G.I. Joe Kre-O - Checkpoint Alpha w/ Law & Order and Firefly
I blame this set. The fault lies right here and nowhere else.
I won't hide it. I was excited about New York ComicCon last year, getting the sense from Hasbro that they were going to show some very new and cool G.I. Joe product. Well, that "new and cool" product ended up being the G.I. Joe Kre-O sets, and yeah, I felt a bit bummed out about that. I've never been a huge fan of building block of any type. Even as a kid, I was much more about the action figures and I never really owned any Lego sets or other types of construction toys. I wanted to play, not spend time building stuff.
Hasbro's previous attempts at building block systems, Built To Rule still left a bad taste in my mouth, here, like 10 years later. They weren't terrible, but the figures had these awful building block arms and legs, and the vehicles, while interesting in design, didn't really hold a nostalgic grip on G.I. Joe fans, and were notorious for not staying together all that well. When Hasbro launched their Kre-O brand a little while ago, many Joe fans kind of rolled their eyes and said "here we go again".
By and large, the Transformers Kre-O stuff seemed to be pretty well received, though I don't think anyone quite new what to think about the Battleship stuff. So when G.I. Joe was announced, I think we all expected it, but not many of us were especially excited about it. I think once the weeks wore on and the release date got closer, folks started getting a bit more excited, I think. When Toy Fair came and the second wave of singles was announced, people were even more fired up. Then, once they started getting sets in hand, the positive energy was almost overflowing. Because of this, I decided to dip my feet in, but I demanded to start small, with the very simple, very cheap Checkpoint Alpha set.
I'll be damned if I didn't love it.
From the minute I scattered the bricks across the table, the feeling of assembling this thing was awesome. I'd never felt that way before about Lego, BTR, or any building sets previously. It was very cool. Although I was having fun with it, all it took was one simple little thing to sell me on them completely. The laptop computer.
It was a tiny little detail. A simple pair of stickers, a couple of blocks, but building that and then mounting it in the checkpoint? Yeah, I loved it. That was such an awesome little detail, my mind immediately started racing about what other details might be included in other build sets. How would those others come together? And I could actually by a set that took me longer than 20 minutes to put together? It all kind of fell into place at that moment. As luck would have it, Toys "R" Us launched their Buy 1 get 1 50% off sale, and I went a bit hog wild. I bought a bunch of the mini figures, the VAMP/Serpent Armor, the Cobra Heavy Assault vehicle, the Battle Platform, and the Thunderwave Jet Boat. It all came crashing down around me.
My experience with the Checkpoint Alpha was very positive. Extremely easy to put together, and the instructions are great. All pieces stay together without issue, and I really like the little touches from the laptop computer to the G.I. Joe focused stickers. This set is extremly simple and straight forward, and as such there isn't a whole lot to talk about, but I found it to be a terrific beginner set (or gateway drug as I've been known to say) and I highly recommend folks who are on the fence pick this up and get their feet wet.
Of course one of the main attractions to these sets are the mini figures that come with them. On one hand I'm surprised Hasbro went so obscure right off the bat with Law & Order. On the other hand, it makes perfect sense to have the Military Policeman manning the checkpoint. It's tough to really review the mini figures just because they are all the same basic construction. Law's MP helmet is great, and I love their choice of expression on his face. The deco is fantastic, too, really resembling his classic look with simple and straight forward line patterns on the torso. I continually find myself shocked that these little figures can get so much character just by some line drawings in the right places.
Law comes with a helmet, pistol, shield, and his trusty dog, Order.
Along with Law & Order, Firefly makes an appearance here, all decked out in his classic and immortal urban camouflage uniform. One might be a little surprised that during a movie year, we're not getting any movie themed Kre-O sets, especially since characters from the film are so prevelant here. But I think for those vintage purists, this was the right choice. I know even though I'm not a vintage purist, I find myself a lot more attached to these mini figures when they look like characters I've known for 30 years.
Firefly has a great camouflage pattern and a trusty Cobra symbol on this shoulder. The crossed straps on his chest and the knit collar are the perfect way to express his classic uniform without going overboard. Sure, the back of the figure lacks many of the paint applications (other than his torso) but it still looks great.
Firefly comes with a backpack, dynamite, and a submachine gun, as well as a motorcycle you build, all of which are truly awesome. You can feel the movie elements here, as Firefly rides a motorcycle in the G.I. Joe: Retaliation film as well, but the vintage look totally wins the day.
As it stands, the Checkpoint is a very fun and action packed set for being such a decent price point. A pair of great mini figures, a motorcycle, and the checkpoint itself all come together to be a whole lot of fun to build, display, and play with. The infinite customizability of these things only adds to the value. If you don't like this checkpoint, you can tear it down and use the parts on your other sets. Or if you want to add elements to the checkpoint, it's easy to do that, too. As you can see, even the motorcycle has holes for add ons and extra pieces.
For those of us who never really experienced the joy of Lego or other building sets, the Kre-O stuff is like a whole other world opened up to us. The fact that its tied to G.I. Joe is terrific icing on the cake. I think it really speaks to the injinuity and coolness of this line when I've gone out and spent quite a bit of money on Battleship Kre-O sets simply to augment these G.I. Joe ones, and the first custom I've done in several years was a Lt. Stone in mini figure format.
With so much built-in fun and so much opportunity for enhancing and customizing, it's tough to find complaints about these sets. I'm sure Lego purists could mention the complexity (or lack thereof) or the injinuity of the builds, but as a building block newbie, it all was fantastic in my eyes.
I find myself really looking forward to what Hasbro brings us next with their G.I. Joe Kre-O line.