Review by Chris Chung & Fred Meyer
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Heavy Assault Two Pack
Security - Code name: Stiletto
One of the greatest strengths of the A Real American Hero era (and its subsequent variations) is the sheer size of its roster of characters. In spite of some of the marketing efforts of the past few years, the ARAH incarnation of Joe has a cast of hundreds of unique and interesting characters—each with their own backstory, quirks, and personality. As a Joe fan, nothing makes me more excited than when a new character debuts in the line which is why I was ecstatic when Hasbro opened the Fan’s Choice Kindle World’s Poll in early 2016. Essentially this meant that Joe fans were guaranteed to get a brand-new character in one of the upcoming figure packs. After the dust settled and the votes were tallied, author Bill Nedrow’s Stiletto was selected. Paired up with a new version of Heavy Duty this new femme fatale offers up some new blood into the G.I. Joe universe. However, was she worth the wait? Read on and find out two Joe fans’ opinions!
Stiletto made her debut in Bill Nedrow’s third G.I. Joe Kindle Worlds novel G.I. Joe: Body Count in which she appears to be an associate of the former-Cobra-turned-Joe-ally Mercer.
Okay Fred, I haven’t read anything about Stiletto except her painfully trite filecard, so who is she and why should I care about someone else’s fan-fiction (and potential Mary Sue) character?
Sigh… I can’t count on anyone to do their homework these days, can I?
When the winner of the Kindle Worlds competition was revealed, I’d not actually read any of Bill’s Kindle Worlds stories. However the announcement of Stiletto left me intrigued. How did this design actually measure up to the character as described in the e-book? First, let’s take a look at an excerpt from G.I. Joe: Body Count in which Scarlett first encounters Stiletto:
As much as Scarlett wanted to study all four of the newcomers, she found herself unable to take her eyes off the woman who walked before the other three men in her unit. The Asian woman- hailing either from Vietnam or Thailand, Scarlett guessed- looked to be in her late twenties or early thirties, but she walked with a confidence of someone far older. Unlike the ragged and cobbled together clothes of most of the men in Mercer’s group, she wore a tight fitting black outfit that was accentuated with a bandoleer. A number of knives were tucked into sheaths on both her bandoleer and the belt she wore at her waist.
Her jet black hair was braided and ran in a single cord down her back, but this wasn’t what drew Scarlett’s attention to the top of the other woman’s head. Just above Stiletto’s left eye was a streak of white hair. Scarlett would have assumed it was natural had it not given way to a grotesque scar that ran down the length of the woman’s face. The mark went straight through her left eye, which had been left milky and dead why whatever would had left the blemish, and continued down her face. It ended just to the left of her two front teeth and picked back up a couple of millimeters to the left when it began again on her bottom lip and continued to her chin. Scarlett wasn’t sure whether it was the way the scar didn’t line up at her mouth or a natural aspect of her countenance, but Stiletto has the look of someone who was always scowling.
In building the Stiletto figure one would assume that the designers at Hasbro reviewed this description, identified the signature elements of the character’s design, and then attempted to marry those with previously-produced parts. In doing the same, I was left with the following impression:
Body: form-fitting black uniform, bandoleer of knives
Now, it’s immediately obvious that Hasbro went in a decidedly different direction when it came to the figure’s body design. Back in May 2016, an article published on Hasbro Pulse offered some insight into the design process for Stiletto. It was also the first time that fans were given a look at an early mock-up for the design. However, the final product ended up being something a bit different.
Stiletto is comprised of:
In terms of build, it’s not bad. It’s just not quite what I would have pictured for the character based the description in Body Count. Helix’s uniform is rather distinctive and features quite a bit of sculpted detail. As such, it’s a bit hard to look at this w/o thinking that Stiletto raided Helix’s closet as some point. Still, I find that it works well in giving Stiletto a look that deviates from the “badass woman in black” stereotype that has become so cliché in fiction anymore. Plus, her Thai-inspired color scheme definitely makes an impression. I would, however, have liked to see her bandoleer of knives included as I can’t recall another figure that has such a detail in their uniform. It would have helped give her a more distinct appearance.
Stiletto’s coloration is odd---bright green pants, a black shirt, and maroon corset---all offset by a blue neckerchief. Although the colors have grown on me since I bought her, initially I was like “what the heck is with this lame, uber-generic palette?” In hindsight, her green paint is synergetic with Heavy Duty’s green, and those two are also synergetic with Duke’s green, so it does feel like a unified color scheme even if it wasn’t mean to. Or maybe it was deliberate. But it wasn’t a good first impression.
Stiletto has a new head placed on a Helix body with Lady Jaye arms. In theory that was a recipe for success---a new character with a new head! What could possibly go wrong? Plus, looking at the conceptual Stiletto artwork by Robert Atkins [link], I was intrigued at what I saw, and was excited to see the final product.
Unfortunately, when I found her in stores I was very disappointed. The head sculpt upon first glace looked dreadful! (And is very small.) Let’s not mince words---she looked fugly! The overexaggerated receding hairline with the widow’s peak gave her a very masculine appearance. Coupled with the very sharp and narrow chin, she looked like a bizarre human/My Little Pony hybrid undergoing FtM HRT. I was actually shocked when I saw this. I was so flabbergasted; I passed over the pack. It was only when a few of my friends were highly recommending Heavy Duty later on, that I reluctantly went back and picked up the 2-pack---which was peg warming along with three other duplicates.
Fred, Heavy Duty was better than I thought, but I believe my text to you about Stiletto was: “Terrible looking figure. I don’t know if I can salvage it.”
Per the pics you sent me, you definitely tried! In order to avoid turning this into a doctoral thesis on Stiletto, I’ve moved Chris’ alteration suggestions and images to a separate page. Check it out here!
I don’t want this to get too long but I’d like to comment on one detail on Stiletto’s head sculpt—her facial scar. Remember her description from earlier in the review? It’s pretty hard not to read that and come away with the impression that she has a pronounced facial scar and a dead left eye. Yet, in looking at this figure, Hasbro seems to have shied away from both of those details. The scar is there—but without any kind of paint application to highlight the detail, it comes across more as a cooling line in the plastic than an intentional detail. In addition, the paint application on her left eye gives the impression that it is not only functional but also smaller than her right! Did Hasbro decided that a scarred female figure was too much for kids in Toys R Us, even though kids aren’t really buying G.I. Joe anymore? Or was this a factory error?
Even author and Stiletto creator Bill Nedrow posted “fixed” photos of the head sculpt on his Facebook page. (We’ve mirrored one of them below.)
At the end of the day, Stiletto’s head is a bit of a headscratcher… I don’t have the issues with it that Chris does but at the same time I really wish that I didn’t have to fix the paint applications on the scar.
Stiletto comes with the following:
Stiletto comes with a Dragunov Sniper Rifle---which matches her Atkins concept art. The woodgrain on her rifle is painted in a darker shade of brown, which is nice to differentiate it from the standard Cobra version. A customized MP5 and an M&P backup pistol make up her firepower.
In addition to firearms, she comes with four blades---two swords and two knives. The swords can be sheathed in her backpack, but there is no place to put the knives. A belt and neckerchief complete her kit.
In terms of kit, Stiletto’s most definitely reflects that of an assassin, at least as we’ve seen in popular culture. She’s got the sniper rifle, the SMG, and the blades. As I said earlier, I’d have been happier if she’d had the bandoleer of knives as described in G.I. Joe: Body Count as opposed to the typical set of swords. Sure, she’s got two knives but she’s got nowhere to put them, which is a huge pet peeve of mine. It seems like one of the basic tenets of Design 101: everything should have a purpose and a place. However, I like the included accessories well enough.
Fred, you are our resident stickler for articulation. While the Lady Jaye arms have a nice C-grip instead of the useless J-grip, they are a tad on the short side. How is she at holding her weapons or gear?
You just had to go there, didn’t you? Fine… here comes my usual articulation rant. While Stiletto can hold most of her gear ‘well enough’, the included Dragunov is only good if she’s carries it low. Without hinged wrists Stiletto, like most Hasbro G.I. Joe figures, can’t assuming anything resembling a realistic sniper pose. I’ll be accused of nitpicking but seriously--- don’t give a figure an accessory if that figure cannot take full advantage of the piece. Okay, minor rant over.
One gripe I have is a personal one. While I can appreciate her Oriental ethnicity, she is once again one of “those” clichéd and stereotyped Asians that are good with edged ancient weapons and are ninjas or martial artists. That’s actually insulting, as Torpedo and Tunnel Rat are the only exceptions to this lame Hasbro rule. And look at me: I’m very tall---almost 6’ 4”, and I suck at math. Bang! All Oriental stereotypes have just been broken! (And yeah, I use “Oriental”. If anyone is “triggered”, deal with it.)
You mean you DON’T know martial arts? I’m so disappointed…
On the surface Stiletto looks like a wash, but if you spend the time to study her details, she can be made into a decent figure. So while I initially very much disliked her, now that she’s fixed I’m not at all ashamed to add her to my troop roster. Unfortunately this is yet another all-to-common instance of the fans having to fix something right out of the package.
When it comes to Stiletto, I’m torn. I love new characters and the concept of new blood, especially a new female character, left me very excited for this character’s release. She’s got a solid build and a decent selection of accessories and I think that most fans who haven’t read any of Bill Nedrow’s Kindle Worlds books are going to like her quite a lot. However, for those that have, this figure is one that “almost hits the mark.” The changes to the uniform and equipment, the change of faction and an all-too-brief file card, combined with what are essentially MISSING paint applications for her scar and left eye really cause this figure to lose quite a few points in my eyes. It would be like releasing a version of Major Bludd with two functioning eyes or a blonde Baroness. The character has some very distinctive defining characteristics and for some reason Hasbro chose to ignore them. Much like Chris, I don’t feel that fans should have to fix a character right out of the package, just to make her resemble the source material. As such, Stiletto is a good figure, but she could have been truly great, had Hasbro paid a bit more attention to the fine details. Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion.
The Bottom Line: Stiletto is good figure that could have been so much better with more accurate paint applications. A good new femme fatale that could have been so much more.
(Photo by Stiletto creator Bill Nedrow)
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