For many people now in their late 20’s and early 30’s, Marvel Comics’ “GIJoe: A Real American Hero” comic series was their introduction into the world of comics. While the pages contained their fair share of crazily-costumed characters and over-the-top plots, Larry Hama’s serialized tale of “Special Counter-Terrorist Group Delta” portrayed real characters in what were often unrealistic situations. The brilliance of the writing, however, was in keeping the cast of the characters believable and human. Characters felt remorse, elation, triumph, and bitter defeat. One such tale from that classic run was issue #115—set in the whirlwind that was the Benzheen Conflict, the story depicted the events of one harrowing reconnaissance flight and its bitter consequences for one particular pilot.
I’ve always said that it’s amazing what a good repaint can do for a figure. What I never really anticipated is how perfectly a good repaint can turn one figure into another. Case in point, Snow Job from 2008 wave 1. He was a pretty solid figure- with a nicely classic look. In fact, the biggest complaint that I have with that figure is the dreaded “rubber skirt” that has plagued many figures since the GvC re-launch of 2001. What utterly amazes me is how well that same body can be turned into a perfect update of one of my favorite pilots—Wild Weasel! In fact, the repaint works so well with just a few changes that I almost wonder which figure this body was originally designed to be. This figure is almost an exact reproduction (and update) of the original Wild Weasel body with just a few small differences. The basic design is that of a high-collared jump suit with a harness worn over the torso and two large pockets on the legs. Thrown in a new “double slung” belt accessory and a new holster and knife sheath on the legs and you’ve got the key points of the character design. The harnesses are all painted black while any extra detailing is rendering in either maroon for the uniform pockets and pouches or silver for any clasps and buckles. Gone is the classic blue neck scarf worn by Cobra’s most distinctive pilot, but the high collar more than completes the look. (In fact, the scarf always reminded me of Fred’s ascot from “Scooby Doo” and, since the Baroness isn’t up for playing either Daphne or Velma I can live without it.) The absolute piece-de-la-resistance of this design, however, is the reproduction of the flight mission and navigational map on Wild Weasel’s legs. It’s a near perfect reproduction of the original paint scheme—right down to the “pseudo Australia” on the left leg! The end result of this is a figure whose character design and color scheme is so solid that it makes me say “Snow Job who?” (It also doesn’t help that I’ve yet to post Snow Job’s review. I’ve had the figure nearly two months—I’m an uber-slacker!) So Justin, are you have the “Wild Weasel” love-fest that I am or do you prefer this body as Snow Job?
The amazing thing is, the body works perfectly as both. I’m not sure if it’s intentional or not, but whoever designed this overall look for the uniform for Snow Job and Wild Weasel MUST have designed it for both of them simultaneously. Those thigh maps blend right in with Snow Job’s figure, but provide a critical component to the design of the COBRA Pilot, as his leg maps are perhaps his most identifiable characteristic. The oversized pouches on the torso work seamlessly for both, and having those secondary rubber pieces makes a world of difference when you can trade off an extended Snow Job parka for a Wild Weasel double belt. Not to mention the easily reconfigured holsters and pouches on the legs as well.
Then we have this perfectly updated helmet that is a great design aesthetic that looks a lot like the original, but it modernized enough for the current figure line. Add the little touches like the COBRA Air Force logo on his holster and the removable goggles in his helmet and you have an excellent update to one of the core COBRA characters. Terrific.
It’s funny—I always seem to have an issue with the proportions of the heads that are designed for the figures in this line. Much like the reactions of Little Red Riding Hood, the heads are either “too large” or “too small” with only some of them being “just right”. Wild Weasel is more in the camp of Destro and “GIJoe Hawk” than that of the cranial enormity that is Breaker. (I’m not letting that one go any time soon. I think Justin is going to swipe the key board if I bring it up in just one more review.) The helmet for Wild Weasel is a bit small from top-to-bottom if there is meant to be a human head underneath. I didn’t notice this too much initially until I placed the figure next to Ace. However, Ace is also a bit taller than the crimson-clad Cobra pilot that I focused more on Ace’s height than I did Wild Weasel’s helmet. The other reason that I didn’t notice the proportional issue is that the figure’s head sculpt is just too fantastic! Seriously, I’m having a hard time with objectivity only because this figure was such a surprise hit to me. The fact that Hasbro threw in the removable visor is just icing on the cake. While I won’t be removing it all that often, it’s a nice extra feature that more than makes up for the disappointment that is the other figure in this pack. Plus, giving Wild Weasel a .45 for an accessory just makes him look that much cooler. Okay, I’ve given up all pretenses at objectivity on this one. I’ll leave the intelligent discussion to Justin while I sit here and pose Wild Weasel some more!
Fred basically put it perfectly. From the great new head sculpt to the brilliant use of existing tooling, and the somewhat low key accessory compliment, Wild Weasel just works great in all avenues. I do wish he fit in the vintage Rattler a bit better, but from a display perspective, Wild Weasel is about as good as you can get, even with the similarities with Snow Job. A+ work on this one.
Sure, the file card may refer to him as “GIJoe Pilot” but fans of the classic ARAH era know him better as Capt. Brad J Armbruster—code name: Ace! I have to admit, I’m a bit surprised at the inclusion of Ace in this particular comic pack only because the character isn’t the focal point of the issue that it’s packaged with. In fact, Ace is really only seen in the first few pages of the issue. (This is a discussion for later in the review, however, so I’ll get back on track.) “Eagle-eye’d” fans will immediately recognize the basic body construction of this figure; early press photos from Hasbro have indicated that this body will also be used for the team’s premiere helicopter pilot Wild Bill. The design itself is that of a basic flight suit—with long sleeves, kneepads and a basic web belt. The sculpting is quite well done with some nice wrinkles and folds as part of the mold to simulate the different layers of fabric. There is an id patch sculpted over the left pectoral as well as two raised posts on the legs that will be used presumably to mount holsters in the forthcoming Wild Bill figure. Overall, the body design is extremely plain—which is what I’d expect from a flight suit. The proportions of the body do seem a bit off to my eyes, however, with the torso being “overly long” and the arms a bit short. This could be an issue of perception due to the colors used on the body but Ace towers over some of the other figures in this line and can stand eye-to-eye with Roadblock. Now, while the movies have depicted such giants as John Wayne climbing nimbly in and out of fighter cockpits I think that Capt. Armbruster would have a tough time qualifying as a pilot in the Air Force. The issue here is the new combined “lower torso/waist” piece which is honestly just too long. An average person’s arms, when placed at their sides, will hang a bit lower than their crotch—which is not the case for Ace. The upper torso seems just fine in terms of proportion but the lower piece just gives the figure too much height. I don’t know if this bugs Justin as much as it does me, but I’ve never seen as being referred to as “Too Tall Armbruster”.
I’ll be honest—I’m not crazy about the color scheme used for this figure. The arm bands (one of which features the original Skystriker logo), undershirt, lower leg stripes, and helmet collar are all painted in the same “melon” hue that dominated the color scheme of both the original figure and the Skystriker. The rest of the flight suit, however, features a dark rust color over the off-white of the body. The figure’s belt is also painted gray for additional contrast. The result is that the figure’s color scheme just doesn’t come together like it should. The melon hue ends up clashing a bit with the rust and the whole figure fails to come together in any reasonable fashion. (Perhaps he needs a rug like in “The Big Lebowski” to tie the whole scheme together?) So, between the proportions and the colors I find myself just looking as this figure with a bit of a resounding “meh”. While the additional collar and helmet are a nice homage to both the original figure and the gear worn by the pilots of the famed U2 spy planes, I’m just not blown away by this figure like I should be. The fact that he doesn’t come with a single accessory just further alienates me from this figure to the point where I just can’t get excited about him. Do you have anything to add, Justin?
I actually find myself really loving the concept of Ace. I’m not married to the Anniversary line faithfully translating the original versions like a lot of folks are. Some people seem determined that if the figure doesn’t exactly resemble the classic version we got before, it’s worth the cardboard is packaged on. Well, I like new ideas and I like new concepts, and Ace has them both in spades. With that helmet and torso gear, he looks somewhat like the space age pilot he did back in the day. His arms and uniform have a great flight suit look, without going overboard with the astronaut padding like the original.
However, concept means little if the execution isn’t there, and on Ace, the execution leaves something to be desired. First, the paint on his head sculpt is a bit sloppy, giving every Ace I’ve seen “spooky eyes”. His head doesn’t look a whole lot like the familiar X-14 pilot, either. His arms come across as being a bit stubby while his legs are long, and nothing really “fits”. From a conceptual perspective, I think there is a lot of potential with this figure, and on Wild Bill these parts look pretty fantastic. But for some reason with Ace, it just doesn’t fit as well, execution-wise.
Don’t get me wrong, there are good points here. I love the Skystriker eagle on his left armband (though I’m not wild about the “ACE” proclamation on his other) and I still really like the design aesthetic at work. The colors also don’t bother me quite as much as they bother Fred.
In the end, I’m all for my favorite characters getting new looks…that’s what’s appealed to me from the Joe line since day one, especially considering I was never a huge fan of the original design for Ace, anyway. But a few things are lacking from an execution perspective here, and Ace ends up as the anti-Wild Weasel. While the COBRA pilot was able to seamlessly mesh existing tooling to represent a great update, Ace sort of fails doing the same thing.
Talk about a comic pack that’s “half full”, this set elicits a decidedly mixed reaction from me. Ace, a nice attempt at homage to the original figure, just leaves me cold. Between his odd color scheme and lanky proportions I just can’t seem to find much to be excited about with him. Wild Weasel, on the other hand, surprises me to such an extent that he’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite figures in this entire anniversary line. Not to mention the fact that Wild Weasel is actually featured more prominently in the included comic, its obvious which figure is the superior in my eyes. Had this comic pack included a reprint of Marvel Comics #34 I might be able to rationalize the use of the Ace v1 design a more. However, there’s just nothing in that figure design that connects with my current preferences and so I’m left looking at Brad Armbruster and wondering just how far back on the shelf I can place him and yet still see him. Wild Weasel, on the other hand, will end up standing next to Firefly in homage to their early “Hope & Crosby” team-ups in the swamps of Florida. Any closing thoughts, Justin?
Gotta agree that the comic choice was a somewhat bizarre one. I’m assuming there are reasons while the always classic Issue #34 wasn’t used, but it would have been perfect. A great issue featuring both pilots in all their glory. That would have been a terrific choice. Issue #115 is sort of a strange choice because it’s not a standalone issue, so non-diehards really won’t be certain of the events surrounding it, and the characters in the pack barely make appearances in the book. Sort of a strange choice.
All in all, I do agree with Fred that this pack is a half-classic/half-dud. Thankfully the half-classic part of the pack is enough of a classic that it makes up for the minor dud that is Ace. All in all, I still feel comfortable dictating that this pack is a must-buy, if only for Wild Weasel. Ace isn’t terrible either, and it’s always nice getting two new characters in one shot. Give it a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.