grateful for extra hands, but I believe it was a rather big omission to not give him a left accessory holding hand when he comes with two accessories. I would have much rather had that than the fist. So, let’s talk about those accessories!

First up, Cobra Commander comes with a bitchin’ sword with a gold cobra-head hilt. I love the hilt, but the blade is super funky. I’m sure Hasbro was going for something highly stylized, futuristic, and cool, but I would have preferred a standard saber. This thing just looks so crazy and impractical that it took me a little while to decide which side is supposed to be the edge. It also doesn’t fit very well in the included scabbard. The scabbard actually has a slit cut in it to allow the blade to protrude out, but I think the idea is that part of the blade is meant to protrude out the top. I’ve tried it in the scabbard both ways, and concluded that the best way to go has the snake head facing forward. I don’t want to come down too hard on this piece. It’s still pretty cool, but I would have gone in a different direction with the blade.

Next up is his pistol, and holy shit this thing is all sorts of awesome. It’s basically a silver-plated flintlock with an over-the-top snake motif going on. It’s obviously a far cry from his old iconic hair dryer pistol, but as impractical and crazy as this thing looks, I think it perfectly suits the Commander. I can picture him firing off his one shot at a battle and then shouting to his troops to finish the job. while he retreats to the safety of his command center. Ugh, the lack of a second accessory hand is killing me here. I want to pose him holding his sword aloft and firing this thing. Maybe I can rig something up with one of the Snake Eyes hands. Also, notice he doesn’t have a holster for this gun. Another disappointing omission.

Clearly, I’ve had a few nitpicks here, but all those issues have just been things that I think could have made this excellent figure so much better. OK, so the one accessory hand is a pretty big gaffe on Hasbro’s part, but I don’t want to let those things detract from how much I love this Cobra Commander! The dress uniform characterizes him perfectly and it looks damn sharp. The accessories are crazy in almost every good way, and he looks fantastic standing next to Destro and barking orders. The only downside is now more than ever I want to get a second Cobra Trooper to display behind him. COBRA!!!

GI JOE Classified: Gung Ho by Hasbro

Distribution and exclusives issues aside, Hasbro’s new GI JOE line has been delivering tons of goodies and we’re still in the initial months of its launch. I honestly did not expect this many figures to be hittinig the pegs so soon. Yeah, I’m still hunting for a Baroness, Beach Head and a couple more Cobra Troopers, but that’s cool. They will be mine eventually!!! And so without wasting any time, let’s dive in and check out the newest addition to the JOE team, everybody’s favorite gumbo-slurping Jarhead… Gung Ho!

The packaging looks just as good as ever. It’s colorful, it has some wonderful character art, that cool iconography-based skill list on the side panel, and it’s all collector friendly if you want to save these. And much like Hasbro’s Star Wars Black Series, the figures are numbered, which means you absolutely have to buy them all. YOU HAVE TO!!! I was excited to see Gung Ho was teased so early in the line, as he was a favorite figure of mine in the Real American Hero series.

And I’m equally excited to see that Hasbro hasn’t messed around with his iconic look too much. This Marine from the Bayou still dons his camo pants and wears a tactical vest with no shirt, allowing him to show off his guns and his chest tattoo. The vest features some great sculpted detail, which includes pockets, reinforced plates, a brace of grenades on the left shoulder, and some cool texturing. He also has that silver and blue gizmo on his right shoulder that a lot of the JOEs have had. When I first saw this on Roadblock, I thought it was some kind of tool for adjusting his machine gun, but apparently it’s some sort of ID? Maybe?

In addition to the vest, Gung Ho has a few other separately sculpted pieces worn on him, including a trio of canister grenades strapped ot his left thigh, a silver arm bracer on his right forearm, and an elbow pad on his left arm. He also has some armor pieces on his lower legs, but these are sculpted as part of the figure. Overall, I like the deco on this guy. The camo pants and darker green jacket give him that appropriate military look while the metallic silver paint add some pop.

Gung Ho’s head sculpt is fantastic! It takes the portrait on the old figure that I know and love and gives it a dose of realism. He’s sporting a stern expression, and the sculpt and paint on that handlebar mustache is on point. The hat is removable, and to be honest, I had to apply a little blue-tack to get it to stay on. I was surprised when it came off to see Gung Ho sporting a little mohawk patch up there, which is also perfectly sculpted and painted. This guy just looks like he was born to piss in Cobra’s cornflakes. I’m glad he’s one of the good guys, because I would not want to mess with him.

The articulation here is every bit as good as I’ve come to expect in this line. Gung Ho’s arms feature rotating hinges in the shoulders and wrists, swivels in the biceps, double-hinges in the elbows, and he also has the added shoulder crunches, which I was not expecting as these are concealed by the jacket. His legs have those double ball-joints in the hips, swivels in the thighs, double-hinges in the knees, and both hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. He has a ball joint in the waist, an ab-crunch hinge under the chest, and his neck is both hinged and ball jointed. Gung Ho is a lot of fun to play around with, and with his vest off, he looks like he’s ready to go a few rounds with Cobra’s toughest customer in a cage match to the death.

Gung Ho comes with a pretty big backpack, which is capable of holding all of his weapons. Well, technically it is. The side clips work well, but the clip on the bottom, not so much. But that’s OK, because he can hold that weapon and still manage to carry everything he comes with. As has been the case with previous figures, Gung Ho’s weaponry have a decidedly science-fiction flavor to them. In some cases, I don’t mind this so much, as long as there’s still a real world element to them. Let’s see how these guns turned out!

First off, he has what I presume is supposed to be a grenade launcher. I think this was a great choice, as I seem to recall his 25th Anniversary figure coming with an M-79 grenade launcher. This one has a revolver-type cylinder and a top carry bar. Like all the weapons here, it’s molded in a sort of gray plastic, which seems to hold the sculpted detail pretty well. This baby fits my criteria as looking fairly convincing in its overall design and I dig it a lot.

Next up, we’ve got what I’m calling a shotgun. Yeah, it has some kind of vertically orientated beam emitter on the muzzle, but the foregrip looks like it’s meant to pump. Maybe you pump to charge it and it blasts out a spread of energy? Maybe I’m over-thinking it. Either way, it looks like it has what is supposed to be a telescoping stock and there’s a rail on the top to fit a scope or light or whatever else he wants to throw on top of it. So, this one isn’t quite as convincing as the grenade launcher, but I don’t mind it.

Finally, Gung Ho comes with a carbine, with a rear mounted magazine. This has some similarities to the shotgun, as the muzzle is basically the same and it also has a rail on top for customization. This looks like it would be a pretty good gun for when you’re boogying through the jungle and need to blast any Cobra that happens to pop up out of the trees.

And so, Hasbro delivers another great figure in this new Classified line up. Gung Ho keeps the trend going of taking a familiar design and tweaking it just enough to make it feel fresh and new, while still being faithful to the original character design. I’m sure there are plenty of purists out there who will scoff at the armor pieces and the sci-fi weapons, but I’m finding that I really dig these new looks. As I’ve said before, it wouldn’t have been my first choice, but I can’t deny that these are great looking figures and above all loads of fun!

GI JOE Classified: Cobra Trooper (Target Exclusive) by Hasbro

If the last couple weeks were any indication, Hasbro may have seriously underestimated the demand for the new GI JOE Classified figures. The first wave seems to have flown off the shelves, at least in my area, and the new wave of Target Exclusive Special Mission: Cobra Island figures sold out instantly online and are selling out in stores even before the issued Street Date of 8/14, which is today! Of course, it doesn’t help when one of those figures is a Cobra troop builder, and that’s who I’m checking out today!

You can never be too sure what you’re going to get with this line’s design, but I’m happy to say that Cobra’s mainstay trooper offers a welcome nod toward the traditional and iconic. The packaging is similar to what we’ve been seeing all along, with some fantastic artwork and the Cobra Island logo added to the front of the box. And look at all the stuff they packed in there! The tray is positively bursting with goodies! The rest of this assortment includes Beachhead, another version of Roadblock, and Baroness with a motorcycle. I’ve been shit out of luck with the rest of them, but I’m thankful for a buddy of mine who found a couple of these and shipped me one at cost.

I’m happy to say that this figure hits all the points that I’m looking for in a traditional Cobra grunt. Indeed, he eschews a lot of the solider-on-parade look of some of the early Cobra Trooper designs and adopts more of a down-and-dirty urban warfare look that I dig a lot. He has a very traditional blue uniform, which is reinforced by sculpted black pads on his upper arms, black bracers on his forearms, black kneepads, and high black boots. His upper chest has a sculpted black panel with a bold and embossed red Cobra emblem, and the rest of his torso is covered by a highly detailed flak jacket. Some nice touches include the additional Cobra emblems embossed on the backs of his gloves… they really branded the hell out of this guy! There’s also an optional red armband to give him a little more color. I really can’t say enough good things about how this overall design turned out. He just looks like a force to be reckoned with.

The head sculpt is that of a determined killer. Just look at those eyes! He looks like a real nasty piece of work. He’s wearing a balaclava to cover everything but his eyes and those rather cross eyebrows, and the usual black Cobra facemask has been upgraded to what looks like some kind of breather unit with some great sculpting. The helmet is removable, but it fits quite well and doesn’t keep popping off when I’m posing him. Without the helmet on, I’m getting a major Mortal Kombat vibe off of him, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.

He also has a pair of what I presume are night vision goggles, which can be worn down around his neck when not in use. This eyewear transforms him into pure nightmare fuel. Seriously, I find this bug-eyed look absolutely terrifying.

The Cobra Trooper comes with a lot of weapons, and I’m delighted to say that he can wear his entire arsenal on his person. Let’s start wiht his flak jacket! There’s a sheath attached to the left shoulder strap to hold his rather odd little combat knife. The accessory is molded in black plastic, has a curved grip that fits his hands well, and if you look really close you can possibly make out the serpent head at the base of the blade with its mouth open to make the blade appear to be protruding from his maw. The blade itself is stubby and has no point. It almost looks like one of those ancient flint knives you see in museums. This is not the type of cutlery I would have expected a Cobra Trooper to be carrying, but it is certainly unique.

Next up, the Trooper comes with a set of matched pistols, one of which is stored in the holster to the front, right side of his flakjacket, while the other is attached to the bottom left side of the back of the jacket. The front holster is actually branded with yet another raised Cobra emblem. These pistols follow the decidedly sci-fi designs that we’ve been seeing in most of the Classified weapons, but I think these are pretty cool looking.

Moving on to the bigger guns, the Cobra Trooper features holes on his back that his other guns can peg into. First off, he has this pretty sweet looking carbine. Yeah, once again it’s got a futuristic flavor to it, but in all fairness modern Assault Carbines are getting so crazy looking nowadays, I could probably believe this is a real weapon.

And finally, he has this rather large rifle for when he needs to make a bigger, bolder statement.  Once again, it’s definitely fictional, but not outside of the realm of possibility. This one has a scope, a short magazine, and the peg that holds it into his back can double as a grab bar. The weapons in this line have been a bit of a mixed bag, so I’m happy to say this Trooper’s are excellent. The detail invested into them is top notch and I’m glad their molded in black plastic to give them that sense of realism.

There’s no other way to say it, Hasbro absolutely killed it with this figure. The overall design makes him look like a rough and ready combatant to be reckoned with. He’s a foe to be taken seriously, rather than the bumbling oafs that were peppered over most episodes of the Sunbow cartoon. And besides looking great, Hasbro loaded him up with some pretty cool weapons and a place for him to carry every last one of them. What’s not to love? Well, how about the difficulty acquiring one, let alone actually troop building them. I got shut out of the pre-orders immediately, and just got very VERY lucky to have a buddy looking out for me. I figure that I need at least two more of these Troopers, but honestly, if I ever do actually see him on the pegs, I”m pretty sure I’ll buy every one I come across. Hasbro is really missing out if they don’t decide to offer some kind of troop building deal on their Pulse store. Sure, this one is a Target Exclusive, but I’m sure they can work around that pretty easily. So listen up, Hasbro. You bundle four of these guys for $100, and I’ll order me up a set. Unless you don’t want my money.

GI JOE Classified: Snake Eyes by Hasbro

Well, it took a little longer than I thought, but the final figure from the first assortment of GI JOE Classified arrived a few days back. Snake Eyes was the first figure revealed and the hardest one for me to get. I think I still have the Deluxe version on pre-order on Hasbro Pulse, but since I haven’t had a lot of luck with those pre-orders, I was happy to pick up this vanilla release just in case.

How many times can I say it? I love this packaging! You get a very attractive and colorful window box that shows off the figure and is totally collector friendly. The side panel displays the character’s abilities with a fun system of iconography and there’s a beautiful mural of characters and vehicles on the back. I don’t have the same obsession with Snake Eyes that a lot of JOE fans seem to have. It’s probably blasphemy to say it, but I was never a big fan of them forcing him into the whole Ninja slot. When I was a kid playing with my JOEs he was just a kick ass Commando with an Uzi and not a Ninja at all.

It doesn’t take a second look for me to realize why they chose Snake Eyes as the initial reveal. Even setting aside how popular he is as a character, this is an amazing looking figure. Sure he’s mostly black, but the figure makes great use of both matte and high gloss finishes for different parts of his outfit, as well as some sparing hits of silver and red paint. Plus, there’s some fine texture work in the sculpt as well. And that sculpt! Holy crap there is a lot going on here! The base body has features sculpted pants with knee pads, a lot of chiseled musculature in the torso, and armor plates on the arms and shoulders, There’s also several pieces sculpted out of softer plastic and worn by the figure, like the bicep straps with pouches, doubled up belts on the waist, a shoulder strap with pouches and sculpted grenades, and a holster and sheath attached with straps around his thighs. This guy is clearly ready for anything.

And that mask! Part of me was a little worried we’d get some big goofy rubber lips like we did with Rise of Cobra, but nope. This mask is as classic as it gets. He has the iconic segmented visor and the breathing holes over the lower half of his face. I also really dig the sculpted stitching up the neck. Beautiful!

Snake Eyes has a hole in his back and through the shoulder strap that can be used for a few accessories, but primarily his backpack. It’s cast in matte black plastic and like the figure it’s loaded with detail. It also features some silver paint operations on the buckles and snaps. Unlike Duke’s backpack, this one stays on extremely well. It also has a peg hole on the side so you can attach the sword scabbard.

If you want Snake Eyes to travel more lightly, the peg hole in the back can be used to secure his sword alone, or even his larger gun. And since we’re now talking about accessories… Let’s check out those accessories!

This retail version of Snake Eyes comes with a collection of weapons that pales in comparison to the Deluxe version, but you still get some cool stuff. For starters, he has a combat knife that’s very similar in design to what we saw with Scarlett. It has a saw back and the blade swells near the tip. It’s a little small for the figure’s hand, but he can hold it fairly well. Unfortunately, this thing will not fit into the sheath. It goes in about three-quarters of the way and then just stops. I could take something and try to clean it out in there, but for now it’s just not going in.

Next up, he has a pistol with a detachable suppressor, both of which can fit into his holster separately and I really dig that! I’m a little less enamored with the gun itself, mainly because of the big hole in the center. This looks like it’s designed for storage on a peg, but other than being able to attach it to the bigger gun (and why would I want to do that?), I don’t see the reason for it and it just looks goofy. I’ll likely be raiding my Marvel Legends figures for some better weapons for this guy.

Next up is his bigger gun and again, I’m just not liking the design here. I think it’s supposed to be a sci-fi take on an assault carbine, but like the smaller one it has that big hole in the center which is so off-putting. He really does need a proper Uzi.

And finally, Snake Eyes comes with his sword and scabbard. The scabbard has a wonderful texture to it and features the Arashikage symbol printed in red near the throat. The sword is a lot more stylized than I’m used to seeing him carry, but I don’t mind. The elongated grip works with one or two hands, and there’s a tiny finger loop in the guard for his trigger finger. There’s a saw-back area of the blade near the hilt, which is a little weird, and the the blade terminates into a clipped point.

Snake Eyes turned out to be an excellent figure, but I really never doubted that. And remember my blasphemous Commando/Ninja comment? Well, one thing I really dig about this figure is how it strides the line between the two. I can load him up with his backpack and guns if I want him to be a Commando, or I can strap a sword on his back and make him a Ninja. Which brings me to my only real gripe here is that I wish he came with his old school explosives pack, because when I was a kid playing with him, he was constantly using that to blow up Cobra installations and vehicles. I used to stick it to HISS tanks with a little dab of silly putty!

And that’s the first assortment of GI JOE Classified. This line is not perfect. There were some design choices I’m not 100% on board with, but what i can’t deny is that each and every one of them are very fun figures. I think the one thing that’s been hard to get used to is the way the line seems to pick and choose between old and iconic and fresh and new. Part of me wishes all the figures had toed that Real American Hero line a little closer, but then even the new designs have been growing on me. All I can say is BRING ON THE NEXT ASSORTMENT AND YO JOE!!!

GI JOE Classified: Duke by Hasbro

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GI JOE Classified: Roadblock by Hasbro

If you needed proof of how excited I am about Hasbro’s new 6-inch GI JOE Classified series, you need only look to the fact that I’m turning in my third Classified review in as many weeks. Hey, that’s pretty good for me! So far, I’ve checked out Scarlett and Destro, I’m still waiting on my Snake Eyes to show up, and today I’m opening up Roadblock! Out of my way you Cobra punk… I’m gonna kick Destro in the junk!

Have I told you how much I love the packaging? Yeah? Well here we go again! Literally, the only thing I would change here is to put the red, white, and blue back into the lines in the GI JOE logo. Otherwise, you get some bitchin’ character art on the front and right side panel, some specialty icons on the left side panel, and a great piece of artwork on the back teasing some classic JOE vehicles and some more characters. The packaging is collector friendly, and like the Star Wars Black Series, the figures are numbered based on release.

While Classified Roadblock is clearly a new design, it looks like Hasbro drew inspiration from the Real American Hero 1986 (v2) figure. Gone is his original camo tank top and instead we get a green tactical vest. It’s not the spitting image of the RAH design, but clearly the three red flaps, the left shoulder pad, the right pocket, and the knife and scabbard are all nods to that outfit. It’s true that the first version figure will always be my Roadblock, but with that having been said, I still dig this look a lot!

The vest is molded in soft plastic and worn over the buck, which gives him some appropriate levels of bulk. There are some excellent details in the vest’s sculpt, including what looks like a socket wrench on his right shoulder. I like that the colors are muted, with the exception of the gold, and the star on his pocket was a nice touch. Additionally, he has sculpted brown trousers with plenty of pouches and nice texturing. And finally some gold armor on his boots and left knee. That big gold knee-pad is really the only thing here I don’t care for. It’s not so much that it seems out of place, but that it’s so adhoc the way he just has the one. I know that by 1986, most JOEs just wore whatever crazy shit they wanted, but the one lone knee-pad seems contrary to military uniform design. But that’s just me nitpicking.

Roadblock has a sweet lion tattoo on his upper left arm and he’s got a pair of red and green gloves sculpted onto his hands. Overall, the paint detail on my figure is pretty sharp.

Hasbro has been doing a solid job with the portraits in this line, and I’m happy to say that Roadblock is no exception. He’s easily recognizable by me and I especially like the sculpting on his beard and mustache. Yeah, he does have a seam line running across his bald head, but it’s really faint and hard to notice with the naked eye.

The articulation here is quite similar to Hasbro’s Marvel Legends line. Indeed, the big departure comes in the torso where there are two ball joints: One in the waist and one again under the torso.

In addition to a little knife for the scabbard in his vest, Roadblock’s main accessory is his giant um… gun. Yeah, this giant laser(?) gun would not have been my first choice as a weapon. Hasbro’s got a ton of really good machine guns in this scale. Hell, they should have just pulled the one last seen with Crossbones in the Marvel Legends Thunderbolts SDCC set. I’m not saying this is a bad looking gun. It’s got plenty of detail, a nice silver finish, and some blue and red paint applications. If you’re a fan of that wacky sci-fi shit that eventually permeated the Real American Hero line, then this might be right up your alley.

The translucent blue plastic near the beam emitter is cool and the magazine (or in this case battery(?) is removable. He can hold it from the regular grip and trigger, but there are handles on the top so that he can also wield it like a chaingun, and I think that looks more credible, considering it’s taller than he is!

I’ll confess that my first thoughts upon seeing this figure teased was that he looked kind of generic. But once I got him in hand and started messing around with him, I found myself quickly impressed. Is he exactly what I would have asked for? Nah. I would have preferred the original RAH look and a conventional machine gun. But, this line is proving to be full of surprises and I’m willing to let my preconceptions go when presented with a fun and great looking figure like this one. Next week… Duke!

GI JOE Classified: Destro by Hasbro

GI JOE is back in the toy aisles, sporting some new designs and a six-inch scale! Last week I checked out Scarlett and this week I was originally going to open up Duke or Roadblock, but then Cobra’s Weapons Supplier showed up at my door and I just had to push Destro to the front of the line. Sorry guys, you’ll get your turn.

Once again, the packaging kicks ass. We get some wonderful colors and artwork, which separates these boxes from the boring presentation of Hasbro’s 6-inch Star Wars line by leaps and bounds. Destro’s character art is freaking amazing, and I really dig the way it wraps around the corner of the box. Plus you get the iconography on the side panel showing the characters specialties. Destro’s appears to be all about making weapons and money!

And here he is freed from his box and ready to supply you with all your terrorist needs! While Scarlett was a complete modern redesign, Destro is more of a touch up, as he retains everything about his Real American Hero look that makes him so iconic. The black suit includes sculpted combat boots, knee-pads, and some reinforced patches on his chest, back, and shoulders. Destro has a metallic gray belt with some red accents, metallic gray bracers on his forearms, and red rockets mounted on his right arm. Oh man, I’m glad Hasbro kept those! Finally, he has a red holster on his right hip, which is attached to his belt, wrapping around his right thigh with a molded pouch. I love this look so much and I’m so happy that Hasbro didn’t mess with it.

But what makes this figure truly iconic is his portrait. The silver metal mask is a combination of organic curves and chiseled features with some subtle panel lining on top. It extends down to the base of his neck, where it is secured with a ring of bolts. His chest is exposed, and he flaunts his high collar with a red interior that’s evocative of a cobra’s hood. The look is tied together by his amulet and chain, which is sculpted as a separate piece and hung around his neck. Yup, that’s my Destro!!!

The articulation here is Marvel Legends through and through. The legs are ball jointed at the hips, have double-hinged knees, swivels in the thighs, and the ankles have both hinges and lateral rockers. The arms have rotating hinges at the shoulders and wrists, the elbows are double-hinged, and there are swivels at the biceps. He has a swivel at the waist, an ab-crunch hinge in the torso, and the neck is ball jointed and hinged. The joints all feel great and he is loads of fun to play with.

As for accessories, Destro comes with two guns and a briefcase. I was a little surprised he didn’t get a backpack, but what we got is still plenty good. His primary sidearm is very reminiscent of the weapon he carried during the RAH years. It has a long barrel, a scope, and a decidedly sci-fi feel to it. It sports some excellent detail and feature some red paint applications to give it some character and match it to his outfit. Destro has two trigger finger hands, so he can wield the weapon in either one, and it also fits in his holster.

His second weapon is a much smaller gold pistol, no doubt to be kept hidden as a back-up. Again, it has a strong sci-fi element to its design, and Hasbro packed a lot of detail into it’s sculpt.

Finally, Destro comes with a Cobra-branded briefcase. The Cobra emblem is sculpted into both sides, but only painted on one. Open it up and there’s a computer on one side and a bunch of money on the other. The computer side is pretty well detailed, but sadly they didn’t print any details on the money. His gold pistol can also fit inside the case.. The only downside of this case is that the hinge is just bendy plastic, so it will likely stress and probably break after a lot of opening and closing.

While Scarlett represented a complete modern redesign of her character, Destro here is just a touch-up. And a refreshing one at that! I can’t tell you how happy I am to see Destro appear sporting the design I’ve known and loved since I was a small child. It also sends a clear message that Hasbro is not looking to ignore the RAH roots. Indeed, Destro here is everything I could have hoped for in this line. He’s damn near perfection. We’ve also had some new revelations this past week, namely Gung-Ho and Cobra Commander, and I really like what I’m seeing. It feels great to want to shout YO JOE!!!! again!

GI JOE Classified: Scarlett by Hasbro

Folks, I can’t tell you how great it feels to be sitting down to review a brand new GI JOE figure from Hasbro. I have been a strong proponent for Hasbro to apply this once great franchise to their now tried-and-true 6-inch scale figure formula. I’ve been hoping against hope that we’d see familiar classic Real American Hero characters mixed with the accessories and play-ability of SIGMA SIX. Finally Hasbro listened and we have the new GI JOE Classified series. The first wave consists of Duke, Scarlett, Roadblock, and Snake Eyes, and I’m kicking things off with a look at Scarlett. Did this line seem like it’s going to be all that I hoped it would be? Not exactly. Is she a great figure? Well, at the risk of spoiling the review… Heck, yeah!

For starters, Hasbro gets major props for this packaging, and since this is the first time seeing it, I’ll spend a little while with it. It’s a simple window box similar to their Star Wars Black Series, only now infused with some amazing colors and artwork. We get an original character portrait on the front and the GI JOE logo and character name at the bottom. My only complaint here is that the three bars after the logo aren’t in red, white and blue.

The left side panel shows that these figures are numbered and also introduces this cool iconography for the characters, which suggest their specialties, with some being more obvious than others. The right side panel has a beautiful montage of Scarlett in action. Saving the best for last, the back panel has a gorgeous piece of art showing off characters and vehicles and giving us a glimpse at what some other characters will look like in this line. I love how iconic the vehicles look, and I can only hope that we’re going to get a Trouble Bubble or RAM Cycle down the road. But that’s me getting way ahead of myself, because here we are at the very first wave. Let’s have a look at Scarlett…

I’m not going to lie, I was hoping for a straight up RAH revival that took the basic look of the originals and just infused them with more detail and tons of accessories. That’s not what we got here. Instead Scarlett’s design takes the broad strokes of the character and than goes off in its own direction. The result is a figure that is both familiar and different. This approach is likely to vary from character to character. With Scarlett, I was only fairly satisfied with what I saw in the original solicitation pictures, but with the figure in hand, I’m absolutely in love with it. Her outfit is a mix of tactical suit and armor. I can get a whiff of her old yellow-cream-colored tactical onesie, boots, and gauntlet in the yellow armor here. Her red shoulder pad has migrated to her left and evolved into a full on armor piece, but hey, she still has her row of shuriken-like weapons on her left gauntlet. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I feel like Hasbro might have retained an element or two from their Overwatch figures. Damn, I really need to finish reviewing those some day!

I do like the body sculpt here. Hasbro uses some subtle textures on the underlying suit for some areas, while others are smooth with quilted panel lines. The armor pieces feature various panels and raised areas, and the detail on her gloves is quite nice. She has a belt that hangs on her hips with a gold buckle and a sculpted pouch on her left hip. She also has a separate shoulder strap that supports the quiver on her back and a functional knife sheath on the front. About the only thing on the uniform I don’t care for is the left shoulder piece. The star looks great, but this piece pops up too awkwardly for my taste. I wish it cupped her shoulder more closely. As for the colors… she’s certainly a flashy figure and there are a lot of colors on her, far more than I’m used to seeing on Hasbro’s other 6-inch lines. The gold and yellow are vibrant, while the red and blue add a nice kick. It’s pleasing to look at, but I’d like to see this figure repainted with a more subdued color palate. And if I know Hasbro, I’ll probably get it.

The head sculpt is a total winner. She’s cute, with a confident expression. The hair is especially nice as it partially covers her right eye and spills out the back in a ponytail. I could have stood it to be more red than orange, but I’m not going to split hairs. HA! I really dig the printed facial features and the freckles are a nice touch. She even has little earrings, which I’d like to think are tracking devices or micro-explosives or some other kind of cool spy gear.

For articulation, we do get a few new surprises. Her ball jointed hips appear to be anchored with dog-bone-style joints giving them a little extra range of movement. Otherwise the legs follow the Marvel Legends model with swivels in the thighs, double-hinges in the knees, and both hinges and lateral rockers in the ankles. Being a girl, Hasbro doesn’t believe Scarlett should have double-hinges in the elbows, so instead she gets rotating hinges in the elbows and no bicep swivels. Boo! Her wrists are on rotating hinges, and she only comes with the one set of hands. She has two ball joints in the torso, one in the waist and another under her chest. Nice! And finally her neck is ball jointed. It’s not a huge departure from what Hasbro’s been delivering, but there are some improvements.

Scarlett comes with four accessories and three of them are knives. I don’t usually associate Scarlett with packing a lot of blades, but knives are cool! Knives come in handy in a fight. I like knives! The smallest of the three fits into the sheath across her chest. It has a curved sculpted grip and something like a drop-point blade. It’s cast entirely in black plastic and she can hold it well in either hand.

The other two are a matched set and oddly enough these fit into the top of her quiver. These pieces of cutlery have similar handles and bigger, more imposing blades with saw-backs. They’re also sculpted entirely in black and I’m tempted to take a silver sharpie to their blades to give them a little more oomph. Maybe Hasbro blew the budget on the figure’s paint operations and didn’t have anything left for the knives. Or maybe they’re intentionally black so they don’t glint off the moonlight in night missions.

And finally we have Scarlett’s trusty crossbow pistol. It’s a chunky and detailed sculpt that breaks down into two pieces. And like the knives it’s also cast all in black plastic either for tactical reasons or to keep costs down… you decide!!! I like that it’s stout and not all frail and bendy. The two pieces do come apart sometimes, and I’m tempted to use a spot of glue to keep them together as I really don’t see any reason to ever separate them. There are no loose bolts to load into it, but she does have some sculpted bolts coming out the bottom of her quiver.

Scarlett’s new design is likely to make her a divisive figure, but she did manage to win me over and I’m hoping she will have the same success with other collectors. Her outfit is not what I was hoping for, but she is an absolutely fantastic figure showing off some great sculpting, quality paint applications, and fun articulation. I do wish the accessories rose to meet the days of SIGMA SIX, instead we get a decent assortment, but nothing mind-blowing. I’m still waiting on my Snake Eyes, which has been bumped back time and again by Hasbro’s own Pulse Shop. Indeed, I had all these figures pre-ordered on Pulse, but wound up cancelling them when they showed up on Amazon with that Fast & Free Prime Shipping. In the end, I wound up getting them in hand from Amazon probably a solid week before they would have ever even shipped from Hasbro. And that, Hasbro, is why when my Free Premier Membership with Pulse expires, I won’t be renewing it with a paid one. In any event, I’ll be back next week with a look at another one of these new JOES!

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.