COBRA'S Most Wanted: Mercenaries
G.I. Joe International Collector's Convention, 2006

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Toy name: COBRA's Most Wanted: Mercenaries
Assortment: Convention Exclusive, 2006
Price: Assorted
Availability: June, 2006

Key Features & Price Points

- 15 Figure Set w/ Filecards, accessories, and Desert Camouflage Armadillo- $240.00
- Sgt. Slaughter Carded figure - $25.00
- Sgt. Slaughter's Renegades Carded 3-Pack - $50.00

- Ferret ATV 2-Pack - $25.00
- Desert Camo Warthog - $48.00

Once again, the month of June has come and gone, and once again Convention time goes with it. It's funny, regardless of the current state of 3 3/4" G.I. Joe (which, if you can believe the message boards, is currently dead and buried) the convention continues to be one of the best weekends of the year. Even if no new product was being shown at all, the gathering of fellow fans in one place to celebrate G.I. Joe would be more than worth it. Of course, no one can argue that the convention set itself plays a big part in the fun of the Con, too, though it does not make or break it.

While a lot of fans seem to herald the Crimson Strike Team as the epitome of Convention sets, to me, it the ultimate in boredom. Don't get me wrong, it was a fantastic introductory set and a great way to get people interested in attending the convention, but personally I prefer thinking somewhat outside the box and getting some different sets together. The Collectors' Club has not let me down yet, and this year has been no different. The Club's ability to find obscure molds, come up with cool, unique paint schemes and interesting character selection surprises me every year, and this year they did another great job.

Although it will be very tough to top last year, and this year came far short of that, it is still a fun set and the figures are a lot more successful than anything Hasbro themselves has done recently. What more can you ask for?

Slowly but surely, the Collectors' Club seems determined to get us a whole wealth of COBRA hierarchy. As of this year's set, we now have COBRA Commander, Destro, Baroness, the Twins, Firefly, Zartan, and now, Overlord and Major Bludd. It's cool to see COBRA's upper echelon slowly filled out by convention sets, especially when one goes way outside the box and gives us a surprisingly cool update to a character that isn't necessarily 100% accurate style-wise, but works amazingly well.

In a surprising twist, the Club chose the Battle CORPS Major Bludd head for this figure, and I find myself really liking it a lot. While you cannot go wrong with the traditional helmet and eye patch look, it's nice to see a different take, and the mold used here really works with the state of the art appearence of his helmet/eyepiece.

The figure itself uses the Long Range mold from the 90's, and while that base is far from what I would have thought to use with a Bludd figure, it ends up working surprisingly well. Torso padding, elaborate detailing, and small touches throughout really bring this figure to life. I love the bulky, quilted torso with the raised trim on the shoulders, the tightly sculpted front hooks, pouches and, well...pretty much everything else about it.

His arms are remarkably plain, but that works for me, and the single grenade on his hip seems to call back to his Sonic Fighter days, when his uniform was chock full of them. The thigh-high boots are perfectly sculpted and end up looking quite regal, giving Bludd a sense of power about him. Pouches, straps, and all the trimming works flawlessly giving you a great, beefy 90's figure that I love.

As for the colors...well those are pretty much perfect, too. The Club seems to love this light shade of gray, as a number of the figures over the years have used it, especially last year and this year. Really, though, it doesn't bother me, and it's actually a pretty pleasent muted tone. His uniform is a brown base, which is perfect for Major Bludd. I love the black vest, black helmet, gloves, and boots, which all mesh perfectly. I find myself quite surprised to admit as well that the red is excellent, too. Red isn't exactly a color that has been attributed to Major Bludd yet, but it's used very sparingly here and works great. Nice little touches like the worn metallic grenade and eyepatch finish the figure off nicely, too.

Bludd comes with a couple decent accessories. His primary weapon would appear to be a sniper rifle, the same one that originally came with Blackout, and it works well for him, using his mercenary skills as an assassin. For a backup, he's got the folding-stock silenced Uzi, first seen with the Wave 7 Valor Vs. Venom Snake Eyes, and I love that choice, too.

As much of a departure as this figure is from the Major Bludd "standard" I find myself really, really loving it. He's got a great almost royal look, but can obviously still get down and dirty as he needs to...combine that with his terrific color scheme and excellent accessories and you have a great overall figure and a nice update to this classic character.

Of course, the point of this set are the troops assigned to each of their mercenary teams as well. While Overlord has his already established "Coil Troopers", Major Bludd gets some new mercs at his disposal, the "Skull Squad". It would appear that the Collectors' Club used the logo that came with the Hall of Fame Major Bludd so many years ago and really built on it. That logo was a simple skull/knife/COBRA combination and was a terrific emblem, I'm very glad to see that the Club kind of ran with that idea.

The Skull squad, like their leader, uses a late 80's/early 90's mold, and uses it fairly well. They are probably my least favorite figure in the set, and they use a mold that I really don't like all that much, but they at least give it some credit and you end up with a figure that's not too bad.

Using the Battle Force 2000 Avalanche figure as a base actually isn't too bad. While you'd think that would make the figure look too arctic based, it really isn't that bad, although the figure does look pretty "chubby". The quilted jacket is designed as arctic insulation, but it ends up really giving the figure some unnecessary bulk. Beyond this minor issue, though, the figure isn't too bad. While the quilted torso looks fat, it is also very nicely detailed. The plainly detailed strap over his chest is kind of strange, but breaks up the mold to a certain degree, and the upper body is topped off by a strange metallic shoulder pad.

Originally Avalanche was meant to be a futuristic battle soldier, and the uniform is definitely unrealistic, but that seems to work a little bit better for COBRA than it does for Joe. Still, though, the upper body ends up looking pretty strange.

From the waist down, the figure is a lot more normal, I guess you'd say, and I find myself liking the interesting jagged design of the boots and of course the well-known nunchuks on his leg.

His head sculpt is really nice, too, using the familiar Crimson Guard head sculpt that we've seen quite a bit of over the past few years. Even though it's been used a lot, though, it works perfectly, because it is, at its essence, a very standard masked trooper head, and you really can't go wrong with that. The stern glare, the close cropped hair cut, the well sculpted's all great.

Color choices here are also pretty nicely done. Obviously based on their leader's overall color scheme, the Skull Squad use a brown base uniform, lots of black elements, and some light gray trim over most of the body. These colors all mix together pretty nicely and look great. The Skull Squad's red masks top it off perfectly, and finish off the figure well.

Weapon choices for these Bludd troopers aren't bad, but I'm not quite as wild about them as others. While I really love the Stoner heavy machine gun and the Gung Ho grenade launcher, it would have been nice to get a more basic "submachine" gun allocated to these troopers. However, if you don't like these weapons choices, the cool thing is, you can go to Marauder, Inc. and load up on some replacements.

Over the years there have been hundreds and hundreds of characters introduced into G.I. Joe lore, and it's pretty much impossible for them all to be featured in any form of media, whether it's the comics or cartoons. Probably one of the most infamous of these blank slate characters is Overlord.

It is rumored that Overlord was originally designed to be a COBRA Commander update, but when the figure came out, you got a filecard that indicated he was a potential upstart to the Commander's power, and it was a very cool idea for a high powered COBRA agent, I thought. I loved it back then, and I love it now. Devils' Due decided to take this idea and run with it in their comics, and put Overlord as a right-hand man to Serpentor, helping him lead the "Coil". While the original Overlord figure had kind of a meek, timid look to him (seeming to retain lots of power behind the scenes, but not very physically imposing), Devils' Due really beefed him up, giving him some elaborate battle armor and some physical power to go with his charisma. It would seem that the Collectors' Club is rolling with this idea and giving us an Overlord that is considerably more threatening physically than he was originally. You end up with a figure that is quite simply the highlight of this entire set.

While I was desperately hoping that the Overlord and Coil sets would have some strong resemblance to how they appeared in the comics, that was not to be, unfortunately. Even though I didn't get what I wanted there, we still end up with some very nice figures that I like quite a bit.

Overlord uses the '88 Destro torso, which hasn't been seen in domestic release since it's original production almost twenty years ago, which is very cool. It's an awesome torso, and if we couldn't get it for the actual Destro last year, this is a perfect way to get it out there. Alongside that nice chest, we get Barricade's arms and legs which instantly gives the figure some nice bulk. Barricade's arms and legs are oversized with padding and armor plating, and I just flat out love this mold. The way the shoulder pads integrate with the regular uniform is perfect, and the large black gloves are great as well. His legs are barrel-sized enough, but add those large plates of armor on them and you get some huuuuge legs, which tie into the larger Devils' Due look and fits the character well. His boots finish off the figure well, with the almost robotic supports at the ankles and the lined texture.

The base uniform color here is a nice, rich green, which at first seems like an odd choice, but ends up meshing with Serpentor's color scheme very nicely. Since originally in the DD comics, the Coil was there to serve Serpentor, this color scheme makes sense and looks very nice. The gold trim is equally dramatic and effective, and only serves to tie the figure in with Serpentor all the more. Black and gray trimming work nicely, too, and break up the mold well, but are muted enough to blend and not contrast.

Overlord comes with a nice allotment of weapons that are classically influenced. His gold helmet is not nearly as cool as his original, but works well enough, and the twin ninja claws are very similar to the more avian claws he came with back in 1990. He also comes with a nice small submachine gun, which finishes off the figure very well. Far and away my favorite figure of this set.

As cool as the Overlord figure is, I have to say that the Coil Troopers are right on his heels. I must admit that right off the bat I was disappointed with what I saw with the Coil Troopers. When I heard that these guys were in the works for a Con set, I poured through research material and possible available parts, just searching and hoping for some nice comic-influenced Coil Troopers, and the Club ended up doing nothing what I'd imagine they would. While that was very nice for a surprise factor, I was hoping to get some figures that would look closer in resemblance to what we saw in the Devils' Due Comics.

Regardless, though, we still end up with a very cool looking figure, even if it doesn't match what we've gotten in the books.

Using a Decimator headsculpt is a great idea, and gives you a nice generic masked head with some great additional details in the hard lines down the front of the face. Immediately the figure jumps out at you with this excellent face sculpt.

The TARGAT body is another very nice look for an updated army builder. At first I really wasn't sure about it, but upon getting the figure in hand, I'm really, really impressed. Like the other figures in the set, its a nice and bulky late 80's mold. His broad shoulders, large arms and large legs give you a trooper that is physically imposing. Not only the size of the mold, but the extra detailing gives this guy a lot more punch as well.

Stitching running up and down the torso adds some splashes of color and extra intricate sculpting and what could have been a pretty bland torso with no extra detailing. The single pad on the left shoulder and grenade harness system are all pretty neat and in these different color schemes stands out nicely. Textured, almost regal looking armor adds another flair to the figure, and ties it in nicely with the Overlord that leads the pack. While this gold color may slightly negate the camouflaged abilities that these guys have, I think it's a nice trade off for the troopers' look to tie in better with Serpentor and Overlord.

Now that we're on the subject of color, I might as well talk about that next. The green base for the uniform is a very nice, rich shade. It's much darker in person than it originally looked in pictures and compliments both Serpentor and Overlord perfectly. Along with the green uniform, we get pitch black gloves, boots, holsters, and other straps, which tone down the overall color scheme very nicely and are a perfect shade to play off of the other colors. Gold is never a subdued color, but it works here, being used only minorly, and to great success. The gold color seems to work with the selected mold points flawlessly and again, brings this figure in with Overlord and Serpentor, making them quite obviously part of the same team. A light gray color goes on the grenades, and it's fine, I guess. Nothing amazing, but a decent color, regardless, and obviously one that the Club is enamored with, since they use it so often.

His accessories are much, much better than the Skull Squad troopers, and I find myself really liking the choices here. Using an '86 Dial Tone machine gun as a primary weapon, you get a decently sized, powerful, all-purpose gun. Not one of my favorites, but pretty useful regardless. Coil Troopers' secondary weapon is the incredibly cool sniper rifle that originally came with the '92 Firefly, and getting this gun in a more muted color than originally done is really cool. I love the design of that particular rifle, and I'm always happy to get more in the weapons pool.

So, my initial disappointment in the fact that these figures ended up being considerable departures from the comic appearence has faded, and I find myself really loving the Coil Troopers regardless. I'd still love to see some sort of comic-accurate Coil someday, but until that day comes, these will be suitable replacements.

How can I approach this figure politically?

Well, I can really only sum up the revalation of this figure in one word: Disappointing.

First of all, I've had a complete domestic collection for several years now, and have only recently started dipping more into the foreign market stuff. A lot of it is out of my price range, but there are some pieces that interest me enough to track them down and acquire them. The COBRA Mortal has never been one of those pieces.

I know the figure is highly sought after for its relative obscurity and unusual appearence, but I think it is his rarity that really makes the figure desirable, and not really the fact that it's even a remotely neat looking figure. Because trust me, it ain't. And yeah, this is coming from the "90's Loving, Neon is Beautiful, gimme more Battle Corps figures" guy. COBRA Mortal is just flat out ugly.

When I first heard that the Club would be doing something with a foreign character, I actually got VERY excited. After two and a half decades, a lot of the Joe brand has kind of petered itself out...we're running out of avenues to explore for all of these remakes. Granted, there are tons of new stories to tell, but one of the goals of the Club it seems is to focus on re-releases and improvements. Well, the foreign collection is a vast, untapped market of potential characters, storylines, and figures that could really be done well. I was excited upon hearing that we might get a Brazilian character in the American mythos...I think that's a fantastic idea. But the Club totally missed the boat and instead of taking the Mortal CHARACTER and really giving us a neat different homage to him, they just slapped out a direct reproduction Mortal FIGURE, not really understanding that, to the bulk of the 3 3/4" fans, character is far more important than the hunk of plastic itself.

The Club could have taken some risks and chosen some more interesting more modern parts and given us a great Mortal figure that could exist within the current G.I. Joe realm. Instead we got a direct reproduction of a rare figure that looks out of place pretty much anywhere you try to put it. Not to mention the fact that the figure mold is twenty-five years old, overused, and flat out boring.

The chrome is an interesting idea, and I applaud the Club for trying something new, but the result is an overly bright, hard-plastic, flaking mess that looks just plain nasty. Because of the chroming process, the forearms are now relegated to the older style "hard plastic", and there are some serious bonding issues with the chrome and the figure underneath. I saw two or three different Mortals with chrome flaking off in different parts of their body, and you end up with a figure that looks disturbing on the shelf, and worse yet, one that you can't even PLAY with. What's the point of a modern repro of a classic rare figure if you can't touch the modern repro either without fear of damaging it?

Taking a foreign character and integrating it into the US mythos? Brilliant idea. The Collectors' Club execution of this idea? Unfortunately predictable, unexciting, and a major disappointment. One of the first Convention exclusive figures we've gotten that I haven't been able to find any redeeming qualities for. Even his accessories (which barely fit in his hand and when they do, you are consistently nervous that a thumb will snap off) aren't any fun. Most of the set was exceptionally well done, Mortal was a total strike out, in my opinion. I just hope the Club doesn't take fan disappointment to mean that we don't want to see foreign figures or characters...that's not the case at all! Just use some of the inginuity we all know you're capable of, and give us some cool modern re-do's, not just re-pro's.

All in all, it would be exceptionally difficult if not downright impossible for the Collectors' Club to improve on what they did last year. The Iron Grenadier set is far and away the greatest exclusive of any kind ever released, in my opinion. I like the thought processes behind this set...I love the concept and the outside the box thinking. Some of the execution missed the boat slightly, and in the case of Mortal, I really think the Club dropped the ball.

Still, on the whole, the set has been fun. Keep reading below to see a LOT more pictures of the various figures included within:

This covers the figure set for the 2006 Collector's Convention...head on over to Page Two to check out the attendee bonuses and a whole lot more pictures!

Page two

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