Ripcord (Desert Battle) - Pursuit of Cobra Preproduction

Not many folks knew what to expect from the toyline following up the Rise of Cobra film, and I think it's safe to assume no one saw this coming. The move from a strict, live-action movie style to a totally fantasy-military based pseudo-futuristic Metal Gear-esque universe took a lot of fans by surprise, myself included.

But it's a very, very pleasent surprise, at least in my mind. As a furious fan of the Metal Gear Solid franchise, I am absolutely in love with the idea of G.I. Joe going down that road. The way Metal Gear so seamlessly blends real world military action with a futuristic science fiction flair is exactly what G.I. Joe has been from day one, though they've struggled to maintain that identity from time to time. That is absolutely not the case with what I've seen so far from the Pursuit of Cobra.

I've been buying and collecting toys for a long, long time...I was eight years old and an avid Star Wars and G.I. Joe fan, and honestly, I've not stopped since. Twenty-Eight straight years of buying toys, and every once in a great while, I get hit with a strong emotion and feeling when I dig into a toy, especially if it represents the first toy in a particular series. The last time I had "that feeling" was in 2005 when I cracked open Sigma 6 Duke for the first time...and I just got it again when I tore open the bubble wrap on this Ripcord...this is one hell of a nice toy.

Throughout the Anniversary line, Hasbro toyed with the articulation, the sculpting, and trying to find the perfect blend between the two, but was often restricted by twenty-five year-old aesthetics and a desire to make things as accurate as possible to the source material. With the Rise of Cobra line, they took even more steps towards a nice articulation and sculpt blend, but again, were somewhat shoehorned by a movie "feel", and some of the toys suffered for it.

For the Pursuit of Cobra, it seems that finally Hasbro has taken off the reigns, and they're giving the designers much more leash to really think outside the box and produce toys that can just be toys again, not representations of our youth or plastic interpretations of a Paramount motion picture. And I gotta tell you, the Hasbro designers are showing, once again, that they are the absolute best in the world at working in this scale. No other toy company is even in the same league.

Ripcord has some interesting quirks as Hasbro again tries to merge bulk, stature, and articulation all in one package, however Ripcord seems a bit more focused on the size of the sculpt than the range of motion. Because of the bulky, padded nature of his arms, his elbows don't quite have the bend that we were seeing the movie line, so two-handed grips on his weapon do suffer a bit. But, I'll tell you, once you get this sick gear loaded on him, trust me, you won't give a crap.

The base figure underneath has the same Marlon Wayans head sculpt that has nagged at collectors for the past 18 months, with the typical Reactive Armor torso, tying this into the movie realm nicely. His arms and legs appear to be new sculpt, being a bulkier mold, giving the character the protection he needs when zipping around on this kick ass jetpack. There is a great assortment of shoulder pads, elbow pads, kneepads, thick wrinkled clothing and absolutely no wasted detail or paint applications anywhere. This figure just has "pop", even without being layered with his accessories.

But of course, it's the accessories that really showcase the fineness of these toys. His overhead vest is loaded with weight, yet is rubberized and malleable to allow some give to it. It has various fasteners that connect and hold very sturdily and immediately gives the figure some added heft. The rubberized helmet with the somewhat clear full-facemask is another awesome touch with a hint of science fiction, yet still with some real world elements to it as well. He's got twin air hoses that connect from the mask to his vest, and two pouches, one in the front and one in the rear, that connect quite nicely to add some detail, yet can be removed to wear the jetpack if needed. The two holes in the back of the vest are for two gold "intakes" that plug in there...they end up looking a bit out of place, and I'm not entirely certain what their function is, but as added trim, they work.

And then there's the jetpack. Holy crap, the jetpack. I know, I know...everyone loves the JUMP, as well they should, it's a pretty neat little accessory, but this jetpack absolutely destroys it in every possible way. The realistic "wing shapes" on the spring-loaded appendages, the sleek, angular look to the backpack, and the removable rockets all add some fantastic details, yet almost hold this to a more real-world aesthetic by making it large and combersome as something like this would likely be.

Some parallels must be drawn, of course, between this figure and the 25th Anniversary Para-Viper, which is also so loaded down with gear that it barely functions as a normal action figure. That does detract somewhat from the overall coolness of the toy, but he looks so awesome all loaded up with gear, that it's tough to complain too much. I'd love for Hasbro to find a nice middle ground where these guys can have a nice load of accessories, yet still maintain some functionality. I think they've walked that line really well recently, and look like they'll continue to do it going forward, but sometimes they go a bit overboard.

Rounding off the accessories are the standard submachine gun and a great small pistol that fits nicely in his ankle holster.

To put it simply...I am blown away. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the upcoming Pursuit of Cobra line. All indications are that these toys will start hitting in late 2010, and all I can say is "dammit, that's too far away". I want these toys, and I want them yesterday. If Ripcord is any indication whatsoever of the quality and intensity that the Pursuit of Cobra will exhibit when they finally do hit retail, I will be on these like white on rice, and this could ignite a fever for the G.I. Joe brand that I have not had for a long time...these toys perfectly exemplify what I want to see in a G.I. Joe line...I couldn't ask for anything more. I recently spoke with a Joe collector friend of mine and asked him about what he thought with these new toys...and he summed it up perfectly with three words. "Fun and Whimsy". And he's right. These are still toys, after all, and while many of us have had twenty plus years of "fun and whimsy" I'm very excited that children of this generation are finally getting some toys that so perfectly incorporate the "fun and whimsy" that has been missing from G.I. Joe for a long time.