I’ve said this time and time again—it’s amazing what a simple repaint can do for a figure. However, it’s not often that Hasbro releases an improved mold of a relatively obscure character in just a few waves time. Sure, Storm Shadow was given the o-ring treatment and Snake Eyes seems to come out with a new mold every other wave but Razorclaw was a character from Valor vs. Venom who seemed destined to be a nemesis for the Arashikage sword brothers only to languish in obscurity. Instead of being a player in “Valor vs. Venom” he was reduced to the status of a generic V-troop. Yet Hasbro saw fit to not only re-release him with better colors but also to give him a brand new head sculpt. Was it worth the effort? Oh yes, my friend, indeed it was.
Somebody at Hasbro has to be a Tunnel Rat fan. He’s been included in practically ever GIJoe team six pack from Toys R Us and this is his second release in Valor vs. Venom. There is NO difference to the mold that was original released in Valor vs. Venom wave 3, yet this Tunnel Rat has a brand new color scheme and new accessories to boot! I think this is Hasbro attempt at a more subdued color scheme as the green of his shirt has been toned down from the neon treatment the Wave 3 version received and his pants are now black. The “fallen suspenders” that hang from his belt are now gray and his boots and kneepads are also gray. Oddly enough, the camouflage stripes in his pants are the same yellow-green as his shirt rather than the gray of the previous version that blended in so well with recent Night Force releases. (The TRU Night Force six pack & the Wave 5 NF Grunt & Gung Ho set are prime examples of this.) Also, in muting his overall color scheme Hasbro darkened his skin tone considerably—taking if from a pinkish hue to more of a charcoal color. It doesn’t quite look like make-up but it’s not nearly as awkward as the “Undead Cobra Ninja Troopers” of Wave 5. So, overall the color scheme is an improvement over the previous version but it’s still not quite perfect.
What I don’t understand is what his weapon and accessory are supposed to be. TR is saddled with a giant rubber backpack with is connected by a ridiculously thick hose to an over-sized gray gun. When you press on the rubber pack, water is forced through the tube so that it shoots out the gun. This is supposed to be fun, right? Wrong—as the payload of the weapon is expended in two shots. Also, have fun getting Tunnel Rat to hold his weapon as the plastic tube is so thick that it tends to pull the weapon out of his hand. Add in the fact that he looks like an extra from Ghostbusters 2 and you’ve got a truly useless gimmick accessory that could have been tossed in favor of the same accessories issued with the Wave 3 figure. He does come equipped with a pair of goggles and a nifty trench knife, but the proton pack accessory is utterly useless.
If the first Razorclaw figure had a fault it was the flimsy nature of the forearm blades. The idea behind them was that you could “flick” them into place. The real world result was that most of the time they flopped around like Nemo out of water. To add insult to injury, the package art showed Razorclaw with a much cooler set of blades. Hasbro therefore corrected this by releasing an “art accurate” version of the figure with drastically improved weapons. The sculpt is identical to the first version, although now his color scheme is much more subdued. The red is closer to maroon than pink, the gray is much closer to black than white, and the raised Cobra sigil is now dramatically painted silver to dramatically announce his allegiance to the world! However, the color scheme is nothing when compared to the head sculpt. I liked the head of the original figure but it always felt as if he were wearing one of those old leather football helmets. There simply was no added mass to his head from wearing some cranial protection. Now, Hasbro has released Razorclaw with a much colder head sculpt and a removable helmet! Just take one look at the face of the figure and you walk away with the impression of a stone-cold killer. There is no joy or emotion found in these eyes and the expression on the mouth belies a grim determination. Toss on the helmet and you lose the softening benefit of the eyes and are left with someone who is most likely going to be the last person you ever see. The helmet fits on snugly and yet isn’t oversized like the one packaged with the Wave 3 Dusty. Hasbro took a good design and made it a truly great design!
The single greatest improvement to this figure is found in the redesign of his forearm blades. As previously mentioned, the first version’s blade flopped about like a beached salmon. Now, Hasbro has given Razorclaw more substantial blade attached to his forearms by a pivot joint. Simply swing the blades down to attack and then rotate them pack up for defense. That’s right, when folded back the blades actually function to protect his arms from melee attacks. The end result is a more menacing, deadlier Razorclaw who deserved to get more “front time” than he did in this series and it’s media tie-ins.
Overall, this pack contains an improved pair of figures. Tunnel Rat’s colors are less offensive to the eye and Razorclaw is a such a dramatic improvement to the character that it makes me sad that we’ll probably not see him again outside of Valor vs. Venom. The real weakness of this pack is the lack of decent accessories; Tunnel Rat really only has a knife and goggles and Razorclaw comes packaged only with his helmet. While it makes sense for the latter, the former is thoroughly short-changed in terms of gear. However, I find that I am quite happy with both of the figures in this pack and can safely recommend this set to any Joe fans. My only hope is that this Razorclaw finds new life in the various dio-stories that are published on the web as otherwise he’ll be a great character design that languishes in obscurity.