Review by Fred Meyer & Chris Chung
Pics by Fred Meyer
One of the hallmarks of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero era was the proliferation of amazing vehicles that were sold complete with a brand-new character as a driver. Unlike competing toy lines from the same era, a child could open up a VAMP, drop in Clutch, and take to the back yard ready for adventure with no other purchases required. For the attendee exclusive items sold at the 2014 G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention, the Collector’s Club (GIJCC) brings back that vintage aesthetic with the Steel Brigade Delta and his trusty VTOL. Featuring a new twist on a familiar aircraft and brand new deco for a previously-released figure, this set sold out at the show within the first two days of availability. Yeah, this thing was red hot for months after the convention, and even now it’s fetching a commanding price on the secondary markets. You can get the VTOL cheap, but if you want the Delta, you’ll be paying over $100.00. Is it worth trying to track down now that the event has passed? Read on to find out two Joe fans’ opinions!
Note: This review covers two pieces that were sold together at the 2014 G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention -- the Steel Brigade Delta and the Steel Brigade Sky Hawk . Feel free to use the bookmark to jump directly to either piece.
The Steel Brigade Delta (SBD) has a remarkably simple body construction. Take the body of the Pursuit of Cobra (PoC) Cobra Shock Trooper and top it off with the head and web gear from the PoC Beach Head and you’ve got a brand new vehicle specialist for the Steel Brigade forces. The first version of the Steel Brigade Delta was released in an olive drab color scheme but for the Zombie Initiative the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club elected to give the figure a more unique look that’s a fusion of three prior incarnations. The figure’s torso is colored in the traditional Steel Brigade light blue while lower waist and legs are festooned in the rain camouflage that the GIJCC first debuted back in 2005. Yes, the Urban Rain camo was a brilliant camo pattern and one I’m glad to see back in all its glory! Lastly, the figure’s web-gear is olive drab which ties it together thematically with the first Steel Brigade Delta from 2011. The end result is a figure that actually ties in most of the various Steel Brigade color schemes of the past into a single thematic package and does it very very well.
Yes, instead of being the odd man out with the dedicated camo over the non-camouflaged prior versions, this figure seamlessly bridges that gap perfectly. The only thing missing, was the darker blue patches on his under arms. That would have been nice to see as it would have maintained complete consistency, but it’s not a crisis it wasn’t added. (Thankfully this was not missing from the SB zombies, which I’ll detail on that review.)
In terms of head sculpt, there’s really nothing new to see here. This version of the SBD uses the Pursuit of Cobra Beach Head balaclava head and it works quite well. It might seem a bit overkill to wear one type of head covering under a helmet but that has been “a thing” in the G.I. Joe world for some time now. I don’t mind the mask because it allows a realistic bit of anonymity to the various troopers, but I didn’t like the continued choice of green. As with the retail Steel Brigade Troopers, it looks too much like Beachhead. A black or gray coloration would have been better in my opinion. I do find it interesting to note that the GIJCC elected to shake things up a bit with the SB Delta and give him a darker skin tone. What?! You mean all faceless members of factions in G.I. Joe aren’t a bunch of Caucasian males?! It’s a nice little detail and one that makes this figure just a bit more unique in my eyes.
I actually wouldn’t read too much into that. The flesh tone is the same incorrect shade as both Retaliation Flint and Roadblock had, so I think it was just the paint on hand at the factory that was allotted for the figures, not designed as any racial variance. But I could be wrong.
The only gripe I have with his construction, is, the T-bar that connects the legs to the crotch is very loose, thus the upper legs are floppy. This is easily solved by some superglue, but this should have been addressed in the production phase. (I bought four of these sets, and all of them have the same loose legs.) His hands are also standard retail Steel Brigade, meaning the open ‘J’ grip is insufficient to hold weapons securely or reliably. Better hands with a ‘C’ grip would have been a wiser update.
It would seem a safe assumption that a vehicle pilot wouldn’t really need to be equipped with a great deal of gear. After all, isn’t the entire vehicle almost an accessory in a sense? In theory, yes. But in theory, communism works. The SB Delta comes with a modest but yet surprisingly decent kit including:
I like this figure kit for the simple reason that the SB Delta can hold every single one of his accessories when posed on the included figure stand. The two knives fit perfectly into the sheaths on the tactical vest and the helmet is a snug fit on the head. Yup! A figure who can carry all his or her gear is a very well designed one at that! The two rifles provide a bit of flexibility in terms of mission scenario: the M4 is great for fighting off the Compound Z infected in short to mid-range engagements while the SL8 is ideal for the mid-to-long range encounters where more precise marksmanship is needed. It lacks the scope that would truly facilitate long range marksmanship but otherwise it rounds out the figure nicely. Maybe. They both fire the NATO 5.56mm round, but I would prefer the provided M4 because it gives me more options, whereas the SL8 is pretty barebones. He’s lacking a sidearm but he also lacks a place to put it. It’s a nice kit that doesn’t suffer from the overzealous “let’s pack everything but the kitchen sink” mentality that has plagued the line in the past few years.
One on hand as a Delta, he is a vehicle driver so he really doesn’t need more than a sidearm and maybe a Personal Defense Weapon. But on the other hand, this guy is quite prepared for ground ops, and I think most of us will be using him out of the cockpit because he’s just too cool looking to sit in a cockpit and do nothing.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, another Sky Hawk. Yay. I’m thrilled. Not. If it ain’t the AWE Striker, it’s the Sky Hawk. Wake me up when it’s my turn, because already I’m bored.
At the 2014 G.I. Joe Collector’s Convention this vehicle was simply referred to as “VTOL” but long-time fans of the brand will recognize this as a modified Pursuit of Cobra Ghost H.A.W.K which was an update to the original 1984 Sky Hawk. The vehicle is almost entirely derived from the PoC version save for the canopy which comes from the 25th Anniversary Ghost H.A.W.K. As such, it’s an interesting vehicle that actually seems to serve as a bridge between the 25th Ghost HAWK and the PoC Ghost HAWK. Essentially the Steel Brigade gets something halfway between the Joes’ old and new gear. Talk about middle child syndrome!
Or lack of originality…
The Steel Brigade VTOL (SB VTOL) is molded in a slightly metallic gray plastic and has been given black and red paint apps that serve mostly to bring out the details in the sculpting. It’s a good look that might not convey the impression of stealth but just how quiet can a vehicle that is essentially a chair strapped to twin jet engines truly be? The silver color to me just screams “STEEL!” which is very appropriate given its ownership. There are some other nice deco elements such as a prominent Steel Brigade logo behind the canopy as well as Delta accent above the skids.
The deco is passable, and yeah, I get it, SB Sky Hawks in the 2005 con set, and SB Sky Hawk now. And I guess this is better than that swirl plastic pattern on the prior Steel Brigade Sky Hawk, but if Club was using the same paint masters as the prior 25 th or PoC retail release; but just in different colors, a few spots of detail were missing---mainly the soot on the guns, engines, and a few areas of piping. While not devastating, it feels cheap.
I’ll just say this now-- the cockpit is a tight fit for a Gen 3 G.I. Joe. Granted, the original Sky Hawk wasn’t exactly a luxury sedan in terms of room but the Delta seems a bit more crammed into the pilot’s seat than usual. It’s primarily his bulky tacvest; which is not situated as flight gear. It’s just another example of how retooling a vintage vehicle but not upscaling it really doesn’t work for a line that’s graduated from a 3.75” standard to a 4”+ in recent years. Thankfully the Delta isn’t one of the taller figures in the line and he does fit in the cockpit-- he just doesn’t look happy about it. Again, how happy can someone be piloting a vehicle like this Sky Hawk descendant? (The file card even calls this out. Nice!)
While it was cool we got two of each additional weapons---and I’m certainly not complaining, but I have to say the additional cannons were redundant. The VTOL already has four guns mounted on in, so why would it need two more on external hardpoints? And really, why carry less ammo for six guns when you can have more ammo for your primary ones? The missile launchers make more sense, at least to me. Regardless, to each their own.
I do have one issue with the SB VTOL and that’s found on the engines themselves. For whatever reason, the shaft that plugs into the fuselage isn’t a perfect fit. The engines are held snug when positioned horizontally. However, rotate them to a vertical orientation (to simulate landing or launch-pad-ready position) and they nearly pop out of the bracket entirely. I’m not saying that “they’re a little loose” but on my SB VTOL they will literally pop out of the bracket entirely. Same with my four. It’s a design flaw. I don’t have this problem with my 25th Ghost HAWK and I can’t recall if the PoC version did the same thing or not. Regardless-- it’s one thing that I find hard to overlook on this particular aircraft. The vintage Sky Hawk was one of my favorite ARAH-era vehicles and I spent countless hours flying it around the house and never once had a problem with the fit of the engines.
At the end of the day, is the Steel Brigade Delta & SB VTOL worth adding to your collection? Delta a most enthusiastic yes, the VTOL a most unenthusiastic no. This is a tough question for me simply based on economics. In some sectors of the fandom, folks like to complain that “Joe fans are cheap”, etc and that those individuals are responsible for the fading visibility of the line at retail. In the case of this vehicle, however, my answer really is based on “how much is this worth to you?” As a convention exclusive, this set wasn’t cheap to begin with and, given the penchant for Joe Con vehicles to sell out at the event, its price has only skyrocketed on the secondary market. I didn’t attend the con this year and I didn’t have a “con hook-up” for one which means I had to snag it on the secondary market at a price that I really wasn’t entirely comfortable with. Wah, wah,wah. I bought three on the secondary market at peak prices, so I don’t want to hear any of that whining. Cowboy up! Don’t get me wrong-- I’m glad I did and I find that this is one of better con pieces of the past few years but the price is definitely inflated. Nobody cares about the VTOL. That’s why you can buy one without the Delta for $24.00 BIN. It’s the figure that gives this set real value. As such, if you really are set on obtaining one, just know that it’s going to cost you quite a bit of your hard-earned cash. (Unless you are milking unemployment and are on entitlements, then you will be spending Fred and my hard earned cash.) If you can afford to pull the trigger, however, it’s definitely worth it.
The Bottom Line: A solid vehicle and figure pairing that takes the Steel Brigade concept and makes them “cool.” Just be prepared to spend quite a bit to obtain one.
Overall the Delta pilot is an amazing looking figure, and a great addition to the team. Sure, he’s cannon fodder being a no-name, but that doesn’t change the fact his deco is beautiful, he’s well equipped, and he has a lot of detail most figures don’t have. Even if you aren’t a fan of the Steel Brigade concept, this figure’s “bad ass quotient” adds enough appeal to make worthy of a purchase. Yes, you will pay a lot for him, but I feel he’s worth it.
The Sky Hawk is just a crappy excuse---a lazy, reliable stand-by thrown out as a bone to satisfy a vehicle quota when nothing better can be offered, and when Hasbro or the Club needs a quick unit to get to collectors. While not as bad as the AWE Striker (we’ll get to that turd soon enough), it’s still a set piece that many fans groan about. Unfortunately to get the figure, you’re probably going to be stuck with VTOL that goes with him as well, so it’s a moot point by saying you should buy the figure but not the vehicle.
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