As I mentioned in my review for the Cobra Scythe, there isn’t necessarily anything new or revolutionary about certain vehicles changing sides, but the way Hasbro has explored it with this year’s extension of the 50th Anniversary line is certainly different than they’ve approached it before.
Hasbro designers and story tellers have apparently built this year’s theme around capturing vehicles, and with the CHIMERA, G.I. Joe may have had their largest coup yet as they take control of Cobra’s trademark HISS Tank, repurposing it as the CHIMERA. According to the Hasbro presentation at JoeCon, CHIMERA stands for C.aptured H.ISS I.ntegrated M.obile E.nergy R.ail Gun A.dvanced. I like that they’re working towards anagrams again, that’s pretty neat.
As I mentioned in the Crimson Scythe review, we start off with some spectacular box art, which really helps showcase both toys as well as bring a striking new look to the way these toys are marketed. It’s very collector oriented and exceptionally well done, and really starts this set off on the right foot.
G.I. JOE CHIMERA
Looking at the CHIMERA, I will admit it’s tough to get excited about a lot of the vehicle, simply because we’ve had the HISS and variations of that vehicle around for 30 years. That being said, Hasbro went through the trouble of tooling up new twin cannons for it (the aforementioned Rail Guns) and the results are pretty cool. Hasbro has experimented with other turrets for the HISS Tank in the past, using quad rocket launchers, four-barrel laser guns, and a single large tank barrel, but they’ve only had very mixed success. The CHIMERA actually does a great job of updating the twin cannon look for the HISS, bringing something new to the table, while still referencing the classic look and succeeding quite nicely.
Like the HISS we all know and love, the CHIMERA has sloped armor and a sleek design, preferring speed and maneuverability over sheer firepower. Remember, the HISS has always been the HIGH SPEED SENTRY, meaning a vehicle that’s designed for quickness and not to necessarily be the armored backbone of the Cobra (or G.I. Joe) fleet. The green color of the HISS is a nice color shade, somewhat generic, but in fitting with the two figures that come with it, not to mention many of the other early G.I. Joe releases.
Where this vehicle shines, however, is the new Rail Guns. Rather than two somewhat narrow round barrels, the guns here are larger and rectangular with lots of great intricate detail work, and small extending barrels. They give off a sense of power and manage to take the existing HISS double cannon platform and make it functional with more modern technology. It’s a great look.
I will say I had some trouble getting the canopy to stay latched, even without a figure inside, but that could be a one off issue with my CHIMERA, and not something that’s consistent across other releases.
Overall, the CHIMERA is nice. It’s an appealing looking vehicle with the green colors and the upgraded cannons, even if, at its core, its the same thing we’ve seen a dozen times before.
When G.I. Joe captures a tank, it makes sense for them to have a tank driver, right? Steeler fits the bill nicely.
Offsetting the great color scheme of the CHIMERA, Hasbro elects to go back to the early days to bring Steeler and Grunt back to the G.I. Joe fold. Steeler is a modern retelling of the classic figure, feeling somewhat Pursuit of Cobra/Resolute like. He has the same head sculpt he’s had since the 25th Anniversary and the Ultimate Firefly torso, which I’m always a fan of. In fact, his parts are all relatively modern, even up to and including the Retaliation Roadblock legs. These legs give Steeler a taller stature, which is good, because he’s supposed to be one of the largest and strongest Joe characters, especially from those early days. Unfortunately those Roadblock legs do not have ankle swivels or double knees, so there’s some articulation limitation there.
In spite of the parts coming from somewhat different body types, the figure stands and moves well, though the plastic continues to feel somewhat light and cheap in comparison to past releases. At this point it’s likely something we just need to get accustomed to, and as long as it does not impact the functionality and play value of the figure, I’m okay with it. In Steeler’s case, he appears to stand and move just fine, though his hips are a tad on the loose side.
Honestly, I’m a little surprised at how much I enjoy this figure. His mix of green and gray colors is balanced really nicely, and even without any webgear, his tall stature and new build does wonders to separate him a bit as a character. The more I fool with Steeler, the more I start appreciating how simple, straight forward, but fun the figure is.
The G.I. Joe tank driver comes with his familiar helmet and visor as well as the G.I. Joe: Resolute Beachhead vest, which is a neat touch. I’m always a fan of that vest, and it does call back a bit to the Pursuit of Cobra, which featured some very similar looks. Many of those PoC driver figures were released in somewhat monotone green uniforms with new webgear, and I like that look for some reason. Steeler fits in with characters like Kickstart and Double Clutch pretty well, and any way I can find to fill in my Pursuit of Cobra display, I’ll jump at the chance,
Along with the helmet and webgear, he comes with some firearms as well, including a pistol and basic machine gun. I like both weapons quite a bit, he holds them both well, and even when not surrounded by the CHIMERA, I find Steeler to be a really enjoyable new take on the old school character.
I’m afraid this figure review may end up sounding an awful lot like Steelers, because I feel much the same way about Grunt as I do his tank driver partner.
One thing Hasbro really put a focus on at the JoeCon presentation was that they wanted to address the issues with the HISS (and thus the CHIMERA) that they always came with a driver, but no gunner. Well, Hasbro has resolved that here by including Grunt as the CHIMERA gunner, which actually makes a lot of sense. In the 80s mythology, Grunt was an electrical engineer as well as G.I. Joe’s top Infantry specialist, so when you’re talking about next generation technology like a Rail Gun, it makes some sense to get an engineer behind the controls.
Like Steeler, Grunt is made up from existing parts, all relatively later generation. He has the always huge Resolute Duke legs, which helps bring him into the Pursuit of Cobra roster like I mentioned before. I’m not a huge fan of the legs as time has gone on, and the softer plastic means Grunt’s hips are actually really loose. Seriously, my Grunt even has some issues just maintaining a normal standing pose.
Beyond the legs, though, the torso and arms are pretty standard choices but work nicely. Like Steeler, I really love the green and gray base colors throughout the figure, I find the hue really appealing, and they are offset nicely by the black webgear. Without any of his gear, Grunt is actually a great basic figure, just like Steeler, a fact that truly surprised me once I got him in hand.
Grunt has a great helmet with flip-down night vision goggles, perfect for an Infantry specialist, as well as an excellent machine gun and pistol. He comes with the MARS Trooper’s webgear, which is unfortunate, as it’s some of my least favorite webgear since 2009. The way the straps space out and the funky pouches on one side just doesn’t look good, and this great basic figure deserves better. Thankfully, I have plenty of alternate pieces of black webgear I can try out until I find one I like.
Grunt uses a similar formula as Steeler, but is a bit less successful, mostly due to those too wide, somewhat bland G.I. Joe: Resolute legs that don’t jive real well with the rest of this figure, or other figures as a whole. The loose hips don’t help a whole lot either. Beyond that, though, Grunt is a pretty fun update with some interesting, if somewhat formulaic traits.
Okay, consider me surprised.
I’m not afraid to say I was a bit underwhelmed with the product showing from Hasbro, but my first in hand experience has been a good one. The CHIMERA is a small, but very fun little vehicle, and the two G.I. Joe figures have impressed me in spite of their somewhat soft plastic and generic paint deco’s. As a package, when you consider the excellent painted mural packaging, this is a really nice combined set. I’m not sure I’ll end up liking it as much as the other set, but it’s still provided some real fun during this review. I’m sure some of that is due to the fact that it’s the first retail Joe product I’ve gotten my hands on in 2015, and also because there are actually some new concepts in here rather than vintage rehashes. Whatever the reason, I was expecting ho hum, and I ended up pretty darn happy, I have to admit.
ComicCon Chimera w/ Steeler & Grunt
Vehicle Paint Deco
Vehicle Play Features
Steeler Paint Deco
Grunt Paint Deco
A fun twist on the G.I. Joe and Cobra conflict with a G.I. Joe themed HISS Tank called the CHIMERA with a newly tooled rail gun turret! Steeler and Grunt are both cobbled together from existing parts, but are effectively built (aside from Grunt’s legs) and I really enjoy the simple green/gray/black deco.
Good repaints of original 13 characters and while the version 1 HISS mold is a bit tired at this point, the new turret adds some fun spark.
If there’s anything I’ve written about time and time again over the past couple of years it’s that I’m ready for something new. Getting new versions of old figures has its appeal for a certain time, but I feel like that time is kind of growing thin and we need to look towards the future for the viability of the G.I. Joe brand.
With that in mind, this latest iteration of the G.I. Joe: 50th Anniversary line (yes, this qualifies as a continuation of that line, just like the 25th Anniversary line lasted 2.5 years back in the day) injects a small element of newness into a lot of the same old formula. The Crimson Strike set especially seems to follow that design.
First and foremost, the packaging is pretty fantastic. A bullet hole ridden slip cover slides off to reveal one of the nicest pieces of G.I. Joe related art that I’ve seen in a very long time. It perfectly captures the look and energy of the toys inside, but manages to be an appealing piece of art all at the same time. A truly great work by Hasbro and whatever artist they commissioned to do this work.
Once you get inside, you see what Hasbro was talking about when they mentioned a “twist” to the G.I. Joe philosophy, taking captured vehicles and spinning them to the opposite side. Some would argue that this isn’t much of a twist, especially when looking at Tiger Force back in the 80s, and Sky Patrol in the 90s, both of which had that element to them. That being said, the opposite side vehicles have their own appeal beyond just being swapped around.
It’s hard to remember a time when the Skystriker was the “be all end all” of G.I. Joe vehicles. The only one I had as a kid was a used and abused ’83 original that I had traded a friend of mine for. It was missing both seats and half the missiles, and the stickers were worn and frayed, but I loved it and played with it endlessly. As I reached adulthood one of the first “major” purchases I made from the secondary market was a Skystriker complete with box, for a whopping $30. Now, over the past few years, we’ve received several different Skystrikers, and the appeal has quickly diminished. In fact, from San Diego ComicCon exclusives alone, this is the third Skystriker since Starscream was initially sold in 2011. That being said, even when a vehicle gets repurposed so many times over a certain period of time there are ways to make it desirable. I won’t say making the Skystriker a Cobra vehicle makes it desirable, but giving it a striking new paint scheme certainly helps.
The Scythe is an electric looking red and silver assault plane that simply looks terrific. The colors are vibrant and exciting, not just in their tone, but also in the snake-themed shape over the surface of the aircraft. It really stands out, and when you’re releasing a vehicle for the fifth time, that’s important. The Scythe succeeds there.
At its core, the vehicle is simply another Skystriker. Unlike the ComicCon Jetfire there are no real added parts or pieces to spark desire, it has all the same tooling as the regular release, but the paint scheme brings it to another great level.
Supplementing a great selection of colors is an array of magnificent decals, which are somewhat imposing upon first glance, but add some life to the vehicle as well, giving the Cobra aircraft a real sense of personality. Decks of cards, snake themed logos, and other trappings take this from being a generic Skystriker repaint to being something pretty new and unique. That being said, I did struggle with some of the decal placement. I’m far from a “sticker master” anyway, and I found a few of the stickers to be confusing and a hassle to try and place.
Along with some sticker confusion, I’ve also had some real struggles with the canopy. On both the CHIMERA and the Scythe it almost feels like the tab isn’t quite big enough to catch on the body, and thus it leaves the canopy floating around a bit, and not able to latch closed, even with nobody inside. I’ve asked a few other folks who have these sets already, and nobody else has complained about it, so perhaps it’s just mine, but I figured it was worth a mention.
I think many folks will see this Skystriker and immediately associate it with the Crimson Guard. I think that’s certainly the intent. I’m not ready to do that myself. Even now with the rampant crimson themed repaints, I still hold true to the Crimson Guard being a small, select, elite unit, and I have a hard time wrapping my head around that unit having tanks and attack planes. For that reason, I’m not sure exactly where this fits. I kind of find some separation in my G.I. Joe world between “Crimson Guard” and “Crimson Strike” and I think I can find a way to fit this into the “Crimson Strike” category without putting it in the armory of the true Crimson Guard. I have no idea if that makes any sense.
At the end of the day, yes this is another Skystriker and it’s tough to rationalize that, but the paint scheme is exceptionally well done and quite striking, which definitely helps.
The Air Viper Assault Corps figure was one of my all time favorite vintage figures, and for that reason, the 25th Anniversary one has always torqued me off. They took a figure that I consider the highlight of the ’86 run and made him a mish mash of Zartan and HISS Driver, and…well… ick.
I can appreciate what Hasbro is trying to do with bringing the AVAC into this updated series, and as a pilot for the Scythe it makes sense. The part selection is an interesting amalgamation of Crimson Guard and the 25th Anniversary AVAC, and while the build looks great, it doesn’t function especially well. The older 25th Anniversary parts stand out amongst a group of more modern assembled figures, and while I think the dress uniform aspect of the character is interesting, he’s overly slender and not really exciting.
There is some aesthetic appeal. His black base color with red trim is cool enough, and he certainly has the look of a regal air corps officer. I could see this AVAC leading other AVAC’s, perhaps as Wild Weasel’s squadron commanders. His legs don’t move all that well with these convoluted parts, so don’t be hoping for a real flexible figure.
The Cobra AVAC doesn’t come with much, simply a pair of machine guns and his familiar knife, which are pretty neat weapons, but nothing overly new or interesting or key to his character.
If you haven’t figured it out simply by reading my review, my feelings on this guy are extremely mixed. He’s a figure that if I catch out of the corner of my eye, I decide I really love him, but then I take a closer look and scrutiny reveals a litany of flaws. Granted, he spends most of his time in the cockpit of the Scythe, but I would have loved his functionality to have matched his appearance.
ALLEY VIPER OFFICER
I don’t recall asking for another Alley-Viper, especially after we received so many in such a short period of time, and I can’t quite fathom how this figure fits into the theme of this pitched air battle in the jungle. All that being said, the Alley-Viper build formula has been one of my favorites over the years, and they didn’t mess with perfection here, bringing forward all the fun qualities of the other modern renditions of the Cobra urban troopers.
He has the exact same parts as the latest Alley-Viper, which was released with the G.I. Joe: Retaliation line. That figure was mostly the same build as previous iterations, only with the armored torso of Retaliation Duke and Flint with the jungle Duke web gear over it. That holds true here.
So with a fun build, it’s tough to complain a whole lot about this figure. Even with no new parts, he’s well articulated and relatively well detailed, nice sculpting evident from the later years of the 25th Anniversary line.
Where the figure excels, though, is the paint scheme. It seems as if Hasbro took the orange that made Alley-Viper what he was and reversed it, using orange as the trim with black as the main colors. Its works surprisingly well and in person much less resembles a “Halloween Viper” than I thought it might. It’s a nice pattern of camouflage, and even though I’m not sure where this Alley-Viper Officer fits between this Jet/Tank battle, he’s a neat figure that I enjoy, and it’s kind of a shame he’s only available through a limited SDCC release.
The figure comes with much of the gear you’d expect, with the Jungle Duke web gear with removable machete, machine guns, forearm knife, helmet w/ visor, and the familiar Alley Viper shield. It’s all there and in some pretty intriguing paint schemes. I think you’ll find that this release “borrows” quite a bit from the Retaliation Alley-Viper (as far as paint masks go) but flips the color scheme a bit to make the overall look a lot darker and more true to an urban setting. They all work really nicely and compliment this figure terrifically.
Alley-Viper Officer ends up being more interesting and more fun than I originally thought he might. It’s the same pretty good build as the Retaliation version with a much more intriguing paint scheme to go with it. It’s a shame army building him will be so difficult, but I suppose if you treat him as an Alley-Viper commander of sorts, it won’t be so bad.
I’m generally a big fan of the bad guys, but in the case of the Crimson Strike set, I find myself enjoying the G.I. Joe side a bit more. I like the Alley-Viper Officer and the color deco on the Cobra Scythe is a very nice surprise, but AVAC isn’t terrific, and the theme of this side of things doesn’t jive quite as well as the G.I. Joe figures and vehicle. There’s terrific presentation here, and it’s always cool to see some new elements, but the Cobra end of the ComicCon Crimson Strike set leaves just a little bit to be desired.
ComicCon Cobra Scythe w/ AVAC and Alley-Viper
Vehicle Paint Deco
Vehicle Play Features
AVAC Paint Deco
Alley Viper Officer Character
Alley Viper Officer Sculpt
Alley Viper Officer Articulation
Alley Viper Officer Paint Deco
Alley Viper Officer Accessories
Yes, this is the fifth or sixth Skystriker we’ve seen in the past five years, but it’s tough to argue with the gorgeous new Cobra crimson themed paint deco and striking snake-like pattern on the top of the plane. Exciting new call signs and a vibrant new look certainly helps give new life to the old girl. AVAC is an interesting new figure that looks pretty great, but has limited functionality with some older parts and somewhat restricted articulation.
Alley-Viper Officer is a pretty good figure, but doesn’t fit all that well with the theme of the set and is essentially a repaint of its Retaliation predecessor.
Today in conjunction with San Diego ComicCon, IDW Publishing has announced the latest big event for the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero universe. This October begins the COBRA WORLD ORDER!
The COBRA WORLD ORDER
Starts This October For
G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero
The Master Plan Is Set
San Diego, CA (July 11, 2015) – This October, it’s zero hour for A Real American Hero! G.I. JOE has been fighting the evil forces of COBRA for decades, but now COBRA is ready to unleash its master plan on an unsuspecting G.I. JOE!
Written by the man who started it all, G.I. JOE comics legend Larry Hama, this table-setter leads into a mammoth 8-part bi-weekly event, kicking off with G.I. JOE: ARAH #219 and #220! Art duties for this arc will be in the very capable hands of S.L. Gallant who has become a fan-favorite for his attention to detail and accurate portrayals of classic G.I. JOE vehicles and characters.
“What we have seen of Cobra’s plans in G.I. JOE: ARAH to date is just the tip of the iceberg,” said series writer, Hama. “Other players in the Cobra periphery—like Destro and Zartan—are making their moves so as to be in on whatever benefits accrue from Cobra Commander’s master plot. Meanwhile, Hawk leads an international team around the globe to uncover the details of this sinister conspiracy.”
The Prelude issue will boast covers by some of the hottest artists working in the industry today; with Paul Popeleading the charge on the standard cover and variant covers by Francesco Francavilla and Phil Jimenez. And it doesn’t end there; this issue is also part of IDW’s celebrated Artist’s Edition Month with a variant by Stephen Mooney as well as a Blank Sketch variant.
Whether you are a longtime fan or new to this world, G.I. JOE: A Real American Hero: COBRA WORLD ORDER Prelude is the prefect jumping on point for all.
“After the Death of Snake Eyes, I didn’t think Larry would come up with something that could top a story like that… but the more we talked about COBRA WORLD ORDER and the more details he gave me about COBRA’s momentous scheme, the more I saw this as a perfect event: something accessible to new readers that still pays off years of worldbuilding and storytelling in G.I. JOE: ARAH. Fans—new and old alike—are gonna be blown away!” said IDW editor, Carlos Guzman.
The 8-part COBRA WORLD ORDER starts here and will continue in the following months’ now bi-weekly G.I. JOE: ARAH! Don’t miss it!