G.I. Joe: Retaliation - Roadblock (Battle Kata)

Even though it's been several months since USA Today famously revealed the first G.I. Joe: Retaliation action figures, the intense feeling of trepidation and outrage from the G.I. Joe fandom is still fresh in my mind. The concerns over design aesthetic, articulation changes, and the overall direction of the brand at large were immediate and visceral. Eagle eyed fans almost immediately noticed lacking ankle joints, double-joint knees, and other restrictions to the articulation we had all grown so used to over the past several years. Even sculpting detail had seemingly taken a step backwards. Add this all to the fact that none of the figures really resembled their movie counterparts, and Joe fans got pretty nervous.

Now we've all had some time to think about this, and we're all fresh off of a G.I. Joe Convention which revealed some very impressive entries into the 2013 G.I. Joe: Retaliation, I think the future is looking much brighter, and there is no better example of that than this figure right here.

Slated to be released in Wave 2 of the single packs (which should be at retail right now in an alternate universe where the film was actually released on time), the "Battle Kata" Roadblock is essentially a movie accurate version of the main character from G.I. Joe: Retaliation. No crazy weapon-hands here, no restricted knee joints, just full on battle suit nastiness. Figures like this can make you almost forget that we've moved on from the 30th Anniversary to a movie toyline.

This figure is mostly new tooling from what I can tell, with a different, very accurate looking Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson head sculpt, broad-chested torso, massively muscular arms, and combat suit legs. Any worry about articulation issues have been eliminated here as this version of Roadblock has full range of motion everywhere, and comes complete with the new wrists and rocker ankles that we had begun seeing in the later waves of 30th Anniversary. He is a very large figure, but very flexible and incredibly cool looking.

The colors of the figure don't seem to match the movie look precisely, as most of the movie images I've seen were more desert themed than green, but I like the green colors quite a bit. I really like the generic stretch-suit look of his torso and the uniform is sculpted with plenty of wrinkles, but not overly so. And those forearms... wow. His forearms are large and sculpted with muscular precision, complete with veins tracing up from wrist to elbow. Sick. If I have any issues with the figure, those issues lie with the holsters on his legs. I know the concept here with the "Battle Kata" figure is to have a place on the figure for each component of his weapons blasters to be stored, but those huge holsters do take something away from the figure aesthetically, and I wish they were at least removable. I did try to unscrew the holsters, using the interior leg screws, but they aren't just screwed on, but also glued on, and this being an early sample piece, I wasn't real motivated to pull and yank for fear of causing significant damage.

I've heard other folks also complaining about the Arashikage tattoo on his arm, and I can understand that to a degree. Back in the 80's that tattoo was a symbol that really meant something. It tied Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow together, and bonded them as ninja brothers. Seeing it plastered across everything under the G.I. Joe umbrella does take away from that significance, but not so much that I can't overlook it.

Roadblock comes with a fair number of accessories. His combat vest is loaded with great sheaths to hold all of the different Battle Kata attachments, and his main offensive weapon is an M2 Browning with tripod.

But these items are tertiary at best. The main draw of the weapons allotment is, without a doubt, the Battle Kata weapons system itself, which completely astounds me. It's been astounding me non-stop since I first opened this figure, and it continues to do so.

The Battle Kata system comes with two "knuckle" weapons essentially that Roadblock can hold. From there they can either clip into the blasters, or you can attach a variety of knives or a baton into them. In each case, the weapon serves a different purpose, but even better than that, the attachment hooks in and stays in extremely securely. It totally blows me away that a weapon at this scale is capable of that much interchangability and kudos to Logan Lubera for the overall design of the Battle Kata system, and kudos to the Hasbro design team for being able to implement it within the confines of this small scale.

Great accessories, a nice overall figure with terrific articulation, a great military look and full of the detail we expect from the next generation G.I. Joe line. No, the figure still does not come with a battle stand or filecard, and yes the package art is still very non descript, but the most important part...the action figure itself... feels thrust right back into the 30th Anniversary and Pursuit of Cobra days, and that is a very, very good thing.

The way the toys continue to evolve as well, I cannot wait to see what's in store for Waves 3 & 4...should be very cool.