Plague Troopers Vs. Steel Brigade - Page Two

Toy name: Plague Troopers Vs. Steel Brigade
Assortment: N/A
Price: MSRP $24.99
Availability: October, 2006 - Toys "R" Us/Direct To Consumer Exclusive

For everything I really love about the Plague concept, there are things I just cannot stand about the original Steel Brigade concept itself. As a younger kid, the idea of making yourself a member of the Joe team was a very cool one, and one I definitely did partake in. But since that point, the Steel Brigade has kind of taken on it's own moniker as the G.I. Joe "Training Devision" and I really don't like that idea. The concept that untrained soldiers would partake in missions with the Joe team, or that these "Greenshirts" would number in the hundreds and just run around with the expertly trained warriors is just an idea I can NOT get behind. Not to mention the fact that the original Steel Brigade figure was just plain uuuuuugly. It came out in '87, a time when Joe figures were getting thicker body molds, more defined sculpts, and more details, and he came in the mail, and instantly looked out of place. Less articulation, an almost rediculously useless headsculpt, and his mold itself was bland beyond belief. Up until 2005, there was no place for Steel Brigade in my universe. None.

Then, thankfully, the Collectors' Club intervened...and they turned the Steel Brigade into an International Security Task Force. An organization designed as support troops around the world, who were highly trained and deadly soldiers. Finally! The Steel Brigade had a purpose, and I immediately rethought the entire methodology of the Steel Brigade itself.

To me now, the Steel Brigade is a top secret international task force with liasons to pretty much every government entity in the world. Their troopers are taken from special forces worldwide, and highly trained in the art of diplomacy, but are also highly skilled warriors. Steel Brigade members usually serve as members of each countries special forces as well as serving in the Steel Brigade team. The United States has their own group of soldiers...Gung Ho as well as these three. Being American, these three teammembers are seen kind of as the "cowboys" of the bunch, and they're only too happy to play the part. They skirt the rules, cut corners to get the job done, and are generally obnoxious to some of the other more disciplined troops. But when the chips are down, there are no three Special Forces troops you'd rather have on your side than these three. They know when to get serious, and when they do get serious, they waste no time getting the job done.

The Steel Brigade:

It's not often that given the choice between two sides, COBRA or G.I. Joe, that I will choose the good guys. To me, the bad guys just have more flair to their design, a more exciting history, and a better look. That is not the case in this particular set. While I like the concept of the Plague, from a pure toy standpoint, the Steel Brigade half is much more successful from pretty much every angle.

Two of them, Rook and Checkpoint, are very similar, so I'll cover them together:

The left hand picture above is "Rook" while the figure on the right is "Checkpoint", and from a figure point of view, they're pretty much interchangable, both using the new sculpt Grunt/Salvo molds, and from an appearance standpoint it works very well. It's a very basic mold, with a pretty basic loose-fitting t-shirt and khaki pants. The shirt has some nice little details on the shoulder plate and sleeves, but that detail is mostly masked here by the blue paint apps that just go over the little trimming here and there. They've each got your standard black belts with silver buckles, green kneepads, and black boots.

It's a look that is really nothing flashy, but it doesn't need to be. I don't see this guys as really straight-laced military, so the casual attire kind of works. I do have some minor gripes about the mold, but they are minor. For whatever reason, the hip joints and o-ring seem overly tight, and it's tough to get their legs into realistic poses. It's not impossible, and the molds are better than their Plague counterparts, but there are still some little things about the sculpt that bug me a bit.

The paint works to a certain extent, really blending them in with the classic mail away Steel Brigade figure. Personally I prefer the Collectors' Club gray camouflage paint scheme, but I can't blame Hasbro for going this route, as it involves less paint apps and I think their overall goal was to make these figures work within their own Steel Brigade motif.

Even though the two figures look pretty interchangable, I do have to give some props to the filecards, which do a good job establishing some character traits for these two. Rook, a "Lie Detector" and interrogation specialist is a pretty neat character and fills a hole that the Joes have had vacant. Checkpoint is a Military Policeman, which isn't necessarily a vacancy, but I'd think they would need more than just Law policing all of the rowdy Joes on base. He works in that regard. So ultimately, these two characters have a nice background, a neat generic appearence, and are all around decent general figures...and that's without their accessories.

Once these boys gear up, it's all business. Whatever possible shortcomings there might be with some of these figures, the absolutely incredible accessories included (at least for the Steel Brigade guys) makes up for it. Both Rook and Checkpoint come with very nicely detailed vests absolutely LOADED with pouches, straps, and other trimming. These built-in packs are fantastically designed, clip tight and stay fastened around them, and really add a cool element to the figures. You can really see them lounging at base in one minute, and the next minute be loaded up with these bullet-stoppers and knocking some doors down.

Aside from the vests you have some really awesome helmets, too. These helmets are strongly based in reality, yet are awesome homages to the classic Steel Brigade look (while avoiding that rediculous size 12 head aspect). As my bud Fred already noted in his awesome review, the Steel Brigade helmets are sculpted to match the new Objective Force Warrior Project design, and it is little details like this that really make some of these toys cool. I gotta thank Fred for passing on that info as well...loved reading about that.

Not only do these guys come with a great helmet and vest, but they also each come with their own weapons. Checkpoint has Salvo's missile launcher, which honestly I'm a little confused about. I mean, he is an MP...I'm not sure why he needs to tote around a tank-smasher, and it's probably my least favorite accessory in the set. He does also come with a cool nightstick, though. Rook, on the other hand, comes with an absolutely fantastic shotgun that is two-toned! Hasbro hasn't really gotten into using multiple colors for their accessories in the past, but this set has multiple accessories colored with two separate hues, and that's a very cool little touch. Along with his great shotgun, Rook also comes with the M-16/203 that Valor Vs. Venom Duke came with. Yeah, the one with the removable silencer, stock, grenade launcher, etc... it's really an amazing weapon. It's a pair of amazing weapons and Rook comes stacked.

Soup to nuts, both of these figures are remarkably similar, yet from a character standpoint they have their own positives. I kind of like the fact that they're dressed similarly, and they match the original Steel Brigade figure color-for-color.

Now we cover Red Zone...

I have to say, without a shadow of a doubt that his head sculpt is quite simply the goofiest looking headsculpt I've ever seen. It looks like poor Red Zone fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, then landed on the ugly rock on the ground. Yikes. Personally, I'd use this guy without his helmet, because he'd probably scare every COBRA trooper into surrendering!

Still there?

Yeah, I'm kidding...I'm just bitterly jealous that ole Luke got an actual figure made after him, and I act out that jealousy with pathetic little jokes and snipes at his expense...I'm a small, pitiful little man...

All joking aside, I saved this figure for last simply because this figure is definitely the star of the set (and that's not just cause you're my bud, Luke!). First of all, everyone was waiting to see when Luke Ellison (famous for winning the FHM contest allowing himself to be scanned and made into a G.I. Joe figure) would actually end up in plastic form. Well, the time has come, and ole Luke should be happy because his figure just happens to be the most kick ass figure in this six-pack!

First of all, the head mold is nicely sculpted and is pretty authentic from pictures I've seen. They've matched Luke's face pretty well, and because Luke's got a unique appearence, this character really manages to stand out in a crowd. The face immediately gives him a sense of personallity, too, and that really helped shape how I plan on using this whole team in my Joeverse. Luke's head is also lucky enough to be slapped on top of a Wave 7 Gung Ho body, which is one of my favorite basic bodies produced in the new sculpt era. the proportions are great, the non-rivet shoulders work really well...I like the new bicep articulation, the wrist articulation. It all works flawlessly, and the basic design asthetics themselves are excellent, too.

Hasbro paints this figure up to pretty nicely match the rest of the set, giving him a standard green shirt and the same tan pants with green kneepads that the other two figures have, which creates some great unity and brings them together as a team very nicely.

I really find myself liking this figure a lot, and as I said, the face sculpt alone has shaped how I'm using this character (and the others in this set). Any watchers of "The Shield", might get what I'm talking about here...I see these guys as the Farmington Strike Team, sort of. While they don't go as far over the line criminally as Vick, Shane, Lem, and Ronnie might, they know exactly what corners to cut, what pressure points to hit, and exactly what to do to get what they want done. They're not above putting some serious strain on the rulebook, but when the lead starts flying, there are no folks better trained to deal with it than them. That's really what I have in mind with this team, and Red Zone's head sculpt and ripped shirt torso really kick-started that idea. You know it's a good figure when you can just look at it and immediately an entire backstory forms in your mind.

It also doesn't hurt that from a straight-up action figure standpoint, this is a great toy as well. As I said, the body mold has fantastic proportions and the uniform manages to strike the perfect balance between detail and simplicity. It can work in either fashion. Then, of course, we have the incredible accessories that Red Zone comes with.

While he doesn't have the bullet-stopping power of the green vest, Red Zone does come with the same OFW helmet that the others do, and he also comes with a fantastic magnum-style pistol, colored in silver and black. This is a terrific pistol, and he can hold it near-perfectly in his left hand, which I love. He also comes with a smaller pistol (that fits in his holster a little better than the one shown above) and the same two-tone shotgun that Rook comes with, too. Every one of these guns is a great sculpt, has awesome color schemes, and fits the character to a "T". I have no complaints whatsoever about the weapons Red Zone comes with, they are pretty much perfect.

I have to admit, this 6-Pack was a tough one to write a review on. Conceptually, I've been dying to dig my hands into this whole Plague idea and really run with it, but unfortunately two-thirds of the Plague figures left me wanting. Guillotine himself saves the idea for me, and I'm eager to take those heads from the other figures and possibly do something cool with them, but ultimately I have little use for figures that I can't get a decent pose out of, and honestly Gallows and Grim Skull just aren't much fun to play with. If I can get them in a good pose on the shelf, then just sit there and look at them, that will work for me, but ultimately, as I'm sure you guys know, I need to be able to move my figures and pose them well to have fun with them, so they do fall a bit short there.

The Steel Brigade side fares much better, and surprisingly I found myself more inspired by their figures than their COBRA counterparts. Still, the fact remains that this 6-Pack DID provide that inspiration, so it's tough to talk too bad about toys when they can serve that purpose.

In the end, I really love what Hasbro's doing here...I like the idea of bringing new ideas to the table and trying new things with new characters, or even new concepts of classic characters. It worked very well with the Viper Lockdown set, and it works fairly well here. I have some complaints about parts choice uses, and some of the COBRA gear, but in the end, I found more to like about this set than dislike, so I feel comfortable recommending it, as long as you're a new sculpt fan.

Plus Red Zone sure's got a purty mouth....

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