Thursday, February 18, 2010
G.I.JOE: The best and worst of 2009...
2009 was a great year for G.I.JOE. Unfortunately the thing that caused many of the great toy releases for the year was also one of the worst creations ever in the history of the beloved toy franchise. Its no secret that the feature film G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra was laughable and a gigantic disappointment to JOE fans everywhere. I won't go into detail about it in this post, but you can read my review written during the film's opening weekend here. The great thing to have come as a result of Rise of Cobra was the amount of merchandise we got featuring our beloved characters both in their new film incarnations and their classic 80s look. Those of us that were terribly disappointed with the film's ridiculous story and character treatment got a great reminder of what made G.I.Joe great to begin with in the IDW comic series G.I.JOE Origins written by the man who single-handedly created the Joe characters, situations, and universe we grew up loving -- Mr. Larry Hamma.
The story in Origins would've made a kick ass film as we get introduced tho our favorite Joes during their first mission which actually takes place years before the team's official formation. The book features great character development, a storyline that actually makes sense told through compelling scenes featuring great drama. The story also features a great hook as the Joes try to makes sense of the mystery behind a very dangerous man known only as Chimera, who has been using his substantial wealth and power to begin a radical movement which could put the entire nation at risk. The story opens in the state of Texas where things don't go well for the FBI and CID as the man takes out every one who tries to go after him. The FBI wants a picture of the man posted on the wire immediately. They soon find out from CID that it would be useless since the man recently underwent plastic surgery in order to drastically change his look. The information came from a tip by an Army Ranger (Snake Eyes) who was also in the same clinic and recognized the man before he had his surgery. Soon after the surgery the clinic gets blown up, obliterating anyone who knew and any record of what he now looks like.
So begins this new take on the Cobra mythos and the Joe team, with a storyline that makes a great deal of sense for our times. That is the secret to this book's success. Unfortunately the filmmakers (led by super hack Stephen Sommers) went in the completely opposite direction by creating a completely unbelievable story filled with weak, one dimensional characters. I highly recommend you pick up the G.I.JOE: Origins trade paperback .
Those of you craving a G.I.Joe animation fix can pick up the G.I.JOE Resolute DVD which contains all the episodes of the awesome JOE miniseries written by Warren Ellis and originally airing on the cartoon network. Resolute is completely loyal to the Larry Hamma JOE mythos and a heck of a lot of fun to watch. The storyline is better than anything we ever got in the 80s cartoon and the visuals are astounding. A total step in the right direction for G.I.Joe on T.V.
Hopefully Hasbro will continue to produce animated programming with the same sensibilities and respectful treatment of the characters as Resolute.
Another great thing to come from Rise of Cobra was the introduction of a new JOE character that totally rocks. The weird thing is we don't get to see this character in the movie, but it was introduced in the movie era comic line and the figure was released as part of the movie toy line.
Apparently Hasbro developed the character exclusively for the Rise of Cobra video game.
This new character, known as Agent Helix is completely shrouded in mystery offering a great deal of potential for future stories. Helix was part of a government funded program which altered her to include a type of human programming known as Total Organic Battlefield Awareness Total Organic Battlefield Awareness. This allows her to have a heightened sens of awareness which combined with expert battlefield and weapons training allows her to detect the presence of every single soldier in her vicinity as well as the weapons they are carrying down to the last piece of ammo.
The comic book gives us an example of her abilities brilliantly through perfectly executed panels of action sequences where we not only get to see what is happening around her, but we also get a sense of what is going on in her mind as she picks up all this information from her opponents. The comic book one shot is a fun read and I'm hoping we get more Helix stories in the future so we get to understand her better as well as learn more of her past.
The Helix action figure is just as great as all the others in the Rise of Cobra line. Packed with lots of accessories and highly detailed this figure does not disappoint. I still can't believe how such a terrible movie can led to the production of such an awesome toy line. The Rise of Cobra toys totally blew me away. Expecting them to be just as bad as the film I was really surprised to discover a toy line packed with detail, amazing accessories and some of the coolest vehicles in recent years. Toy lines these days really fall short in the vehicles and play sets department, but Rise of Cobra really shines when it comes to vehicles and we also got a huge play set to go along with the line -- the mobile pit.
One of the best choices Hasbro made was to incorporate the RHINO vehicle from the short lived direct to consumer line of recent years into the Rise of Cobra line. This vehicle was a lot of fun and highly detailed, but unfortunately fans were never able to pick it up in stores before. In 2009 we finally got to see it in store shelves as a Target Exclusive. I really love this vehicle since it reminds me a lot of the APC troop carrier vehicle from the film ALIENS.
The vehicle offers a lot of play options and the center top section can be removed to turn into an attack chopper. It can accommodate a bunch of figures in the 2 cockpits and a lot more in the troop carrying area in he rear.
When it was first released it had a pretty high price at Target stores, but most locations have lowered its price to $24.99 by now. My local target still had a good amount of these on sale last week. You might still be able to pick it up on sale.
I actually like the RHINO better than the mobile pit play set, which by the way has also been marked down and can still be found for about half its original price at Walmart and Target stores.
COBRA also got some cool vehicles to add to their fleet. The Steel Crusher APC totally looks like something that could've been released as part of the early 80s line. Although its based on a HUMMER truck it does remind me of the earlier vehicle releases from the 80s such as the Cobra Stinger , but with way more accessories and cooler play features.
My favorite of all the new Cobra vehicle is the gunship. Its a pretty close replica of the vehicle seen in the Eiffel Tower sequence, but it can also be used perfectly with the 25th anniversary line figures or even the 80s figures.
I really love the passenger area in the back and the opening side door.
The ship comes with a pilot figure which is supposed to be firefly. This makes no sense t me since Firefly is not in the film and this figure looks nothing at all like it could be an updated version of Cobra's favorite saboteur. They should've just called him something else.
With the exception of Cobra Commander all the Cobra figures in this line are top notch. I really like the Destro figure and his neo-military / dictator type uniform, which by the way he never wears in the film. This is a cool updated look for the character unlike the ridiculous looking Cobra Commander figure, which looks just as dumb as the character's storyline in the film.
All the Cobra figure come with a ton of neat accessories, but the Barones and Storm Shadow come with the best batch of them. Baroness comes with the MARS nanomite case and missiles plus a pretty cool drop line like the one she uses in the film to exit from the gunship. Storm Shadow comes with ninja gear as well as the nanomite missile launcher. Now let's talk about the JOES.
The Joe team figures features some of the most realistic likenesses I have ever seen in a movie based toy line. Hawk actually looks like Dennis Quaid.
The Scarlett figure is hands down one of the best looking female action figures ever relesed by any toy company. She absolutely looks just like Rachel Nichols. Hasbor reallt did an amazing ob at capturing the actresses facial features.
The 25th Anniversary line continues...
In 2009 Hasbro remained loyal to the G.I.JOE 25th anniversary line with more figures and vehicles to please fans of the original 80's line. One of my favorite vehicles from my childhood was reissued -- 1984's sky hawk.
The classic skyhawk was re released as the Ghosthawk with a new version of lift ticket, who was originally included with 1986's Tomahawk chopper.
Rounding out the best G.I.JOE items for 2009 are the assault on Cobra island and deffense on Cobra island figure sets. Both sets include 25h anniversary modern era sculpts of classic Joe and Cobra figures including two of my all time favorite Joes -- Wet suit and Hit and Run.
These two set are just amazing and us hardocre 80's Joe fans were really pleased to see Hsbro do its best to please those of us who have stuck with this amazing toy line for more than 25 years through thick and thin. There you have it the best of G.I.JOE for 2009. YOJOE!!!!!