G.I. Joe "Desert Battle" RAM w/ Sandstorm

So often a cancelled item will receive critical and fandom acclaim simply because it's cancelled. Folks always want what they cannot have, and automatically because something isn't hitting your neighborhood Wal-Mart or Target, it simply must be the "BEST TOY EVAH!"

In the case of the mysterious third wave of Target Exclusive mini-vehicles, however, I think the hype is justified. Not just because they never hit mass market retail, but because, in my opinion, they were the best series of those exclusives to be released.

The formula was nothing new. A rehashed vehicle from the Anniversary line or new sculpt line along with a figure repaint. Bang. Done.

Wave 1 was mostly uninspired...Wave 2 did give us a great SNAKE Armor set, the cool Cobra Jetpack, and a nicely repainted Eel...but Wave 3, in my opinion, really gave us the goods. A nicely repainted Flight Pod, a great new version of the Whirlwind...a new Joe desert specialist who immediately became a part of G.I. Joe canon... and porn-stache Ace. Can't go wrong with the porn-stache.

One of the first 25th Anniversary vehicle remakes to hit shelves, the RAM motorcycle was an immediate hit. Retaining all of the classic familiarity as the original, with just the right amount of retooled parts. it really captured the fandom by storm and made many of us realize that as cool as the classics are, there is always room for improvement.

Going with a desert themed repaint makes a bit of sense with the RAM, as it sort of fits with that early design aesthetic. In 1983, both Grunt and Clutch received desert repaints, included with desert themed vehicles, so it seems only natural that the RAM would get something similar. All of the retooled parts are present and nicely designed, with a securely fitting (yet removable) gatling gun sidecar, excellently updatd handlebars, opening saddlebags, and the whole nine yards. This RAM really captures all of the coolness of the original Anniversary version, only in a desert paint scheme. I would have loved to have seen some nicely applied "dirt" overspray, but the clean look has it's own appeal as well.

But in my opinion, where this set excels is with the character included. Back at JoeCon in 2009, Hasbro designers announced that the Pursuit of Cobra Zartan was coming with a "Sandstorm" disguise. This disguise was from a fallen Joe character who Zartan killed and assumed the personality of. A totally new character, it seemed unlikely that we would ever get a toy version. Yet here we are.

Calling back to the Rise of Cobra film look, Sandstorm wore a reactive armor shirt with some basic desert camouflage pants, in a look that really took the most advantage of the Rise of Cobra film feel. He uses Shipwreck as a base figure, has Kamakura's head sculpt, and honestly, for such a simple figure, I think he looks really great. I do find it a bit odd that Hasbro designers did so many desert themed figures for the Rise of Cobra line, yet managed to be unable to find one cohesive camouflage pattern to tie them all together. Early desert figures had some typical blotchy camouflage...the Toys "R" Us 5-Pack was excellent and had some fantastic digital camo applied to each figure...and Sandstorm also has that pattern, yet it doesn't really match the ones in the TRU pack. This is unfortunate to me, and seems like a design oversight.

Not content to just come with a motorcycle and chaingun, Sandstorm also wears a very cool helmet repurposed from the Resolute jetpack Duke and totes around a machine gun that originally came with Cover Girl. Yes, the weapons are reused, but they're reused quite well, in my opinion.

When it comes to this set, I feel I should apologize as well. I actually have a pre-production version of this that was given to me quite generously by Gyre-Viper a number of months ago. I opened it, took a bunch of pictures, yet for whatever reason, never posted the review. Now that I have posted the review, I've at least dug up all of the old images, which I've included along with the new ones.

I must thank Gyre-Viper extensively for his generosity, and it is a gift I will always enjoy and appreciate, regardless of the current availability of the production item.

While new characters were somewhat few and far between during the movie year, I think Sandstorm is a great addition to the G.I. Joe cast. A pity he's destined to be Zartan-fodder down the road...regardless of that, this is a great figure, and if you can manage to find one at Ross for $5.99 it is an absolute no brainer. Even paying shipping or slightly elevated eBay prices are worth it for this one, at least in my opinion.