G.I. Joe Spy Troops Exclusives - Operation:Anaconda Convention Set (page 1)
Who would have thought? Probably about three to four years ago I sat in my small apartment and cursed Hasbro and the convention folks. Cursed them. But back then, the cursing wasn't about GI Joe, it was about Transformers. Beast Wars, to be exact. I used to be a rabid Beast Wars collector, snapping up every little figure I could find that proudly displayed that infamous logo. The very line that TF collectors around the world hated and despised was the pride of my too-small toy closet back then. Of course, GI Joe was somewhere in limbo between a fond memory and a glimmer in Hasbro's eye at that point. But it was the reason that I cursed Hasbro back then that makes this review so interesting...they had just announced their BotCon exlcusives. Figures that you could only get by actually going to the BotCon convention. I was ripped. There was no way feasible I was going to make it to the convention that year (or any year for that matter) and so, unless I wanted to cough up $50.00 for what should have been a $4.99 action figure, my complete collection of Beast Wars would remain forever ...incomplete. At that point my eyes opened, and I never again was as enamored with Transformers as I had been before that moment...the BotCon exclusive single handedly killed my interest in that line.
Fast forward several years and GI Joe was hitting the streets again. Hasbro was in the midst of a vicious controversy, but Joes were on the shelves and life was good...but then came the announcement. Convention Exclusives. NOOOOOO! At first I was worried, but that quickly passed when I discovered that I could buy the exclusive figures without going to the convention! I immediately plunked down my credit card number, faxed in my order form and was happy. I remained happy even when they announced that a special edition vehicle would be sold, but only at the Convention. It was a vehicle...big deal ...I wasn't a vehicle completist any way.
But that brings us to this year...at first I thought the only convention exclusive sold at the convention would again be a repaint vehicle...and I was partially correct. But only partially. It would seem that Hasbro and the GI Joe Collector's Club are going full bore into convention exclusives...but you know what? This time it doesn't bother me. This time I finally understand what I couldn't understand almost five years ago. Without these exclusives, these conventions may very well not survive. They need these exclusives to draw fans, who spend money at the dealer tables, which in turn encourages dealers to buy tables next year, which provides income to the Collector's Club and so on and so forth. If these conventions are to continue, then these things are necessary...some people don't like it, but then again, there are a lot of people out there who don't like much. Personally, I've gotten over my distaste for con exclusives, and even if I wasn't able to attend the convention(s) I would accept the larger cash I'd have to spend and realize that these exclusives are part of what make the hobby so enjoyable.
So now that all that garbage is out of the way, and now that I've had about a week to fool with this set, what do I think of it? Anyone who knows me probably knows my answer. I think it's pretty darn neat.
Obscurity is my middle name. The more obscure the figure is, the more I like it. The more flexibility it gives me to shape a personality, to warp a history, or to create an entire character. The 90's to me were a wonderful wide open blank slate of Joe characters just waiting to have life breathed into them...mix that with an awesome sense of color and design, and the 90's become, to me, a second hay day of my favorite action figure. So me being the obscurity lover that I am, as this set shaped up, I became happier and happier. The sounds of the set was pretty cool to begin with...two separate factions of COBRA joining together while a small team of Joes moved in to intercept. There were rumors of Mega-Viper molds being used as well as other, even more strange parts, shrouded in mystery. I lived for this stuff and loved every minute of it! Even as I hold the set I'm loving it ...maybe a little too much, since I went kind of picture happy. Because there are so many large pictures, the review will be divided up into multiple parts, just so those poor souls on dial up (like me!) can load pages faster. But lets begin, with the good guys first:
All right, we'll start out with the antithesis of 90's obscurity...Lady Jaye. She's so non-obscure that it isn't even funny, and this figure mold is slightly dated compared to the newer figures (females especially). I've made no secret that Lady Jaye is a little too established for my desires, and in fact, she is currently deceased in my Joe universe. That's not because I don't like her, quite the opposite. I think she's one of the strongest female leads the Joe universe had, but in order to explore Flint's character to the extent that I wanted to, a sacrifice had to be made. But back to the figure..
She retains her 1985 mold that made her so popular, even though this mold is completely different from how she was known in both the cartoon and the comic. I've wished for a long time for a Lady Jaye with no hat, just or consistencies sake, but have not had any luck so far. This mold is plain and really not that interesting to me, with the bare bones of detailing and not much pizzazz. Her wrists are extremely thin and almost flimsy, although thanks to the newer softer forearm plastic, they bend but don't break. This new jungle camouflage pattern is fair, but not terrific, and Lady Jaye just does not really impress me...couple that with the fact that I killed her off in my history, and this figure will get zero use from me. Sorry, Jaye, color me unimpressed.
But all is not quite lost on the good guy front ...although it ain't great either..
Next up is Lt. Falcon, the infamous green beret from GI Joe: The Movie and DIC cartoon fame. This slacking half brother of Duke is one of the major reasons I do not use the cartoon as a continuity for my Joeverse, simply because I like Falcon so much and cannot bring myself to make him a "gold-plated goof off".
Falcon's mold was one of the highlights of the sometimes strange 1987 series. The year that brought us the likes of Crystal Ball, Big Boa and Cobra La also put out some great stuff, and Falcon was among the best. But it would be hard to improve on the original. When it comes right down to it, this version really did not improve on it, but it's not really a bad figure.
Like the Lady Jaye, the brown beach/jungle camo scheme is a little strange and doesn't really work for me. It's an interesting pattern but the colors are kind of dull. Another place that the figure doesn't really shine is in the legs. Apparently the GI Joe Collector's Club was unable to locate the mold for Falcon's legs, so they did what they could and ended up giving him the legs from the 1982-83 series of Joe figures. It's not horrible, but those first figures were a lot skinnier than the later ones, so the parts don't mesh as well as they could ...still, though, the legs don't really look that bad, and don't take away too much from the figure. All together, this Falcon figure is a solid figure ...decent mold ...color scheme is okay...but it doesn't really make a huge impact. It's not a figure I really see myself using besides displaying with this set...but that's okay, because the real highlights of this year's set are the COBRA's, but we'll talk about them a little later.
Before we move onto the bad guy side of things, we have one more figure to cover. This figure was one of the things about this year's set that was a highlight for me. Keeping us guessing about the character and portraying him as some kind of mystery person was an awesome touch by the Collector's Club and something that really drew a lot of attention to the set. Surprising us with an obscure figure and character like Major Storm was really, really cool, and something that I enjoyed immensely and I'm sure other Joefans enjoyed it as well.
That being said, how does the figure match up with the hype? Well, it does the best it can.
Major Storm was never a figure or character that really appealed to me as a kid. He was a hand me down figure from a friend of mine, and I'd never even owned the General until last year, but this new personality that they gave him through the Collector's Club really made him shine a little bit in my eyes, and I may have to include him within my GI Joe hierarchy at some point. If I do include him, this is the figure that I will use to do it.
I'd never sat down and taken a close look at Major Storm's mold until I'd heard his name announced as the mystery figure, but when I did stop and look, I was pretty impressed. Yet another figure not given the due it deserves that Hasbro put out in the 90's and somehow missed everyone's radar. The mold is simple ad straight forward, with a coat pulled together in the front, covering a dress shirt, with a walkie talkie sown into the front pocket. There are little pouches here and there which add something to the figure, and for whatever reason I really like the way his pants are designed. It's a wonderfully simple figure that dds a nice impact, but doesn't take away too much with overabundant details. The colors on this figure are nice, too, and mesh right in with the other Joes in the set. The brown shaded camouflage, while not tiger striped, looks okay (or about as nice as it looks on the other figures....) and I like that his pattern is different. It shows that he's the man in charge. His pants are not camouflaged at all, but are a nice olive drab green and the color scheme really all comes together nicely. While his accessories are odd colors, I really like that helmet and I think it tops off the figure nicely. All in all, Major Storm is a decent figure, although I think I like him more for the fact that he opened my eyes to another obscure 90's mold. He represents GI Joe well here and I expect him to become a solid part of my Joeverse very soon.
But who are we kidding here? The main draw of this set is not the three Joes that come with it...that much is a certainty. While the three figures add a little flair to the set, the major selling point here is the COBRA team members, and it is the COBRA side of things that really makes this set great.
But as cool as the COBRA set is, it starts off a little shaky. The first figure is the Operation: Anaconda COBRA Commander. To say this mold of CC is overused would be a more than mild understatement as the mold was first used in 1992, and has been seen 4 separate times since then. At least the mold is a good one, by far my favorite rendition of the Real American Hero COBRA Commander. His hood is sculpted nicely and he looks pleasantly regal. Still, I've based my love on this set around figures and characters who are not mainstream, and this figure fails in a big way with both of those statements. That's not to say that the figure is a bad one, it really isn't, but I like this convention set because it gives me things that I can't find elsewhere...this figure was done, and done much better, with the Real American Hero collection in 2000.
The color scheme is also a little strange, although somewhat appealing. It's been long believed that COBRA's official color scheme was blue and red, and that matches here, only this blue and red are a little on the bright side. Also the parts of his uniform that are red don't really seem like they should be red. But overall, this version of the venerable COBRA leader is interesting, if not wholly functional, and it's nice that he finally comes with his trademark cape that's been absent since the figure's inception back in 1982.
So this COBRA Commander isn't exactly terrific...but thankfully this is the last mixed review that I have with this set...the rest of the figures pass muster with flying colors ...enough to completely overshadow any figure I've touched on before.
Way back when, I used to do profiles of older figures as well as reviews of the new stuff as it came out. Back a while ago I did an entire review based on the Mega Marines line and lamented that had the Mega Viper been produced in better colors, it would have been one of the more desired of the COBRA Troopers. Well, it took over ten years, and he's included in a higher tier convention set, but I firmly stand by my earlier opinion. This figure, garbed in light gray, a deep dark blue, and nice red trim, simply ROCKS. That bulkier early 90's mold style, the super cool futuristic detaling...that very interesting quilted uniform pattern...it all comes together to produce a terrific looking COBRA Trooper, and has all of the properties of what I think makes GI Joe the best toy line out there now, as well as 20 years ago.
This figure looks large and imposing; his silver facemask looks terrific, far better here than it did in pink and yellow. The slightly armored look also adds some great flair to the mold, making him even tougher looking and more imposing than he would otherwise.
But all of this wouldn't matter if the colors weren't so sharp. After all, this same mold never escaped obscurity back in the 90's because of the absolutely blinding color scheme that the figure was made in back then. No, instead of the yellow uniform, we have a really great light shade of gray, very pleasing to the eye, yet different enough to be interesting. I still think the colors aren't quite dramatic enough to make this figure as mainstream as it could be ...imagine it if all of the gray were a deep, dark blue, and all of the blue sections were an equally dark red...the pouches on the chest silver and brown. Packaged in a two-pack, this figure would fly off of the shelves, yet until then I'll be pleased to know that this great character and figure are available in limited quantities, but I have enough of them to do what I want. In my world, the Swamp Vipers will work as security for COBRA's stronghold, and I can guarantee that they will be seen in my next dio-story and will be alongside the return of an old classic character favorite of mine long since believed dead.
Yet as cool as the Swamp Viper is, it still doesn't compare to the main draw for me to this year's convention set. The infamous Black Dragon Leader.
I was one of the few who liked part of what Ninja Force brought to the table. The colors were awful, and when they sacrificed poseability for spring loaded gimmicks, I was very annoyed. Yet there were a few figures in there that were really pretty neat. Dojo, Slice and Nunchuk really impressed me as Ninja Force figures, even though their colors were a little on the bright side. When I learned that Black Dragon Leader might possibly be made from Dojo's mold, I was very pleased! When the pictures finally surfaced, I remained pleased, especially upon reading the file cards. The Black Dragon organization seems really, REALLY cool, and I fully plan on utilizing them as much as I possibly can in GI Joe universe. As it turns out, the figure itself ended up far surpassing my hopes as well.
The mold, as I mentioned, is from Dojo, one of my favorite Ninja Force figures. It is sleek, but not skimpy and has lots of great detailing, that aren't necessarily limited to Ninjas. Which is good, because Black Dragon Leader's file card goes to great lengths to make sure that the reader understands that he is NOT a ninja, which is great news for me as well as a lot of other fans out there who got a little sick with the ninja action way back when. Using the Mortal Kombat Sub Zero's head was a work of art as well, and I really hope the GI Joe Collector's Club (and Hasbro for that matter) look into using some of the other obscure heads out there to create these new characters. This head and torso blend so perfectly together and really work to create a whole new character and affiliation that really works for me and that I fully plan to use and incorporate. But, the figure mold, unfortunately is not perfect. Because they used the Ninja Force mold, those pesky torso tabs are still firmly in place, for what reason I'm not sure. But believe it or not, the first thing I did when I got this figure out of the package was to dremel off those little annoyances, so now he has full range of motion again (except for the spring-loaded arm). I am so enamored with this new character that I created a whole new custom figure to represent him when he's out of uniform. I'm not quite certain how exactly I'm going to work his whole organization into my dio's , but rest assured, I will.
But what would the Black Dragon Leader be without some sort of troops to...well...lead? So here comes the Black Dragon Trooper. Based off of the little seen Ferret mold, this figure really looks sharp, especially when bunched together with their esteemed Leader. The blue and black and gold paint scheme really blends together perfectly and even the yellow on the Leader seems to fit into place. This figure uses the Ferret's head, torso, waist and arms, although uses someone else's legs ...whose legs they are I haven't been able to tell yet.
Regardless, the mold is nice and obscure, like I like it, and the colors are interesting and varied, again something I really like in a Joe figure. His blue facemask, gold helmet and blue/black uniform really blend together perfectly and match not only Black Dragon Leader, but also matches the rest of the COBRA team and the exclusive vehicles as well.
I find that even though this mold was originally used for the Iron Grenadier subset, it still works perfectly for it's purpose here, as armor COBRA Commander has given Black Dragon so that they can follow COBRA's whim and do their dirty work.
This figure is just another in the line of COBRA figures that really make this set great. The Joes were somewhat hit or miss ...COBRA Commander was nice, but not amazing, but the Black Dragon team and the Swamp Vipers really make this set explode and make it more than worth owning. Five Swamp Vipers, the five Black Dragon Troopers and the Black Dragon Leader are alone worth the price of admission, but add the interesting Joes in there...the three vehicles, and the incredible Air-Viper, and you've definitely got another winner of a convention set on your hands.
But the review's not done yet ...I've broken up into a few different pages to save some time on page loading for folks on dial up, so please, proceed to page two.
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