G.I. Joe: 25th Anniversary DVD Battle Pack #4
Pyramids of Darkness

I continue to find myself so conflicted with the Sunbow cartoons.  Part of me relishes the cheesiness and over-the-top nature of these animated features, but another part of me just sort of shakes my head.  As a ten-year old I will unequivocably say that while I loved seeing my favorite characters come to animated life on the screen, not much of what happened in the Sunbow cartoon shaped my G.I. Joe universe.  However now, twenty-five years later there is a definite appreciation for what the creators were able to do.  I mean these were people tasked with selling a military special operations toyline as a cartoon to 8 year olds!  That was not an easy task, especially in the heavily regulated 80’s, so I just can’t help but applaud Sunbow for what they were able to do.  They gave life to a lot of these characters that were otherwise lifeless and added a spark of fantasy to G.I. Joe that I think it still very important to remember.

As many adult collectors get too bogged down in military realism, accurate ranking structures, and how many officers vs. enlisted men would really be on a squad, I think it helps to sit back and look at the 80’s cartoons and just remember that at it’s core, G.I. Joe is fantasy, and I think it’s critical that it retains an element of that.  I know I’ll be walking into the theater next August with that on my mind, and I think many other folks would be well served to do the same.

Now that I’ve said my piece there, how does this translate to this battle pack?  Well, it doesn’t really…but I figure if folks know where I’m coming from in my Sunbow opinions, maybe that will show them how much someone like me (who wasn’t a devout Sunbow fan) can still really appreciate and love the amazing job that Hasbro is doing with these DVD Battle Packs (with some stumbling along the way).

The Pyramids of Darkness pack comes with 4 figures.  Major Bludd, Quick Kick, Snake Eyes, and COBRA Commander.  It’s somewhat mixed bag of good and bad, though there is more good than bad to be had here, for sure, especially for the price.


Major Bludd

Even as I staunchly defended Hasbro for their choices of parts for Major Bludd way back a few months ago, I secretly hoped for better things to come down the road.  Unfortunately, even as we now have three versions of COBRA’s most infamous mercenary, the main problem I have with the figure still remains unsolved, which is his lack of a poseable arm.  I think that was a terrible judgement call and I sincerely hope that the designers are figuring out a good way to work that into a future assortment.  Now that we have three Bludd’s (with two of them arriving at my house in the same week!) I think that is just about the only thing left to complain about.

The first version of Major Bludd we received was mostly Zartan parts with a new head and arm seemingly slapped on.  The accessories were fairly lame, the dogtags stuck out and it just did not resemble the Major Bludd we all knew and loved.  Well, I do have to admit the accessory issue hasn’t changed.  His rockets continue to be too loose on the backpack (or on his weapon), and his dogtags still stick out like sore thumbs, however, the rest of the figure is nothing but absolute improvements over the original.  The most interesting thing as well is that all three Bludd’s are totally different.

While the original Bludd was pretty much all Zartan, the one with the Extreme Conditions Desert set was HISS Driver, COBRA Trooper, and Red Star parts, and now we have this one, which is sort of a mixture of the two.  He’s got HISS Driver’s torso (which is awesome), and a mixture of the Zartan legs and the legs from the Desert version.  And you know what, it doesn’t look too bad at all, especially in these darker colors.  It’s really the colors that separate this version of Bludd, too.  While he always appeared as a pretty straight up brown and black in the comics and toys, the cartoon gave him a more silver appearance, much more in tune with an animated style, and that’s how this Bludd is portrayed.  With the silver chest pad and silver arm he immediately looks more cartoon-like, which is only accentuated by the darker uniform colors (that mutes Zartan’s thigh pads nicely).  This is all topped off by a nicely applied blue shade to his collar which is also a great tribute to his Sunbow appearance.

Another slight change is that since the Desert version, neither Major Bludd has had the familiar three-fingered “claw hand”, they’ve moved to a more familiar five-fingered version, which works very well.

So far we have three different versions of Bludd, and while there are still issues (most notably the non-jointed arm and the weapons) each one is a pretty stark difference from the other and they can all co-exist in one collection.  Well, except for the first one, at this point I’m not entirely certain where he belongs.

COBRA Commander

This is a figure I found myself strangely looking forward to when I saw pictures, and when I saw him at the Convention last year, but now that I’ve got him in hand, I see very little to talk about.  Sure, there are little differences scattered throughout, like his different head sculpt, his non-fist hand, and other minor alterations here and there, but let’s be serious here.  We have been absolutely deluged with the same versions of COBRA Commander over and over and over again, and it’s bordering on ridiculous.  In fact, not only do we get this one, but in the “Best Of” DVD Pack, we’re getting yet ANOTHER one, this time with a chrome faceplate mask.  Now I love that idea as much as the next guy, don’t get me wrong, but I think Hasbro needs to step back and really think about how many minorly different versions of the same character we can really be force-fed before it gets old.

I give Hasbro the benefit of the doubt in most cases, and will continue to do so through the Anniversary line.  Whatever they do, they have reasons for it, but at some point I think a line does need to be drawn and they need to start realizing that we don’t want essentially nine different versions of the same character with only minor changes to each one in any given release year.  I can think of a metric ton of other characters that would have worked in this DVD set without much new tooling, and really I can’t find much justification to include COBRA Commander here, even with a different head and hand.  Especially considering he’s getting representation in the fifth DVD Pack as it is.

I am a bit confused about color choices here, too.  One distinctive aspect of the hooded COBRA Commander in the cartoon is that his hood was often a different shade of blue than his uniform…yet that hasn’t been done in any version of the hooded Commander released so far.  This would have been a perfect chance to do it.  Also, I still want to see a hooded Commander with a large, proud COBRA symbol tattooed on his chest, but so far, they’re all a bit small and off center.  Just another minor issue.

This version of COBRA Commander also comes with a little snake-septor that he is seen with in this mini-series, but again, I don’t find that enough reason to give us yet another version of this character with only subtle changes made.

Snake Eyes

When we first  got the ’85 version of Snake Eyes as a single-packed figure, the outcry was loud and clear.  While the new sculpt head was awesome, and he had a fairly familiar bandolier, the figure didn’t exactly resonate with how the character appeared back then, and the fandom made their voices heard.

In my opinion the changes weren’t critical and the figure still worked in my mind, so I didn’t really see the issues.  But apparently Hasbro heard the fandom loud and clear, and made certain to get us a very accurate version of the most iconic Snake Eyes rendition in this DVD Battle Pack.  Of course this figure is focused on his cartoon look, which has not satisfied the most vocal fans, but I’m sure we can remain confident that we will get the all black ’85 Snake Eyes we’re looking for in the near future.
In my mind, though, this is a fantastic version of the consummate G.I. Joe ninja, although there are some minor unfortunate faults throughout.

First of all, the figure appears to have a generous amount of new tooling that immediately makes him more identifiable with the ’85 version.  No combat boots or wrinkled pants, only the familiar spandex-type leggings and smooth feet with those familiar ankle canisters.  The result is a figure that is a lot more “streamlined” overall, which is a great thing, in my mind.  Even the original ’85 Snake Eyes looked a bit chubby, but this one is sleek and very “super hero” ish, which is something I actually like, that not many other folks do.

Of course there are always complaints, and one I’ve heard most prevelantly was that the figure was too “purple”.  Personally, I don’t see it.  Sure, this figure isn’t jet black, but rare is a cartoon-themed character jet black, and I think the dark, DARK shade of purple works well here.  He fits in with the other cartoon themed figures in the set, and it’s not so bright that it’s even obvious.  I couldn’t tell it was purple until I took a good close look, and even then it was dark enough that it didn’t bother me at all.  However, there are paint-related issues that I do have.  I know Hasbro was trying to capture the effect of a “wristband” that his dart launcher was attached to on his arm, but having the entire forearm a wrinkled gray color, much brighter than the other parts of the figure really makes it stand out and not fit at all.  I would have much preferred a smoother forearm rather than something that looks so out of place.  His glove on the other hand is the same way, having a strangely gray hand plopped onto his darker colored arm, and it just doesn’t look quite right.  So while I couldn’t care less if the figure was jet black, I do wish they had chosen a uniform color soup-to-nuts instead of the somewhat odd gray arm and hand.  Just a minor quibble, but a quibble just the same.

From an accessory standpoint, Snake Eyes is pretty great.  As awesome as his original webgear was last year, this one is as well, for different reasons.  It’s lathered with detail, and makes the figure look very, VERY nice.  Snake Eyes also comes with the familiar cartoon rifle, and an absolutely incredible sword.  Very reminiscent of the familiar Snake Eyes museum replica sword from a couple of years ago, this is an excellent version of his curved blade, and the handle detailing is incredible.  A very nice weapon compliment for a very nice overall figure.

Quick Kick

While everyone was ranting and raving about how much they wanted Quick Kick, I could only sort of scratch my head and wonder why?  Sure, he was a staple in the cartoon universe.  Sure, he had quite possibly one of the most unique appearances back in the day, and of course he was part of that infamous 1985 series that brought us Flint, Lady Jaye, Snake Eyes (with his visor) amongst countless other timeless heroes and villains.  But honestly?  I was never a big fan of a military operative running around in no shirt and no shoes twenty-three years ago, and I’m still not.  I mean a martial arts trained Hollywood stuntman who is recruited by the Joe team?  Really?

Yet as silly as Quick Kick looked even back in the day, Larry Hama’s awesome filecard immediately drew me in and I did get an appreciation for the character even if I had none for the figure.  It made me wish we got a better commando-style version of the character, even though much of his charm would have surely been lost.

But the Joe fandom can be a silly bunch sometimes.  While they rant and complain about the realism (or lack thereof) in the movie, they clamor for Quick Kick, Bazooka, and other strange characters who are about as realistic in a military environment as armored “Speed Suits” and laser rifles.  Considering what Hasbro had to work with, though, I have to say that Quick Kick is a raging success.

From head-to-toe, this figure is pretty much new sculpt everything.  Head, hands, torso, legs…it’s pretty much a brand new figure and it works amazingly well!  His body is slender, but muscular…very Bruce Lee like, in my mind.  The figure is fairly plain, but still manages to be fraught with detail, from minor wrinkles in the pants to each line and cut of his muscular torso.  Sure, folks have complained about the “karate chop” hand, but honestly that does not bother me one bit, if anything it adds some cool uniqueness to the figure. Another complaint I have seen, and that I do agree with to a point, is the lack of ankle joints. I understand that Hasbro likely wants to keep things appealing from an aesthetic standpoint, but for a martial arts expert especially I want to see absolutely as much articulation as I possibly can. Ankle joints would go a long way to improving the way Quick Kick stands and giving us much more flexibility with how we can pose him

Hasbro does a nice job with the weapons that Quick Kick comes with as well, which I suppose isn't too hard, considering they pretty much just replicated what came with the classic. The nunchuks are quite nicely detailed, and I love that we get different paint applications on them with brown handles and a silver chain. His sword also has nicely brown wrapping on the handle, too. Very nice weaponry, indeed.

Along with the figures, they always manage to work in some little props and tweaks to the animated series in these sets as well. In this particular case we have one of COBRA's infamous "black cubes" that work together to create the Pyramid of Darkness. Obviously they can't do it at full scale, but what they do is at least interesting to some degree:

The cube is pretty neat, actually. The embossed COBRA logo, the purplish plastic...it's a cool tribute to the cubes in the mini-series and it has a nice construction to it as well. Another neat little aspect is that the hole in the cube also fits with the MASS Device treads, though I'm not sure exactly what you might use that feature for.

Of course, last but not least is the MASS Device itself. I didn't talk about it in Battle Pack #3 (and actually forgot to mention here the first time around, too... whoops). Anyway, with the two pieces that came with these two sets, the MASS Device is nearly complete!

Battle Pack #3 came with the tank treads for the bottom, and #4 came with the top mount for the MASS Device cannon. With those two pieces on, you really start to see this thing come together. All we need now is the cannon and crystal, which will both be coming in the "Best Of" Battle Pack #5! An awesome addition to these DVD sets for sure. It'll be very cool to have a MASS Device on display with the rest of my anniversary figures.

The first thing that I'm amazed about is the sheer value of these DVD Battle Packs. A DVD with an hour and a half of entertainment, a number of figures and new accessories, as well as the "build a MASS Device" component included within. I can't believe they can get all of this in one package for this price. Incredible! Not only that, but the figures included are pretty worthwhile additions, especially in this case.

While I'm not at all wild about COBRA Commander, all three other figures here are exceptionally well done. Quick Kick isn't a character or figure that I desperately needed, but the execution of the figure is excellent. This updated version of Snake Eyes version 2 is equally cool, and Major Bludd is a huge improvement in his cartoon colors. Overall, this is a terrific set that I highly recommend. Can't go wrong.

GRADE: out of 5