G.I. Joe Defense Mech w/ Leatherneck

Welcome! Well, we're trying a somewhat different format with this review...a little more factual information about the toys being reviewed and a little more organized layout. I'd like to give some big thanks to Sentinel from Joe Sightings for pitching in this month and getting these reviews done for me! He whipped up a fantastic format for these items, and has some pretty good opinions as well.

Don't worry, though, I'll be getting my .02 in, too. ;)

Toy name: Defense Mech w/ Leatherneck
Assortment: Valor vs. Venom Alpha Vehicle
Price: MSRP $9.99
Availability: February 2004

Key Features

- Electronic light and weapon sounds (auto machine gun, machine gun, and explosion)
- Articulated arm and legs
- Removable arms can be interchanged with the COBRA Pulverizer
- Fires two missiles
- Canopy opens
- Comes with Leatherneck figure and accessories (helmet w/ mike and sunglasses)


Battle suits and mechs have a long history in G.I. Joe, from the 1983 COBRA S.N.A.K.E. (System: Neutralizer—Armed Kloaking Equipment) to the 1993 Star Brigade Armor Bot and the 1994 Star Brigade Power Fighters. In 2004, two more mechs were added to the line: the G.I. Joe Defense Mech and COBRA Pulverizer (see separate review for more on the Pulverizer).

The G.I. Joe Defense Mech (DM) is part of the Venom vs. Valor series of alpha vehicles. According to the package, the DM was designed to combat COBRA’s latest threat—biomechanical vehicles that combine animal DNA and advanced technologies. Featuring “advanced kinetic response systems,” the DM gives Leatherneck “the power to swiftly take on the [enemy].”

Design and Playability

Standing about 6 inches tall, the Defense Mech is a bipedal power suit with an electronic “machine gun” and dual missile launcher. The vehicle is molded and/or painted in an OD green and black camouflage scheme that’ll be sure to please fans of realistic military colors. Overall, the DM is well detailed, featuring rivets, hoses, moving hydraulics, access panels, antennas (whether they’re for communications or power, I’m not sure), vents, molded lights, and more. The clear canopy, which is similar in design to the canopies on military aircraft, can be opened to place a figure in the cockpit. In addition, the legs feature hinged plates that fold down, and the figure is held in place within the cockpit by a flexible clip. Although the DM’s front plating offers little protection for the operator (if viewed as a realistic vehicle), the relatively open cockpit keeps the vehicle from looking as if it belongs more to Hasbro’s Transformers line (since you can see the Joe at the controls).

The DM has several points of articulation, including the knees, upper legs (where they attach to the upper frame), shoulders, and left elbow. Although leg motion is limited, it’s nice to see that this toy isn’t one big hunk of plastic. The plastic itself is pretty tough on the more solid pieces, and some parts are designed to pop off (such as the leg plates and arms, which can be interchanged with the COBRA Pulverizer)—if anything were to break on this vehicle, I’d guess it would be the canopy and/or joints, but only if excessive force and/or play were involved.
Perhaps the coolest thing about the DM is that it isn’t that far-fetched—according to news reports, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is developing powered exoskeletons that are similar in theory (although not necessarily in design) to the Defense Mech. Clearly someone at Hasbro has done his or her homework (or read Starship Troopers a few too many times. Just kidding!).

Electronic Features

As with most vehicles released since 2002, the Defense Mech is a battery-operated electronic toy. A button located on the mech’s right arm activates battle sounds and a green LED light at the tip of the “machine gun.” The sounds include (as far as I can tell—the instructions and packaging don’t list them) two machine gun settings and an explosion. The sounds are well done and fairly realistic, and, unlike many toys on the market today, aren’t going to make you deaf (or wish you were).

Figure and Accessories

The Defense Mech comes with a new-sculpt Leatherneck figure. As with the DM, Leatherneck is molded and/or painted in OD green, with light brown gloves, belt, holsters, and boots. He includes a helmet w/mike (the helmet appears to be Vietnam era in style), black sunglasses, and removable holsters. Purists may complain that Leatherneck doesn’t quite look like, well, Leatherneck. Instead of the burly gunney with black hair and bushy mustache from 1986, we’ve got a light-haired and clean-cut modern Marine who’s quite similar to his 2001/2003 Mobile Command Center incarnation. I was happy to see that Hasbro painted Leatherneck’s entire torso green instead of leaving him with an open vest that would’ve looked more at home on Gung Ho. The only odd thing I noticed on the figure was his belt buckle, which had a horse on it. Being an Army veteran, I can’t say that I know much about Marines or their history, so I have no idea what the horse signifies. Of course, maybe Leatherneck (or more likely the sculptor) just likes horses. Either way, this version of Leatherneck is well sculpted, and should be a hit with fans who prefer more realistic military figures.

Final Comments

The Defense Mech w/ Leatherneck is an excellent toy—well made, highly detailed, and, most of all, fun. At $9.99, it’s also relatively cheap, so beefing up the G.I. Joe motor pool with this cool vehicle shouldn’t be a problem for most collectors. --Sentinel

Ratings (out of 10)

Presentation: 7.0
Design: 8.5
Playability: 8.5
Value: 9.0
Overall score (not an average): 8.5


Now here are some pics that Sentinel took for the review as well:

Now, what are my thoughts?

Well, I've been an Exo-Squad fan since day one. The first time I saw the episode "Pirate Scourge" I knew this series was special, and the toys ending up being nearly as cool as the cartoon. When I saw the designs of these mechs, they immediately reminded me of the old Exo-Squad stuff, whcih is definitely a compliment. The Defense Mech definitely shines, using the stuff that made Exo-Squad cool, with working pistons, lots of armored protection and a great camo scheme.

Alas, I'm not sure exactly how much I'll use it. it is a great little vehicle, and I agree with pretty much all of Sentinels points, but it still doesn't quite mesh with me as a Joe vehicle. Still a little too far out there for me, but we will see what time will tell.

The figure, on the other hand, is pretty darn cool as it is.

He is a huge throwback to the military style that made so many fans out of G.I. Joe in the first place. Granted, he only barely resembles Leatherneck, but I like the figure so much I might change Leatherneck's image to match this new figure...although I'm still a huge fan of the '86 version, too.

I still can't believe Hasbro found away to design and implement a pair of sunglasses. It really makes a huge difference on the figure, I think, even though they don't fit perfectly.

All in all, for an Alpha Vehicle, this one continues the excellence of the recent releases, although I'm still not certain how to integrate it. That's really all I have to say, Sentinel covered everything else perfectly! Thanks, man!

Now, here are my pics:


Back To Vehicles

Wanna Go Home?