GI Joe, GI Jane, Interrogator, Viper Guard
I’ve always thought that the six-pack figure sets were a great idea. Some of the sets allowed for affordable troop building while other sets featured the return of popular sub-teams from the 1980’s. Some told stories and others featured characters that had never appeared in the 3.75” form before. A great example is the Night Force six-pack that introduced the character of Action Man into the GIJoe: A Real American Hero world. Sure, the figure was just a “franken-joe” repainted to match the other figures, but the concept was sound and proved to be fairly popular with Joe fans. Hasbro’s latest six-pack, the Viper Lockdown, features some pretty exciting character choices including an obscure fan favorite and two of the characters that started it all, as well as some very popular troop builders. If this sounds like a dream come true for many collectors, it is—but the dream isn’t quite perfect.
The character of “GIJoe”, aka Joseph Colton, first saw release in 3.75” form back in 1994 as a mail-away figure. The character was supposed to be the original “GIJoe”—hand-picked by President Kennedy to lead a “new kind of fighting force” to combat the changing nature of warfare in the modern world. However, his first appearance in RAH continuity was actually in May 1989, in Marvel Comics GIJoe: A Real American Hero #89. Both GIJoe and Jane were introduced in that story where the two of them were working on a secret research project with Joe providing security and Jane acting as the head scientist on the project. Colton appeared additional times in the Marvel series and again in Devil’s Due’s first Frontline arc (scripted by Larry Hama) before “General Joe” took over leadership of the team in “America’s Elite”. (No mention of where Jane is at this time.)
I’ll be blatantly honest— my opinion of this figure varies on when you ask me what I think of it. As a figure goes, it’s pretty sharp but as a representation of Joseph Colton—well, I’m not really certain. The body itself is another “franken-joe” comprised of the VvV Wave 3 Wild Bill torso, waist, and legs with the head of the VvV Wave 3 Stalker and the DTC Barrel Roll arms. The parts, while coming from such a disparate group of releases, fit together surprisingly well in spite of some lingering proportion issues inherited from the Wild Bill body. (Poor Bill was from the era of short torsos and elongated legs that seemed to plague the figure line.) The result is a utilitarian set of BDU’s with holsters on the pant legs with some western influence found in the cowboy boots and the belt buckle. The camouflage pattern that has been painted on seems a bit dated—and actually reminds me of the one used in the war film “The Wild Geese”. I can understand the dated look as this is supposed to be Colton—who isn’t exactly a spring chicken anymore, however the cowboy boots and revolver holsters throw the design off for me. I was never a fan of this body when it was first used for Wild Bill as I felt it went overboard in it’s “cowboy influence”. (The only thing subtler would be to write “cowboy” on a 2 x 4 and then promptly beat fans over the head with it until we got the point.) The same holds true now—the figure’s parts come together well enough that I don’t even notice just how super model-esque they are in length and yet the overt western influence just doesn’t fit with how I’ve always pictured General Colton. Worse yet—this figure resembles NONE of Colton’s comic appearances from either the Marvel or Devil’s Due series. When I first heard that Colton was coming out I had pictured a Rollbar v1 body with a new bearded head which would have been in synch with his “America’s Elite” appearances. However, this figure, while not bad by any means, just doesn’t seem like Colton to me. I’m left more with the impression of an aging British soldier than I am with a figure of America’s premiere counter-terrorist warrior.
If the body doesn’t sit well with me then the head for GIJoe is even more awkward. I’m one of those fans who actually prefers the Valor vs. Venom version of Stalker (v4) to most other versions. Sure, the color scheme was pretty awkward but the uniform worked well for a modern-day take on the Joe team’s premiere Ranger. As such, the head sculpt used in that version is pretty set in stone (in my mind, at least) as “Stalker”. I’ll be honest—it’s not a bad head to use for Colton. The face has a steely determination in its gaze, a strong jaw, well-defined cheekbones, and even some sculpted facial hair. In other words, this is a pretty close match to how Colton is currently drawn in America’s Elite. However, the facial hair is only molded in the shape of a goatee—the rest of the beard is painted on with varying degrees of success. I ordered two of this set from DNSToys.com and both of my Colton’s ended up with really long lamb-chop sideburns and a goatee rather than a full beard. This is one time where I would have liked to have seen a brand-new head sculpt for a character rather than a reuse of an existing mold. C’mon—if this is supposed to be Joseph Colton—the original GIJoe—doesn’t he deserve his own distinctive head? The beret is a nice touch and acknowledges his Ranger roots but I just can’t get over the fact that this head came from my favorite version of Stalker. As such, it holds back from embracing this figure as Colton and leaves me more with the impression of a mediocre custom figure. Colton comes equipped with Wild Bill’s revolvers (which won’t fit into his right hand) and an M-60.
In her comic appearances, Jane has always been dressed in what I would consider to be “business casual”. Her professional attire didn’t stop her from fending off some Juggler lackies in “The Mission that Never Was” but Jane has always presented a very office-like appearance. In this figure, Jane has been realized in a more “woman of action” set of garb—and has apparently been raiding the closet of Bombstrike! The entire body used for GI Jane is that of VvV Wave 7 Bombstrike—with just some cosmetic changes. Jane’s pants are a darker green, her camo pattern is painted in black, and her t-shirt is more gray than brown. She’s missing the radio belt that was equipped with the female sibling from the Stall family but otherwise she’s pretty much Bombstrike from the neck down. This is a solidly designed female body both in terms of proportion and articulation and pretty much everything that I said in the Bombstrike review holds true for Jane. It is odd that Jane is sporting a “GIJoe” logo on her t-shirt as I was considered her to be a member of the “Adventure Team”. Action Man, in his Night Force debut, wore the appropriate logo for his lineage and yet Jane is wearing a modern Joe logo. (Does Colton have a few of these printed up with “Property of:” printed above the logo to stake his claim?) While this might seem like a minor nitpick, I feel that this is a missed opportunity on Hasbro’s part to really spotlight the origins of the character. In fact, I’ll take it as far as to state that Colton should have had the “Adventure Team” logo on his over-sized cowboy belt buckle as well. So, while the outfit might seem a bit young and casual for Jane, the body works well for this veteran physicist and she’s a solid addition to my veteran Joe ranks.
Okay, someone at Hasbro is obviously a fan of Stargate SG-1. This is the only way that I can explain why Jane looks nothing like her comic book appearances but instead resembles Colonel Samantha Carter from the television series. (There are obvious similarities in the characters as well: Carter is the scientific "brains" of SG-1, much as Jane was to the SDI installation that she and Joe staffed. All I need is my Heavy Assault Squad Roadblock standing next to her and I’ll have both Carter and Teal’c in Joe form!) Initially I had thought that Jane’s head sculpt was rather plain (no pun intended) but once I hit upon the resemblance to Amanda Tapping (the actress who portrays Carter) I took a real shine to this design. The face is a bit older in appearance than many of the new-sculpt Joes, while the hair is cut short and neat. This is the face of someone who is more concerned with matters of intellect than with matters of fashion. The appearance is practical and professional but not stylish or vulgar. The head works well for someone who is an advanced research physicist and I’m glad to see that Jane warranted a new head sculpt instead of just being a Bombstrike repaint. (However, if you paint her t-shirt black and give her a Marauder Inc P-90 from the forthcoming Wave 2 you’ll have an easy SG-1 custom!) Jane comes equipped with VvV 6 Shipwreck’s rifle, a pistol, and a combat knife.
Holy Schnikes! It’s the Interrogator! I’ve been a fan of this character ever since I discovered him back in late 90’s. I had been out of collecting Joe ever since high school and so I was greedily acquiring all of the fantastic molds that I’d missed out on. The Interrogator was an instant favorite—with his soulless mask and his stern uniform. I pictured many a Joe or Cobra traitor begging to talk after a few days in his “tender care”. (In fact, in a previous version of the ongoing fanfic “Day in the Life”, I had written a storyline involving Scoop being broken down by this master of persuasion.) The design team at Hasbro stepped up to the plate and hit one straight out of the park with this update to a relatively obscure character with a devoted following. (The parts combination used seems to have been based on a very renowned custom figure of this character.) The basis for this figure is simple: take the body of the DTC Crimson Guard (which was in turn built from the CLAWS Commander figure) add on a new web harness, and you’ve got a modern-day version of the Interrogator. The result is stunning; it is an update that is both uniform with other Cobra figures as well as faithful to the original design. Gone is the blue-paneled collarless shirt of the original and in its place is a very eastern-European styled military jacket. Replace the silver trim on the shirt with blue accents on the jacket’s lapels and add in a belt with holster and pouch. The pants are still dark blue with the familiar red stripe pattern on the side but this time the pants are actually jodhpurs. However well the part work is nothing compared the web harness that has been created especially for this figure. If you look at the classic RAH version of the Interrogator, you’ll note that he’s got a molded harness with a Cobra sigil, brass knuckles, two grenades, and a holstered pistol. The DTC version perfectly recreates this molded detail in the forum of a removable web harness that even has a holster for the figure’s side arm! The end result is a figure that is both uniform with other Cobra figures and yet is still distinctive enough to be recognized. (Some would add, “feared”.) While not quite as barrel-chested as the original, the body parts combination is perfect in bringing this “information retrieval specialist” to grim life.
If the body of the Interrogator is impressive, it is the head that will leave Joe fans truly breathless. Hasbro not only recreated the original helmet design but they improved it with a number of additional details that a degree of realism to this design. The classic “Clone Trooper” helmet is there—only now the details are more pronounced. Whereas the original design featured a t-shaped visor, this helmet appears to be more of a two-part unit—with a full visor underneath a black helmet with a t-shaped front opening. The “over helmet” actually flanges away from the red visor, giving much-needed depth to the front aspect of the headgear. The top of the helmet is now adorned with a silver crest that appears to be bolted directly into the material—giving the appearance of heavy armor. The crest ends in a raised Cobra sigil and is flanked by two small vents that would seem to provide ventilation to the terrifying figure within. (Wow—someone can actually breathe in one of these things! Who knew?) One thing that I was afraid of is that the Interrogator would suffer from the same diminutive head proportions that have plagued many of the Cobra figures in the line. Destro, the Vipers, Cobra Commander, the Crimson Guards – all of the have suffered from helmets that were the size of a normal head. The result of this is a figure that looked like it lost a game of poker to a voodoo witch doctor and couldn’t ante up. The Interrogator, on the other hand, sports a helmet of proper proportion—you could almost imagine the helmet being removed to reveal a normal Joe head underneath. The end result is just truly fantastic! The Interrogator comes equipped with his pistol sidearm as well as two combat knives—which is all he needs to do his job.
Here’s the troop builder in set! Remember the love that I had for the VvV Wave 7 Viper? All of that is true for this figure as it is a straight- up repaint of the Valor vs. Venom Viper—with one small twist. Rather than have the prominent red Cobra sigil and red arm guards of the wave 7 release, this figure is sporting silver details as well as a slightly darker blue uniform. Now, we’ve seen this color deviation in Cobra once before—all the way back with the original Cobra Soldier and Cobra Officer. The original Cobra blueshirts sported red Cobra sigils while the officers sported silver emblems across their chests. Therefore, in order to keep a more unified rank structure in my Cobra army, I see these not as guards for the Interrogator (which is the role of the Crimson Shadow Guard in my Joe-verse), I see these as the first ever Viper Officer figure! This distinction works and actually helps fill a gap in most Joe fan’s Cobra armies. Sure, it’s not what the file cards indicate but it’s something that I can see most Joe fans agreeing on. So, aside from the color changes, this is the same figure that we’ve seen three times in Valor vs. Venom—and it’s a mold that I hope we see again. The Viper Guard comes equipped with an M203 grenade launcher, AK-47, and scorpion SMG.
So, in the end, you’ve got four figures in this set. Jane is nice addition to the Joe ranks—albeit one that doesn’t entirely resemble the source character so much as she does a cast member from Stargate SG-1. (Seriously, paint the shirt black and you’ve got Carter!) The Viper Guards are repaints of a highly sought army builder and could possibly fulfill the role of Viper Officers. The Interrogator is a terrific update of a fan-favorite second-tier Cobra character that has really only seen major exposure in General Hawk’s dio-stories. (See GeneralsJoes.com for more!) However, Joseph Colton is a bit of a disappointment in the respect that the figure just doesn’t come together as well as he should have. Still, 3 out of 4 (or technically 5 out of 6) good figures in a set is a reason to buy it in my book. I ended up with two—so that I’d have enough Officers from my new sculpt regular Vipers. I’m happy with a second Interrogator and Jane, and may possibly even come to love the “GIJoe” figure more with time. Still, my gut feeling is that most Joe fans are going to want all of the figures but Colton who just isn’t quite up to muster. Either way, this is one of the best six packs produced and one that I personally feel is going to be a hit with the majority of Joe fans.