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

Like the main Convention set itself, it would be very, VERY tough to top the Convention extra figures from last year. While I had never been a big fan of the Steel Brigade concept, it cannot be argued that the figures themselves last year were nothing short of fantastic. The mold choices, paint apps, accessories...everything about them was just terrific.

It sounded like the Collectors' Club had another potential winner on its hands this year...the Renegades have always been one of my all time favorite subteams. The idea of a totally "off the books" strike force is something that I love, and while I really dig the characters, you can't argue that the figures were pretty far out there. I was envisioning a very cool re-imagination of the Renegades, and we got some great figures. They're not perfect, in my book...far from it. They fall really short of what we got last year, and aren't quite as cool as I hoped, but they had some terrific potential and I do have to give the Club props for going out on a limb and bringing them into a set.

Of course, the Renegades have always had kind of a catch to them, and in my opinion, that catch is the inclusion of Sgt. Slaughter. I don't mind Slaughter per se, and as a kid, the longest 6 weeks of my life was waiting for the mail away to arrive, but his portrayal as the ultimate Super Soldier in the cartoon kind of soured me on the character. His ability to pretty much beat anyone anywhere any time left me a little cold. Maybe it's because I wasn't into wrestling at that point, or the fact that what was essentially a novelty character was made out to be the most bad ass soldier in human history, but whatever the reason, Slaughter was just someone I have little desire to integrate into my personal Joe universe. This particular figure doesn't do a whole lot to change that opinion.

That's not to say the figure is poor...I think it actually works remarkably well. I was afraid the head would look HUGE on this non-Sarge body, and it does look a little big, but not overly melon-sized as I had originally feared. Gung Ho's figure works well in this regard, and you get someone who is barrel chested and large-armed, but who still maintains a relatively decent military look. While the '89 Warthog driver will still forever remain my favorite version of the Sarge, this figure is not a bad follow up.

It's pretty obvious they had that one in mind when they designed this guy, too. The machine gun strap across the chest, the knife that comes with the figure, it all harkens back to the '89 version, which is cool with me, since it gave some credence to what had originally been, as I said, a novelty.

But, I do have some problems with the mold, mostly just the fact that it's kind of a "been there, done that" feeling. We've gotten Gung Ho somewhat recently in the Desert 6-Pack set, and essentially this is a desert themed Gung Ho '92 figure, which isn't anything we haven't seen before. While I also appreciate what the Club has done to retool the Sgt. Slaughter head, if given a preference, I would have much rather seen the '89 head retooled with a removable hat. That would have just added a nice extra touch that could have made the figure even better.

Even though the mold was very recently re-used, it's still a decent choice for Slaughter. But, as with the Renegades, the color scheme kind of knocks it back a few pegs.

Anyone who has read my reviews in the past knows I'm not big on environmental specific figures. I prefer some versatility and figures that can be used in many different ways. Jungle camo, urban camo, night ops figures, guys like that seem to have more flexibility and more variety in the way that they can be used, while figures restricted to desert, water, or arctic operations kind of leave me too limited. While Slaughter isn't specifically limited to Desert use, his light brown shirt and camouflaged pants certainly seem to indicate that kind of purpose. While the camouflage pattern is nicely based off of a version of the current US desert ops camouflage (a sense of realism that is much appreciated) it is still pretty bright and non-condusive to deep recon ops during a nighttime setting. This is primarilly what I would want to use a team like the Renegades for, and having them all so tied to a lighter, more arid environment really limits their purpose to me, unfortunately.

The paints apps themselves are pretty flawlessly applied. Browns, creams, and tans, along with nice touches of black and brass all look realistic and are overall a pretty fun paint scheme. I just wish the choice of desert operations perhaps wasn't made, just as a personal preference.

Sgt. Slaughter comes with a pair of nice weapons, too...the M-16 w/ grenade launcher that a few different figures came with (the one that is fully disassemblable) is a great weapon, I think. It can pretty much serve any purpose. Besides that, he comes with a simple little survival knife, which is also fine.

I would be remiss if I didn't at least touch on the whole packaging debate as well. I was slightly dismayed, I must admit, to see that both Slaughter and the Renegades were offered as packaged items at the Con this year, and I really hope that this was merely a temporary thing to give fans something to have Slaughter sign. It's really neat to have a carded Sarge figure on my display shelf with his autograph on it, that's something that I will definitely cherish, but I just hope that the Club isn't going towards a packaged trend, that would be a shame. I was pleasently surprised to see that the packaged Renegades ended up running a little cheaper than the loose 3-Pack from last year, but I can only imagine what the price point could have been had packaging not added to the bottom line. I'm continuing on, hoping that this was a one-time, one-year thing, but I will definitely be paying attention to the trend in the future, because I won't be happy if we end up paying a higher dollar for packaging that will eventually end up in a landfill somewhere.

All in all, Sgt. Slaughter seems to continue the trend of potential had a great concept behind it, and overall is a decent figure, but it just ends up falling a little short of what could have been, in my opinion. Perhaps if I was a bigger Slaughter fan overall, I might be more impressed. I will admit, though, having a chance to meet the man behind the sunglasses, and hear him speak over the weekend, my appreciation for what Slaughter has done for the hobby has increased one thousand fold. I'm still not sure I have a place for him in my Joeverse, though.

Now...the Renegades!

If you'd told me a year ago that this year's set would involve perhaps one of my favorite trio's in G.I. Joe history, I would have said you were nuts. The Renegades are the ultimate in obscurity in Joe lore, in spite of their focus in G.I. Joe: The Movie. They are characters and figures that have gone pretty much un-explored, which as anyone knows, are the perfect candidates for my personal use. The concept behind the Renegades is darn near perfect...a small group of malcontents who are used to do the "dirty work" that no one else wants to be responsible can you go wrong? Well, the original figures were awesome in their sheer characterizations, with exagerrated head sculpts, wild colors, and freaky figure designs. The Collectors' Club seems to draw in the reigns somewhat and try to make them more military in nature, which is definitely appreciated. They still manage to keep their character intact and really give them some life.

Like Slaughter, though, the overly bright camouflage patterns dissuade me a little bit, and while I appreciate what the Club was doing with their uniformity, it has always been their uniqueness that really sets them apart. Shoe-horning them all into a single mold figure kind of takes away some of their personallity, though the figures overall are a vast improvement.

I was originally going to review these figures separately, but decided that ultimately they were a three-pack of pretty much the same figure, so I decided that was silly...eventually I was going to run out of things to say, so I figured it would make more sense to do a combination review of sorts.

First of all, I really applaud the Collectors' Club for their choice in figure parts. As I've stated countless times, I'm a huge fan of Mega Marines, and so far the only Mega Marine we have yet to see in re-done form is Clutch. While I would love to round out the group of four Mega's with nice updated paint schemes, for the moment at least, I can accept getting Clutch in this format, especially because I really love the mold so much. The bulky armored torso with criss-crossed pouched straps, the simple, but effective armor plating on the legs, and the amazingly simple suits underneath all come across to near-perfection in the mold. These figures really look like they're wearing standard uniforms with just some armor plating on top, which makes perfect sense. The tie in within the filecards to the Renegades stealing this armor for their own personal use is pretty darn cool, too.

Using the same Gung Ho arms that Sgt. Slaughter gets was a nice touch, too, giving them their suitably bulky look and adding some uniformity to the ranks in general.

Of course, I have to talk about the head sculpts, considering that is one of the main points of this entire set. Apparently, the Collectors' Club went through great expense to retool heads for the three Renegades, because the originals got damaged or otherwise lost. I'm glad to see these heads recreated, and they really look pretty good. With the new plastic, Mercer's head looks a little "glassy", but Taurus came out great, and Red Dog's painted noggin actually gives it a whole lot more detail and character, I think. If anyone's wondering why Red Dog ended up painted, I would hypothosize that in order to save on costs, MC most likely released all three heads in one "tool" and thus, they all got produced in the same color. Because of Red Dog's different ethnic background, he got a face paint application to darken him up as he should be. Some people appear bothered by it, but it looks cool in my opinion. All in all, I really love the mold chosen for these figures, even if they all share a single body.

But we do run into some hitches when it comes to color choices, as I've already mentioned in my coverage of Sgt. Slaughter.

As with the Sarge, these guys all have liberal applications of overly bright cream and light brown desert camouflage. Not only do I not really like desert specific paint apps, but ones this bright just bother me as well, because they just don't look all that realistic. Not to mention that the camouflage pattern is somehow applied directly to plates of metal armor, I just end up with a paint scheme that leaves me a little bit cold. I really wish we could have gotten perhaps a dark urban ops type of paint scheme (although considering we got that last year, I shouldn't really expect it) or maybe something jungle related. I do like the fact that the Club went with an authentic modern desert camo pattern, the colors just seem a little jarring.

But there are a lot of neat little touches that make up for it in some ways. I really love the color of the clothes beneath the armor. MC obviously went to great lengths to make it look like this armor is just being worn over their existing uniforms by color matching the little touches of clothing that peek up underneath the armor, and I think that's a very cool idea. The shades of blue and light green on the pants really add some variety and difference to the three figures, and the matching shirts look cool as well. I'm not sure why the tatoo has become standard fare for the Renegades, but I do love the choices of patterns there. Mercer's familiar anti-COBRA tat looks AWESOME, and I love the Taurus one, too. Not real sure on Red Dog's number "1", but it's neat that they all have them, and it adds another nice little detail.

As for accessories, all three of them come with a nifty variety of weapons, and Red Dog and Taurus specifically have ones closely geared to what they used in the Movie, which is a neat touch. Mercer has a pair of machine guns, the nice late model mini MP5 and the not-so-nice weird weapon that came with Chief Torpedo originally. Taurus has the very cool weapon that came with Bombstrike originally, as well as a neat scimitar-type sword. Red Dog has Sgt. Hacker's machine gun and the staff that came with Storm Shadow, which breaks down into two sticks (which he used in the movie...and chewed on!). So the weapons were definitely allocated with the Movie in mind, and the guns were chosen well. Nice job all around on the accessory compliment, for sure.

All in all, I find myself mixed on the Renegades three-pack. I love the the molds...I don't like the fact that all three are nearly identical, and I'm not wild about the colors. Still, my positives outweigh my negatives with these particular figures, and even with a hefty $50.00 price point, I'm not the least bit disappointed in them. I'd consider them a well done update, even if they did miss out on the potential to be even cooler.

To go along with the Renegades and Sarge is the ubiquitous "parachute figure", a tradition that started in 2002, and has continued on each year. The parachute figures started out as additional great figures to compliment the set, but over the past two years, they've become mere repaints of already released promotional figures. While that takes away some of the mystique of the parachute figures, it doesn't necessarily make them BAD figures, per se.

I found myself to be pretty surprised at how much I liked the Master Collector promo 3 3/4" figure, the Nullifier. It originally looked to be a new sculpt proportional mess with movement restricted armor and not much fun. But, I was very pleasently surprised about how the final result came out, and found myself really loving the figure, and considering it was free, who can complain? Well, this Nullifier is also free, and also is very pleasently surprising.

The Range Viper/COBRA Trooper head sculpt is a perfect one to use for pretty much any faceless trooper, and works especially well here, as it did with the original Nullifier. The torso mold (of the Valor Vs. Venom Zartan originally) is another perfect compliment to the figure and is nicely detailed. His arms and legs start to go a little overboard, but not so much to look completely rediculous, proportion-wise.

But of course, the main issue regarding the parachute figure is the coloring. I mean the figure itself was just released to members a couple of weeks ago, it's no doubt the coloring that makes the difference. And, honestly it's a GREAT difference. The dark blue coloring in place of the red is a very nice, rich change and looks fantastic, immediately tying this figure to COBRA instead of the Iron Grenadiers. He of course has the COBRA symbol as well and silver trim instead of the gold, and it all works beautifully. The coloring also ties this figure to the previous parachute figure, Air-Viper as well as the COBRA Urban Strike Team Nullifier. It's really cool how these little color alterations immediately unify this figure both with a previous parachute figure, and a previous incarnation of this same character. You can tell some thought really went into this.

For accessories, he comes with the same stuff the original Nullifier came with, a very cool helmet (from the Spy Troops Heavy Duty originally), the same bulky, clumsy armor, and the same submachine pistol. It's a decent accessory compliment, but the best thing about the armor is that it's removable. The armor is also repainted, silver and blue instead of gold and red, and the coloring is gorgeous, honestly. It looks really, really nice.

So, yeah, I would always prefer a new, different figure for the parachute figure...but if the Collectors' Club has to re-release promotional figures, I guess they can't go wrong with these troopers. As long as they can continue the quality, I guess I can't complain much. This figure doesn't come close to matching the Air-Viper, still by far the greatest parachute figure so far, but it's not too shabby, especially for the price.

This covers page 2 for the 2006 Collector's Convention Set...head on over to Page Three to check out the vehicles and a lot more pictures!

Page Three

Page One

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