I have a love/hate relationship with store exclusives. If the exclusive consists of repaints or previously released materials and is fairly hard-to-find, I’ll pass and save myself the frustration of trying to track it down. If the exclusive is something entirely new then there is that compulsion to track it down, regardless of the effort involved. Fortunately, the latest GI Joe exclusive isn’t hard-to-find—it’s currently hitting Kmart stores nationwide and, while it consists of mostly previously-released items, it’s not a bad set for the money.
Operation: Avalanche is the first in the ‘battle in a box’ series—box sets designed to give children everything they need in order to act out a small-scale GI Joe vs. Cobra conflict. In this case the set consists of four figures and three vehicles—although it’s really more like 2.5. The storyline for this set is simple: GIJoe is preparing to assault Cobra Mountain. Dusty and Snake Eyes are sent in the assault quad to perform a recon and Storm Shadow and an Iron Grenadier spot them. From there, the storyline is up to the child although it is a foregone conclusion that GIJoe will win and save the day. So sorry, Cobra—better luck next time. The packaging is pretty standard for the Valor vs. Venom series and the file cards are located on the bottom panel of the box.
The figures in this set are all familiar. Dusty and the Iron Grenadier both saw wide release. The GvC v1 Storm Shadow is sporting a new paint job and fans that missed out the first time have the opportunity to obtain the gray version of the first new o-ring Snake Eyes. Other than Storm Shadow these figures are identical in every way to their previously released counterparts. Just take a look at the picture of the two Snake Eyes figures and tell me which one came in the Operation: Avalanche set and which one was previously released. (If you guess the new one is on the left you win a ‘no-prize’.) So, unless you’re desperately looking for that gray Snake Eyes figure, are hoarding Iron Grenadiers, or want to own one of every Storm Shadow released this set isn’t a necessity. It’s a nice mix of figures and could have been improved on by including the o-ring retooling of the Storm Shadow mold but there really is nothing to see here. (This is the first time I’ve been aware of just how freakishly long Dusty’s arms are. It’s almost as if he were a V-troop.)
The vehicles in this set are what make this set unique. I’d just like to take this opportunity to blame Brandon Jerwa and Tim Seeley for my need to own more of the Cobra gliders. If it wasn’t for the use of these gliders in Barrel Roll’s first mission in GI Joe #27 I might have passed on this set. However, these two diabolical geniuses saw fit to use the Cobra gliders in such a way that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to pick up a few more. Tangents aside, the glider is identical to the one that was packaged with Barrel Roll. It still sports the removable Cobra sigil and comes with two sets of missiles—one that is distinctly Cobra in origin. The gliders themselves are pretty lightweight and one of my has a tendency to shed it’s wing tips if you look at it too hard. This appears to be a phenomenon unique to that particular glider, however, as the other one is remarkably solid. If you’re looking for small, easily storable Cobra vehicles then you’ll want a few more of these around the base.
Now we come to the assault quad—a vehicle that I utterly despised when it was first released. I bought my first assault quad just for the re-colored Gung-Ho figure and eventually gave the vehicle to a friend after I failed to find anyone that wanted it. It was a reminder that this was not the line I grew up with as the AQ was as far removed from the Cobra Ferret as Jessica Simpson is from Albert Einstein. This version of the AQ, however, incorporates elements of the radically redesigned Cobra Venom Striker, a vehicle that improves on the original in every way. This new AQ is missing the missile launcher found in its previous version and is instead sporting the VS auto-cannon. There is, however, one problem with this rearmament. The VS auto-cannon weapons system incorporated a raised platform for the gunner to stand on. It gave the weapons operator the height needed to functionally position the cannon at wide variety of firing arcs. The new AQ, however, still has the original fold-down platform for the gunner to stand on despite the fact that the auto-cannon mount is significantly higher than the missile launcher was. The end result—the gunner needs to the center for the Chicago Bulls to be able to operate this thing! Otherwise any figure you position as the gunner is going to reaching skyward to just hold on! Also, if you’re utilizing a two-man crew the gunner has two choices: firing forward only or knocking the driver unconscious when rotating the auto-cannon to the side!
So is the Operation Avalanche set worth picking up? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. If you are looking for a gray Snake Eyes, Iron Grenadier or a new Storm Shadow you’ll like this set. If you’re interested in adding more gliders to your Cobra air force you’ll be pleased. If you’re a fan of the assault quad you need copious amounts of therapy but you’ll still like this set. If you’re looking for new figures and new vehicles, then you might want to pass. If you’re looking for a gift for a young Joe fan this is a steal! While not a necessity for every collection, Operation Avalanche does offer nice value for its price as well as a good assortment of figures and vehicles. So, if you’re going to buy it then know that you’ll certainly be getting your money’s worth.