G.I. Joe Anti-Venom Task Force
name: G.I. Joe Anti-Venom Task Force
Price: MSRP $19.99
Availability: August, 2004- Toys "R" Us Exclusive
So you've heard the not-so-good stuff about this set. It almost seems to be the norm these days...reviews broken up into "good" and "not too good" sections because we get such a mixed bag with these exclusives lately. It's a trend that I hope does not continue much longer, although by checking out the new Desert set pictures, I'm not real optimistic.
Anyway...these next three figures are all based on 90's molds, which might be turn offs for some Joefans, it is definitely a positive spin in my mind. I've said all along the 90's molds are largely underrated because a lot of them were saddled with forgettible characters or scary paint schemes, and it would appear these days Hasbro is at least using a little more sense when applying paint to their figures.
Take Lifeline for example...
Or is it Stretcher? Errr... Sideswipe?
Well...I know I'm risking piles of hatemail by saying this, but actually, in all honesty, I dig Lifeline here. By changing the skin color the resemblance to Stretcher completely disappears, and with the hat and mike, this figure almost looks like Lifeline. If they'd gone the extra mile and molded some green sunglasses onto him, I bet a lot more Joefans would be happy. As it stands, this serves me just fine as a Lifeline update.
I even like the fact that he's got this re-used mold. Now my entire med team can appear in similar uniforms, which makes a lot of sense to me. Stretcher, Sideswipe, and Lifeline all share the body molds and uniform similarities, yet their headsculpts/colors are different enough to make each one stand out as their own character. I think it works pretty well, but I know I'm in the minority. I'm also, I think, the one and only Joefan who thinks that the Wave 5 Lifeline is his best version to date.
While African American in appearence, there doesn't seem to be too many distinctive physical attributes on the headsculpt to make it not work in a caucasian paint scheme. The flesh color flows smooth and doesn't look odd, which is great.
I really like this mold, too, with the broad chest and shoulders and the large biceps classic to these 90's molds.
The ridged collar and straps really add some nice zip to the torso sculpt, and blend exceptionally well with the shinpads/boots and belt. The assorted pouches and trimming on the shirt add even more cool details to the mold and you'll find these little assorted items throughout the figure.
I know one complaint with this figure that is going to be presented is his chest holster with gun included for a character who is supposed to be a pacifist. Well, in my Joeverse, Lifeline prefers non-violent solutions to problems, but carries a sidearm simply because he has to as a special ops trooper. And it if came down to a COBRA trooper taking out him and his patient, well I like to think that Lifeline would take some action.
For this figure the color scheme works very well, too...much better than it does on the first two figures I reviewed. The deep green shade is nice on this torso and brings out the brownish details on the holster and pouches very nicely. I really like the way the rolled-up sleeves look with this shade of green and the black gloves are a nice final touch. The molding of the legs lends itself nicely to the desert-type camouflage and blends well with the brown on the boots and the black of the gloves and the other parts of the boots.
Overall, even using a different mold for the character does work for this character, at least in my opinion. I look at this figure, and I can see it as Lifeline, not as a white Stretcher, and certainly not as Sideswipe.
Now...this figure gives me great pleasure to review. Not quite as much pleasure as I might like, but it's still one I'm going to enjoy.
When you get a classic character like Roadblock, it's tough to look past his most famous and popular uniform, which is of course, the one he first appeared in in 1984. In print and animation this uniform serves its purpose well, as a large, hulking man in a camouflage tank top looks very intimidating. The only problem is the figure is less than intimidating. Far less. His scrawny bald head and practically boney mold just are NOT Roadblock and never could be. The fact that Hasbro has pretty much shoved this downright nasty version of Roadblock down our throats for the past few years leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth. Finally Hasbro has gotten their hands on a REAL Roadblock mold.
Ever since this mold was first released in '92, he instantly became my default Roadblock. A great determined face sculpt, full of character...his large, hulking frame makes him big and solid, and his arms are practically bursting out of the short sleeves from under his quilted vest. Over his vest as well is a very nicely adorned strap with a sheathed knife and ammunition clips. These are minor touches, but they add some terrific detail to the torso and really bring the character to life.
The top mold blends to near-perfection with the waist and legs as well, all flowing together to look very cohesive. This is G.I. Joe at it's best...a nice military base to the uniform, but with some great unusual elements and lots of character to the figure.
The colors work well with this mold, too, as they do with Lifeline. The quilted vest looks fantastic in that dull green hue, and with the right black touches it brings the torso to life very nicely...nearly as nicely as it did originally. The black gloves and short-sleeves mesh with the straps on the chest and look great. His belt and leg pouches are a brownish/green color that are also nicely military-based, but different enough.
The tan/brown camouflage on his pants actually looks very nice, too, and matches the mold of these legs well, down to his boots. From head to toe, mold and color combined, the figure is one of the best of the set. It's nice to see him get some great accessories as well...his familiar M2 Browning w/ tripod and backpack fit nicely, and I am really loving these Steel Brigade helmets. It's odd, because I'm really not a fan of the Steel Brigade figure because of it's large, cumbersome head, but as a removable helmet I'm loving it...the colors and the design scheme just look great mixed with these figures. I was pretty surprised to see how well the helmet fits pretty much all of these figures, Roadblock included.
So, if this figure is one of the best of the set...which one is the best? The one I've saved for last, as usual...
I've said for a long time that the 90's figures deserve their spot in the limelight. There are scores of figures painted horribly that don't get the credit they deserve due to overly bright colors, goofy accessory compliments and odd characterization. Well, this figure here is the poster boy for my argument.
Barricade quickly became my favorite back in '92 when I first bought him. I loved his bulky armored uniform and always used him as the pointman for my urban operations. When I was younger Barricade was the man. Bullets bounced off him, he single-handedly took out groups of COBRAs and was darn-near unstoppable. Of course, keeping his helmet on was vital to maintain this illusion, since his head is so darn goofy looking.
However, Barricade has never gotten a fair shake (as him or as Gears), mostly due to his poor choices in color schemes. The first was definitely the best with a deep blue uniform and metallic gold armor...but the second version with his borderline gross neon pink/orange uniform was just plain disgusting. The Gears version wasn't too bad, but still not dark enough to lend any credence to the mold, plus was a Star Brigade figure which doomed it to obscurity no matter what.
Now, finally...we have a Barricade that people can get excited about, and people can find a way to use in their Joeverses...at least, I hope so.
Now, I'm going to try very hard to judge this figure on it's merits...a little more than a week ago some pictures on eBay surfaced with protos of these Anti-Venom figures, only done up in urban camouflage instead of tan/brown. I absolutely LOVE the looks of those test shots, especially the urban themed Barricade. My love for those urban protos (every figure looks much better in the eBay paint apps than in person) has actually diluted my love for these slightly, although this Barricade does still impress me.
Unfortunately, we need to start at the head sculpt. I say unfortunately because the combination of the strange turtle neck, the slicked back comb-over and that cock-eyed smirk just make his face look...well, not right. He's far from the intimidating "bunker buster" that he should be, and I'm very glad he's got a cool helmet he can use to cover up that mug. The painted flesh actually doesn't look real bad on this figure, but not much could make the head sculpt look worse.
Thankfully, though, everything else about this figure looks up from there. First of all, his tan camo uniform base really looks nice (although not as nice as the urban scheme) and works well. His bulky body mold looks like a padded uniform as it should, with large arms and legs, and the body armor is, of course, terrific.
First of all, the color that Hasbro chose for the armor is just plain fantastic. It looks quite similar to the brownish/green of a lot of the trim of the other figures and fits right in with them...but somehow the big "H" added a metallic sheen to the finish that really makes it look...well...metallic. The chestplate looks great, especially combined with those clips/straps colored in black. They blend together seamlessly. This seamless look transfers to his great gauntlets, too, also colored in this metallic bronze and ended in a pair of jet black gloves. But probably my favorite part of the figure is his boots. Those shin-high metal plated boots covering the ridged shoes just look large and imposing, and ready to kick down any door that gets in his way. I really, REALLY dig those boots, and they bring together the look of the rest of the armor just beautifully.
Add that always cool SB helmet atop Barricade's head and you've got an excellent new figure, and he comes with his pretty neat original weapon, too, which is always a plus, since it isn't a gun we've seen a hundred times before.
So as it stands, Barricade is my favorite figure in the set and definitely a cool one...is he and Roadblock (and to a lesser degree, Lifeline) worth purchasing this set for? My feelings are a little mixed, but in the end, I'd say yes.
One of the major problems of this set as a whole is its non-function. These members are listed as "Anti-Venom" troops...Joes who are on this team to try and stomp out the Venom infections that COBRA is unleashing on the American public. The only problem is, none of them have any particular reason to be on the team, and none of them have any sort of specialties (besides maybe Lifeline) that would make them better choices for this team. It just seems like Hasbro tossed together whatever Joe molds they could find and slapped a name on them. On a Night Force, Tiger Force, or Desert themed set, that might be okay...but this set appears designed for a singular purpose, and other than making Charbroil's "flamethrower" a "Venom-antidote shooter" I don't see that any steps were taken to make this team have that focus. I mean, what's Barricade going to do? Riot control on Venom-infected folks? Roadblock gonna mow them all down with his M2? Mutt gonna sic Junkard on them? It wouldn't have been hard for Hasbro to tie in some reasoning with the filecards, but instead we just got reprinted stuff from cards past and no real background or storyline.
In spite of this, though, at least half of these figures are worth owning, and if you're a Charbroil fan, that figure is nice enough to appeal to you, too...Mutt and Duke are pretty forgettible, in my opinion, but there's enough other interesting figures to make up for it, I guess. I wouldn't run out and buy this the moment you see it, but the more you look at it, the more it grows on you...at least that's what happened in my case. Especially once you outfit them all in those kick butt helmets. :)
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