James McCullen 2-Pack (San Diego ComicCon Exclusive)

Well, I try to keep my reviews relatively clean, so I'll try and refrain from the various four-letter words that crossed my lips when I got my eyes on this bad boy for the first time last night. Rest assured, they were shouted in a positive manner, but shouted just the same.

G.I. Joe just recently got into the exclusive game with the San Diego ComicCon, and honestly the figures have been neat, but didn't really serve much purpose. Pimp Daddy? Yeah, cool and all, but how the hell is that going to fit in my collection? COBRA Commander in a suit? Yeah, same thing, like the idea, good presentation, but even in a blue or black blazer, I like my terrorist leaders a little more flamboyant.

But this. This... this is something I can get behind. I'm pretty amazed that Hasbro invested the money into an exclusive with this much new tooling and representing such a critical character in the upcoming film, but I'm sure as hell glad that since they did do it, that I got my hands on it! Before I talk too much about the figure, though, I gotta talk about the box. I mean, yeesh, I could probably write an entire two-page review about how awesome the BOX is, much less the toys inside. Holy crap.

This thing is packaged to the hilt. It has an outside box, an inside box (which is the book-themed box everyone has seen on the 'net), an inner cardboard sleeve, which then, in turn, holds the two carded figures. Not only that, but the two covers of the book (which seem to have magnetic clasps) open up, revealing some very cool information.

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First we have a little family tree of sorts, showing the background of James McCullen IX, the so-called "original" Destro. Very nice presentation, some cool diagrams, and some neat information.

But this is the good stuff...

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I love this! From the olde tyme McCullen IX diagrams to the futuristic McCullen XXIV diagrams, there is a world of difference. But the best part is, they used blueprints from the Sigma 6 2.5" vehicles! I love it! The Dragonhawk, VAMP, Dune Runner...it all looks great and fits the "style" perfectly.

Inside the boxes are the two carded figures, which aren't carded nearly as nicely as the standard movie guys, but still have some very nice card art and new style "explosive" background.

Really, though...this is a review about the figures right? I suppose I should talk about them.

James McCullen IX

According to the script and various other sources, the Rise of COBRA film opens in 1641, showing the brief story of McCullen's ancestors, and in particular, McCullen IX. It shows how he tried to double cross the French, but ended up getting crossed himself, and had a metal mask seared onto his face to show his punishment. The punishment was so severe that it inspired future generations to adopt a similar look.

Obviously this version of McCullen is old school and has limited uses in a practical G.I. Joe "world" but it's still damn cool to see. He's nicely layered up with historical armor, has a pretty accurate face sculpt (I believe based on the actor who was initially planned to portray Destro before he had Visa issues), and comes decked out with some interesting weapons.

Of course, the most interesting gear to me are his mask, and the flag. I love the mask, because it's obviously an homage to the Destro mask, yet is quite obviously dated from the times and a lot less fancy than the mask that Ecclestein is wearing. The flag is an interesting addition too, as it carries the McCullen family crest, which makes for some neat backstory.

With all of the armor and gear, the figure underneath is a bit lost in the shuffle, and it's tough for me to tell what parts are new and what is re-used, but whatever the combination is, it works pretty well. The armor doesn't appear to be removable, though admittedly, I haven't yanked on it very hard. I love the old school fold-over boot cuffs, and the gloves work nicely, too. He seems to have decent articulation, though no chance to really showcase it buried under all that gear.

Really, the figure is nice, but only an extension of the real star of the show. The modern McCullen figure is the big draw to me here...and trust me, he is a BIG draw. This is one freaking great action figure.

James McCullen XXIV

In spite of Ecclestein's smaller stature and non-threatening voice, many fans have clung on to him as a great representation of James McCullen. He's much more standard businessman than flaboyant arms dealer and terrorist, but his Scottish brogue and arrogant demeanor both capture the spirit of Destro to near perfection. So when it was revealed in a blurry, no paint photo that we might possibly be getting a movie accurate Destro as an SDCC exclusive, I was happy. But when I actually saw the final version, I was VERY happy...now that I have the figure in hand? I'm freaking ecstatic. This is a nearly flawless version of a critical character in the film, and I'm thrilled to have it in the collection! I only hope they have a version that is more widely available so everyone can share in this.

Upon first glance, the figure seems to be all (or mostly) new tooling. Because of this, I'd imagine we'll be seeing some more use of these parts down the line, it just makes too much financial sense for Hasbro. They want to get mileage out of these molds. While I'm sure we won't see a Destro that looks just like this one, I wouldn't be shocked if we see some variation of it going forward.

The jacket is a thick rubber vest that snaps together over the suit shirt and tie (which is actually a separate sculpted piece) and looks perfectly natural. Even without the vest the figure looks great, (except for the differently colored arms, of course). There is just so much damn potential for the parts used here, that I'm dying to see what else Hasbro has in mind for it. It's possible, I suppose, that we might end up seeing this suited figure in use in the Marvel realm, too, (maybe Professor X?) though it's not Hasbro's motif to share parts very often like that.

The joints and articulation are right up there with most other figures in the line, though strangely his knees are not double-jointed. That doesn't really seem to impact the poseability a whole lot, though. His elbows are great, his torso joint is well-concealed, yet poseable. This is one great figure.

Even the paint applications seem perfect. From the straight-as-an-arrow pinstripes to the gloss finish on his spit-shined shoes, every inch of this figure seems crafted in brilliance. Really, I'm having a hard time finding a single thing to complain about, except perhaps the availability.

As if the figure itself wasn't nasty enough, check out that gear. He's got a swappable Destro head (in vac metal chrome, no less), the awesome briefcase and pistol that came with the original 25th Anniversary Destro, what appears to be a nanomite injector of some sort, a familar pulse pistol (also in chrome) and his ultra bad ass pulse rifles, which are also vac-metallized. This is insane! I mean, sure, he's a weapons specialist and arms dealer, he should be well equipped, but this figure is insanely well equipped. He doesn't have much in the way of realistic weapons, but I always saw Destro as someone who wasn't afraid to use his own prototypes, so he should have some guns that you wouldn't see other places. And he does. What a great assortment of great weapons, and I absolutely love the chrome parts. What a nice touch.

Yeesh, I don't know if it's possible to heap too much praise on something, but I'm risking that here. This figure is just awesome. Again, my only wish is that it wasn't a San Diego ComicCon exclusive, because I know some folks may end up missing out on what is one of the coolest figures to come along since the Anniversary format started. I really hope that Hasbro finds some ways to re-utilize this tooling in mass release to even try to approximate the bad-assness that is plastic Chris Ecclestein. This is one fine figure with flawless presentation. If you have ANY option to get this thing, damn it, GET IT.