Thursday, 6 March 2014

Toy Review: G.I. Joe Kre-Ons Wave 2

 Dreadnoks: not liking dogs since that time Buzzer
tried murdering one with a chainsaw.

While the 'main' Joe toyline has limped from the shambolic release pattern of the Retaliation figures into a big ol' deadzone, the chaps behind the licensed Kre-O building block series have been busy bees.  I've already professed my love for these babies despite their not being any easier to get hold of in the UK than their big brothers, and now I at last got the chance to snap up all 12 of the wave-2 blind bagged figures (just as waves 3 and 4 were announced...whee!).  So let's run them down, good guys first...
Land Adventurer

 Welp...this isn't a great one to start off with.  Yes, this is a nice companion to the Adventure Team Leader from wave 1, but honestly, with the all-over green outfit he's less a teammate and more a clone.  The camo patterning on his torso and legs is nice, and they've done a better job applying it to the arms than on many other Kre-Ons, but it can't quite make up for the sense of 'been there, stroked that'.  I am of course referring to his hair, not his flat plastic crotch or anything. (...mostly) Besides the fuzz, L-A has a generic sidearm and a flat brick to once again spice up with a decal referencing his original box art, which is still quite cool.  No alternate shouty head this time, for whatever reason.

Anthony 'Flash' Gambello
 The curse of copyrights strikes again!  Look, I'm just calling this guy Flash, because anyone who cares will only call him Flash too.  Me, I...don't usually care about him much at all, one way or another.  The only Flash in my main collection is the Rise of Cobra figure, based on a design from the tie-in videogame that drastically altered his look, exchanging the green fatigues and padding for a pressure suit and sculpted armour with a gas-mask.  That said, wave 1 already gave us Rock 'N' Roll and Scarlett from the 'original 13' line-up so it's nice to continue that.  Flash is cast in olive drab but his paint apps give him the crosshatched red padding that I guess is meant to protect him from backwash off his laser gun.  Said gun is quite a monster, formed from 9 pieces and including both a power cable and a big red firing piece.  Makes it almost impossible for the guy to balance by himself, but that's why he's got a display base!  The visor and helmet are separate pieces that don't quite snap together as well as I'd like, but on the whole Flash feels like a winner.

 Invariably the friendliest-looking guy to ever potentially melt the flesh from your bones, Blowtorch was the Joes' original flamethrower specialist, and even when he was introduced in 1985 (I think?) that was a pretty outdated and very illegal thing to specialise in.  That discrepancy was highlighted in Max Brooks' Hearts and Minds miniseries, which portrayed Blowtorch as a section-8 waiting to happen; prior to that he hadn't really had much in the way of development, but was fairly popular based on being a bright-ass toy that somehow wasn't too bright.  The paint apps do a fantastic job of replicating the design of his suit, including the oxygen hose plugged into his chest, though his back is left unpainted, presumably since he won't be taking his backpack off much.  The generic style of gasmask doesn't quite match the original figure but it's close enough.  As with Flash, it's the weapon that really draws the eye; using the same connecting cable and backpack design, a green SMG base is given a split barrel and a translucent red fire piece, and if you ignore the banana clip sticking out it's a pretty neat interpretation.

Tunnel Rat
I've explained the history of Tunnel Rat before, and while I do applaud Larry Hama for not turning him into a total Mary Sue (it must've been tempting), that doesn't mean he hasn't had preferential treatment elsewhere.  He's a major player in Resolute, he's one of the small selection of 'featured' Joes in Chuck Dixon's run of IDW Joe comics, he was part of the main cast in this point he's only missing a live-action appearance to complete the sweep.  And here he is in Kre-O.  Rat's outfit is fairly sensible by the standards of the 86-and-beyond Joes but it's still very recognisable, what with the ammo belt and revolver holster over his shirt (both done as paint here - I do wonder if they couldn't have added one of the belts from Rock 'N' Roll), and he's got a new-to-the-line beanie hat cast in grey.  The paint streaks on his face are a nice touch too.  He's also been gifted with the same backpack and TNT bomb as Firefly (the latter of which actually fits him even better) and has a shotgun with extra parts that neatly turn it into a sniper rifle.  My one niggle is that, with the TNT in the pack, it's sometimes hard to clip his hat onto his head, as the lower brim gets stuck on the bomb.  Otherwise, a lovely addition.

Mutt & Junkyard
The Joes' original man-and-dog tag-team, I confess I've never really liked Mutt & Junkyard.  Law & Order have a cooler naming gimmick, a better-looking dog, and make for a sensible recruitment choice; K-9 military police seems like somewhere the Joes would look for new members.  Mutt on the other hand...I'm sure he's some sort of soldier but I'm buggered if I know what, and he just had a pet dog which I guess General Hawk didn't mind letting him bring along on missions.  Weird.  Anyway, the figure again does a great job converting the old look, albeit with a bare back that's disappointing given the absence of backpack.  Especially neat is the black left hand (representing the thick leather glove used for dog-handling) and the scarring on his face (unseen in the pic due to gas-mask).  His mask and helmet are the same moulds as Blowtorch's but in different colour, and he's armed with a tonfa and an Uzi with a massive silencer.  Junkyard, like Order, is made from 2 parts, head and body.  He's got a spiked collar and his jaw and teeth are painted, though the squashed bulldog-type face makes him look as much like a boar as a dog.

Snow Job
 Forever the butt of everyone's jokes, Snow Job nonetheless remains popular with fans, and is basically the be-all end-all of arctic-flavoured Joes (no offense, Iceberg or White-Out or whoever else).  His look hasn't really changed much over the years, with the Pursuit of Cobra toy's decision to lose the hood being about as drastic a reinvention as he's had.  The hood is back for the Kre-On and it looks great, with the fur trim painted grey and framing the orange beard just right.  The rest of the body, of course, is almost all white with only minor detail, but it's enough.  As usual, it's Snow Job's extras that define him.  The gun's disappointing; it's just a shotgun, something SJ has never had a preference for before (he's the one who should have a sniper rifle, not Tunnel Rat), but he's got his skis, and poles which can mount on his back for storage.  That's not nearly the crazy haul that came with the PoC fig but it's enough.

Cobra B.A.T.
 That's 'Battle Android Trooper' or sometimes 'Battle-Armoured Android Trooper' depending on the source.  Either way, it's a robot, something Hasbro felt necessary to add so the people making Joe cartoons would have an enemy type the Joes could blow away with impunity without upsetting the broadcast standards dweebs.  I've never really cared for the look of the things - they more resemble men in dorky armour than any sort of killer robot - but they've got their fans and they've been around nearly as long as the classic Vipers, and a blind bag is exactly where the generic troop types belong.  The paintwork seems awfully simplistic here, though I suppose it's tricky to replicate the opening chest panel and inset machinery without inventing physics-defying 3D ink.  The minimalist design for the head/visor is very cool, though.  As with the original, the B.A.T. has replacable hands, in this case a claw, a chainsaw and a flamethrower (using the same effect piece as Blowtorch), and these are very cool.  What's less cool is another re-use of Firefly's backpack; while the clip on the side can hold the claw or saw arms, the main pack itself is much too small for either to fit in, and even leaving a spare normal hand in there just lets it rattle around loosely until it falls out.  A nice attempt, but the execution doesn't quite match the ambition.

Cobra Eel
 I really hope there is no such animal as a 'cobra eel'.  Cobras and eels are scary enough as separate entities; sticking them together just feels like unnecessary amounts of evolutionary dickishness.  So far as G.I. Joe goes, the Eels are Cobra's version of the Navy SEALs, elite troopers dressed for the sea but equally at home on land, and their status as the evil side's best of the best meant a lot more when we weren't drowning in a million Viper flavours and the Cobra troop hierarchy felt like it made a lick of sense.  Anyway, the classic grey/black/red colours of the Eel are transferred perfectly, and the oxygen tank piece makes up for the blank back.  The helmet is more like a flight helmet than the odd, angular ones the original Eels sported, but at least it's different from Torpedo's, and the face behind it adds some extra breathing apparatus which helps the image.  The flippers are holdovers from Torpedo, as is the speargun, which now has a knife stuck to it to make it look different.  What's notable by its absence is any other weapon that would make the Eel a viable threat against something besides fish, so you'll have to re-arm the guy yourself.

Dreadnok Ripper
 Zartan being a popular enough character to warrant a squad of sidekicks, I get.  Said sidekicks being dumbass bikers, I don't.  But, that's what they did, and that's how it's stayed ever since.  Ripper is one of the original 3 Dreadnoks, and the one with the least-obvious signature weapon (compared to Buzzer's chainsaw and Torch's flamethrower); here, his odd jaws-of-life gizmo has been rationalised as an enormous claw on a stick, with two separate carry handles, and pincers that neatly lock in open and closed positions.  It's hilariously large, but then, he's a Dreadnock.  No need to be sensible here.  Beyond that, he's well-designed, with the torn vest and knife-tucked-in-waistband pulled off smartly, and a new headpiece to give him the customary mohawk.  He's also got a largely pointless backpack, and the one thing that tips him into must-have category - a round brick deco'd as a can of the Dreadnoks' favourite drink, grape soda.  Lovely.

Cobra Slice
 Oh, so we're not calling this guy 'Spear Ninja' or some rubbish?  Even though his brother lost his name?  Fair enough.  Anyway, this fella is the natural partner to Dice (see what they did there) but, other than vague ninja pretensions, the two don't share much visually.  Slice is primarily red, and the decals cover both the fold of his tunic as well as the inexplicable Kirby dots that spatter his waist (also featuring a return for the same cloth belt as Kamakura and Jinx) and wrists.  There's no separate piece to denote his mask, but given how close-fit it always looked, this doesn't bother me as it did with Dice.  For weapons, he has the usual ninja sword and backpack sheath, plus a three-piece spear that feels more at home here than a similar thing did with his bro.  Not a necessary addition, but it's nice to complete a matching pair.

Major Bludd
 Bludd is one of the earliest unique characters added to the Cobra side for the toyline, and while I'm no great fan of his this translation turned out very well.  He's got the brown fatigues and black body armour from the man's first appearance, even the extra dog-tags taken from defeated enemies around his neck.  In a nice touch, they left out the Cobra symbol to remind you he's a mercenary by nature (which, really, they should've done with Firefly too).  His right arm has traditionally been either armoured or full-on bionic; to replicate that they've used an arm mould possibly from the Transformers Kre-O line with a much more angular shoulder, and of course it's painted accordingly differently.  For extra pieces he's got his unique, kinda Darth Vader-looking helmet, plus his rocket pistol (here a revolver with a rocket clipped to the top) and backpack that holds spare rockets.  A great addition.

Dr. Mindbender
Cobra's best known scientist, Mindbender has always looked as silly as his name implies, and the Kre-On embraces that wholeheartedly.  He's got his purple trousers, silver bracers and monocle accounted for, and even though they could've left it blank the designers decided to draw in his six-pack abs as well.  Nice detail.  He's also the first Joe Kre-On with a cape, which folds at 3 points onto the neck-pole (unlike Lego capes, which fold at 2), which lets the fabric spread out more than I expected.  The cape also has a silver Cobra insignia on the back, which is sweet.  For extras, he has a syringe and conical flask both cast in purple translucent plastic, and his mind...control...bender...wand thing.  I dunno.  It's got more pieces than I expected, and upsettingly, one of those pieces is a string, which you'll have to thread yourself.  I still can't do a good job of that for love nor money, and since it's not actively holding anything together, I'm probably gonna get rid of it.  Despite that niggle, Mindbender is a great figure, and looks far more at home with Kre-O than he ever did in the main toyline.


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