G.I. Joe Collectors Club "Operation Bear Trap" 2012 Convention Exclusive
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I remember 2009 very well. The G.I. Joe Collectors' Club shocked the collecting community by revealing that they were moving to the modern era sculpting format. There was an uproar among many, and I was one of them, but more because they were duplicating an existing set, and not necessarily because of the format.
But for folks who were purely angry about the format change, it seems evident at this point that there is no going back to the o-ring style, but if they have this much access to tooling and can continue to put out sets like this, I have absolutely no complaints.
I've long maintained that my favorite Convention set of all time is without a doubt the 2005 MARS Attacks set. The Iron Grenadiers updates were almost flawless, the Steel Brigade figures were terrific...it was a home run from start to finish. Well, this set still doesn't match the standards set in 2005, but it comes pretty damned close. Keep in mind, I'm much more a figure guy than a vehicle guy, so that is really where my love of a Convention set comes. And based on the figures that we got this year, this set has come exceptionally close to toppling 2005 as my favorite set ever.
Just looking at the boxed set as a whole, the design of the box is really nice, with the awesome industrial artwork and the Russian logo...and this year, for the first time, the Club has used custom cut foam slots to fit the included figures. This makes a huge difference. Because the Oktober Guard team is the main focus of this set, they will get my attention first, then we'll move on to the Iron Grenadiers and the Extra's from there.
General Iron Bear
For some reason this figure caused a poop storm when first revealed, mostly because I suspect many fans were expecting Dragonsky. The original (and most popular) members of the Oktober Guard included the purple garbed flamethrower, and I suspect that the fact that he wasn't included really rubbed people the wrong way. It wasn't so much that they didn't like this figure, though I do think some of that comes into play.
My own personal opinion is that I love new characters, and I will always welcome new concepts and new ideas into the G.I. Joe world. I don't need to see regurgitated characters coming out again and again and again. This guy fills an awesome role, and adds a cool new twist to the whole Oktober Guard dynamic. I have no problems with this. Looking at it from the Club's perspective, too, with their tooling budget restrictions, they may not have been able to do Dragonsky credit, and I'd rather they wait and do a great Dragonsky for the FSS than try to shoehorn him into a Convention set and not do him justice.
The figure itself is, by and large, the G.I. Joe: Resolute boxed set Arctic Duke with a new head sculpt. The new head is modeled after Hasbro executive (and massive G.I. Joe fan) Derryl DePriest, and interestingly enough, supposedly this character was initially slated for the Direct To Consumer line before it was shelved. The Collectors' Club elected to take that concept and bring it into their convention set, which is a neat touch. Detailing and figure construction for General Iron Bear is fantastic. Range of motion in his elbows and knees is really nice, and even with the coat coming down to his thighs, I don't notice a drastic reduction in articulation. He looks great as an arctic operative, fits in with the rest of the team, and just looks and feels great.
Normally when you think of an arctic guy, you think of whites and grays, but Iron Bear is decked out in browns and blacks, but the color is pretty appealing and fits in with the rest of the Oktober Guard nicely.
One thing General Iron Bear lacks is a large accessory compliment, but the gear he comes with works well enough for someone most likely out of harm's way, giving orders. The hat fits the head fairly well, though not quite as perfect as one might like. Sergeant Slaughter's baton was an interesting accessory choice, and kind of matches the whole strict Russian disciplinarian mentality well.
The drum-magazine fed machine gun is cool as well, and the knife rounds things off, though I wish he had a sheath somewhere on his body for it. Not a ton of gear, but gear that makes sense and looks cool. Glad to see they're phasing out the whole "all accessories must be the same gray color" mentality as well.
While General Iron Bear isn't my favorite figure in the set, and in fact, might be among my least favorite on the Oktober Guard team, that doesn't mean it's a bad figure. Quite the opposite. I don't understand the hate for this guy at all, and he ends up being a really cool new character for the mythology.
I really loved the Resolute Arctic Duke and this figure does the tooling justice. No complaints here at all.
The cigar chomping, grimacing field commander of the Oktober Guard has one of the most distinctive attitudes in the team. He is a take-no-gruff Colonel who doesn't hesitate to make some hard decisions, and it's important that the action figure translates that. I think this figure does that to a great degree.
I read a lot of complaints online about this version of the figure, wondering why tooling with a neck tie was used, and just some general complaints about how the figure looks. Personally, I couldn't disagree more. Does Brekhov look just like he looked in the comic? No, not at all. But the dress jacket and Eastern European suit style is a perfect match for what a Russian officer might wear, yet still manages to look okay while "in the field".
The majority of the parts are from the Rise of Cobra Destro figure, which was a fantastic figure to begin with. He appears to have Shock Trooper upper arms and Resolute Arctic Duke lower arms, both of which combine to make arms with great range of motion, something that is much appreciated. Even with that, though, the arms mesh with the rest of the body seamlessly. The one new part of the figure is the head sculpt, and they did a great job with that as well. The combover hair and determined look in his eyes are both great additions, and he bears a great resemblance to Colonel Brekhov.
The colors used throughout the figure are non-descript, yet still nice, with a somewhat bland colored uniform, glossy black boots, gloves, and belt. There aren't a ton of different colors used here, but the ones used are extremly successful and well done. Green used on the harness and shoulder holster add some nice colors, offset the bland base colors well, and manage to intergrate very well with the other Oktober Guard members.
Brekhov comes with a nice assortment of various accessories. Two machine guns, a pistol (with the requisite shoulder holster) as well as shoulder straps and an ammunition pouch. Once all of these accessories are placed with the figure, the entire package is a terrific looking figure that works well either as a command officer or as someone in the field. His removable hat is an awesome finishing touch that works quite well on his head...they've made some long strides in recent years getting heads and hats/helmets to fit seamlessly. Very nice.
Colonel Brekhov is one of those figures that maintains the spirit of the original character without translating it exactly defacto from the original version. I think the end result is a very successful version of Colonel Brekhov who looks great as a team leader. I love the two machine guns he comes equipped with, and the crowning touches of the well-fitting helmet, shoulder holder, and harness all compliment the figure perfectly. A great figure by the Collectors' Club.
As one of the founding (and most popular) members of the Oktober Guard, Daina is one of those few members of the Russian Special Forces team who is still alive and kicking. As a sniper and helicopter pilot, Daina is a very well qualified spec ops soldier, who had her first figure release as part of the comic packs in 2005. This is the first time the figure has been released with her helmet that was a trademark accessory of hers in many of her most famous appearances.
The Collectors' Club chose some great parts for Daina as well, going with the expected Lady Jaye torso/arms combination, but then changing things up a bit, going with the Rise of Cobra Paris Pursuit Snake Eyes legs. The result are legs that look in proportion with the upper body, just with some extra thickness to the material for protection against the cold weather. The results are very good.
Daina's new head sculpt is simply fantastic. Hasbro (and thus, the Collectors' Club) have made huge strides with the female head sculpts, and this is no exception with a very appealing face, realistically styled hair, and very accurate to the source material. Complimenting all of the nice things I've said so far is an outstanding paint deco with some very intricate looking camouflage, and a nice combination of the tan and green color that we've already seen with Colonel Brekhov. Taking these different characters and giving them something unifying to tie them together can be a major challenge, but the Club did a fantastic job of it this year, with just the right hints of green and different shades of brown as a common bond between the figures.
I've already mentioned the accessories, which include the terrific helmet that apparently also came with a Star Wars A-Wing Pilot, as well as her trademark Drugonov, the shoulder straps, pistol, AK-47 and terrific looking backpack. They are all very basic, but very essential parts of the bigger picture, and work together to make this figure fantastic. She comes with just the right amount of gear, not too much, but just enough. Granted, it would be nice if she could carry her AK-47 somewhere while she was out sniping, but I like the fact that it was included anyway.
Daina is a great, great figure. She was a highly demanded character for a very long time, and even though Volga attempted to fill a void, and even though she got a pretty quality update in 2005, this is a version everyone has been waiting for.
Schrage, to me, has the dubious distinction of being the most forgettible character in the Oktober Guard. With no offense meant to the awesome infantry trooper, everyone else seemed to have a defining characteristic. Brekhov was the leader, Daina was the sniper, Horror Show was the big, beefy heavy weapons guy...even Stormavik was best known for his beret and round-drum machine gun. Schrage? Who was Schrage?
Well, Schrage is the Oktober Guard Infantry soldier, who does lack a certain sense of individuality, but still manages to look very cool doing it. He does look quite basic, with a button-up shirt, uniform pants, and nice knee-high boots, all matching that European aesthetic that seems to fit the Oktober Guard style so well. What makes the figure great to me are his arms. When the figure was first revealed by the Club, I was concerned, because he seemed to have Blowtorch's lower arms and hands, which were, frankly, kinda crappy in the 25th Anniversary line. However, they used much better upper arms from the Air-Viper and the combination of parts gives him very nicely poseable elbows and really nicely functioning arms altogether. In fact throughout this entire boxed set, the Collectors Club found ways to take various different upper arms and lower arms and make some very nicely functioning limbs out of them.
Schrage also has a new head sculpt, though it looks so close to the Comic Pack head sculpt from 2005 that I'm wondering if that was the template, only retooled to fit on the modern body style. There is certainly nothing wrong with that, though I will say, Schrage's head does not move quite as easily as some of the other totally newly sculpted heads do.
What I find really interesting about Schrage is the choices made for his color scheme. The darker brown really goes nicely with General Iron Bear, even if it stands out a bit from the other field members of the Oktober Guard. Once again, though, the brown base uniform for Schrage does blend with other brown trimming throughout the rest of his teammates, and the green webgear (originally from Red Star) is also a near perfect match among his fireteam.
Being the infantry specialist, Schrage comes with a nice assortment of infantry weapons, with the AK-47, the paratrooper SAW, a backpack, and satchel. Like several other backpacks throughout the set, the back peg on this one is a little bent, which is kind of disappointing, but ended up being workable with just a little effort. Beyond that, the weapons choices were nice (though yes, as Gary from What's on Joe Mind likes to complain about, the use of more standard NATO weapons is a bit confusing) and I'm really happy with how well he can hold them.
I do feel it necessary to complain a bit about the hand grips on these figures, though. I didn't realize just how much the lack of a separate trigger finger impacts the way many older figures can hold their weapons. In almost every case, the Oktober Guard figures can almost hold their weapons really well except for the lack of a separate trigger finger. Hasbro has designed separate trigger fingers a bit more frequently in recent years, but the Club figures not having them (for the most part) does impact how well they hold guns, especially ones like the AK-47 which clearly have the trigger guard present.
A minor complaint ultimately, but one I can't help but mention as it came up in nearly every case as I took pictures for this review.
Schrage is another very solid entry to the Oktober Guard roster in this set. The Collectors' Club presented him in a great updated format that is familiar, yet still has some nice new elements. He manages to look a bit different from his compatriots, yet still blend with the team nicely. A very solid figure.
Without a doubt the most popular Oktober Guard team member, Horror Show has presented unique challenges to G.I. Joe designers for years. Back in the comic pack days, Horror Show got the unique distinction of actually having a newly tooled torso and arms to go along with the head sculpt, which was a real rarity back in those days. It only proves how much the G.I. Joe design folks recognize the character's popularity and their desire to do him the right way.
Now the Collectors' Club is in an even more unique situation where they really cannot justify investing the money in a totally newly tooled torso and arms. While they could certainly do it if they wanted to, it would use up so much of the production budget that the rest of the Convention set would certainly suffer for it, so looking at the big picture, they got creative with how they decided to go about the Horror Show design. Obviously, the main goal when designing a Horror Show figure is to make sure that without new tooling, he can still maintain his large stature, and I think they achieved that perfectly here. By using a combination of Shadow Tracker parts and Resolute Roadblock parts, this Horror Show stands tall and wide, and the Pursuit of Cobra Skydive arms are baggy enough to approximate a thick jacket covering a large body underneath. The jacket "skirt" from the G.I. Joe: Renegades Cobra Commander rounds things off nicely (once you get Shadow Tracker's vest on over it. I'm amazed that this weird combination of parts seems to do the job pretty well in the end.
Pretty well. Not perfect. I'm not entirely sure why they chose to use Shadow Tracker's upper legs and Resolute Roadblock's lower legs. It creates a weird patterned thigh that just seems to end abruptly at the kneepad, and results in a strange hole on the leg that doesn't have anything to go in it. I'm sure there was either a logistical reason, or a cost consideration behind it, but whatever the reasoning, it's a strange look and a distraction.
The new head sculpt is absolutely fantastic, and resembles the Oktober Guard heavy weapons specialist perfectly. He's got the familiar helmet, the trademark moustache and is immediately recognizable as the character.
One thing I didn't realize until I did a comparison shot was that the Club apparently used the Comic Pack version as an inspiration of sorts, using the same color scheme almost color-for-color. The results are very nice, and each piece of Horror Show's uniform calls back to other members of the Oktober Guard team in the set, creating a great cohesion among all of them. The greens and browns are very consistent in almost every example.
Horror Show comes with the vest I already mentioned, a nice shoulder strap, a huge backpack, as well as the great updated missile launcher and heavy machine gun. He is loaded for bear, and every accessory makes sense within the confines of his specialty. He's often been shown using a shoulder-mounted rocket launcher, and as the heavy weapons guy, it makes sense for him to also sport a large caliber machine gun, which he does as well. The shoulder strap breaks up the green of his vest very well, too.
Horror Show is a great, great figure. No, he does not 100% accurately represent the character we saw back in the 80's, but I think the updates were necessary to even get this character to us, and the fact that they did such a fantastic job with existing parts shows how creative they can be, and what a good library of parts there are to choose from at this point. Horror Show was a necessary piece of the Oktober Guard puzzle, and I'm sure he was a bit intimidating to try and cobble together, but I think everyone involved did an admirable job.
Before we saw any of these figures, if you told me my favorite Oktober Guard team member was going to be Stormavick, I would have said you were crazy. Sure, the Russian Paratrooper has always been pretty cool in the comics, but guys like Horror Show, Daina, and even Dragonsky were always more distinctive. But somehow the Collectors' Club took Stormavik and made him something pretty amazing.
Upon first glance I kind of wondered why they chose some of the parts they did for the figure, but a quick glance at Yearbook Issue #2 told me all I needed to know. Yeah, Stormavik has all of those familiar pads in all the same places, and a big kudos to the Club for taking that small reference and building a very cool figure around it using existing parts.
Because they were able to gain access to some of the more recent Pursuit of Cobra parts, the figure ends up looking fantastic with the additional detail and range of motion that Hasbro has moved towards in recent figure installments. Stormavik can bend his elbows quite well, his knees are great, and he can achieve any number of poses. While he has a fairly basic 25th Anniversary era torso, the City Strike Destro arms and Shadow Tracker legs are great choices, giving him the padded look from Yearbook #2 and ensuring a nicely functioning figure as well.
Looking at paint applications, the bulk of Stormavik uses the light tan to match the old school look, with some great brown trim that not only resembles the character from the comic, but also ties him into other members of the Oktober Guard. I do wish they had some extra paint budget to get the kneepads done, however, as it seems to be a somewhat glaring absense. A tiny bit of brown paint there would go a long way to tie the entire figure together. Still, a fairly minor complaint.
Along with having pretty much the best base action figure body within the Oktober Guard members, Stormavik also has the best accessory compliment, in my opinion. I love the Jungle Duke webgear, and it looks awesome on the figure here. The removable knife and pistol are great, as well as the two assault rifles. The large backpack has a slightly warped peg, but still looks fantastic on the figure. Stormavik simply works on all levels.
The highlight of the Oktober Guard team, Stormavik has terrific parts, nice paint apps and great articulation. The paratrooper of the team, he looks ready to jump behind enemy lines and tangle with any enemy from the 80's or from the modern day. A truly excellent looking figure and a great addition to the boxed set and the Oktober Guard team as a whole.