GI JOE Classified: Zartan by Hasbro

Ah, Zartan! He was one of my favorite characters back in the day. His figure was cool enough, with his color-changing skin and his swamp skimmer vehicle, but I think it was his appearance in The Revenge of Cobra mini-series that really sold me on the character. He was a mercenary, he was leader of a biker gang, he was a master of disguise, and his daring rescue of Cobra Commander from Blackwater Prison is still among my favorite GI JOE Sunbow moments. Needless to say, I was hotly anticipating his appearance in the new Classified series, and was happy that Hasbro didn’t keep me waiting long.

OK, so I’m a little mad at Hasbro for not releasing Zartan as a Deluxe with his swamp skimmer. The Chameleon hasn’t gotten a lot of love over the years, and it would have been the perfect vehicle for the 6-inch scale. But I suppose that’s not out of the question for a future re-release. Besides, one look at this figure in the package, and all was forgiven. The character art on the package is amazing, and the looks to be no slouch either. Let’s get him out of his box and check him out!

Most of the Classified figures have been marrying old and new design elements, but Zartan feels like he has his feet firmly planted in tradition. Indeed, he kind of looks like he borrows elements from the original figure and Sideshow’s Sixth-Scale version, which happens to be my favorite look for the character. He dons a pair of dark brown trousers with chunky combat boots and while he isn’t wearing a shirt, he does have armor on his chest, shoulders, and a pair of armored gauntlets. There’s some excellent attention to detail here, including the texturing on his trousers, the sculpted straps holding his armor pieces on, and even the tiny sculpted rivets that secure his chest piece. He’s got a belt that hangs around his waist, as well as a sculpted one with a Dreadnok-themed skull buckle. Everything about him looks rugged and ready for action!

The portrait is also excellent! The original figure and cartoon always had me wondering whether that thing on his head was a hood or his hair, but that’s been long since answered and here we can easily tell he’s a bald man wearing a hood. The hood is pretty rigid and stays on well. It features some reinforced areas that resemble some kind of reptile scale hide. Zartan is also sporting a brown scarf around his neck, which can be removed.

With the hood off, we can get a better look at the head sculpt. Zartan is sporting a little smirk and some really nice definition to his facial features. He’s also got a little Robert Z’Dar action going on with his chin. Naturally he has his iconic eye tatts, painted in a glossy black, and his eyes have a not-quite human appearance to them.

Zartan’s belt includes a sheath for his rather large combat knife. The sheath is textured to resemble alligator hide and the curved grip includes a finger loop, which works with the trigger finger on his right hand. The black blade is a nasty piece of business, with a slight swell to the edge and a serrated back.

His belt also has holes to peg in these two… I dunno, trophies? One is a snake’s head with its mouth wide open and about to strike, the other looks like a monkey hand. I’m really not sure if these are supposed to be trophies or part of some kind of swamp mojo fetishes, but they look cool and add a lot of character to the figure. And if you don’t like them, you can easily remove them and toss them in a bin.

Next up is his trusty pistol, and the design of this one is clearly influenced by the sidearm that came with the original figure. It’s a rather boxy looking design, and I absolutely love it. Sadly he has no holster for it, but it can be clipped to the side of his backpack. Backpack? Let’s check out the backpack!

The backpack is another accessory heavily influenced by the original figure. It’s large and bulky and contains one of Zartan’s masks. This large and boxy piece of kit opens to reveal some beautiful sculpted details, including some licks of red paint on the interior. The mask fits snugly in the compartment and can be worn by Zartan in conjunction with his hood, just like on the original Real American Hero figure. Nope, clearly that is not Zartan. It’s just some other guy wearing his clothes!

As far as I’m concerned, Classified Zartan is another direct hit for this series! Hasbro kept pretty faithful to his original design, while mixing in some gritty realism, and the result is spectacular. There’s some beautiful detail work on his armor, his accessories are all on point, and he looks great when displayed with Classified Cobra Commander and Destro. And yes, I’d still like to see a Deluxe version of Zartan with The Chameleon, although if we do get him packed with a ride, it’ll probably be just a recycled motorcycle from the Marvel Legends line.

GI JOE Classified: Cobra Infantry by Hasbro

I probably don’t need rehash all the anger and frustration that came with making the first release of the Cobra Trooper in the Classified line a hard to get Target Exclusive. It was a bad move on Hasbro’s part, more so because at the time, I’m not sure anyone knew that the figure would get a variant widespread release in the near future. I was lucky enough to get one of those Cobra Troopers, and I was happy for it, but sure I wanted a couple more. OK, maybe a couple dozen more. Well, fast forward to now, and I was thankfully able to pre-order six of the new release of these bad boys. I have four in hand, and two more on the way, so let’s check this figure out by way of comparison to the Cobra Island version I reviewed a little while back.

The packaging looks as great as ever. Maybe I’ll keep one of their boxes, but with space being a premium around here, I probably won’t.

The figure is the exact same sculpt as the Cobra Island release, and I’ll reiterate here how awesome a sculpt it is! To me, this is a perfect imagining of the Cobra Trooper. It captures all the necessary beats of the classic uniform, but gives it a double injection of realism and hyper detail. You get texturing throughout the uniform, including some reinforced patches. There are armor plates on the shins, knees, and forearms, and some cool extra little touches like the sculpted Cobra emblems on the backs of the gloves. The uniform itself is about the same color as the Exclusive release, maybe just a touch paler blue. This fellow does have black painted pads on the outsides of his hips and upper legs, and some gray paint around the edges of his kneepads.

The figure is wearing the same tactical vest as the previous release as well, which encompasses the entire torso and includes the waist belt. This features sculpted straps and pouches, a working holster and sheath on the front, another working holster on the back, and some peg holes on the back to peg in extra gear. Finally, there’s a Cobra emblem embossed and painted on the chest. The only difference here comes in the coloring. It was previously black, now it’s pale blue with gray paint on the belts and straps. I think I prefer this deco on the vest, as it keeps faith with the original Cobra uniform deco just a bit more.

The head sculpt is also identical, with the only discernable difference being the skin color on the new figure being a little darker. The helmet is once again removable, and friction does a nice job of keeping it in place, even when I’m posing the figure.

So what else is different? Only the omission of some gear. The new figure still comes with the knife, twin pistols and the sub-machine gun, but lacks the goggles, larger rifle and the arm-band. Yeah, it’s a shame the rifle couldn’t have been included, as I think the arm-band would have been enough to make the Cobra Island an exclusive, but it’s certainly not a deal breaker for me.

This is an absolutely amazing figure, and without a doubt my favorite iteration of the Cobra Trooper to date. I was strongly tempted to pay out the nose for two more of the Cobra Island Troopers, and now I’m so glad that I didn’t. I’m perfectly happy with my single figure, who’s arm band serves to identify him as the Commander of the rest of my troops. I’ll probably give his rifle to one of these new ones and make him a sharpshooter. What’s more, these seem to be pretty obtainable, with pre-orders still open at a number of online retailers. Alls well that ends well, I guess. But I think Hasbro could have saved themselves a lot of fan anger had they just labeled the Cobra Island version as an Officer and assured fans that the troops would be coming in wider release and better supply.

GI JOE Classified: Destro (Profit Director) by Hasbro

What’s this? A midweek review? Am I actually getting back on track in this undiscovered country we call 2021? Well let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but I am trying! Goddammit, I’m trying! Now, it’s no secret that I’m falling behind in all of my reviews, but I was particularly aghast to find that I last visited with the GI JOE Classified line all the way back in September of last year when I checked out Cobra Commander. Holy shit, that seems like forever ago! OK, so I won’t deny that the rough distribution of this line maybe soured me on it for a bit, but it hasn’t stopped me from grabbing up every new figure I could find. So, let’s try to make up for lost time and have a look at Destro’s second appearance in the line. It’s Profit Director Destro!

Normally I’d be crying foul at a repaint this soon, but it’s hard to get worked up when we’re talking about a direct homage to Hasbro’s rare and infamous Pimp Daddy Destro from the late 90’s. From my understanding, there were only a limited number of the original figure made, and even fewer actually got into packages. And speaking of which… just look at that new packaging! We get all new highly stylized character art, a crazy color scheme, and some gorgeous gold foil lettering for what is the fifteenth numbered figure in the series! Most of you probably know that I don’t keep the packaging for most of my figures, but I do believe I’ll make an exception with this one. It just looks great! So let’s carefully open this up and check out the goods!

Basically this is a repaint of the regular Destro we got, with some extras to sweeten the deal. And what a repaint it is! His classic black suit has been replaced with a maroon one, with leopard patches around the waist, on the upper legs. and lining that high collar. He’s got some gray in the belt and knee pads, and his boots are now fitted with golden toes! His arm bracers are now bright red, as is his holster and thigh rig, and the rockets on his right bracer are pure gold! As if his repainted suit wasn’t audacious enough, Destro now comes with a bright red cape partially covered in a leopard skin, complete with the paws resting on his shoulders and a gold chain holding it across his chest. This is definitely not Covert Ops Destro! Hell, I’d like to imagine that he bagged that leopard himself and drove it home strapped to the canopy of a HISS tank. I also have to say that I love the way the cape snaps under the high collar. It fits very well!

If you’re going to dress like a pimp and you happen to wear a metal mask, why not complete the look by going gold, right? Well, that’s exactly what Destro did and the result is quite stunning. Part of me wishes they had gone all in and vac-metaled the shit out that helmet, but what we got still looks great, and it’ll likely last a lot longer. Indeed, the gold paint has a nice sheen to it and it brings out all the details in the facial sculpt quite nicely. All he’s missing is a wide-brimmed hat and some shades!

Well, there’s no hat, but he does come with a pair of sunglasses! Are the shades a bit too much? I think they are. They kinda cross the line. The outfit mingles with parody, but I think the glasses embrace it. I don’t know that I’m going to use them much.

I’ve already covered the articulation the when I looked at the original Destro release, so I won’t run through it again here. Suffice it to say, Destro’s got all the points we come to expect from Hasbro’s 6-inch lines, plus a few extra surprises. The shoulders on that cape do inhibit his range of motion in the upper arms a bit, but if you want him to get down and dirty and be more agile in a fight, he can always cast off the cape.

Moving on to accessories, This Destro exchanges the larger gun that came with the first release for a flaming handful of cash. I’m not sure what profit there is in burning money, but it definitely makes for a strong statement. Sure, the flame effect is rubbish and they really should have gone with some translucent orange plastic instead of paint, but it’s still a fun extra to pose him with. What’s the point of it? He’s got so much money, he can afford to burn it, I guess? Or maybe it’s just a gangsta thing the kids are doing these days.

So yeah, Pimp Destro is down to one weapon and that’s the small pistol. It’s the same sculpt as last time, and since it was already blinged out in gold, Hasbro didn’t have to repaint it to match the new outfit. He has a trigger finger on both hands, so he can brandish this pistol left or right, and it also fits nicely into his holster.

The final accessory is the same briefcase we saw last time, but it too has been hit by the Midas touch and repainted in gold. It’s got some Cobra emblems sculpted into the sides, and it opens to reveal a sculpted computer on one side and some very unconvincing cash on the other.

If memory serves, this Destro was an Amazon exclusive and either way it’s still available on the site for $25. No, this is figure is not everyone’s cup of tea. And people who are new to GI JOE or casual collectors may be bewildered by the sight of it. But it does represent a cool and unusual variant in the line’s history. I’ll admit that I mostly bought it as a curiosity, but I do find the repaint to be pretty compelling. I think the only thing that detracts from it is the bright red plastic used for the holster. I don’t mind it on the arm bracers, but the holster and thigh rig do look a little cheap in this color. Granted, I do not plan on this figure representing Destro on my shelf, but I do think it’s fun and I’m happy to own it. All the more reason to keep that box, as I’ll likely wind up displaying him in it. And… yeah, since I used a picture of Baroness in this review, I guess I should finally get around to reviewing her next week.

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!