G.I. Joe International Collector's Convention, 2008
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As usual with the Convention set, we usually only find out what the "extras" are once we arrive at the Convention destination...this does bother some people, but I kind of like the surprise. While it would be nice to have some idea of how much money to budget, I really love the feeling of checking out the cool new toys for the first time on registration night. It's like Christmas morning!
This year we got a pretty good hint of what at least some of the exclusives were before the actual Convention date. The first picture reveal of Gristle had a very ominous shadow underneath it, which seemed to match up perfectly with the Mech from Valor Vs. Venom...well, other than the Claw-shaped arm. But most of us remembered the infamous cancelled "CLAW Mech" that was rumored to be a part of the Robot Rebellion line, so it wasn't too much of a stretch to figure out what that was going to be. Along with that we also got a sneak peek at the box art which clearly showed three green-clad Joes dropping in from a skylight to attack the Headhunters. Leading those Joes was Shockwave (err... Shockblast?) and it certainly looked like Longarm and Low Light were the other two. Well, those hypothesis turned out to be accurate as we got a good look at the SWAT 3-Pack that was coming to battle the Headhunters!
Being the huge fan that I am of urban operations, I was pretty psyched to see these, and the colors were very cool as well. I'll cover them figure-by-figure.
Well, first of all, have no fear. Even though this figure uses the now infamous name "Shockblast", it is still the same Shockwave we all know and love. His file card contains the same information as the original, so besides some minor trademark issues, this is still everyone's favorite original Joe SWAT operative, and I'm glad to see it.
Back before the DEF, before the Battle Corps line with Longarm and Law, and before the CID, there was Shockwave. Originally designed as the lone urban "door kicker", this SWAT specialist was one of my favorite figures as a kid. 1988 was sort of a renaissance year for me when it came to G.I. Joe. 1987 was a bit of a departure with COBRA La, Raptor, Crystal Ball, etc... and for some reason once '88 came around, I was fully involved in G.I. Joe to the point where a lot of the characters that came out that year really have stuck with me to this day. If you read my dio-stories you'll see plenty of Shockwave, Muskrat, the Iron Grenadiers, and of course, Hit & Run. I absolutely loved a lot of the figures that came out that year. I'm happy to say that this version of Shockwave (I'm just going to call him that rather than keep on calling him Shockblast) does a great job retaining the character of the '88 original.
It's been a long time since we saw any tooling from the 1988 Shockwave with the exception of his waist and legs which were used in 1993 on the Battle Corps Beachhead (then were later used in South America). Ironically the waist and legs are the only parts of that figure that are not on this version, most likely because they got separated and ended up south of the border. That does impact my love for this figure at least a little bit, I have to admit. I've always loved the Shockwave legs with those cool double holsters and baggy military pants, and the '86 Low Light legs just don't excite me quite so much. But the true character of the figure is from the waist up and the torso and head sculpt (not to mention the arms) are all intact, so that's nothing but a good thing in my mind. This character is immediately recognizable and retains the most important features of the vintage version.
From a color perspective, the Club went away from the more typical gray urban camouflage look and went with a more conventional urban operations color scheme with the green and black. I don't have a problem with that at all, and I actually find the colors very appealing. Shockwave's original version was great, but the blue did seem a bit bright...the Night Force version was a great follow up, but it was basically just different shades of gray and not all that exciting. This version kind of takes the best of both worlds, giving us a pretty nice, vibrant green, but contrasting it with the darker black and just the right hints of brown and silver. A very well detailed and nice looking figure.
Back in the day, Shockwave was pretty well known for his nasty accessories as well as for the figure itself. His silenced machine gun, his backpack that could actually hold his knife, and the oversized pistol he came with all seemed to get a lot of love among the Joe community. Well, this version of Shockwave comes with none of his classic accessories, but the ones he comes with all make sense and are all very nice.
One unfortunate aspect is that the good guys don't get the paint-app weapons like the bad guys do. No black and brown or anything of that nature, they have the familiar slate gray accessories that other figures have had in the past. But we do get at least some nice stuff mixed in like the large "SWAT" writted on Shockwave's shield (the one that originally came with Spy Troops Burnout). That's a very cool touch! The submachine gun here is great, too, and one of my favorites of the new sculpt era! For some reason I'm just a big fan of that weapon and it works perfect for a close quarter urban operative like Shockwave. The backpack and knife are fairly generic and don't fit together, but are still nice added parts to the accessory compliment that I certainly approve of. All in all, a servicable alottment of gear for an urban operative that he looks nice all decked out in.
Great parts choices that haven't been seen since the 80's, a good color scheme, and a nice selection of accessories...it all comes together to give us a very cool update to the original.
Here we go... this is the exact example of the type of stuff I like to see from the Club. You have a 90's figure, you have a great new tamer paint scheme, and you have unused Sigma 6 tooling all wrapped up into one figure! I love it.
Ever since I first formed the Urban Assault Force in my dio-stories, I decided the Longarm had to be a part of it. I'm an unabashed 90's fan and am usually able to overlook color problems and appreciate a figure for it's strengths in spite of a bright orange outfit. Longarm was a toughie...there wasn't any part of him that wasn't bright and obnoxious, yet I still managed to work him into my universe. Rather than bomb disposal, he became my "bullet-stopper" lining up first, alongside Barricade, with their thick armor, laying down cover fire and breaking down doors. I can't tell you how happy I am that I now have a Longarm I can use in that role that is in more servicable colors than the bright orange one I've been using!
I don't think anyone will debate that even in the 90's at least the tooling was still top knotch. Underneath that bright neon paint was usually a figure that retained the same exceptional design, fantastic sculpting, and unique flair that all Real American Hero figures had leading up to that point. From the multi-layered body armor, to the thigh-high boots, the grenades and the control panel on his chest, Longarm was a great, GREAT figure that got knocked down a bunch of pegs by his horrid colors. Well, now, in this classic dark green and black, Longarm can be functional again. I absolutely love the colors on this figure, they are terrific, with the right mix of a green uniform underneath his layered black body armor. The silver grenades and panel add a great splash of color, and I'm amazed by the intricate paint detail on the panel itself. A very cool touch. This is a figure that has been so maligned by it's neon heritage that I don't think enough people appreciate the great aspects of the mold, and I'm glad to see those aspects shining through with the much improved paint scheme. A home run all around, and probably my favorite figure out of the additional ones we received beyond the 15-pack.
But the figure itself isn't the only thing that's great here...we also get a great allotment of gear topped off by a bomb disposal robot that was originally slated to come with the (never been released) Sigma 6 Short Fuze! I am still blown away by how well this little vehicle works with the 3 3/4" figures and I think it was really a brainstorm to include it with this set. It looks great and fits right in with the theme and the scale!
Add onto that the bullpup submachine gun, the great helmet and the briefcase, and you have a fantastic assortment of gear that fits this figure to a "T".
The 3-Pack is nice altogether...but Longarm makes it fantastic. A great, GREAT figure that I couldn't be happier with.
I know, I know, I'm the weird one. To me, the default version of Low Light is, without hesitation, the '91 mold. I love, love, LOVE that figure. He will always be my default Low Light, but I can understand why the Club went with this figure as their choice. First of all, the majority of fans I think prefer this figure to the later version, so from a sales perspective it makes sense for the Club to go this route. Also, we've gotten the later Low Light figure fairly recently, so I can definitely see why they would want to dip into the archives a bit and pull out some tooling that hasn't been seen in a long, long time.
I can also understand the Club not wanting to release that particular figure in green and black because it could end up being pretty similar to the '01 version we got (only in green instead of blue) and this version of the character is one we have not gotten in quite a while.
My own personal preferences aside, the figure ends up looking pretty good. It's a straight repaint of Low Light v.1 with the uniform done in dark green with black trim. But what really makes the figure pop are the touches of silver on the various add-ons sculpted to the uniform. The grenades, buckles, zippers, etc... all have a really nice, bright silver sheen that makes this figure look great. Even though I'm not a huge fan of the mold, the chosen colors are very successful and the figure works pretty well altogether. It won't be my default Low Light, but it's a nice touch that will be popular with other Joefans.
The accessories here are nothing real spectacular. He's got the same backpack as Shockwave, Blackout's sniper rifle, and the '89 Snake Eyes silenced submachine gun, which are all sensible weapons, though nothing that knocks me out. He can hold the rifle very well, which is cool, but ultimately nothing amazing.
Probably the low point of the Convention set in my opinion, this figure really doesn't offer much to excite me. I do know there are some devout fans of this particular character and this version of that character, so I'm sure they'll be pleased, just nothing here that really hits me.
Bullhorn is remarkably similar to Hit & Run in my personal G.I. Joe timeline from when I was a kid, but for some reason that didn't really translate to my dio-story world. While I do feature Bullhorn throughout my dio's, he never captured the spotlight like Hit & Run, even though the two were practically tag team partners when I used them back in the day. Something about Bullhorn really appealed to me, and still does. That 1990 run of figures was an amazing one that often does not get the credit it deserves. All new characters, tons of awesome accessories, it was an impressive run of figures that I still love many of to this day. So many blank slates to choose from, so many great designs...but unfortunately the poor treatment of the DiC cartoon and the fact that these characters never really got the development they deserved puts that series on the backburner for many people, and often the characters that were so prevelant in that run go forgotten.
This version of Bullhorn uses his torso, head, and arms with the waist and legs of the DEF Shockwave (which was later used as the more familiar Sure Fire). That actually works perfectly fine for me, since Bullhorn's most identifiable parts are his upper body. That trademark webgear and grenades across his chest are familiar to any Joefan, not to mention the unique head sculpt and headband. I love that the Collectors' Club is getting their hands on so much under-utilized tooling, it makes these convention sets such a pleasure.
Bullhorn is colored using the same colors as the 3-Pack, and it looks pretty awesome on him, I have to say. The green, black, and silver paint scheme really matches his uniform nicely, and I like the darker shade of green on his legs as well. It's a tough call if it surpasses the original, though, as the version 1 Bullhorn had a great combination of grays and browns that will be tough to beat, and I absolutely loved his facial camouflage. Still, this is a nice update that does a great service to a very under-used character and often forgotten mold.
If I have any complaint it's that there were some rampant problems with the o-rings used in Bullhorn. Mine snapped right out of the bag, and I heard that a number of other folks had some problems as well. It's an unfortunate misstep, though the Club was more than happy to replace the o-ring on the spot when I asked them. Both Shockwave and Bullhorn had this issue, but both were resolved in a matter of minutes.
The Collectors' Club knocked the ball out of the park on his accessories, too! I'm not a big fan of the oversized machine gun Bullhorn comes with, but it is his, so I can understand it's inclusion. He's also got his familiar megaphone, which makes sense for a hostage negotiator. But the shining point of his gear is absolutely the "SWAT" emblazoned backpack with his take-apart sniper rifle. This is definitely a fan favorite and I'm thrilled that they got it in there.
All in all, this is a very cool update to a character that I've always had a sweet spot for. I've always meant to work him into my Urban Assault Force, but just haven't done it yet. He fits in that mold perfectly, and this a nice looking figure to boot. A big fan here.
Of course what is a fast attack SWAT team without their vehicle of choice? Evidently the Hammer is a popular choice amongst urban assault squads, as I use this particular vehicle for my Urban team in my dio-stories as well! Heck, I used the Brawler in Retaliation with that obnoxious missile launcher removed, kind of like this one is here. Great minds think alike.
The Hammer is a great vehicle that has gotten a somewhat bad rap, I think. It's one of the few times that a Joe vehicle was actually in scale or maybe even oversized. It's a large, layered armor behemoth, which is meant to drive through oncoming fire and return fire with it's own high powered weaponry. It's a pretty basic Humvee design but with your typical G.I. Joe additions like the massive twin gun platforms on each side and the two missile launchers on the back. I love the additional tweaks to this vehicle, and the end result is an impressive offensive jeep. I actually kind of like the fact that the roof-mounted machine gun isn't there, too...it gives Low Light an open spot to rattle off some sniper fire. Don't get me wrong, I would have loved to have seen that original heavy machine gun, but I can accept the fact that it's missing fine as well.
The colors used here are pretty great as well. Using the same green and black paint scheme that the figures use, this forms one great cohesive unit, and I love the "S.W.A.T." deco applied generously throughout the vehicle. Light brown seats add a nice touch of realism, too. Instead of silver we have light gray guns, launchers, and antenna, and it works nicely.
There are no stickers this time around, and honestly that suits me fine. Putting stickers on my vehicles is one of the few things that I've outgrown over the years, and personally I much prefer having all of my decorations pre-applied.
With Bullhorn behind the wheel and the guns roaring, the SWAT "R.T.V." is a great mid-sized vehicle to augment your Joe SWAT team. Unfortunately at a $75.00 price point it's something that most Joefans won't have the opportunity to own, which is a shame, but it's a fine vehicle with a great driver, all told.
Once again the Collectors' Club reaches into my brain and somehow figures out just what I'm looking for in the Club. New characters, new characters, NEW CHARACTERS. While everyone rants and raves about the Anniversary line (myself included, often times) I'll take new concepts and new characters over twenty-five year old rehashes any day of the week. Especially when they're as clever as this.
We first saw Hotwire during the G.I. Joe Trading Card Game and it was often hypothosized that he was to appear in the Robot Rebellion storyline. Whether that's true or not, I have no idea. When Lanny first started showing some teaser images of the filecard art for Hotwire I was sure that some new sculpt parts would be required to make this figure work. I couldn't possibly foresee using the Blanka head, but it works amazingly well! So not only do we get a cool new character, but it's in my favorite figure format as well. Awesome.
Seeing the way they did this figure makes me a bit more optimistic for the upcoming Dr. Venom as well...I had no idea how they would really do a labcoat, but this one works fairly well, I've got to say. Hardball's torso with the DTC Hannibal jacket really gives us a nice simulation of the coat that immediately gives him a "mad scientist" vibe. I do wish there was a way to get his goggles worked in here somehow, but there are plenty of removable goggles throughout the Joe line that I can mess with to get something to work.
As far as colors go, I like those, too. Obviously a plain white labcoat makes perfect sense, but I really love the purple pants. COBRA's tech and science team all seems to work within a purple paint scheme (Mindbender and Techno-Viper mainly) so this guy having purple worked into his figure makes a whole lotta sense. The nicely applied COBRA logo's just finish the figure off perfectly. This is a strange amalgamation of parts, to be sure, and I've seen some folks thrown for a loop. As for myself, I like it...as everyone probably knows by now when it comes to my favorites, the weirder the better!
There's really not much to talk about in the way of accessories. He comes with a pair of heavy pistols that could both double for tech tools or hydrolic needles or something, so they work fairly well in that regard, though they're not all that exciting.
Of course Hotwire's main accessory is his Mech, which I'll cover next. From a figure perspective, though, this guy is a winner, if he is somewhat of an oddball. He won't find a place in everyone's collection, but he'll get a spot in mine.
Well, I'm not especially a fan of the Mech suit concept when it comes to G.I. Joe. I never loved the SNAKE Armor that much, wasn't wild about the Power Fighters, and the Valor vs. Venom mechs weren't my favorites either. But I definitely appreciate and enjoy what the Collectors' Club is doing here. This appears to be the previously unreleased "CLAW Mech" which was originally planned for release with the aforementioned "Robot Rebellion" series after Valor Vs. Venom, and I LOVE the fact that the Club is doing what they can to get previously unseen figures and/or vehicles into collectors hands.
The Mech itself is strongly based on the Pulverizor mech, but with the addition of an oversized pretty nasty looking claw hand on his right arm. With the press of a button at the shoulder, the claw opens and closes, and there is also a launching missile. The Mech's other arm is the same as the Pulverizor, which is a pretty large looking attack cannon, which also has a missile that launches as well. Most of the Mech is in black and silver, but it has some great translucent blue parts as well, which really give it a nice look that I like, even though the Mechs don't necessarily do a whole lot for me. I do have to say that Hotwire actually fits in the Mech surprisingly well, too. Considering the vehicle is designed for the somewhat larger new sculpt line I wasn't sure he'd mesh real well, but once you take his labcoat off, he clips in securely, sits down in the legs nicely and can hold the handles very well.
It's strange because I am a huge fan of Exosquad, which uses a lot of the same mythologies as these mechs, but for whatever reason I just don't think the spirit of the Mechs really meshes with G.I. Joe, and I'm not wild about the articulation they've worked into them to date. So from that perspective, I'm not wild about the B.A.T. Mech, but I do love the fact that we've got something previously unreleased, and I'm a big Hotwire fan. So even with a $45 price tag, it's a relatively nice set.
That really rounds off the figures for the Convention set for 2008. I'm sure this review makes me sound like a Collectors' Club fanboy, but the fact of the matter is, the Real American Hero style is still my favorite style of figure, so I get pretty giddy when new figures are released in that format. Not only that, but the Club has the uncanny ability to read my mind and produce the toys that I want to see, so my reviews tend to be on the positive side. From the tooling to the characters to the paint apps, this set is yet another home run in a series of great hits from the Collectors' Club since 2002. I'm ecstatic to see what else is on the horizon for the future.
Of course I'd be remiss if I didn't at least mention the comic that came with the set. It's a decent story all told that features all of the characters from the Convention set in the pages and manages to tie them all together into one cohesive story. The writing is decent for the most part, though not some of Hama's best. I know I've seen some folks a bit upset about Sure Fire's inclusion in the book, but I don't have a big problem with it. He's part of the Urban Operations division, and doesn't play a huge role in the comic, so it's fine with me. In fact Sure Fire seems to kind of poke fun at himself a little bit through the pages, so that shows a sense of humor if nothing else. The art works fairly well and I'm glad to see the comic here. Here's hoping they do some more with comics in the future.
So, another year in the books, and another terrific convention set. Great job once again on this one...and if you head on over to Page Three you'll see a ton more pictures that couldn't fit on the first two pages!
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