G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe Battle Pack #2
One underlying theme I'm going to be talking about throughout these Flashback reviews is "perspective". When you're in the midst of something with several balls in the air, your outlook can be considerably different than it might be after the fact once you've had a chance to look back and see exactly what was going on. I think for some of these later releases that sometimes perspective can be an important thing, especially as the format for G.I. Joe changes so drastically through the rest of 2009.
When I first saw the press photos of this last round of 5-Packs, I was quite impressed. Lots of subtle new tooling that really helped define these particular figures as some of the ultimate versions of these characters. Unfortunately the Hall of Heroes releases sort of dilluted some of these 5-pack releases a bit, but I think perspective is a very important aspect of reviewing these, and it's opened my mind a little bit.
As a big General Hawk fan, one of my favorite figures in the Anniversary line has been the Wave 9 General Hawk figure. Hasbro really hit a pinnacle with that entire wave, giving us fantastic versions of Bazooka, Hawk, the B.A.T. and Snow Serpent, and I think that wave really defined a change in quality of these figures going forward.
Hawk is the only figure in this 5-Pack that actually has no new tooling whatsoever throughout the entire figure, but in my mind the figure doesn't need it. Essentially Hasbro took the exact same figure that we got initially, but colored him in a much brighter, more "animated" style, and I think it's a pretty cool look. The camouflage pattern is also much more nicely applied and resembles the classic deco a bit better. While I would have loved to have seen perhaps new arms with better range of motion, for the most part, the Hawk figure "as is" is pretty nice and I can't think of any drastic improvements that I would make.
The weapons are pretty familiar to folks who own the prevoius version of this figure, with the same helmet, backpack, and pistol that he came with back in 2008. Like the figure itself, there wasn't a whole lot of new elements that we needed to see, so honestly this doesn't make a big difference to me. However, I do sort of have to question the reasoning for including Hawk in here. Granted, it's nice to have a different character besides Duke, but there weren't a whole lot of necessary improvements needed, so why bother? I would have rather seen a figure that needed some significant cosmetic changes. I understand there are tooling budget limitations, but it still seems to me that we could have dug up a different figure to improve rather than just tweaking some paint apps on an already great one. Granted, it's an improvement, but was it a 100% necessary one? I'm not sure.
It's pretty obvious that this 5-pack was conceived with the Sunbow fans in mind. A lighter, more animated looking Hawk, and the inclusion of Shipwreck are both very strong indications of that. I think that makes a lot of sense, honestly, because it was the cartoon that really reached the broadest audience and largest number of people, I have zero doubts about that.
Hasbro took a unique step with this version of the G.I. Joe sailor, in that they almost totally retooled him, but did so in a way that it still very closely resembles the previous version. I was one of the few fans on the planet that actually liked the "Popeye Arms" on the original Shipwreck, but I can understand why many folks were not big fans of it. Even beyond the arms, though, I can't argue with the fact that there were some strange tooling choices with Shipwreck in the original version, giving him a pretty scrawny look with exaggerated bell bottoms and an even more sort of village people look to him. With this figure, Hasbro went soup-to-nuts with new tooling from the ground up, toning down a lot of the exaggerated proportions and giving him a somewhat more realistic look, and also making him a bit more cartoon accurate. The most obvious change is with the head sculpt, and this version of Shipwreck looks quite a bit happier and less ornery, and also looks a bit more like he appeared in the cartoon.
As far as the paint scheme goes, it's the same familiar shades of blue that Shipwreck had originally, and it looks really nice here, too. There isn't anything remarkable or revolutionary, and Shipwreck comes off looking a lot like his vintage version and like he appeared in the Sunbow days.
Shipwreck comes with a few nice new weapons that add to the new tooling to make this figure even more desirable. The large harpoon gun is an interesting choice...something he never really used on a regular basis, but something that makes a lot of sense for a naval soldier to use. The gray satchel is another item that has never been part of his repertoire, but it doubles as a method for Polly to sit on his shoulder, so I do see where they were going with it as well. Speaking of Polly, the newly sculpted parrot is fantastic! Having the spread wings is a very neat look.
The sailer also comes with a variation of his familiar hook and rope that he came with back in the day. It's not a direct representation of it, but I actually like the hook a lot better than the funky things that the original Shipwreck came with, this seems a lot more functional. Rounding off the weapons assortment is the magnum style pistol that has come with a few figures throughout the years.
Shipwreck is not one of my favorite characters, but Hasbro did a remarkable job replicating the figure here with a lot of new tooling, some great new gear, and lots of bells and whistles. I'm not certain it was necessary to go crazy with the new tooling here, but the end result can't be argued...this is a great looking version of Shipwreck, straight out of the Sunbow cartoon, and he's a pretty popular character, so I can see some of the reasoning.
Ever since Flint first got released way back in Wave 1, 2007, fans were clamoring for a more accurate version of the character. The long, rolled up sleeves and the lack of gloves bothered a lot of folks...while it wasn't a deal breaker to me by any stretch, I can sort of see where they were coming from, at least to a point.
Don't get me wrong, I was thrilled to hear that Flint was finally getting a legitimate release, but with all of the Sunbow homages crammed into this 5-Pack, I would have LOVED to have seen a Sunbow-accurate green and brown version of him, especially considering we received an almost identical Hall of Heroes version right around the same time. It would have been terrific if we could have gotten the vintage homage in the Hall of Heroes, and a Sunbow paint schemed version in this 5-Pack. But I'm going to try and separate my thoughts there a little bit since the 5-Pack version came first...I don't want to negatively impact the coolness of the version in this 5-Pack because this set did come first. Why penalize it for a release that came afterwards?
From a structural standpoint, most of Flint is the same as what we've seen before, with the torso being slightly modified (why it's modified, though, I'm not sure). The real point here is the addition of the Tiger Force Flint arms featuring the rolled up sleeves and the gloves that are such an iconic component of the character. From a look standpoint, this resembles the classic Flint we all know and love, but I do have to be honest and will admit that I'm not a huge fan of these Flint hands. I know that they were sculpted to best hold a shotgun, but the issue is that when he's not holding the weapon, the hands look at least a little bit silly, especially his right one, just sitting there twisted for no apparent reason. In my review of the Beachhead/Dataframe comic pack, I reiterated that swappable hands would be an awesome touch for Hasbro to start considering, and that change alone would make this figure 100% better. As it is, it's a cool looking version of the Joe Warrant Officer, with just some minor complaints that would have made it even better.
In looking at the weapons allotment that Flint comes with, it becomes suddenly clear how ill-equipped previous versions were. Sure they all had the familiar great webgear and pistol, but they also came saddled with an automatic shotgun (which is cool looking, but inaccurate) and no backpack. This version of Flint corrects all past ills by giving him a nice updated backpack, a shotgun that's accurate to the original, plus the cartoon themed laser rifle, webgear, and pistol. In essence, this really is pretty much the ultimate version of Flint in a vintage style.
I really should love this Flint...and I suppose in some ways I do. I'm just not a huge fan of that right hand, and like it or not, the Hall of Heroes release has somewhat softened my enthusiasm (yes, even though this one came first). It just sort of opened my eyes to the fact that we could have gotten a really bad ass Sunbow version of the figure, and perhaps a head sculpt that was better suited to that look, too (rather than a new sculpt head that so closely resembles the original). I would have also loved an updated camo scheme on the pants.
Regardless of all this, I still like this version, and I'm glad he was made available in this set.
It took Hasbro a long, long time, but they were finally able to cobble together the perfect Lady Jaye figure when they released DVD Battle Pack #2...or at least that's what I thought at the time. Then Hasbro took the head off of it, and totally retooled a new body, arms, and legs from the ground up, and gave us the version in this 5-Pack, and it pretty much smokes everything that's come before it.
The torso is sculpted here with a bit more... modesty. The shoulders and arms are nicely detailed, have great range of motion, and are improved in pretty much every way. The shorter rolled sleeves are more accurate to the original, and give the figure a much better, sleeker look. The legs have longer pouches on the side, and the pants cuffs are bunched up a bit higher. The one downside to me, though, is the lack of a pistol at the figure's ankle, which is something that I always thought was really cool on the original, and I was glad to see the update have it...so it's a bit of a bummer that this new version doesn't have that, and that's one of the very few complaints I have about this figure.
Along with the altered tooling, Lady Jaye also has a significantly improved paint scheme with a very nice detail wash over her upper body, and a very nice green and brown selection of apps on the legs and boots as well. The overall result is a figure that looks fantastic, and it is updated positively in pretty much every single way possible.
Lady Jaye comes with pretty much the same weapon compliment that she came with in the DVD set, only this time around, her main javelin has been retooled so it's thicker overall, and doesn't just have a thicker silver "grip" in the middle of the shaft that looks a bit goofy. This small change makes a big difference, and I really love this set of weapons she comes with. Most of that is due to her previous release, but regardless, this all works well for me and compliments the figure perfectly. With this release, I can say, this is the definitive version of Lady Jaye that we have seen yet. The best version yet, and it's not even close.
From the new tooling, the better paint, and the assorted weapons that the figure comes with, this is a terrific addition to this 5-Pack. I'm pretty amazed that Hasbro went to the steps they did to utilize all of this new tooling to replicate 5 figures that we've essentially gotten a few times over, but when the changes are this successful, how can I argue? Well, I could find a few ways to argue, but let's just say that with this one 5-Pack, Hasbro has addressed a LOT of fan concerns, and even if these figures are repeats, Lady Jaye especially, is a repeat worth enjoying.
For the love of God, how many different versions of Snake Eyes do we need? Honestly? I do cut Hasbro quite a bit of slack when it comes to everyone's favorite ninja commando, but sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. When I hopped on YoJoe to check this stuff out, this is Snake Eyes version FORTY. Yes. Forty. Keep in mind that two more versions of Snake Eyes hit after this one in the Anniversary line as well. Yikes.
If I step back, though, and take a look at it, the real shame of the matter is that this IS a nice looking figure. I love the streamlined sculpting, I love the black color (over the previous animated-style purple and gray), and the weapons are fantastic. However this figure and this set will probably get unfairly judged simply by the inclusion of Snake Eyes. Even though we received a pretty nice version of this Snake Eyes in the fourth DVD Battle Pack, there are some nice updates to this version which separate it from the previous one, even if it is just another Snake Eyes.
I'm going to try to avoid the whole Hall of Heroes conflict as well, since those did come out later, though looking back on things, this is one case where "perspective" might end up hurting a review instead of giving it its proper context. Just comparing this one to the previous, though, the darker colors make a big difference, and the new torso helps as well to make this a much more unique version of the most familiar look for Snake Eyes. The question does still remain, though... "why"? Was the torso of the previous version so bad underneath the bandolier that tooling money had to be spent on a new one? Why not use all of the same parts from the previous Snake Eyes and do some new tooling on a different character besides Hawk that might need some revisiting?
I do love and appreciate the execution here, but some of the decision-making just seems a bit questionable.
Looking at the accessories, this version of Snake Eyes comes with the same sword and bandolier as the one in the 4th DVD Battle Pack, but this version has a new backpack (finally!) to hold that sword. He also comes with a different Uzi than we've seen previously, which is also a nice touch. A newly tooled Timber adds to the desirability of this set, as well.
Just standind back and looking at Snake Eyes, I can't help but like what Hasbro has done here, but kind of wonder in some cases "why"? There seems to be dollars being spent on new tooling where it didn't need to be, while certain figures (or even new characters) who desperately need some street cred are sort of left in the lurch. There are a lot of things to love about Snake Eyes in the small context of the quality of this figure, but looking at the broad picture, there are other questions that need to be answered, in my mind.
Perspective. That's what I mentioned at the beginning of this review, and it's a double-edged sword. In the midst of the Anniversary craze, and with the Halls of Heroes hot on its heels, this 5-Pack got mixed reviews, at best. No new characters, all new tooling was mostly superficial, and some of the most desired figures (Flint and Snake Eyes) were hitting single pack HoH releases shortly thereafter. What was the point?
Well, a few months removed from all of this taking place, I can look back and see that from an execution standpoint, this set is a winner. There's a LOT of new tooling, and in nearly every case the new tooling is worlds better than the old tooling, and improvements have been made to every single figure here. Sure, the Hall of Heroes would get you the same (or a similar) Flint and Snake Eyes, but for the same price as buying those TWO figures, you can get this entire 5-Pack (or close to it) and end up with a much improved Lady Jaye and Shipwreck not available anywhere else.
I do still have some strong questions about the choices made here, but I can at least see where Hasbro was coming from. They were envisioning more casual customers, stumbling upon these 5-Packs, and wanting to get the same "core group" idea that we had with the original 5-Pack way back when. But I think there could have been a better way to do it. Maybe dial back some of the new tooling in Snake Eyes and swap Hawk with a better Gung Ho or Roadblock? I'm sure part of Hasbro's goal was to not replicate too much of the original 5-packs with these more recent releases, and they walked a fine line. In the end, I approve of the actual design and sculpting work, but I do have some questions regarding the thought-process that led up to this, especially looking back and seeing that these were some of the final items released in the line. In a way, it's a nice bookend, when comparing them to the two 5-Packs we got initially. Duke replaced by Hawk, Scarlett replaced by Lady Jaye, Roadblock and Gung Ho spots taken by Flint and Shipwreck. It all makes a certain amount of sense, but I just think there could have been some better things done.
Ultimately, though, if you want the improved figures, or if you don't have all of these characters yet, I think $25 - 30 for this set is definitely worth it. Five figures, loads of new gear, for about five - six bucks per figure, which is less than retail. If you don't have this set yet, at least consider picking it up, especially since things are moving fast towards movie-inspired stuff in the future.
GRADE (EXECUTION): out of 5
GRADE (CONCEPTION): out of 5
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