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One would think this would be a pretty easy, straight-forward article, right?  I mean, we barely had a wave of figures released, and the vehicles were by and large unremarkable, so what is the point of this discussion?

Well, I kind of thought so, too, but then I started looking into what we got this year, and it became evident, that even with G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s short-lived shelf life, there was still plenty of topics to dissect and plenty to talk about in regards to 2012’s slate of G.I. Joe toys.

Now, a pair of items kind of had me in a quandry.  While technically the Slaughter’s Marauders and Dreadnoks 7-Packs were shipped in 2012, I still consider them 2011 product.  They were announced and solicited in 2011, and I received my sets in 2011, even though many folks got them in 2012.  For that reason I did not include them when considering this list.

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery on that?

Click the Read the Rest of the Story link below to see my thoughts.

12. G.I. Joe: Retaliation 3-Pack Red Ninja

I know a lot of folks fell quickly in love with the G.I. Joe: Retaliation Red Ninja, and I can understand why.  30th Anniversary Storm Shadow is a terrific base figure, and getting a really nice comic-accurate Red Ninja was a very cool element to the first wave of G.I. Joe: Retaliation figures.  While he’s not especially movie accurate, fans were willing to forgive that with the enhanced articulation and awesome look of the figure.

In my mind, though, the version of the Red Ninja from the 3-Pack far surpasses the single packed version.  The combination of black and red was a lot more appealing to me, not to mention the great wide-brimmed hat and the gear that can be used to replicate Slice.  All of this with the addition of the great articulation from the 30th Anniversary Storm Shadow, and you have one fantastic figure and a nice selling point for this particular 3-Pack.

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11. ComicCon Exclusive Jinx

At one point I considered doing both Jinx figures as a single “2 pack” but in the end, I decided that was cheating, since they could both be bought separately.  For that reason, I elected to choose Jinx in her red uniform as the representative for one of 2012’s best figures.  It’s funny because upon my initial review, I believe  I actually liked elements of the white uniform Jinx better, but in retrospect, I think the red uniform accomplishes more.  It gives her at least some vintage appeal, and even with the extremely cool new head sculpt and dragon emblem etched on the uniform, I found more appealing things about the red uniform when I went back to decide which one to place on this list.

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10. 2012 G.I. Joe Convention Exclusive Darklon

Never in my wildest imaginations did I think that we might actually get a Darklon figure in 2012, but the Collectors’ Club totally came through.  Using a newly tooled head on the excellent Pursuit of Cobra Firefly body, this great addition to the Iron Grenadier corps was even more great because it fell right in line with the characters return in the IDW Real American Hero title.  Darklon has long been a dark horse favorite character of mine, so I was thrilled to see him here.

The figure itself represents the cool creativity that the GIJCC has when it comes to these updates, giving us figures that are representative of their vintage counterparts, yet also with enough cool new elements to thrive among the 30th Anniversary elite as well.  Darklon accomplishes both with gusto.  Plus he fits in the old school Evader! Score!

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9. G.I. Joe: Retaliation Zartan

Yes, he does have some minor articulation issues with a lack of swivel wrists and only single joint knees, but besides that, this version of Zartan succeeds where many previous versions have failed.  He looks creepy, he retains all of the great vintage elements that has always made Zartan who he is, and the light piping for his glowing eyes is a pretty darn cool idea.  Among a wave of non movie accurate figures, Zartan is one of the ones that I’m glad wasn’t movie accurate.  Not just because getting a figure of the President would be boring, but also because they apparently used G.I. Joe: Renegades as a base, which is awesome.  Anything referencing G.I. Joe: Renegades gets my thumbs up, and the fact that the design is so evocative of the original, yet also different and modern makes for a pretty great looking Zartan update.

Major thumbs up on this one.

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8. Discount G.I. Joe Storm Shadow

It’s been a while since I’ve seen the frenzy created by these mysterious Dollar General discount figures.  Using modern tooling with some pretty basic repaints and not very elaborate paint schemes, Hasbro built out an entire assortment of core characters who also had a ton of collector appeal.

One of the most sought after figures in this assortment was Storm Shadow, who used the exceptionally great and very popular 30th Anniversary/Renegades Storm Shadow tooling (a figure that many collectors had issues finding at retail) and merely tried to approximate the color scheme found in the Ninja Force version of the character from the 90’s.  The result is a figure that really does not look exactly like the old version of the figure, but looks just close enough to work.  Considering these sell for right around $6 retail price, they obviously generated a ton of interest and fan following.

The only reason why these might be further back in the list of best figures from the year, would just be the nature of their discount market causes a reduction in accessories and various paint apps.  Beyond those quibbles, though, there were some real gems in here.

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7. Discount G.I. Joe Shipwreck

Another figure from the initial assortment of discount store exclusive figures, Shipwreck was a success on almost every level.  Using the tooling from the always popular Pursuit of Cobra Snake Eyes and the legs from G.I. Joe: Renegades Duke, paint was added in just a way to call back to the always fondly remembered Devils’ Due era of character design, and as such, the Joe vs. Cobra version of this figure.  The figure isn’t perfect, coming with the somewhat unrealistic Renegades laser pistol, but at a discount price, collectors seemed to be fine with that, and actually really loved the fact that he came with the scuba mask and backpack.

The paint scheme here isn’t elaborate, with just a few very basic colors used, but it is so successful you barely notice it, and certainly don’t find much to actively complain about.  It actually effectively pulls from the comic designs, which uses mostly primary colors as well, and I think this is an exceedingly successful figure for 2012.

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6. 2012 G.I. Joe Convention Exclusive Voltar

On the other end of the cost spectrum we have the G.I. Joe Convention Exclusive Voltar.  Available only as part of the boxed set for the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club Operation: Bear Trap exclusive set, Voltar is a figure that collectors went absolutely nuts for.  A chunk of the figure’s tooling is from the Rise of Cobra Accelerator Suit figures, with Pursuit of Cobra Beachhead mixed in for good measure.

What really sells this figure, though, is the new head sculpt and removable helmet, both very accurate to the original source material, and exceptionally well done.  Certainly there are some issues with the helmet fitting on the figure, but by and large this was an excellent representation of Destro’s field general, with some slightly modified colors to call back to the original, while also muting at least some of the pink-ness.  Pure G.I. Joe 90’s gold right here.

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5. G.I. Joe: Retaliation 3-Pack Snake Eyes

I know popular thought is sometimes that any updates or movie themed figures are automatically garbage compared to their vintage counterparts, but when it comes to figures like this G.I. Joe: Retaliation Snake Eyes, I whole heartedly disagree.  This figure is a perfect example of how somehow Hasbro is able to give us over 50 versions of the same character, yet manage to do something new and interesting and appealing with the figures throughout these modern releases.

This version of Snake Eyes is very sleek and cutting edge, with amazingly intricate detail sculpted into every seam of the figure.  You can see the layered armor underneath his uniform and the stitched seams.  There is form-fitting armored plate, and unlike several of his wave 1 G.I. Joe: Retaliation counterparts, this version of Snake Eyes has full articulation, including rocker ankles and the new wrist joints.

The reason I chose this particular version is the inclusion of his awesome webgear, which is a great Devils’ Due homage as well as adding some very cool details to the figure itself.  A terrific modernized update for Snake Eyes, who fits in nicely with Retaliation figures, or with any other modern style G.I. Joe team.

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4. ComicCon Exclusive Shockwave w/ Destro and B.A.T.

Is this cheating?  Some folks might consider this cheating, but unlike Jinx, considering all of this was sold in a single box, I feel comfortable including this all in one single entry.  Another installment in the always popular ComicCon G.I. Joe/Transformers combined exclusives the Shockwave HISS Tank with Destro and the B.A.T. is an amazing conglomeration of homages and inspirations.

Obviously the HISS Tank itself pulls its color and cannon modification from Shockwave, the infamous Decepticon from the Transformers mythology (as if the huge Decepticon logo wasn’t a dead give away anyway).  Destro uses the same purple colors as a great tie-in to Shockwave, and he also meshes very nicely with the 30th Anniversary Techno-Viper, sharing some of the parts and a bit of the color scheme.  The B.A.T. that comes with the set is done up in terrific constructicon colors, a lovely mish-mash of florescent green and purple, which immediately delighted the entire gathering of toy reporters when it was first unveiled at Toy Fair in 2012.  The in hand results are pretty much perfect as well.

Along with all of this, there’s a cart of Energon cubes, Destro’s familiar briefcase of cash and even a miniature Soundwave disguised in his boombox form in G.I. Joe scale.  Magnificent.  There was a lot to love about this set, and plenty of goodies to push it high in this list.

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3. G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club Exclusive Footloose

So am I right with this rating, or am I smoking something like Footloose here?

I almost feel a little bit two-faced, because I take nearly every opportunity to decry the collectors who only want regurgitated versions of their old figures, and in general, I don’t like that tactic myself.  I much prefer new concepts, new ideas, and modern takes on the G.I. Joe vs. Cobra themes.  So why does this 25th Anniversary-esque Footloose figure rate such a high place on this yearly list?

Because, whether or not he’s a new version of an old school favorite, he’s simply a kick ass toy.

The new head sculpt is fantastic.  I loved it with the convention exclusive Claymore, and I love it here.  I’ve heard complaints that he looks too hard-assed and not aloof enough, but I don’t have a major issue with that.  His camouflage helmet is great, the Kwinn torso and arms offer fantastic range of motion and the new wrists work amazingly well, and yet aren’t overly bulbous for having the new movement in them.  Sgt. Slaughter’s legs provide some cool texture, and the paint scheme for the figure is excellent.

I love the modern machine gun and rocket launcher…the choice of webgear, while not 100% accurate to the original, is very nicely done.  Footloose really is the total package.  For those 25th Anniversary enthusiasts, you can get him packaged in a vintage card, or for folks like me who just love military guys, he has plenty of great aspects there, too.

The Collectors’ Club appears to be making great strides filling in some of the vacancies in our homage collections, and the best part about Footloose is he satisfies that, but also works with modern day figures as well.

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2.  2012 G.I. Joe Convention Exclusive Stormavik

With the return of the Oktober Guard, many collectors were celebrating that they finally got timeless characters like Daina, Horror Show, and Colonel Brekhov in their hands.  But for my money, the star of the Oktober Guard is Stormavik.  With a great new head sculpt and some fantastic tooling, this is one heck of an awesome update to one of the unsung heroes of the Oktober Guard.  As a paratrooper and airborne trooper, Stormavik often got lost in the shuffle among the more unique guys and girls like Horror Show and Daina, but he was always one of the cool guys in my mind.

Using tooling from City Strike Destro and Shadow Tracker, Stormavik is a very modern and very nice representation of the character, with great articulation and a plethora of awesome accessories.  The PoC Jungle Strike Duke webgear is great, the weapon selection works very well, and I really love the color scheme throughout.

This is a great figure that would have meshed very nicely with a more modern international team, if Stormavik wasn’t…ya know… dead.

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1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper

Here he is… the best figure of the year.  Hasbro does it again.  I maintained for nearly three decades that I hated the idea of G.I. Joe army builders.  It was okay for Cobra to have legions of the nameless and the faceless, but as an elite team, G.I. Joe needs to have a measure of individuality.  Well, then Hasbro released the PoC and 30th Anniversary Steel Brigade troopers and Steel Brigade Delta’s and all of a sudden, it was okay to have G.I. Joe army builders.

Now, with the G.I. Joe: Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper, I am full on the faceless G.I. Joe Trooper bandwagon.  This figure is fantastic.  Using all new tooling with all of the enhanced articulation (including the wrists and new style ankles) this is one faceless Joe that can move and groove like all of his more well-known elite comrades.  The high tech flack vest is a fantastic design as well, and I love the Halo-inspired head-swap head that the figure comes with, too.  Even if you don’t like the helmet, the face is distinct enough to be a whole new character.

Even with the baggy, wrinkled, exceptionally well detailed uniform, the range of motion is fantastic in his elbows and knees and he can hold his weapons almost flawlessly.  Speaking of weapons, the figure comes with a great state-of-the-art backpack with holsters for his various pistols and rifles as well as a pair of knives that slide nicely into sheaths.  He comes with a ton of gear, and manages to be able to hold it all.  The design is very space-western inspired, with the ragtag cape over his shoulder, pistols that look like 21st Century wild west and even a rifle that almost looks like it could be bolt-action.  Really awesome figure with a lot of personality, which is really saying something, considering he is meant to be a generic trooper.

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As I said above, this was a very tough choice. Far tougher than I envisioned it being, and really, any of the top four figures could have been re-arranged in any order and I likely would have had a tough time arguing that.

What I found really interesting was sort of how my perspective changed as I looked back on the reviews throughout the year.  Footloose actually only received a 4-Star score in my review at the time, but as I hold him in my hand now, compared to many of the other candidates, he just feels and looks like a better toy than some of the others that I might have thought I would prefer.  A figure like the G.I. Joe: Retaliation G.I. Joe Trooper was perfect on nearly every level purely from design and execution, and even being a movie figure, I found much more enjoyment and flexibility with that figure than with many others that might have a higher preference among vintage purists.

Ultimately, these lists are a way to generate discussion, and I’m sure this one will generate plenty, both good and bad.

Probably the biggest ommission, in my opinion would be the G.I. Joe: Retaliation Storm Shadow, which is an almost perfect re-invention of the character in an awesome modern techno-ninja style.  I absolutely love that figure, and I greatly wish I could have found a way to include him in this list.

As it is, I think this encompasses a wide range of G.I. Joe toys offered in 2012, and for a year that was supposedly sparse of G.I. Joe product, I found there to be a ton of stuff to choose from.  I guess from folks like me who were active collectors from ’94 – ’00, “down year” is all relative.