Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
G.I. Joe Collector’s Club Figure Subscription Service 5.0
Iron Grenadier Courier – Code name: Darklon
The waning months of the 1980’s proved to be an interesting time for the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero brand. The interests of contemporary children were shifting further and further away from the military realism of the Cold War era and turning instead toward what would become known as as the “Neon 90’s.” Simply put: olive drab was out, vibrant colors were in– and the more outlandish the better. It was the dawn of an era in which the term “Extreme” was used to describe everything from sports to fast food. Few characters in the classic G.I. Joe line embody this period of transition quite as well as Darklon. Originally consigned to a single O-ring figure, he was new life back in 2012 as Joe Con exclusive souvenir figure. Now, in 2016 Darklon returns once more in a design that’s faithful to his original appearance.
I’d say more faithful than the prior Club offering, but not entirely accurate as we’ll discuss below.
Several years ago, I reviewed the 1989 Darklon figure. I’d never owned the character as child and therefore my reaction to his design was completely unfettered by the rose-colored glasses of nostalgia.
Fred, I did own Darklon back in the day. I still remember when I bought him. It was a Friday night after school and I got him at the local Walmart. I didn’t particularly care about him per se, but I bought him because he was brand new and I wanted to get the new G.I. Joe brochure that came in the vehicle boxes so I could see all the new toys coming out. (Since he was a small vehicle set, he was the cheapest one I could buy and still get the brochure.) For those younger folks out there, there was no internet, so the only way we learned of something new was either on a TV commercial, in a physical print ads, or stumbling upon them in the wild s I did in this case. We also card catalogs at libraries and rotary phones back then…
Whereas the 2012 version took the character and attempted to modernize his look, this version is strict love letter to 1989.
Darklon appears to be built from the following:
I’ll be honest– this parts combination works surprisingly well when it comes to replicating Darklon’s vintage design. Using the 25th IG Destro legs provides a nice thematic tie to the MARS organization and the familial link to James McCullen. The PoC Snake Eyes torso provides a decent facsimile of the sculpted texture found on the torso of the 1989 design. I’m not crazy about the use of the Zartan arms only because of the lack of hinged wrists, which I’ve ranted about endlessly in these reviews. (No need to belabor the point any further.) The shoulder pauldron is technically on the wrong side if the Club is trying to replicate the ARAH design but it’s another piece that provides a thematic tie to the Iron Grenadiers.
In the totality of the circumstances, he looks good. The head was the most important thing to get right, and they obviously did back in 2012. I also dig the arms because simply painting Zartan’s bare flesh into skintight fabric sleeves really helps evoke his vintage sleeves even if they aren’t totally accurate.
One thing I’m not keen on, are the boots. Whenever I look at them, I can’t help but think of the song ‘ Venus in Furs’
“Shiny shiny, shiny boots of leather…
Different colors made of tears
Kiss the boot of shiny, shiny leather
Shiny leather in the dark…”
(I have no idea what he’s talking about, folks. Just humor him and he’ll stop.)These suckers are really shiny, and they are really orange. As in so overpoweringly, my eyes want to tear up like exposure to OC spray. I also don’t like them because they are not accurate to the vintage figure, and they’re too bulky—especially at the feet. He’s got this sleek outfit, but then he has these really clumpy and cloddy male go-go boots. Yuck.
In addition they also identify too much with Destro’s own footwear. Better parts could have been used, but it seems the Club settled on those for default. (Not everything needs to be default.)
I will say despite the boot part choices, I’m glad they Club didn’t try to replicate the rather odd “grape bunch” of grenades on his lower legs. I always thought that was stupid place to put grenades, is it was bulky and added unnecessary weight on one leg, but maybe it made sense since he was an open-cockpit vehicle driver. I dunno…
If the parts build is solid, then it’s the color scheme that pushes this figure over the top. As I stated earlier, the Club really tried to replicate the vintage Darklon figure design and his personal color palate is no exception. Everything that made Darklon, well, Darklon has been reproduced: the green shirt, the red tiger-striped pants, and even the orange boots with gold trim. It’s as if Darklon stumbled into a Goodwill store and grabbed the first five items he could lay his hands on to form his signature battle togs. Only the Batman villain Killer Moth has a more outlandish costume. What’s even more hilarious to me is that I love him for it!
His colors are certainly well-referenced and well-duplicated. He’s just as gaudy and un-tactical as he ever was, but I’m cool with this. I don’t need every Iron Grenadier or related person wearing the black and red. This at least allows Darklon to pop out. Plus, with his colors and Destro’s penchant for leopard print tights, perhaps blood relatives of the McCullen clan have some fancy-dresser genetic disposition in their DNA?
There’s a reason that this head might look familiar to some Joe fans. It was produced from the same tooling that the Club used for the Joe Con exclusive Darklon (2012) figure. The sculpting is remarkably faithful to the original ARAH design– right down to the simulated fabric texture on the back side of the head. While the uniform design for the character is utterly ridiculous, the mask is pure menace. I loved this design on the vintage figure, and again in 2012 so it’s no surprise that I love it once more in 2016. This is one time where I’m 100% okay with the GIJCC’s near fanatical adherence to the vintage designs.
Actually I personally felt the 2012 JoeCon Darklon was a far superior figure compared to this offering. That figure kept his colors and general aesthetics, but appropriately modernized him.
So how does one go about equipping a garishly-clad driver/mercenary/ruler of Darklonia? Well, according to the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club, the appropriate kit is:
Lately, the Club has been on a real drive to recreate vintage weapons and Darklon is no exception. In his one and only ARAH line appearance, he was equipped what appeared to be some sort of gas-powered needle gun. For FSS 5, the Club chose to retool that very weapon in exacting detail. The upside of this is that Darklon has his signature weapon. The downside is that the handle of the weapon is ARAH-era thick– which doesn’t work so well with Darklon’s repurposed Zartan hands. It’s nice to see the old needler again, but I really wish that the handle had been redesigned to work better with this hands. The same goes for the included .38 special and the automatic pistol in the MARS briefcase. None of these work particularly well with Darklon’s hands. At all. (A two-handed grip with the Needle-matic 6000 puts a lot of strain on the right wrist peg, FYI.) Only the included sword is a solid fit and I’ve taken to using that has Darklon’s primary weapon. Thankfully, anyone can re-equip him with Marauder Gun-Runners gear– although we shouldn’t have to at premium prices.
I can’t say I like his retooled gun either. The generic “Club gray” makes the weapon look like a toy (no pun intended), and this plastic is also notorious for conspicuously showing white stress marks. But all of that notwithstanding, it’s a really dumb design. I mean c’mon, what the heck it’s supposed to be? It looks like a Gatling gun with no ammo belt. But in the comic it was a tranquilizer gun. Really? A Gatling tranq gun? That’s just ‘hella lame.
The briefcase with the removable auto-pistol would have been cool if it was higher quality, but again, the gray plastic looks unrealistic and the second you close that case you’ll get a huge white stress mark on the hinge part. Not cool at these prices.
Fred, I wasn’t happy with this FSS set due to the amateurish construction choices, so I spoke with my wallet and said “No thanks.” Therefore I cannot comment on articulation and possibility, but you mention above he can’t hold his weapons very well. That sucks, but how is his other general poseability? (I know you’re super anal about playability.)
His articulation is fine. Essentially he’s a 25 th Anniversary figure in terms of build and design. As such he has all of the strengths and weaknesses of that era. When compared to the Pursuit of Cobra era, he’s lacking the wrist joints I love so much but otherwise he’s perfectly serviceable.
At the end of the day, is Darklon worthy of a purchase? Okay, I’m just going to come out and say it now– I have a real love for some of the more outlandish characters in G.I. Joe. After all, if you’re going to dress a little crazy, own it– which Darklon does in spades. Aside from my usual complaint about a lack of hinged wrists, I love this figure. Sure, his gear doesn’t really work well with his hands but his body design and color scheme are completely on point. True, he might look like Pimp Daddy Destro’s wingman in this outfit but I personally love him for it. I purchased FSS 5 primarily for two figures– and Darklon was one of them. (You’ll just have to wait and see who the other one is but there’s a strong hint in my 1989 Darklon review.) I can’t help but love this figure for the sheer audacity of his design and I applaud the Club for doing such a great job in replicating that costume once more. Of course, that’s just this Joe fan’s opinion.
My bottom line: Did the Club do an overall decent job on Darklon? Yes. While the uniform design isn’t accurate, the colors and vibe are—so in that regard he’s successful if that is your sole basis of comparison. However I felt the inclusion of this figure was unnecessary. He and the Battle Corps Viper wasted two slots that could have been better used for more deserving enemy characters like Crystal Ball, Ghost Bear, or Razor Claw. Since I didn’t buy this figure, I’m not going to recommend it to anyone else either. But given how giddy you’ve been Freddie, is it safe to say you feel the opposite?
The Bottom Line: While he may not be for everyone, Darklon is a SOLID recreation of the original figure. Aside from his wrists, he’s darned near perfect!