Review & pics by: Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Eagle's Edge Destro
The original 1982 G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero line-up was “the one that started it all” for 1:18 scale Joes. Had that line-up failed to catch the attention of kids of the 80’s there might not have been successive G.I. Joe waves. Yet as great as the 1982 wave was, it was the cast of the following year that really helped define the A Real American Hero brand - especially when it came to the ranks of Cobra. 1983 saw the mass market release of three characters whose presence shaped the serpentine army in immeasurable ways- Cobra Commander, Major Bludd, and the metal-masked arms dealer Destro. Of this trio, there was one character who stood out in both the animated and comics portrayals due to his sense of honor and strong commanding presence. Is this latest version of the character “THE” definitive generation 3 version of the character or has the arrow fallen short of the target once more? Read on and find out this Joe fan’s opinion!
When the 25th Anniversary line debuted, the inclusion of Destro in its initial offerings was a complete no-brainer. He was a central character in the mythos of G.I. Joe: A Real American-- being heavily featured in both the animated series and the comics. In fact, Destro seems to receive as much if not more screen/page time than Cobra Commander at times. Regardless, when it comes to the ARAH era there are few characters more recognizable than the Scottish arms dealer and Hasbro saw fit to update his debut look in the 50th anniversary collection.
It’s a very simple look-- and this figure is a near-perfect translation of the original 1983 design. The simple black uniform with its silver wrist bracers and daring 70’s high collar are all present. Even the sculpted radio that hung over the Laird’s left pectoral is present!
If there was one thing that always bothered me about the “modern era” releases of Destro, it was the fact that Hasbro never seemed to scale his head properly. The first release featured some nice sculpting on the mask but it was small. For the second Iron Grenadier version Hasbro saved tooling dollars and just used the same head sculpt to create the golden mask used by the Laird when leading his private army. Both of these drove me a bit nuts simply because the vintage 1983 version featured a properly-scaled mask. How difficult of a concept was it to grasp? Destro wore a metal mask OVER his actual head-- the mask wasn’t his actual head!!! (I won’t even get into the GvC era version in which James McCullen must have ticket off a voodoo witch doctor. Seriously.) It wasn’t until 2013 at the Indianapolis G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention that Hasbro seemed to get it right. As part of the hasty-displayed concept case reveal, the new Destro figure really took the fandom by storm. It was tall, classic in styling, and featured a head that not only called back the angular look of the original ‘83 design but also featured what appeared to be proper head proportions! Could be that fans finally got a Generation 3 updated to Destro that wasn’t the victim of a pin-headed curse?
It’s hard for me to be objective about this head sculpt simply because I like it so much! One of the things that Hasbro seems to continually forget is that Destro’s “head” is actually a metal mask that he wears to honor a disgraced ancestor. As such, it should be sculpted like a mask and not merely a silver-plated bald head. (He’s not Norrin Radd after all!) This head captures the original metal mask look of the 1983 original and brings it firmly forward to 2014! It’s all hard edges and sharp lines rather than the soft lines found on a human face and yet the likeness of Destro is still unmistakably present. It’s as if the original metalsmith made the mask to replicate the face of the original wearer as a form of mocking punishment which fits perfectly with the story of the mask’s origins. Unlike many later representations in both figure form and animation, this looks like it could have been lifted directly from the screen or the page. However, the single best part about the head is that it is almost perfectly scaled. It still might be a tad small but Destro no longer looks pinheaded-- a long overdue development!
Readers who have stuck with my long-winded review this far will notice that I keep referencing what a great update this is to the original 1983 version. That statement also applies to Destro’s kit-- which evokes memories of the original figure’s small plastic backpack. That vintage accessory featured a sculpted interior showcasing a disassembled rifle and a few other armaments befitting someone who was a weapons manufacturer. Flash forward to 2014 and Hasbro has produced a fantastic weapons case that features an actual metal hinge! That’s right-- no more stress fractures on the plastic as fans wonder just how long it will be before the plastic on the joints cracks. It’s a great case that’s divided up into a series of interior compartment to accommodate a modular sniper rifle!
Sadly, I don’t really know what rifle this is based on but it’s a mostly-solid accessory that works great with either the Laird or his lady paramour the Baroness. (At times I can see this being a gift presented to Anastasia in order to make amends for some perceived slight.) The rifle features a folding bipod and a removable scope and shoulder stock. Most of the parts fit together rather well although the stock on mine does tend to fall off rather easily. I think this is more a result of the softer plastic used in the construction of the accessories than it is an overall flaw in the original tooling. It would seem that cost-cutting has firmly hit the Joe line at this point.
If there’s a downside to Destro it is found in the quality of the plastic used to produce this figure. Like much of the 50th line, this figure may look good but there’s a lightness to the overall heft that makes it feel more like a knock-off than a Hasbro-produced piece for one of their signature lines. This lower-quality plastic is very evident in the plastic used for the knee joints which feel almost rubbery in the way that they flex side-to-side. This isn’t like the figures of the past few years-- this is a whole new level of cost-cutting and, along with the shoddy paint applications found on other figures, is very telling of the level of importance that Hasbro places upon the brand currently. I realize that there are folks out there who will accuse me of nitpicking but this is something that really needs to be mentioned. While this figure looks to be miles ahead of the 25th Anniversary release in terms of design, its construction quality has most definitely taken quite a few steps backward.
Here’s the part where I give my answer to the question that any good review should answer: Is this figure worth spending your hard-earned cash to aquire? In spite of the softer plastic, I’m going to go ahead and say “Yes!” This is the Destro that many fans have been waiting for ever since the Generation 3 era of A Real American Hero began. The overall design is terrific, the head sculpt is both classic and proportionate, and, in spite of some issues with the grade of the plastic used, he’s the best Destro yet released in the no-ring era of construction. Honestly, THIS is the Destro that I wish had been released the first time around. (This is one of the most frustrating aspects of the Generation 3 era-- the continual need to have a “do-over” to fix design issues on previously released figures. However, that’s a rant for another day.) The best part is that this figure is proving to be abundantly stocked at Toys R Us both in stores and online so fans won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to acquire him. So, stop lolly-gagging and looking at my pictures-- run out and get your OWN figure now! You’ll be pretty happy you did!
Questions? Comments? Do you feel that any Joe figures at retail is better than no Joes at all?
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