I can still recall the first time I ever saw a Beach Head figure; one look at his balaclava and I was convinced that he was a “replacement” for Snake Eyes. That impression fortunately was shattered by two things: his appearance in GIJoe vol 1 #47 and his debut in the cartoon. Both of these portrayals showed that while Beach Head and Snake Eyes would probably work well together they were anything but clones of each other. In fact, in many ways, Beach Head was Snake Eyes without all of the martial arts influence and a double dose of testosterone. He’s a character that made such a strong impression upon fans at his debut that only his premiere look has ever truly been accepted at “Beach Head”. When I saw he was to be included in the 25A line, I originally was somewhat skeptical—especially after my concerns with the first two boxed sets. However, Wayne R. Sneeden not only is a worthy inclusion in the anniversary line, he might be the best figure yet released.
First off, let me just say that the design team in Rhode Island absolutely NAILED the debut look of Beach Head with this figure. From his olive commando sweater, to his brown and green camouflage pants, to his black tac-vest, this figure is 100% Beach Head, remaining faithful to the original design while offering up some “enhanced” detailing. The original figure in 1986 was rendered with a smooth green long-sleeved shirt; the anniversary edition has added a ribbed texture to the torso that further conveys the impression of the aforementioned “commando sweater”. The texturing even carries over the figure’s head sculpt, providing a wonderful sense of continuity between the various parts with only the neck remaining smooth. The rest of the torso is completely devoid of detailing as Hasbro has opted to sculpt the bodies in a more generic fashion to allow a great range of parts reuse. The extra detailing is provided by the inclusion of the removable tactical vest which will be discussed in a moment. Fans of the original figure will notice a few slight changes in the design—such as the inclusion of a belt buckle and grenades on the belt as well as the variance in the weapons sheathed on the figure’s legs. As part of Hasbro’s practice of reusing parts in this line to create new combinations, subtle changes were made to the original character design of Beach Head. These “tweaks” are relatively minor and don’t alter the overall character of the design. In this case, Beach Head has a functional holster on his right leg rather than his left, and instead of knife features a pair of detonators on his opposite leg. Only the most “eagle eye’d” of fans would notice these changes on first glance—that’s how subtle they are. In many ways, I prefer the working leg holster on the right as I’ve always seen Specialist Sneeden as a “righty”. There’s no logical reason that I have this impression—that’s apparently just how my head works. One vast improvement over the original figure is the inclusion of combat boots and the transition from the cuff of the pants to the sculpted boot. The original 1986 figure always had an 80’s “sweats” look to his pants due to the “poof” of the cuff over the boots. It always detracted from the original figure’s design in my eyes and gave him a more casual look than I thought the character deserved. Hasbro, in making this body also useful for character such as Firefly (to be reviewed in wave 3) opted to give the Joe team’s second Ranger a more military pair of combat boots and I thank them for it. The boots help keep Beach Head’s look very hard-core military and again stay true to the essence of the character.
One area particular area where this figure’s sculpting particularly shines is the head sculpt. Let’s be honest for a moment—Hasbro has always had difficultly nailing down the look of Beach Head’s noggin. The original figure featured a ridiculously over-sized head that his mother probably never forgave him for. The second ARAH version was actually quite nice—but didn’t really scream “Beach Head” to most fans. His release in the GvC line was a bit “elongated” in proportions and that included his head. The less said about the insanely tiny Valor vs. Venom head the better. So, does this head continue the trend of “close but no cigar”? Not even close—as Hasbro has finally managed to utterly nail the look and feel of the most featured PT instructor in the US Military. This head is both proportionate and expressive—with a square-set jaw line and a stern expression that makes most of my figures wish they were displayed just a bit further back from this particular piece. The painted eyebrows convey a look that is part consternation, part annoyance and the set of the eyes is decidedly determined. With such a small area of the figure’s face displayed, it would have been easy for this figure to completely miss the boat and yet the design team managed to capture a look that most fans will agree is indeed Beach Head. Rather than taking a more neutral approach as they did with the Battle Pack Duke, the sculptors opted for a sterner, almost angry expression and it paid off in spades.
I mentioned before that a great deal of the “extra detailing” on the figure was found on his gear rather than on his body. In this case, the details that help to make this figure “Beach Head” are found on his tactical vest and his backpack. The vest is fantastic update to the original sculpted vest that was part of the 1986 figure’s torso. Included are the “clip pouches” that ran across the front of his torso, now increased from five to six for a more symmetrical look. In addition, two cargo pouches are sculpted above the clips just below the shoulder seam on either side. Most importantly for the character is the inclusion of a sculpted red beret fastened on the left shoulder. Even though he’s wearing a balaclava, Beach Head is still carrying the beret that has been the sign of the Rangers for decades. In keeping with the faithful recreation of the original figure, Hasbro also updated the Ranger’s backpack—including the climbing rope and crossbow quarrels. The biggest change, however, is the fact that the small crossbow that was sculpted on the original figure’s pack is now removable. The weapon can either be fitted relatively securely into a slot on the pack or can fit into the figure’s hands with relative ease. As with the Battle Pack release of Scarlett, the crossbow is comprised of two pieces- the stock and the bow. I’ll be honest—I’ve got two Beach Head figures and the crossbows vary quite a bit in terms of durability. The first one that I opened fell apart at anything more than a casual thought. The second one is much more durable although I’m still going to “seal the deal” with a drop of Gorilla Glue and therefore permanently fasten the two halves together. It’s a nice inclusion in Beach Head’s kit, although it’s not one that I see getting a tremendous amount of use in my displays. Also included are a sidearm pistol and a new automatic rifle that I’ve yet to identify. It’s a different design than the one that was included with the original figure but it works well enough that I don’t see this as an issue. Besides, I can always give him a Marauder Gun-Runner’s XM8 if I feel like upgrading the figure.
Anyone who has read my reviews of the 25A line knows that I’m not one to pull punches when it comes to the articulation issues found in this line thus far. I’m just going to come out and say it now—Beach Head is still plagued by some of the issues found in the first Battle Pack and in wave 1, just to a lesser extent. The figure’s elbows come close to bending at a 90 degree angle but just don’t quite make it. They’re far better than those found on Gung-Ho, Duke, and Flint but they’re still not quite to the level of the recent DTC releases. The same goes for the waist and the “v-crotch” that the figures possess. Beach Head can sit but his legs spread apart far more widely than they really need to. Getting this figure to fit inside a vehicle such as a classic VAMP or Awe Striker just really isn’t going to be an option and that is a darned shame given how otherwise perfect this figure’s design really is. I’ll be blunt—I’m getting used to the limitations in articulation found in this line. I’m not happy about them but I’m getting used to them. At the 2007 Collector’s Convention, the design team did state that these motion issues were being addressed and that fans would see changes in new molds occurring in early 2008. So, while there is hope for future figures to move as well as their vintage ARAH counterparts, we’ll just have to wait a bit longer to see that promise realized. If this figure has a downside, it really is in his articulation limitations.
I’ll come out and just say it—this is one of THE best figures released in the 25A line to date. The detailing, paint applications, and overall character design are just phenomenal and hint at the greatness that is yet to come in 2008 as the design team further refines this new type of figure construction. This is an update of a classic character that is almost reverently faithful to the original design and yet still managed to update aspects that needed “fixing”. While I was less-than-impressed with many aspects of the debut Battle Packs (“frustrated” would actually be a better description), this figure shows that the design team is moving the right direction. Of any figure yet released, Beach Head is one that I can completely recommend as this is a figure that I’ve displayed on my computer desk and just can’t stop fiddling with!