|Review by Chris Chung & Fred Meyer
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service 3
Mountain Trooper – Code Name: Alpine
The G.I. Joe mountain specialist Alpine burst onto the scene in 1985. Heavily featured in the Sunbow mini-series “The Pyramid of Darkness”, he soon became a central character in the syndicated animated series. Maybe it was his cool collected demeanor or maybe it was his portrayal as the straight man to Bazooka’s buffoon but the character was elevated from “just another specialist” to a key member of the team in the eyes of many cartoon fans. Sadly, Alpine only ever had one figure released in the vintage line and it wasn’t until 2004 that he saw his second release. His 2008 25th Anniversary release proved to be one of the most difficult figures in the entire line to track down. Now, in 2015, the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club has gone back to revisit that updated character design from eleven years ago. Was it a smash hit or does it fail to live up to previous versions? Read on and find out the opinions of two long-time Joe fans!
How does one go about updating the v2 Alpine? Here’s the recipe used by the Collector’s Club:
The first time I ever reviewed this basic character design was back in the Valor vs. Venom era as part of the Tiger Force Alpine & Crosshairs two-pack. In anticipation of this figure I revisited both my old review (from almost 10 years ago) and the figure and I have to say that, aside from the turtleneck, the FSS Alpine is uncannily accurate to the VvV version. I’ve no doubt that a big factor as to what the Club chose to update this version of Alpine was because of the availability of the Retaliation Kwinn legs. They’re the only “shorts” Joe legs available and part of me wouldn’t be surprised if the folks on Cattle Barron Drive didn’t also consider releasing an updated version of Tracker in the future.
Maybe, but Tracker had those yellow sweat pants, high tops, and those weird legwarmer-sock-things on his legs. Kind’a hard to duplicate that. (And yuck, why would you even want to?)
As for the rest—it’s not a bad body design at all. I tend to think of this as “lower altitude Alpine” and so the combination of the short sleeves and the shorts work pretty well in producing a more casual-looking mountain trooper than the previous generation 3 version. The uniform itself is simple enough to appear functional w/o looking overly stylized and I’m happy to say that the Club opted to use the “Dollar Store” color scheme as opposed to the original “80’s McDonald’s employee” palate of the 2004 version. Plus, the figure has hinged wrists which go a long way in helping to pose the figure with the included M4 rifle. The only downer to the entire design is found in the over-the-shoulder rope accessory. While it looks nice in the package, the simulated rope’s circumference is a bit too large for the body and, as a result, it tends fall off the figure’s shoulder. A lot. Like, all of the time unless the backpack is holding it in place. It’s not a deal-breaker but it’s something that I found to be rather frustrating.
I agree his the parts combination certainly works well to convey “casual”, but more-so it gives him an embarrassingly “civilian” look of his VvV counterpart. Granted, we all know why the Club made this figure, but as usual, it was too little too late. Perhaps if this Alpine was in the first year of the FSS; or if he was a new build, he could have been more appealing to me, but with the DVD Alpine being re-released this August, fans will be getting the classic iconic Alpine they wanted, not “Vacation Alpine”, so this figure has become irrelevant. Even the secondary market prices are falling, so anyone clamoring for this version should be able to find one at a reasonable price.
I will say his casual clothes colors are slightly better than the photoshopped mock-up the Club originally showed. The shirt is a darker shade of avocado green, but as how it usually is, the actual paint doesn’t quite match the colored plastic, so the green on his arm sleeves is a tad darker than the green on his torso. His shorts are darker burgundy giving him a more acceptable color than his original’s incarnation—but still disappointing since the Club’s second photoshopped version had brown shorts. And… then we get to the dickie… With a myriad of torsos seemingly available, God only know why Club went with a white turtle-necked dickie. It looks ridiculous, especially since he’s in short sleeves and shorts. But again, this is coming from people at the Club who do not have customizing skills, so it’s no wonder some of the design choices have been piss-poor. It is fair to say if he was painted in his VvV Tiger Force deco (NOT the 2015 Tiger Force colors), the figure might have worked in a pinch, but since he wasn’t, it’s moot.
Sometimes the Collector’s Club surprises me in their parts choices. In this case, when I first read the tweet from the 2014 Joe Con that Alpine was part of FSS 3 I assumed that the Club would reuse the 25th Anniversary head. After all, it was a pretty good likeness and the DVD pack figure had proven particularly elusive at retail. So, imagine my surprise when the very next tweet from the on-site coverage provided by GeneralsJoes.com stated that Alpine would have an all new head by Boss Fight Studio! After all, I’ve said time and time again that they’ve produced some of the best pieces released by the Club in the past few years.
So, how is the head sculpt? I have to admit—it’s taken this Joe fan some time to get used to it. It’s not a bad sculpt at all—far from it! It’s just different than what I was expecting. First off, Alpine was sculpted sans-goggles which lends a different character to the design. Secondly, he was sculpted with an open mouth in what may or may not be a half-smile. Lastly, the figure’s moustache is far more, well, French waiter than I was anticipating. It’s a solid design by the crew of Boss Fight but I don’t necessarily know if it’s what I’ve come to expect from Alpine. Granted, my impression of the character was almost 100% influenced by the Sunbow series. As nice as this head sculpt is, I still think I prefer the 25th version only because of the closer resemblance to the cartoon depiction. What say you, Chris?
While new heads are always great, I wasn’t wowed by this one. In-and-of itself it is fine for a new character, but for Alpine, it seemed to stray too much from his original look—like he was supposed to based on an actor rather than his prior self. I’m also in the camp where I prefer my figures to have neutral expressions instead of smiles or grimaces. However, the odd skin tone coloration could definitely be weighing in as well. (See below.)
I’ll also toss up a quick comment about the figure’s skin tone. I don’t know what the instructions to the factory were but the figure’s skin tone both on the face and arms is far more red-hued than I remember. I initially thought it might have been my eyes until I placed him next to the 25 th version and then the difference becomes fairly obvious. I’m not certain why the color shift occurred but now that I’ve seen it I honestly can’t un-see it.
Yeah, what the heck is with that? Like with Iceberg, his flesh tone has a reddish-purple undertone, making him look more Hindu-Indian or AmerInd than Black. The difference is even more striking when you compare the vintage figure’s skin tone to this one. I’m not sure if this is an issue with the factory’s paint, or someone at the Club not having a good eye for color, but I’ve heard from several Black fans that they were not happy with this skin tone, and I can see why. One even mocking called him “Puerto Rican Alpine” at JoeCon.
I hate it when figures come with more gear than they can comfortably carry. I’d much rather see a character with a few but practical accessories than have a figure that comes with a plethora of parts that are destined to end up in a parts bin somewhere. Thankfully, Alpine shares my opinion and comes with just the right about of gear. His kit includes:
Less is more and in this case it’s just the right amount. The climbing axe stores nicely in a slot on the backpack and the grappling hook fits perfectly into the bracket on the back of the pack. That just leaves the two rifles which can be carried in each hand. To me, this is a perfect kit and I’ve got no real complaint about any part of it. Yes, the line between the grappling hook and the axe is incredibly short but unless a child is playing with this figure I doubt that this is going to prove inconvenient to anyone. What’s your take on the gear, Chris?
His gear is ok. He ditches his original Beretta PM 12 and now comes with an M-4 and MP7, so that’s an upgrade in firepower, but it also removes that unique aspect of characters coming with their own signature weapons. I would have preferred Alpine to come with one of the newer backpacks from RoC+ that came with an attached grappling hook and shoulder straps, but instead he comes with the remade classic backpack that doesn’t want to stay on very well.
So, now we come to the question—is the FSS Alpine worth adding to your collection? Prior to Joe Con 2015 I would have said the answer to that question was going to be based on whether an individual already had the 25th Alpine. However, Joe Con changed all that when Hasbro announced that the 25th Alpine was seeing a re-release in August 2015 as part of the next series of the 50th Anniversary figures at Toys R Us. Now, the question is based on whether or not a collector prefers this design to the original. If you dig the shorts and short sleeve look or are just looking for something a bit more modern in appearance, then this is a great figure and one that fits in well with most modern Joes. However if you have a hard time seeing Alpine in anything other than what he wore in the 1980’s then I’d say hold off and wait for the TRU figures to hit in August. He’s not a bad figure at all but more frugal Joe fans might want to avoid the second market prices for the FSS figures and just go straight to the forthcoming retail 3-pack instead. Of course, that’s just one Joe fan’s opinion.
The Bottom Line: A nice update to the Valor vs. Venom version that changes up Alpine’s overall look. Solid work from Boss Fight but it might not be for everyone.
My bottom line is this: As anyone who knows me knows, unless the design and aesthetic was perfect from the get-go (Beachhead, Falcon, etc…) I’m all about evolving the characters into something modern instead of doing 30 year old rehashes. However in the case of Alpine, his non-military look is a devolution that makes him feel more like he was part of one of those 90’s Lanard civilian packs rather than a real G.I. Joe figure. No, I’m not necessarily demanding his uniform look exactly like the Army’s 10th Mountain Division (though that would help), but as mentioned, this Alpine looks like he’s on vacation with absolutely no tactical value what-so-ever. There is no good reason why a figure 30 years old is superior in every single aesthetic facet than a figure made now. This version was an afterthought, and will never, ever be iconic; nor the version people think when someone mentions Alpine. He was a wasted effort whose slot could have been better utilized by more worthy VvV characters such as Red Spot, Switch Gears, or even Dr. Link for another racially diverse character. This figure is a lazy design carried over from an even lazier design. (At least this one’s proportions are better than the VvV one.) True, this version of Alpine is superior to the JoeCon Tiger Force one, but unless you’re a completionist or you have a fetish for bad figures, this is not worth a purchase, especially since you’ll be able to buy classic Alpine in a few months and get a Shock Trooper and Rock-Viper thrown in at a lower cost than it would take to buy this turd alone.