Continuing the Wave 3 rundown, I've decided to get the one real weak link of the group out of the way before I deal with the stars - though look out for a Snake Eyes cameo near the end of the post! (which required me to restore my camera's flash, when I realised how hard it is to pick out the detail on Snakey without it)
It's the pants. The pants don't match.
So, it's another Storm Shadow. I don't mind his repeated appearances nearly as much as Duke's because, hey he's a bad-guy ninja, which makes him cool. What I do mind is when Hasbro don't come up with a valid reason for the figure's existence. We got four single-packed Storm Shadows over the course of The Rise of Cobra, and each both looked different and were designed with a specific purpose in mind. Then wave 1 of PoC gave us a 'Desert Battle' Stormy which some hated, due to how different he looked, but I personally loved - he fit the locale, he was recognisable yet still cosmetically distinct from his previous forms, and he had a ton of gear.
This guy...I don't know. Does that really look like an 'Arctic' ninja to you? He's got rolled-up sleeves! And you just know that little vest of his isn't insulated. What's doubly irritating is, Rise of Cobra already gave us an Arctic Stormy - that you can see in my snowy-day picture story post from this past November - which looked much more suitable for the job. Argh.
Still, looking at the positives...it's a new look, certainly. The red pants with the angular camo design don't actually clash that badly, and certainly help him to stand out from his contemporaries.
"You will address me as Prince Storm Shadow."
Brand new head design, with a distinctive golden 'crown' which looks heckuva similar to the bloke from Ninja Gaiden, a nod which unfortunately annoys me more because I can't stand those games, or their former chief producer, Tommy Nob-End Itagaki (not his actual name). In fact, every part of the figure is new, which is a damn shame because that costs Hasbro a whole lot more cash than simply reusing existing tooling and...all that capital for such a negative response from the fans? Oof.
Not sure why I bothered taking this pic, actually.
Nothing much to say here, although there's a nice enough design sculpted on the back of his vest. Unfortunately, said vest brings one of the figure's main problems to light...
Are those lines his ribs or something?
Dude needs to get off the Atkins thing ASAP.
See, this guy is one of two PoC figures featuring the 'Whirlwind Kick', a waist-spinning action feature that Hasbro dragged into the line, kicking and screaming, because they like to tweak the collectors with shit like this...or something. I've no idea why they bothered, actually, but the constraints imposed by said feature means Storm Shadow's got no mid-torso articulation and, perhaps more annoyingly, his vest doesn't have side-clasps to keep it secure, so it sort of flaps around loosely whenever you move his arms etc. It really does make the figure look a little cheap.
From the makers of Tickle-Me Elmo, it's...
Push-My-Funny-Bone Storm Shadow!
There's the switch to activate the kick, on his left side. You have to twist his entire lower body 360 degrees to the left first, in order to ratchet the tension in whatever elastic stuff he's got hanging around in his guts.
ZOMG ACTION SHOT!
That's the kick in motion. Obviously it's a bit hard to demonstrate in still images...and it might have looked better if Storm Shadow's rubbery skirt-thing didn't prevent his legs from bending into a decent 'kicking' position. Y'know, most of the time, I can ignore a little loss of articulation for the sake of looks, but with a ninja or similarly martial-arts-based guy? Not so much. That a figure whose sole existence is based around his ability to kick can't just shows a real lack of thought or care being applied by the designers.
Quite sure you've got enough pointy things there?
Where this figure redeems itself a little is in the accessory compliment. He doesn't have quite as much stuff as many other PoC types, but what he does have largely works.
"Now somebody git me a fat hawg t'rustle an' we're
gonna have ourselves a bar-bee-que, pardner!"
The rope bundle/sash first appeared with Resolute Storm Shadow (also a terrible figure), and at the time was simply a way to jazz up an otherwise dull-as-ditchwater body design. Here, though, it actually has a point; Stormy's file card claims he's undergoing a test against the elements where he climbs a mountain to reach an ancient monastery - so, yes, some rope would definitely come in useful.
The rope-sash; not likely to be part of the Ralph Lauren
As it should be worn. Unlike the Resolute Stormy, this guy actually has some decent detailing on his bodywork, so the rope doesn't really stand out so much - but, again, it does serve a purpose.
Hello again, old friends...
The swords and sheath are the same as those that came with every Rise of Cobra Storm Shadow figure. They work well enough, like they always have, though part of me wishes we'd gotten newly-tooled swords instead. Ah well.
"Would sir like to be stabbed long, or short?"
FYI, only the longer sword is a katana; the shorter one's called a tanto. Or so I learned from Red Steel on the Wii anyway.
Anyone else think he's about to collapse under the weight of those things?
A word of warning; thanks to both the loose vest and the rope, it can be tricky to get the sheaths to stay in place in his backpack hole, since there's two separate bits of webgear getting in the way of the peg. You can work around it, however.
I have no idea what the hell this thing is supposed to be. Apparently it came with an old version of Shipwreck. I suppose something shaped like a fishhook would work with a naval officer, but...for a ninja? Really?
"They just ain't biting today..."
Seriously, I have no clue how this thing should be used. I mean, if it was on a long chain, a la 'Desert Battle' Stormy's kick-ass manrikigusari weapon, it'd at least look dangerous, but this thing, if it were made full-scale, would barely extend one foot. So it's basically got the same reach as Stormy's arms.
"I'll have you outta that ditch in no time!"
Just out of shot: the Baronness in the passenger seat, arms folded, looking cross 'cause she'll never make it to Castle Destro on time at this rate. All jokes aside, this is actually the most sensible use I can find for the stupid hook.
One, two, Stormy's coming for you...
Another cast-off from Resolute Storm Shadow, this tekagi claw has at least undergone a slight touch-up since then, with the new silver paint making the blades seem a little more sharp, and the overall look much more pleasing.
Three, four, don't bother with the door...
('cause he'll probably just jump in through a window anyway)
The claw clips around Stormy's forearm snugly, much preferable to the dodgy tekagis used in the RoC line (which had a handgrip instead and simply couldn't be made to stay straight when in a figure's clutches).
What skis would look like, if designed by Satan.
Speaking truthfully, I have no idea what these are called. I do not know if they have ever been used in real-life, whether currently or in the past. I have my doubts as to whether they would ever be a practical weapon for close combat, as their size would likely make them unwieldy.
But I don't give a toss because they look fucking lethal.
And just like that, a poor figure becomes badass.
They fit fairly snugly around the arms...again, no idea how anyone would use them, but god, don't they look cool?
Useful for kayaking, javelin practice AND killing Joes.
It's the Swiss Army Knife of spears.
Not sure what to call this either; I was originally going with 'pole-ax' but now I'm thinking either 'pikestaff' or 'halberd'. Whatever the case, it's great, with nice silver paint highlights, an ornate sculpt on the blade and a pointy bit on the other end to give it some versatility.
"Staff only beyond this point, sir."
I think this weapon, moreso than the others, really matches the figure's overall look. With the ornate headpiece and the Arashikage helix branded on his vest, this Storm Shadow seems almost gladiatorial, as if he's about to engage in some sort of spectator-friendly bloodsport, and the halberd/pikestaff/thing supports that notion.
Just felt like taking that picture. It's what I'd like to imagine Duke's final moments will be.
On the whole, though, this Storm Shadow is pretty firmly in the 'miss' category. The constraints of the (stupid) action feature and at least one brain-dead design choice rob him of vital articulation, he doesn't work as an 'Arctic Threat' figure, and despite some curious stylistic choices he doesn't really bring anything new to the long line of Storm Shadow figures already available. It's a crying shame to think so much new tooling will go to waste, though, so here's an idea for Hasbro: take this guy and the Snake Eyes figure with the same action gimmick (which I don't own), stick 'em together in a 2-figure pack with one of those fold-out diorama backdrops and maybe some extra bits of scenery, like the Rise of Cobra 'Ninja Battles' set, and call it something like 'Arashikage Ritual Duel Pack', or something. Maybe come up with new filecards to explain that this is Snakey and Stormy when they were still part of the same clan, and are engaging in a practice duel to hone their skills/achieve zen/remember where they left the car keys, etc. Since both figures have a fairly ceremonial look to them, I think it might encourage more folks to buy them if presented that way. And yeah, I know - if Snake Eyes is still part of the Arashikage clan, he shouldn't be wearing a mask yet, but if Hasbro were letting fanboy whinging dictate the entire direction of the line, we'd never have gotten these two released in the first place.
Overall Rating for 'Arctic Threat' Storm Shadow: 3.5/10
Snake Eyes: "!"
Storm Shadow: "HA! Yes, it is I once again, sword-brother! Now, prepare to see
the Hard Master again...in another life!"
Storm Shadow: "Yes, draw your katana, Snake Eyes, whilst I...prepare
a little surprise for you..."
Snake Eyes: "?"
Storm Shadow: "Ah-hah! This halberd has far greater reach than your
blades! I'll cut you to ribbons without even being grazed by your steel!
What do you have to say about THAT, eh?"
Storm Shadow: "What the - oh, c'mon, that's cheating!"
So, to start off our lingering glimpses at Hasbro's latest batch of pseudomilitary plastic men, let's give the spotlight to the G.I. Joe team's usual field leader - and walking epitome of the word 'vanilla' - Duke, in his supposed desert togs.
"I find I make a better first impression when I bring Mabel here along."
Hasbro can stick whatever environmental theme they want on this guy, but the bottom line is, if he had a specific subtitle amongst all recent Dukes, he'd be 'Nostalgic Duke'. With the tan vest, tidy flat-top hair and armoured vest on top, he brings up a lot of memories of the classic ARAH Duke...which means nothing to me, 'cause I wasn't a fan back then and don't greatly care for much of the 25th Anniversary releases. Still, he's got appeal beyond that...
Yes, distressed metal really does bring out the colour of his eyes.
And the near-psychopathic rage, too.
There's a lot of great detail work stuck into this guy's deceptively plain design. I love the unbuttoned, raised collar and the trace of a vest under it, the sleeves of his shirt are nicely wrinkled, his gloved hands have some smart detail added to bulk them up...but the real coolness comes from the armour, thanks largely to Hasbro adding a gunmetal drybrush layer over the dark blue base coat. It highlights the fact that, yes, this is ARMOUR, not just a fashion statement, and the fact it's all scuffed gives Duke the look of a guy who's seen his fair share of battles. The head sculpt isn't quite as cool as the previous 'Jungle Assault' Duke - whose headband did a great job of concealing how naff Duke's hair is - but it has the same look of grim determination about it.
"I'm just a SEXY BOY! Sing it with me, girls!"
Articulation remains up to the line's high standards, so you can, er...have him mimic Shawn Michaels, and all those other things real-life spec-ops soldiers do. (get shot?)
"Excuse me whilst I ponder existentially about my own shadow.
I'm told that chicks dig deep guys."
The detailing continues around the back, with a line of seams down the back of the collar and some nice pockets on Duke's arsecheeks. Bet he can't fit his wallet in 'em either.
"Game over, man! GAME OVER!"
If you're reading this blog, I doubt I need to confirm it to you, but yes, Duke's primary weapon is unmistakably the same sort of Pulse Rifle used by the overbearingly macho and generally useless Colonial Marines seen in Aliens. Marauder Inc. (whose products I may cover in a future post) do a pretty good custom job of the same weapon, but I think this one has them beat, with the nicely needle-like barrels, the chunkier top handle and the extra paint app which really makes the detailing 'pop'.
"Excuse me, folks, there's a geek behind the camera who needs his
stupid face ventilated."
Duke can hold the thing perfectly, too. I'm not sure exactly what factors allow for this - it's something Hasbro still haven't perfected - but I'm willing to bet that using a weapon with no long stock at the back helps a bunch.
The rifle also has a peg jutting out from one side, which does slightly ruin the look, but allows it to be stowed fairly simply on Duke's back...
Massive can of superglue just out of shot.
And before you say anything - the gun is upside-down here so Duke can just reach over his shoulder and pull it across with his finger already on the trigger, NOT because I'm a colossal moron. So there.
Which end is the front?
Next in Duke's gallery of death is this...I suppose 'bazooka' is as good a term as any. It doesn't resemble any particular weapon I've ever seen, and honestly, I'm not too fond of the design in general, mainly because it's hard to tell what it could possibly fire. Plus, the sculpting just doesn't shine through the black plastic as well as it does on the rifle.
"Fire in the hole!"
On the plus side, Duke can still hold it properly, with the curved part resting on his shoulder, one hand on the trigger and the other clutching the stabilising...er, thing. I'm not up to spec on my explosives-handling terminology. Sorry about that.
Oddly, the bazooka also has a hole in the side that can accomodate anything with the standard sort of peg that most Joe backpacks have. About the only thing I could think to do with it using the stuff in this set was this:
"And what the unholy buttfuck am I supposed to do with THIS?"
Yeah, that just looks ridiculous, doesn't it? I've tried inserting one of the pipes from Duke's backpack, but they just get in the way when he shoulders the weapon, so that can't be the right idea either. A real head-scratcher.
It's not spring-loaded, is it? *shudders*
And here is Duke's piece de resistance, however you pronounce that. When I first saw prototype shots of this figure, I figured this would have some sort of action gimmick to it, especially since it seems to be where Hasbro spent most of the time and money when making the figure, but no, it doesn't. It's just a fairly outlandish weapons system made of multiple parts, that's supposed to...uhm...no idea. Duke's filecard mentions a 'plasma cannon', so I'm going to assume that's what this is, even if I don't really get a plasma cannon vibe from it.
Anyone got any good pipe-related jokes? I'm out.
Whatever it is, it's a looker, with some thorough (but not cluttered) detail work across the surface, and the same distressed-blue paint scheme as Duke's armour. The leads at the back connecting the launchers to the backpack is a nice touch that renders the device a little less cartoonish, though obviously you still can't call it believable.
Now, my main point of confusion. The barrels at the front of the launchers - all eight of them - are detachable, like so...
I give myself all of ten more minutes before I lose some of these.
Judging by that, part of me reckons this is supposed to be a missile launcher, especially with the different paint scheme on the detachable bits...but they don't look all that much like missiles, especially with the 'holes' sculpted on the front of the barrels. So why bother making them removable in the first place? Argh.
"It's only overkill when you smell your own hair burning."
At least Duke can hold the thing and still stand up, which is a minor miracle. There's no handgrips on the launcher, but you really need to get Duke to support them with his arms, otherwise they droop down and aim at the floor.
I'm sure some of the pre-release photos also showed the launchers swinging back and straight down across Duke's back...
"Up, up and awaaaaaaay!"
Good news, it works, and looks pretty good. Bad news, you need to take off the power leads first. Never like it when you need to take bits off a figure before it can do stuff like this...
"Just try it, ya big brown lump!"
Two seconds later, Duke was a bright red smear.
So, all in all, what do I think of PoC Duke v2? I'm impressed. He's retro, but still gels with the overall modern Joe aesthetic. He's got some damn strange weapons, but he can hold them well. He's a character I've no interest in, but presented in an interesting way. I think I prefer the 'Jungle Assault' version - he's that bit more mean-looking - but this guy's still cool, and despite the tag on the box, isn't so chained to any one environment or purpose. He could believably operate in a city or forest as well as the desert, so he'll probably wind up being used more than his predecessor. Well done, then, Hasbro - you've once again made Duke, arguably the most boring Joe of them all, a must-buy for me again. *grumbles about Flint never getting such good treatment*
Final Score for 'Desert Battle' Duke: 9/10.
Oh, and one more oddity:
Ooh, look at you all fancy with the full name.
I know there's some sort of copyright faffing over Hasbro using the name 'Duke' on their toys, which is why the boxes always use his full name, but I've never seen it written as such on a display stand before - not on the 'Jungle Assault' Duke, or any of the Rise of Cobra Dukes, or even any 25th Anniversary Dukes to boot. Why the change now? It just looks weird and out of place...and I think they've done the same with Wave 4 Destro too. Aiieee!
'Arctic Threat' Storm Shadow, 'Desert Battle' Snake Eyes, 'Desert Battle' Duke and 'City Strike' Cobra Shock Trooper. Expect some detailed thoughts on these guys to be posted later, but for now, I'll say that the general consensus amongst the Joe fandom is pretty much right: Snake Eyes and Shock Trooper are fantastic, Duke's not bad, Storm Shadow is a bit of a mess.