Daina, Colonel Brekhov, Shrage
Twenty-three years ago I read a story in a comic book series entitled “To Fail is to Conquer… To Succeed is to Die”. It chronicled the first encounter of the GIJoe team with their Russian counterpart, the Oktober Guard. While the roster of the Joe team at that point was only thirteen, the Oktober Guard weighed in with only five members. Whereas the Joes had the fairly implausible RTV and a VAMP at their disposal, the “Peace Loving People of Mother Russia” had, according to Clutch, a six-wheeled “Kremlin Kiddie Kart.” Still, these five individuals proved to be a match for the Joes and very nearly bested them in the following issue. Despite their relatively few appearances, the Oktober Guard made their mark on Joe fandom in those first two issues of the comic series and now, twenty-plus years later they are finally given the action figure treatment they so richly deserve.
I won’t lie—I never purchased the TRU exclusive Oktober Guard set back in the late 90’s. For whatever reason, it just completely slipped by me and so this is the first Daina figure I have ever owned. Boy, am I glad that I passed on the previous figure, as this comic pack Daina is a thing of beauty! Her head sculpt is a near perfect likeness of the Herb Trimpe artwork of Russia’s premiere sniper! From the wool-lined cap perched atop her head, to her cropped blonde hair, to the humorless expression on her fact this is the Daina I remember reading so many years ago. In fact, when comparing this figure to my RAH Lady Jaye it became obvious to me just how much the line has improved since the 80’s. Hasbro’s head sculpts now are light-years ahead of where they were “back in the day” in terms of detailing and expression. This new Daina head looks believable and alive. I’m glad that Hasbro has gone with all-new head sculpts for the comic packs for a variety of reasons and the perfect likeness of Daina is just one of them. Bravo Hasbro! Bravo!
Daina’s body is based on the original Lady Jaye mold but with some retooling. When looking at the comparison shot it is obvious that some changes to the tools have been made. Daina is of a slightly smaller build than Lady Jaye with shorter thighs and a retooled torso. Her collar has been toned down a bit and the wrinkles on her shirt have been toned down considerably. When you combine this body with the new head you have a figure that is significantly more feminine than the source mold. Again, this is a fantastic improvement and one that just endears this figure to me all the more. My only real complaint with Daina is that, for a sniper, she’s woefully under-equipped. Daina comes armed with an AK-47, a combat knife, and grenade launcher. Now, after playing hours and hours of HALO 2 I can appreciate anyone wanting to wield a grenade launcher but it’s not really a substitute for a precision weapon like a good sniper rifle. However, this is easily fixed by some weapons swapping and my Daina is off to wage sniper duels with the likes of Lowlight, Crosshairs, Blackout, and Barrel Roll. Again, this is a fantastic figure and the best female released in the comic pack series.
I love this man. I really don’t know what it is about him but I have always been a fan of Brekhov. Perhaps it was his Russian pragmatism, or his disheveled appearance. Maybe it was his willingness to join forces with Stalker and the Joes just until Cobra was out of the way. Regardless, Brekhov was a figure that was a long time coming in figure form and this figure is absolutely worth it. In preparing for this review I sat down and re-read both issues 6 & 7 as well as Yearbook #2. I knew that Daina had an accurate likeness but I was curious if Brekhov was just as close to his comic character. Unfortunately his head sculpt doesn’t so much resemble the comic artwork of Herb Trimpe as it does actor Robert Davi (Profiler, License to Kill). Now, I’m not saying that this makes the figure a bad figure; I’m just saying the likeness isn’t as tight. However, if you look closely at the original comic pages, Brekhov was a bit of a caricature. With his hat pushed back to the top of his head and his cigarette firmly clenched in his teeth, he reminded me of just about every Russian officer in every Cold War spy thriller I’ve seen. It seems that Hasbro instead wanted to give the good Colonel a more realistic visage and so the “Robert Davi” head is the result. It works for me; the head captures the essence of the no-nonsense Colonel and yet blends in well with not only the comic pack series but also the regular Valor vs. Venom figures as well.
Brekhov’s body, like many of the figures featured in the comic pack series, is a reuse of an older mold. Does anyone remember Red Star? His body, designed to be a Russian officer, works perfect as a body for both Brekhov and Stormavik. While I can’t comment on the accuracy of the uniform it certainly screams “Russian military” to me and that’s really what counts. It’s a good enough representation of what was shown in the comics that I’m perfectly content with this as my Colonel Brekhov figure. The Colonel’s gear is a bit puzzling, however, as he comes with a standard backpack, an automatic revolver, and the same machine gun that came with the original Beach Head. It’s this last choice that seems a bit odd to me—much like the grenade launcher that was packaged next to Daina. This really isn’t a big deal as a simple weapon swap gives the Colonel an AK-47 but it is just odd enough to warrant mentioning.
Poor Shrage—he survived all of the comic missions of the Oktober Guard only to end up as a traitor in the Devil’s Due series. While he was never one of the “major” members of the Oktober Guard, it is still great to see his inclusion in this set. The head sculpt is quite good—giving the impression of a very dour Russian military man. His face is almost completely expression-less; he is a man who serves the people. When the people are happy then he is happy. I was initially afraid that this head might end up resembling Hawk too much but instead Shrage has a more full set of cheek bones and any resemblance to the Joe’s CO is superficial.
Once again we see a reuse of the Big Ben body in the comic pack series. So far, this body (in whole or in part) has been used for Kwinn, Shrage, and Rock-n-Roll. However, when I was perusing through the original story, the use of this body made sense. It’s ironic but Big Ben’s body is virtually identical to Shrage—missing only the additional ammo belt around the waist. I’m glad to see that Hasbro swapped out the arms for something a bit less “insulated jacket”; the replacement arms are just non-descript enough to work for this mold. Overall, I think that Shrage wears the BB body well and really makes it his own, rather than just looking like a repaint. As with the other two figures in this pack, Shrage is missing his trademark weapon. Every time I’ve seen him in the comic (with the except of the DD issues) he was carrying a machine gun with a drum magazine. Here he has just a simple AK-47 and the same weapon that came packaged with the Spy Troops Pit Vipers. It’s not a bad weapons set; in fact, the AK-47 is perfectly appropriate. Still, I’m going to track down an appropriate machine for my boy Shrage.
Hasbro—you’ve done right by the fans with this set. Despite the recent news on production shortages, this is my favorite comic pack to date. Great character selection, great sculpts, and good likenesses. It fills a void that had been left empty in this fanboy’s collection for far too long. Honestly, if this is any indication of the type of product that Hasbro has in store for the comic packs line, I say, “Bring it on!” This is a set that will appeal to both old and new Joe fans alike and one that almost every Joe fan can agree is darned near perfect!