G.I. Joe: The Pursuit of Cobra "Desert Battle" Duke

I'm going to try very hard not to repeat, word-for-word, the introduction to my Snake Eyes review. You know, the one where I acknowledge that even though there are 50-something versions of the figure, there are still worthy elements to this new one?

No, don't get me wrong, please... this figure is not as good as Snake Eyes. He's not even in the same league. In fact, this version of Duke almost seems like he was designed for a totally different universe (and many have connected the dots between this figure and G.I. Joe: Renegades, a connection I don't necessarily agree with).

While Snake Eyes seems much more keyed towards a hyper-realistic uber-military line, Duke seems to take a different path, leading towards a much more outlandish and "play value" kids line. That doesn't mean the Duke figure is bad, though, just the opposite. I think he kicks ass...just in a completely different way than the Snake Eyes figure does.

While I love the military aesthetic as much as any other Joe fan, I can also certainly appreciate the more fantastic science-fiction elements, and this figure suits those to a tee. Really what wins me over, though, is the tooling. Even with the crazy body armor on this figure, he is sculpted in realistic perfection, with some incredible facial sculpt detail, his cloth uniform bunched in the right spots, and this sculpted-on layered body armor tooled to awesome realism. The thin points at the end of the chest articulation just add a nice little bit of detail that look pretty unrealistic, but manage to work perfectly with this figure. It's really the little things with this figure, too... I mean, the raised collar? Excellent. It looks like a separately tooled part of the upper torso, yet manages to work seamlessly among the rest of the armor.

It helps that the armor is sculpted right on top of what really looks like Duke's old school uniform in tan and green...but as great as the tooling is, it's complemented totally by the colors. There a sort of old metal shine to the armor, with some very nicely applied scuff and wear marks. The chest plate and kneepads all match in color and detail. It takes a totally fantasy-based aspect of the uniform, and mars it in such a way that it's immediately more "real world".

Speaking of color and detail, the centerpiece accessory here is the backpack mounted rocket launcher, which is so ridiculous it's awesome. Twin launchers swing down over his shoulders, and each launcher holds a quartet of rockets...wholly unrealistic, completely out of the realm of true life, yet so completely awesome, I can't help but smile about it. Yet another aspect of the figure that seems to totally separate it from the ultra realistic stuff like Snake Eyes and the Cobra Shock Trooper.

Along with the crazy rocket-pads, he's got a smaller rocket launcher and... the Colonial Marines machine gun. Awesome.

For years fans have been wanting a futuristic weapon based on the familiar weapon from the Aliens film, and we've had a way to get it with Marauder, Inc. But to see the weapon actually come with a figure that clearly uses the Colonial Marine base from a design perspective is really awesome. Hasbro designers are totally pulling out the stops with the 80's film homages and they manage to make it work, which is a nice bonus.

One last interesting discussion to be had about the accessories is the apparent customizability. The machine gun and rocket launcher come with a peg/hole system that lets them be hooked together, though I honestly have no idea why. The end result isn't really that interesting (and take care to put the gun on the right way, or you risk bending the barrel on a piece of the launcher!). It just seems like some strange side effect. I mean, sure the pegs fit the weapons into Duke's back, as one might expect...I'm just not entirely sure why the launcher has the same size hole.

Is this Duke figure perfect? Not by a long shot. But I love the detail, I really like the design, and even as another Duke, it's an impressive rendition of the Joe Top Kick. The nice thing is, the design is far enough out there that if you want to do a head swap, it should be pretty seamless. I would strongly recommend looking into that, because this is a figure worth having, the fact that it's Duke shouldn't get in the way.


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