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Okay this is getting silly.  Next time Hasbro does this, I’m going to give them 24 hours before typing this up so I don’t have to write three separate articles for each series of better images that we get!  Gah.

I’ve seen the images.  I would imagine pretty much everyone has.  I’m certain at this point things are pretty doom and gloom.  Five points of articulation, reused vehicles, deth of teh line, etc…

While I’m staying far away from the whole “Deth of teh line!” crowed, I will admit up front I am a bit punched in the gut by the restricted articulation on the vehicle drivers.  I won’t say it’s completely unexpected.  Anyone who has been listening to the Whats on Joe Mind podcast should remember that I’ve been talking about a scaled back movie line and about the potential for reduced articulation for months now.  So hopefully folks who have been listening to that aren’t taken so far aback.  But I will admit, even though I’ve been saying it, I can’t help but feel a bit of wind knocked out the sails.  There’s just something about seeing that familiar visage of Snake Eyes with only 5 points of articulation that just doesn’t look… right.  That’s NOT how he’s supposed to look.

That being said, I’m not writing this off as doom and gloom.  Aside from the vehicle drivers there are plenty of things to cheer about, and I’m going to bore the hell out of everyone by regurgitating them all right here.  Not only that, but I’m going crazy.  I’m going figure by figure and vehicle by vehicle.  No, I do not have a life.  Let’s do this.

Basic Action Figures

Roadblock – Not a whole lot more to talk about here.  The same impressively large, somewhat plain looking figure that has incredible detail for being such a fairly generically designed character.  He obviously comes with some heavy weapons that attach to the handle in his hand, but if the above pictures are correct I can take solace in the fact that it looks like either that handle does come out of his hand, or his gripped fist can be swapped out for a normal one.  This is a load off my mind, especially in light of other construction concerns that have arisen.

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Duke – Like Roadblock, kind of more of the same.  He obviously comes with a big honking rocket launcher now that somehow hooks onto the big honking gun we already saw him with, for better or worse.  No ankle articulation that I can see, but I think he has swivel wrists at least.  From what I can tell, only single jointed knees.  Man…depressing to see the step back in articulation, even at minor points.  Evidently a cost concern, but still a damn shame.

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Cobra Commander – Love this figure still and love that amazingly huge, cartoonish Cobra battle staff!  So unusual for a realism-based movie line, which is why I love it.  G.I. Joe should be outlandish, it has been for 30 years.  I have no problems with it, and I fully embrace this awesome new Cobra Commander.  He is also without ankle articulation, and looks to just have single joint knees.  For Cobra Commander I don’t have such an issue with it, since he’s not usually in the thick of combat, but I can’t say it’s not bothersome at some level.

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Cobra Trooper – Okay if any one picture could sell me on a figure, it would involve a huge Cobra parachute.  I mean seriously.  So awesome.  The different angle of the trooper and seeing his head without the helmet both help quite a bit, too.  I mentioned during our Whats on Joe Mind Special Edition that I wasn’t really wild about the Cobra Trooper.  I’m coming around.  He’s got ankle articulation by the looks of it, but still only single knees.

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G.I. Joe Trooper – Heh…between the gas mask and the cape I don’t know if this guy is a super hero or a Cobra Trooper in disguise.  Both works, but what works even more is that mohawk head sculpt!  Holy awesome.  He may have double knees, but it’s tough to tell.  His accessories absolutely steal the show.  Backpack looks great, weapons look great, and when he’s not in disguise with that gas mask, that would be a terrific addition to the standard Cobra arsenal.  Definitely one of the highlights of this initial run of figures.

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Snake Eyes – What the holy hell is that?!?  Snake Eyes comes with some of the craziest accessories I’ve seen, with a strange swing-wing jetpack, a solid metal vest and a very bizarre translucent tuning fork?  I…  I don’t even know.  Underneath all that strangeness is the sleek figure I already talked about that I actually really enjoy, even with the bizarro stuff on top.  Good news here is Snake Eyes appears to not just have ankle joints but the same rocker ankles that Scarlett came with!  WIN.  I’m starting to see a trend here…the ninja figures are more poseable than the non-ninjas?  It does make a certain amount of sense.

One disappointment here, though, is the jet pack.  Over in Rise of Cobra land we got a c0uple jet packs and they had some nice play value but they also looked really cool.  This one?  Yeah, not so cool looking.  Chunky, light blue, and just not the same cool sleekness of the RoC General Hawk or Arctic Storm Shadow.  Overall the figure is still neat.

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Storm Shadow – Loved this figure when we first saw it, still loving it now.  He also has a very strange weapon/jet contraption, but if Hasbro can cram play value into that instead of killing the figure itself, sign me up.  Seeing him from these different angles really makes me fall in love with the figure all the more.  This is a great looking state-of-the-art Storm Shadow and I LOVE it.  He looks to have double knees and rocker ankles as well.

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Red Ninja – More of what I already praised this figure for previously.  Using a lot of Storm Shadow parts, this is a very impressive looking figure.  I’m really getting curious about the flat out strangeness of these clunky accessories.  This one clips on his arm and…does…  what, exactly?  I don’t know.  They’ve all got these large funky colored cannisters that I can’t quite get my head around.  The important thing is the core of the figure is fantastic, and he also has the knees and rocker ankles, so he’s all good.  Doesn’t appear to come with a ton of accessories.

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Zartan – Zartan, Zartan, Zartan.  How do I love you, let me count the ways.  Bad news first, looks like he doesn’t have the rocker ankles or ankle joints at all.  Bummer.  Still, the figure design is fantastic, very Renegades-like, sleek, and nasty.  And holllllyyyy…that translucent Snake Eyes head?  SO COOL. This is a great looking figure even with some reduced articulation, and I really love it.  Home run here, too.

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Ninja Showdown Battle Packs

These two three-packs look to be giving us a selection of core characters and some other characters, with some possible Easter Eggs thrown in for good measure.  How cool is that?

Ninja Dojo Battle – A three pack of figures, and only one apparent ninja, yet still dubbed the “Ninja Dojo Battle”.  The main focus of this pack is evidently Roadblock, front and center with a monstrous rocket launcher, a big chain gun, and some sick camouflage face paint.  The likeness of The Rock here is uncanny, and the size of the figure is impressive to say the least.  A very imposing one.  The more ninja looking figure is a mystery character at this point, though he is sporting an Arashikage logo on his right shoulder.  Some have hypothosized that it might be Kamakura or a Night Creeper.

On the left I still stand by the fact that this is Beachhead.  Some folks have suggested Firefly, but if you zoom in real close on his left arm, there’s a patch that looks remarkably like a square patch that Beachhead wore in the old school Marvel days.  His green color is a bit washed out, but I’m pretty sure that’s who it is.

Ninja Showdown – This one is a bit easier to tell with Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow standing proudly on each side.  Snake Eyes is an amazing looking figure!  Those huge pouches are a terrific addition and bring forth a lot of great military feel.  Storm Shadow looks to be the same as the single pack figure with just some color alterations.

Now that dude in the middle…I’ll be damned if that’s not a Slice. Granted he’ll probably be sold as a “Red Ninja Leader” or something like that, but he could make for a really awesome updated Slice to go alongside the Dice from the Collectors’ Club FSS.  Very neat.

Alpha Vehicles

All right, here comes the sore spots.  Shut your eyes and just tear that bandage right off.  You know the one…it’s the one on that wound that had almost completely healed from the 2002 T-Crotch debacle.  Well, if that’s not completely scabbed over, it’s gonna open right back up.

The Alpha vehicles feature Flint, Snake Eyes, and Firefly.  Flint and Snake Eyes are on two Joe bikes that look to be the same tooling and also look to share some remarkable similarities with the Sigma 6 hovercycles from back in the day.  That’s a good thing.

I actually really love Flint’s somewhat futuristic riding suit with green and black and the high collar.  But then you notice that the figures have some restricted articulation.  Firefly and Snake Eyes at least seem to have knee joints, but Flint…it doesn’t look like he does.  Yes, his legs look to be sculpted the same as the Resolute Snake Eyes, but generally you’ll see some sort of break in the knees, and I don’t.

That being said, the Joe motorcycles are okay, but the Cobra one is fantastic.  Designed to look a lot like the one from the trailer (and thus the film itself) I really love the weaponry and sloped armor.  A very cool looking bike which would have been even cool with a more flexible Firefly.  I’m glad he’s got the knees, but would have loved a more poseable figure, especially because the design is so bad ass.

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Bravo Vehicles

Fang Boat – I’m not making this up, that’s what the image’s name is.  First and foremost, even with three Water Moccasin releases in 3 years, this one is still pretty sweet.  With a dark gray/black paint scheme, some dark blue trim, and even touches of red, this is the best color scheme this vehicle has ever gotten, and I love it a lot.  That being said, there isn’t a whole lot of “new” here and when you’re talking about a movie line, you sometimes expect some more new tooling involved.

As for the figure, we don’t have a great idea of that.  The original Hasbro picture features a figure picture way too small to figure out, and the high res image doesn’t show the figure at all.  We can only assume it has restricted articulation like the others.  More on that later.

Tread Ripper Tank w/ Clutch – Using the HISS Scout base vehicle as inspiration we now have the Tread Ripper.  I think most of us saw the Ripsaw vehicle used liberally throughout the trailer, and this is a good enough representation of that to work, I think.  Of course, some changes look to have been made, most notably the treads no longer roll independently, they are now one large piece of plastic as we’ve been used to with the old school Joe line.  Also, the new rollcage adds a nice level of protection.

But then we get to “Clutch”.  And Clutch here…well, he has a problem.  His problem?  He has only 5 points of articulation.  That’s right.  Five.

Never in G.I. Joe’s 3 3/4″ Real American Hero history have figures only had 5 points of articulation.  Well, I suppose if you count the Mega Monsters, Deep Six, and Armor Tech from Star Brigade, but even then the Star Brigade figures had elbow and knee joints!  This is a rough one.  The very first G.I. Joe figures I bought were bought simply because they were more poseable than other figures of the same size.  Take that away, and you really take away part of the essence of what makes G.I. Joe what it is…  “America’s Moving Fighting Man”.  I understand it’s just for the vehicle drivers and the main line still retains the bulk of their articulation, but if Hasbro had this mindset from day one, we never would have had characters like Clutch, Cover Girl, Steeler, or even Zartan who gained a following all their own.  I am the eternal Hasbro apologist, but when it comes to removing articulation on this grand a scale, I find it hard to forgive.

It does seem as if Hasbro is trying to make up for it somewhat by giving them some very cool head sculpts.  I love this one.  It could work for Rock n Roll v.2, or just be a Delta Force or Special Operations guy…looks a lot like one of those sunglasses-wearing operators you see behind enemy lines.  That part is awesome.  The lack of any movable joints except the shoulders and hips?  Not so awesome.

Ninja Commando 4×4 with Snake Eyes – And this one is pretty much a strike out.  To Hasbro’s credit, it’s one of the only pure strike outs of this entire assortment, but it definitely is.  The fandom already tires of the AWE Striker, and yes there is some added tooling to the rollcage, but the end result is still a pretty “blah” vehicle that isn’t made any more attractive by the spring-loaded grappling gun or the stick figure Snake Eyes.  This one is a shame.

Delta Vehicles

I can only imagine that like the Bravo vehicles, the drivers that come with the Delta’s are hobbled by poor articulation.  I can only assume because we don’t really have good pictures to view with these new press images.  We do get a small shot of the HISS Driver in the turret of the HISS, but that’s it.  We can still talk about what we can see, however.

HISS – Upon first glance it seemed that there were only some cursory modifications done to this vehicle, but now, that doesn’t appear to be the case.  This one looks significantly different.  First of all, the treads are now all one piece instead of having the rubber moving components to them from previous models.  The base body looks much the same, but we now have an awesome clear canopy and a nice large cannon in the center of the rear of the tank.  From the image it looks like a figure can fit there, too, which is fantastic!

I love the symmetrical look of the tank with the same chain gun on each side, and the new colors are excellent.  Yes, this has the potential to be an awesome vehicle, yet is dragged down somewhat by the driver, if he only has 5 points of articulation.

Ghost Hawk II – Another very nice looking vehicle.  It shares some design similarities with the Black Dragon helicopter, but just by comparing this image, I don’t believe they are one and the same.  I love the wings, I love the over/under thrusters, and the sleek, aerodynamic body style is terrific.  Once again, we’re left guessing about the pilot, which is apparently Duke.  Again, you have to think there are only five points of articulation.

Ninja Combat Cruiser – Wow.  For the Delta vehicles, Hasbro is unequivocably three for three.  Every one of these vehicles is gorgeous and fantastic.  Taking the already awesome Pursuit of Cobra VAMP as a base and adding newly tooled doors, roof, and rocket launcher, we have an imposing 4-wheeled vehicle that is a vast improvement over the older model.  I love the darker colors, and the potential it has for Stinger fodder.  This is a great one.

The driver also looks terrific, which makes the fact that he’s got restricted mobility all the more disappointing. He would have made a great generic trooper, but instead he will likely get cast aside and never used with the normal G.I. Joe figures.

San Diego ComicCon

I’m not going to break this down figure-by-figure.  In fact, I’m not going to talk about it much at all.  I know the concept of SDCC Exclusives ticks off a lot of people, but I remain unbothered by it.  Keep in mind that I never go to SDCC, and I have to find arrangements for these things just like anyone else, but I’m willing to accept that.  Hasbro is dialing things up with these exclusives and doing some excellent work.  For people thinking Hasbro does this just to turn a buck, how would releasing a limited edition exclusive at only a slightly higher price point make them more money?  It doesn’t.  They would much rather move 10,000 Jinx figures at $8 a pop than 1,000 Jinx figures at $15 a pop.  It’s economics.

The fact remains that retailers aren’t going to jump on a Jinx figure looking like she did 30 years ago.  Hell, forget for a minute that it’s even Jinx…they can’t even find a place for KWINN, and that’s a big, growly looking guy with a huge machine gun.  If given a choice between paying out the nose for an SDCC Jinx or always having that hole in my ’87 collection, I’ll pay the money, especially for one that looks as nice as this.  It almost looks like Hasbro just tooled up the torso and heads.  Those arms and legs almost look like they’re from the 30th Anniversary/Renegades Storm Shadow.  It works.

Now as for the Shockwave HISS.  That’s an interesting animal.  I thought the Starscream Skystriker was a pretty neat idea, and it was iconic to both brands.  I don’t think this one has that same impact.  That being said, I can’t help but love the purple color, the Decepticon emblem, the semi-translucent weapons and that FREAKING gun barrel!  That is brilliant.  Just by adding that barrel, the ShockHISS went from an “eh” to a “wow”.  So yeah, another series of winners for SDCC, and another few months of trying to figure out how I’ll get ’em.

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I’ve only poked my head around the fandom for a few brief moments today as I buried myself in work and site updates, and it was immediately obvious the sky is falling.  I will admit up front, the reduction in articulation for the vehicle drivers is a major bummer.  The slight reduction in articulation for the main line figures is somewhat disturbing.  But the fact remains that even aside from these complaints, there is a lot to love here.

By and large, the designs for all of the main line figures are fantastic.  Roadblock, Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Zartan are all imminently cool and highly desirable, in spite of some joint limitations.  The Ninja Showdown sets are amazing, with a great mix of military and martial arts aesthetic as well as a nice potential blend between Retaliation and vintage styles.

By and large, the vehicles are quite nice, too, even if the drivers are unfortunately forgettible.  The Alpha Joe motorcycles are okay, and Firefly is cruising on one hell of a nice ride.  Not huge on the Fang Boat or the 4 x 4, but even with the crappy Clutch figure, that Tread Ripper looks pretty sick.  A hell of a lot better than the HISS Scout.

The Delta vehicles?  Those are amazing.  All three of them.  Love the updates to the HISS, even with the different treads.  The Ghost Hawk II is a completely awesome looking plane that I really love, and the updated VAMP is beautiful, too.  Yes, the drivers are quite disappointing, but is this really any different than taking your crappy PoC HISS Driver and chucking him in a parts box?  Of course in recent months we’d gotten great stuff like the Crimson Hoseman and Steel Brigade Delta, but it appears that those days are now gone for the forseeable future.

Unlike many fans, though, I still see a future.  I see a future where Hasbro has learned how to integrate the vintage aesthetic with a modern theatrical style and bring us a terrific combination of 21st Century technology and very familiar 30-year old design philosophies.  From a design standpoint, Hasbro gets it, folks.  Certain decisions have obviously been made that I am quite unhappy with, but in the grand scheme of things, most of what I see above are things that I really like, and purely based on my own reaction to the trailer, I still think this has a great chance to gel and succeed and catapult G.I. Joe into a better place going forward.

Bring on Toy Fair 2012!