Tuesday, September 24, 2013

GI Joe: Retaliation Extended Cut


I finally saw the extended "action cut" of Retaliation. I had bought the movie at Best Buy when it first came out, but have not had a chance to actually see the updates yet.

I had already read about the various extended scenes and was pretty much prepared for the changes. I'm not going into the specifics of all of the changes. I'm usually so late to the game, it's not like beating a dead horse, it's like kicking around the dead horse's skeleton.

In general, I liked the added material and I thought that it added some important bits of character elements. The most important part of Retaliation or Rise of Cobra is to remember that these ain't the characters you may have grown up with. These are brand new takes on familiar characters.

And of course, all of the outrageous plot holes were completely filled in, right? Not even close. But the movie was still pretty damn fun.

My favorite part of the film has to be basically the first half, up to and including the decimation of the Joe team. Plot holes really get crazy after that point.The N. Korea mission, barracks scene, Pakistan mission, and the attack on the team were the best moments. Yeah, the ninja battle was cool, but I liked the combat scenes much better.

Still two thumbs up for this movie. 

Here's hoping GI Joe 3 will kick butt even more, and most importantly, Hasbro will get behind their unique in-house brand that put them on the frikkin' map.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Quick Customs

The Dollar General Shipwreck body has proven to be an excellent base for some easy customs. Probably one of my favorite aspects of collecting these figures is the customizing aspect. With a simple head swap or gear swap, new characters emerge. I've got four of the green and three of the blue versions of Shipwreck, each one destined for customization.

From left to right: 
Tunnel Rat - shoulder harness, bandanna, and head swap for a new taller version. I actually prefer the Renegades T-Rat as my default version, so this guy could be someone new. Oh, the blasphemy!
Breaker - way back to the 25th Anniversary version. Head swap and gear from RET Alley Viper for a new spin. Doesn't look very communication-tech oriented, but he still looks pretty decent.
PoC Recondo - I never really could grasp this head sculpt as Recondo. That screwed up neck really ruined it for me as well. The Steel Brigade vest is such an excellent piece and it works well with these colors. Not quite satisfied with this head - keep reading!

I really didn't like the web gear that came with the Club's Footloose figure. I had to switch it out. There was still something about the figure that just seemed off to me. The head sculpt is excellent. In a "what the hell" moment, I tried the "Leatherneck" head on the body and I really like it! The head comes from the 1st version of Leatherneck from a "Ross exclusive" vehicle. Decent enough, but needed some help. I'd love to get the Con exclusive version, but I doubt that will ever happen.
So what to do with Footloose's head? Why not a Shipwreck body? Looks pretty good. He doesn't have to be Footloose. The look on the head sculpt just doesn't seem like Footloose to me. maybe someone new?

How about the PoC Recondo head on battle kata Roadblock's body? Pretty dang cool! Skin tones match up nicely. Wouldn't be bad to have another big dude on the team.

Mutt & Junkyard - maybe on this one. I like it so far. Mutt's head is very loose and needs a little attention to tighten it up. I think this switch works well enough. I like it!

One more with Recondo's head. How about Bench Press's body? Skin tones match up pretty well. More added bulk and height. Could this be Gung Ho? Maybe?

I really enjoy the LBC aspect of these figures. I think my very first custom was buying an extra swivel-arm Breaker way back in 1983 and switching out the arms with straight arm Clutch rather than buy another Vamp. I've done some carving and cutting on a few, primarily the old o-ring figures. Somewhere, I've got a four-armed Blanka who looks pretty cool!

I'd love to get into paint apps on my customs. I'm unsure of a good local source for appropriate paints to use. Plus this old man's eyes are getting blurry, so close up work gets irritating when reading glasses are involved.

Never too old to stop buying action figures, though!

The Mighty Kwinn


I really would have never imagined that Kwinn would make it into action figure format. I know he first appeared in winter gear in a two-pack during the o-ring revival, but I really didn't care too much at the time.

I was never a rabid fan boy about his appearances in the original Marvel comic either. He was a decent character and since he got killed, I figured that he wasn't on the "to make" list.

Apparently, he's a huge fan-boy favorite. And maybe that's more understandable to the actual kids that bought the toys and played with the figures, rather than the "adult" collector that I was.

Well, whatever the reason, Kwinn finally made it into plastic format after a couple years of being teased by images from Hasbro. And I'm glad Hasbro released him. This guy is largely made for the now adult collectors who were those kids who played with and read about the adventures of GI Joe.

A "5 out of 5" or "10 out of 10" - whatever your scoring stats are, Kwinn makes the cut. I guess that the only issue that I would have with him is that his included pistol fits a little too loosely into his holster. No big deal, I've plenty of extra guns to find a fit.

I still haven't figured out his role in my twisted, bizarre Joe world, but I know he's pretty much like his original character - just not dead. An independent contractor who largely works for the good guys, but isn't a member of GI Joe.

Come all without, come all within. 
You'll not see nothing like the mighty Kwinn.

Ultimate Flint - Wave 3.5

The first retaliation version of Flint looks away, unable to gaze at his future greatness, ashamed of his own failures and limitations.

There's a reason I've never reviewed the first version of Flint from the Retaliation line. Basically, he sucked. And yet, I bought him. The primary issue with the 1st version is not the lack of articulation or the crazy, bizarre rope thingy. He just looks goofy. True, he doesn't have the web gear in the picture, but the unpainted jungle Duke gear just didn't work with the figure.

Plus the head sculpt is just too dang big for the small frame of the body. Decent weapons, a great head sculpt, and the beret - that's the best elements of that 1st Flint figure. I think the body may work well with a smaller head sculpt, maybe one from the 25th era.

This new version, this Ultimate Flint, really kicks ass. Everything just clicks with this figure. The excellent head sculpt, great vest, great paint apps, and a great assortment of gear. He even comes with a parachute based on the designs from the one that came with the first RET Cobra trooper, except it is now in green.

The range of motion for Flint really excels on this figure. He can be easily posed in a two-handed firing stance and even can match some of the moves that DJ Cotrona went through in the movie.

The paint detailing on the pants is excellent. A gray MARPAT pattern that is ultra detailed. You can really tell when Hasbro puts some extra work into a figure.

It would have been nice if the beret was also included in the ultimate version, but he can snatch it from his previous incarnation.

Lady J and Flint together - at least in the movie world. Perhaps there is a hint of a beginning relationship that may be developed later. We'll see if that happens in GI Joe 3.

The side by side picture highlights the huge difference in skin tones used for these two figures. No big deal, but it really makes it difficult to do lazy head swaps with the darker skin tones of Flint. Budo has been the closest skin tone so far.

Based on all of the wave 3.5 figures that I currently own, Ultimate Flint ranks as #1. There is so much "right" with the entire figure. Everything just works. I suppose I would have liked more gear than the parachute, but you've got to think about the kids. As long as the figure actually makes it out into the brick and mortar stores and some kids actually buy him.

Flint had to scam Kwinn's shotgun to get properly geared up.

The biggest issue that I have is purely personal. Is this guy really Flint in my twisted GI Joe world? I really like the Resolute version of Flint and he has been my default Flint since that time. I don't know if I'm ready to make that change. The same holds true for Lady J. Is the movie version really Lady J or does the boxed set version still remain as my default version?

I don't have an answer to these pressing questions right now. Hell, does it really matter in the broad scheme of things? Nope.

Just enjoy the toys.

Budo Samurai Warrior

Budo Samurai Warrior

That's quite a mouthful for identifying an action figure. I suppose Hasbro didn't have the rights to just "Budo" and had to add the Samurai Warrior to still be able to identify the character.

In his original ARAH version, he just had a funky samurai helmet and a hook on his belt to hang his sword. This new version is full-on samurai warrior. Armored plates on the arms, protective skirt and robe/jacket and an impressive samurai helmet with huge antlers to top off his uniform.

The figure looks incredible. Hasbro did an amazing job with all of the attention to detail on his gear. He looks very much like a traditional samurai warrior. So how does that make him as an action figure?

Skip the action.

His legs are barely movable, even with the fancy new feet. There's just no range of motion to put him in any sort of action pose. His arms have limited articulation due to the upper arm guards. And the helmet doesn't too well, either!

He looks like a nice guy, though. Underneath all that gear is a decent head sculpt. 

But how useful is he in this state in a modern combat unit? Not very. There is only so much he can do with all this gear on.

I don't think he would be ready for combat against a horde of BATs.

While reading various reviews of him across the web, I noticed that his skin tone was darker than the standard Caucasian soldier. He seemed to be much closer in skin tones to the newest version of Flint.

So I bought an extra Ultimate Flint and Budo and did the head swap. Not bad.

The camera really picked up the distinct differences between the skin tones, but in hand, they aren't very noticeable. At least not to my old blurry eyes. A quick vest switch and he's altered enough to change his role from Budo Samurai Warrior to Budo Combat Specialist.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ultimate Roadblock - Wave 3.5

Roadrock, I mean Roadblock, gets a serious update in this fourth version of the Rock's character from GI Joe: Retaliation. This first version was the single carded nightmare with the thing molded into his hand. Plus limited articulation. Good torso sculpting, though. The second version came from one of the first two 3-packs of figures. better hands, but crappier skin tones and paint apps.

The third version finally got Roadblock headed in the right direction. He came with the "battle kata" system of weapons. Pretty cool stuff, but those thigh holsters were just crazy.

Now we have the "Ultimate" version of Roadblock. He's still got the battle kata gear, but he also comes with some cool extras. Thankfully, he doesn't have the huge thigh holsters and has a more suitably sized holster for a regular pistol. His vest still holds all of his battle kata gear and his belt still holds the grips, so that's till pretty cool. 

Careful with those pieces, they're so small, they're almost pre-lost. A baton, two small blades, two large blades, two grips, and the two pistol mounts round out the battle kata system. I wonder what the deal was with all of this stuff? I don't recall any of it from the movie. There were hints of it with RB's fight with Firefly, but that was so quick.

I think it was planned, Hasbro made the toy plans, and it was scrapped from the movie. Probably something to do with the "training with Snake Eyes" comment during the movie.

New are sculpts and new paint apps create a more movie accurate version of Roadblock. But what about that face? What the hell happened? Was the Indiana Jones action figure crew in charge of the eye painting? Yikes! What a mess! Fortunately, version 3's head matches nicely with this new version's skin tone and it just works better. I'll have to add a new picture later.

Fully loaded with his battle kata gear, Roadblock looks pretty dang cool. Plus he's such a huge figure - very imposing when compared to other Joe figures.

I don't have him front of me as I write, so I'll have to rely on the pictures and memory in regards to all of the extra gear. He comes with an awesome M-249 SAW that he can easily hold with a two handed grip.

Hasbro did a really nice job with this weapon. Is it new? I'm not sure if it has ever been used before. It's a really nice piece and it works much better than the other huge machine gun that he comes with.

Speaking of the big beast, Hasbro did a great job on the sculpting of the 50 cal. It's huge and impressive. It also comes apart. The barrel comes off, along with the handle. The trigger unit also comes off quite easily.

If you're not a purist with your toys, I would recommend gluing it together. There's also a belt of bullets to feed into the side of the big beast.

Roadblock can hold it easily enough, but the firing mechanism, while more accurate, is a little awkward to hold.

It's one of the best sculpted heavy machine guns that has ever come with a Roadblock figure throughout the entire small figure toy run. The first version was iconic and worked quite well with the original Roadblock. Subsequent guns just kept getting bigger and bigger.

The coolest aspect of the big 50 cal is that it fits into the gun mounts on the new Tomahawk. It really looks cool, too! There's still the problem of the Tomahawk being actually undersized for the new figures. It's almost undersized for the 50 cal as well. The rear of it just sticks so far back into the cabin. Looks good, though.

I suppose it would be justification to pick up another Roadblock for another 50 cal for the other side. Plus another bad-ass M-249 SAW.

Another great feature of Ultimate Roadblock is the paint app of the Rock's upper arm tattoo on his left bicep. It's a pretty decent match for something so small and is well done. 

The paint apps on my figure are a bit sloppy. The edge of the molded sleeve and the painted edge of the sleeve don't seem to match up.

The bigger question for me remains if this guy is actually Roadblock in my bizarre GI Joe world. I've integrated figures from nearly all of the modern spins on GI Joe - from 25th to Rise of Cobra to Resolute to Pursuit of Cobra to 30th to Renegades to Retaliation. There have been quite a few different versions of various characters. A modern version of Roadblock made a couple laughable appearances in the 25th line. 

Along comes a RoC version exclusive to Walmart that later got reused in the Resolute line. That version kicked ass and really remains my standard for Roadblock. A big and bulky figure that just looks the part. I really don't want to give up that figure as Roadblock.

Don't get me wrong, Dwayne Johnson did a great job as Roadblock in the film, but I don't really want to use him as Roadblock in my twisted toy world. Maybe one day I'll figure out how he can be a different character.

Hey, why can't he be Sgt. Dwayne Johnson, code name: Rock? Works for me!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Data Viper Review

What the hell is this guy supposed to be?

This is the Data Viper, Cobra's newest soldier on the battlefield, now equipped with a high-tech suit that keeps the data networks flowing at all times.

And he's seriously weird looking.

Since the file cards are gone from the packages and I don't have the info blurb in front of me, I'll have to rely on memory and imagination in regards to what this troop can actually do.

I see the Data Vipers as a link to the battlefield that would allow multiple streams of data to flow to one individual as an integrated command and control unit. 

Data vipers would be very vital in any area of combat, especially an urban environment in which they may be able to hack into the already pervasive network of surveillance cameras throughout many large cities. By gaining control of those networks, they would be able to give a distinct tactical advantage to Cobra troops.

The Data Viper comes equipped with... stuff... and things... I really don't know what to make of his gear, but I'll give it a try.

The helmet is supposed to give the troop a virtual 360 degree field of visibility. I'm not really sure what the chest piece is supposed to do. I suppose there are data storage and processing units built within the chest piece.

The black shoulder units appear to be mini-missile launchers. Each unit appears to contain 14 small missiles. They remind me of the missile launching components of various bits of mecha from the Robotech/Macross incarnations. These type units have also been used in a variety of other battle suits as well. I would see these as primarily being anti-personnel in nature. Smaller vehicles would be tempting targets, but heavily armored opponents would shrug off the mini-missile assault. Close range aerial targets could be in danger, but the range of the missiles would probably be limited.

Without all the gear, an interesting head sculpt is given to these guys. The base body has also been reused for the new version of Lift Ticket from the new Tomahawk helicopter and the Sgt Airborne figure from the "Tactical Ninja" 3-pack.

The head alone is pretty damn impressive and still appears to be of a decent size to be able to imagine an actual human head within.

He has these "things" that he is able to hold in each hand. One part clamps onto the wrist with a control stick for each hand, while there is another piece that sort of snaps into the forward section. A red hose loosely connects the two components. Very loosely. Matter of fact, all of the Data Viper gear just sort of hangs on the troop. The chest piece just sits on his shoulders and is very loose. the two wrist units are very flimsy and fall apart very easily. I think that some light non-permanent adhesive would be beneficial to the wrist units.

There are also a couple of antenna that plug into the back of the chest piece. One appears to be perhaps a long range antenna and the other is a dish. The Data Viper also comes with the drone that is shared with the Ultimate Duke figure. There's a color and logo difference as well as the wings being placed on it backwards for purposes of differentiation.
The history of the Data Viper nearly led to extinction. A few years ago, Hasbro featured the Data Viper in a display case along with Kwinn (more on him later) at the national GI Joe convention. I think the Data Viper was to come out as part of the Pursuit of Cobra or 30th Anniversary line. Expensive tooling costs were the supposed culprit and he was supposedly cancelled. 

The Data Viper finally made it to retail life as a part of the Retaliation toy line. Having no part in the film, the Data Viper just fell under the broad scope of the GI Joe brand.

I have two of the Data Vipers and have no desire to do any serious troop building with this figure. He's cool, but just not that cool. I would think a Data Viper would need some support/defensive troops very close by in the event of attack. I'm sure the Joe team would be targeting the Data Vipers pretty quick once they are located in a combat area.

Within this current set of figures (wave 3.5), there is another Cobra troop builder. That figure is the Cobra Ninja Trooper. The use of the word ninja, while excessive in this line, is necessary to differentiate from the wave 1 Cobra trooper - which sucked pretty bad. Collectors snatched those troops up pretty quick from various online retailers. And I ain't even mad. I really wasn't impressed with them. Just an odd repaint of the Cobra Shock trooper body along with some new head gear. I really don't need another Cobra trooper. I'm already pretty well loaded for Cobra troops.

I've got 16 Cobra Blueshirts (PoC, 30th), 12 Cobra Blackshirts (DG), 6 Cobra Blueshirts (DG), and 14 Cobra Vipers (PoC, 30th). Plus various other assorted Cobra troopers and specialist from the 30th, Pursuit of Cobra, and Rise of Cobra lines. My Cobra army is big enough!

Wave 3.5 "Ultimate" Duke

When pictures first started appearing online for the GI Joe: Retaliation "Ultimate" Duke, I figured that he was going to be a pretty decent figure. Loaded with gear and ready for some easy custom work.

Duke comes with a huge assortment of various weapons plus an extra head for troop building. The drone that is included is pretty cool. It has a couple weapons attached to the wings that are removable and can be held by Duke.

Duke is also burdened by the Tatum head sculpt, but, thankfully, that can be easily swapped out. 

I was able to pick up two from Kokomo Toys and almost got a couple more, but hesitation caused me to miss adding a couple more to my team. Oh well, maybe they'll actually hit a local retail chain someday.

Three Walmarts, two Targets, and a Toys-R-Us and no one has them on the shelves. Target apparently dropped GI Joe from their action figure side counter. That's fine, gives me a reason to avoid Target for a while.

Overall, Hasbro produced a pretty damn good figure. Using the vest and helmet initially seen on Agent Mouse and legs from the RET GI Joe Trooper get him moving in the right direction. I'm sure his torso and arms are from someone else, but I'm not focused enough to figure out where they came from.
The biggest drawback is that his arms can't be moved in close to his body. The vest inhibits movement and also makes it a little difficult for a two-handed weapon pose.

The extra head comes from the Night Fox figure/driver from the Ninja Combat Cruiser. Such a piece of five-point articulated crap. Well detailed, but just crap. 

The problem with the head is that the Night Fox figure is actually quite a bit shorter than a standard Joe. So when you use his head on a different body, the head appears much smaller. Given that it is helmeted, this guy has a tiny head!

Nice try, Hasbro - seriously. But these extra heads are going into the parts bin along with the other Night Fox heads.

These guys make for a great addition to the Retaliation team. When I took this picture, I had not come up with a decent head to swap. I finally decided on the Dollar General "Duke" figure as a good substitute. The skin tones are pretty close and the helmet fits nicely on the head. While both figures have Duke heads, neither will be Duke in my weird world of GI Joe.

The picture also shows what I have done with the two extra Mouse figures. One has the only redeeming piece from the Tread Ripper train wreck - the driver's head. The other has General Hawk's head from the Rise of Cobra line. So is this guy General Hawk or is the Pursuit of Cobra version General Hawk? That's a topic for another post for another day. 

Two thumbs up for GI Joe: Retaliation Ultimate Duke! Well done, Hasbro, well done!