“And the award for most-anticipated two-pack by a site owner goes to….” I have been waiting for this two-pack with eager anticipation ever since first seeing it at the GIJoe Collector’s Convention in Orlando. Even though “Valor vs. Venom: The Movie” was only a film trailer at that point, I knew that both of these figures were required additions to my Joe collection. There was no reasoning with me—this was a must-own set. Now that I have it in my hands, my opinion remains unchanged.
They fixed Duke! They fixed Duke! I feel like running around the neighborhood chanting this mantra while holding Duke aloft in my right hand. The VvV Action Attack Duke really pained me. It was an example of a really sharp design that was rendered near useless by the action feature that added to the mold. Simply put—Duke couldn’t fit into any of the Joe vehicles because he had this insane shunt sticking out of his lower spine. Now that is gone and fans everywhere are left with a really solid action figure! First off, Duke is actually a new sculpt. Granted, it’s a sculpt that is designed to mimic the previous VvV incarnation of the figure, but it is indeed a new sculpt. From the collar on his vest, to the pair of .45’s molded on his sides, to the additional grenade clipped to his shoulder, this figure is loaded with new details! Duke’s collar is now closed, the pouches on his legs are now located mid-thigh, and the pattern on his sleeves is much more subdued. All of this streamlines a design that I found tremendously appealing a few waves back, but never really had any use for. Now, my Joes have a field commander who is moving his way to the front of my collection.
One major change on this figure involves the paint applications. In this design’s previous incarnation, Duke’s vest and head were molded gray and flesh-tone respectively. The result was a Duke that had a very wax-like appearance--- almost as if he were an exhibit at Madame Trousseaux’s. This figure features a painted vest and a painted face as well as painted forearms. I’m not certain why Hasbro moved away from molding in flesh tones as painted faces have a dubious history at best in a 1:18 th figure line. Yet remarkably this figure not only pulls off the painted visage, but he makes is look sharp! The flesh tones on Duke are fantastic and really work with the adjusted head sculpt. The shortening of the neck also looks fantastic and Conrad S. Hauser is no longer the leader of the Giraffe people! The best part: this figure is a perfect fit with the rest of your 3.75” collection.
When I was setting up the pics for this review I removed Duke’s rifle from the package and had one of those “D’oh!” moments. In my hand were the rifle and the stock—as two separate pieces! It took a terror-filled 15 seconds for me to realize that I hadn’t just broken my new Joe’s rifle—it has an adjustable stock! That’s right—Hasbro has given us a new sculpt M-16 variant; this time the rifle features both an adjustable stock as well as a removable grenade launcher! As the Joe-aspect of the line seems to be moving more and more toward realistic military gear I can only imagine what Hasbro has in store for us next year.
I have never been a big fan of the more sci-fi elements of GIJoe. I can still remember standing in a TRU while back in high school looking at the mega-marines and wondering what the heck happened to Joe. That being said I love the Venomous Maximus figure. He huge, detailed, has the new “no pin visible” shoulders, and sports one solid design. Everything about this figure screams “POWER!” to me. His head sculpt, while highly reminiscent of an Uruk-hai from Lord of the Rings really works for me. Maybe it’s the pug-like jaw or the heavy brow ridge or even his “Son of Asgard” braided hair—or even the combination of all of these traits that really gives an impression of animal-like ferocity. I’ll be blunt—this is the not V-Max seen in the VvV movie. This figure doesn’t bear much resemblance to General Hawk. Instead, we’re left with a creature of dark science that has more in common with X-Men’s Sabretooth than he does with the Joe’s commanding general.
The rest of VM’s sculpt is just as nice. His right arm is thick and muscular, as are his legs and thighs. His armor, while a bit patchwork, is full of sculpted details and is covered in a double snake design. His left arm, while disproportionately long, is truly raw and sinewy—bestial in appearance. There is a whole in his left shoulder where his cloak hangs and actually covers this arm, as if VM is somewhat ashamed of his animalistic origins. One this is important to note: the increased size of the arm does throw his balance off a bit. If you’re going to display him without a stand you’re going to have to be careful just how you posed him. His head is ball jointed at the neck giving him the ability to look down upon his troops. This is particularly useful as VM is a full head taller than Duke or any of the other figures in this wave; in fact, he’s the same size at the 4” Joes that were released in earlier waves and this is one of the few times that I don’t mind the figure being taller than the rest of my figures.
VM’s accessories are simply and yet appropriate. The cloak that drapes over his left shoulder is adorned with a Cobra sigil and, as mentioned before, completely covers his monstrous left arm. His staff weapon features a cobra-shaped axe-head on one end and a large flat Cobra sigil on the other. When looking at this I’m reminded of the weapons that Kirk and Spock were forced to duel with in the classic Star Trek episode “Amok Time.” I almost wish that there were two of these weapons in the package so that Duke would have a fighting change over the superior reach of his monstrous opponent. Whether or not you use VM as a mutated General Abernathy or as some other creation of Mindbender this is a figure worth owning. I realize that a lot of fans are put off by the whole “venom” concept but don’t let that be a reason to pass up a fantastically unique figure.
Do I recommend this pack? Yes, yes and YES! From the much-needed upgrade of Duke to the fiendishly large VM this pack is a solid hit out of the park from Hasbro. Hitting stores on the heels of the Valor Vs. Venom DVD, this pack is one that will appeal to both kids and collections—containing two of the key players from the film as well as two of the best figures from this wave. Go out and snag these two now!