As you probably know if you've checked our previous Reviews, we're fans of Lanard's The CORPS! figures. With their retro-styling, chunky sculpts and super-attractive price-point they're a line that certainly has a lot going for it and so when we saw Lanard had re-branded the line (they're now ''Elite'') you can imagine how excited we were here at TF Towers - especially when the preview images revealed not only the addition of two female characters to the roster, but also that said figures were using a new, improved articulation set-up.
So was our excitement justified? Read on and find out!
The Three Packs
The CORPS! Elite line-up includes a variety of new vehicles (both retools and originals), a number of single-carded figures and four, three-figure packs. Although it's yet to be confirmed, from my own experience and that of a few other collectors I've seen online, it appears that the new female figures are exclusive to these packs (along with the reduced-articulation figures, who are also doubling as bundled figures with some vehicle sets.)
As you can see, each pack also includes an assortment of weapons and a small vehicle. It's also worth noting each pack (and indeed, those of the single-carded figures) sports its own card art. This trend continues on the rear, where you'll find character rosters or the CORPS! story, depending which you purchase.
Speaking of the story, let's take a quick look at what the packaging says about the CORPS! Elite and their new enemy, The Curse:
THEY are many. They believe Artificial Intelligence is the future.
THEY want to replace humans with machines so that they may all ''live forever.''
Their leader was once a CORPS agent himself*, and head of new technologies, until he strayed into the obscure. He began to experiment with nano machines, giving them artificial intelligence. To further enhance his mental and physical strength, he injected himself with hyper A.I. nano machines in his lab. He became more machine than man!
Possessed by the A.I. inside, bent on destroying the human race, he has gathered a small group of lost and like-minded individuals AMASSING A DRONE ARMY of mechanized evil calling themselves ''The Curse!''
Thankfully, there are The CORPS! assembled after WW2 as a natural reaction to global threats, The CORPS! has always fought for truth, justice and freedom. Now more than ever, the world needs a GLOBAL FORCE FOR GOOD! The Curse has now emerged in all corners of the world, wreaking havoc and recruiting new followers.
It has become a Global Battlefield. WHich side are you on?
* The Curse leader, Plague, appears to be the character of Shadow from the previous waves, although this has yet to be confirmed.
Exciting stuff, right?
Anyway, with the background in place and history covered, let's move onto the figures themselves.
Ogre is one of the four core Curse members, described as a ''Munitions Master'' and ''Berserker Brawler.''
One thing Lanard does well is recycle and Ogre is a prime example of that. with most of his body parts coming from an earlier figure, who appeared in the BUCKs sub-squad. The BUCKs were a specialized team trained to deal with biological and nuclear hazards, hence the heavy, protective gear and helmet but Lanard has done a great job taking that design and making something new from it. It's amazing how a new paint app - especially one with a GIANT RED SKULL - can transform a character into something completely different!
The sculpt is nicely detailed, with a heavy, solid feel to it and some great up-close detailing. It's probably difficult to see on these pictures but there's some really nice ribbing to the suit, which really gives the impression of him wearing armor that will protect him from a variety of attacks.
As mentioned above, Ogre uses an older buck (no pun intended) and as a result has the old-style CORPS! articulation set-up. Whilst not as complex as some later GI Joes or Marvel Universe figures, it's by no means primitive and still trounces some of Hasbro's recent offerings. This isn't a 5 PoA, ''retro''-style figure.
The set-up is as follows: head twist joint, double-joint shoulders, twist biceps, single-jointed elbow, twist waist, T-crotch hip, single-jointed knees. The overall effect is pretty good and offers a fairly wide range of movement, although that T-crotch rules out any kind of wide stance or high kick poses...
I'm using a vintage Star Wars stand here to help display the figure but he stands well enough on his own - providing both feet are on the ground of course.
The paint app is pretty good, overall. I like the aforementioned chest skull especially. Skulls are a running motif with The Curse characters and you'll find them all adorned with at least one. I like that there's a kind of distressed look to it here and it really sells the figure as a bad guy. The rest of the paint app is also good and is nicely done. The facial detailing is very cool.
Ogre comes with two weapons: a large shotgun-style rifle (which fits nicely into his back port but sadly not his hands) and what looks like either a spear gun or a laser. Given The Curse's high-tech nature I'm going with the latter, which ties in with his (sadly, static) blast-visor. From his weapons and armor, I get the impression this guy is the CORPS!' take on an evil version of GI Joe's Sci-Fi. Which is neat in my book...
Next up is Buckshot.
We've already Reviewed Buckshot and this figure is identical, right down to his weaponry, so we're just going to move onto the third and final figure in the pack...
Snake Bite is the first of the new female figures and one of the main reasons everybody is so excited about the new CORPS! releases.
Because Lanard had no pre-existing female figure parts, Snake Bite has been designed from her boots up with new pieces and - coolest of all - a new articulation rig. We'll get to that in a moment but for now let's start with the sculpt.
Lanard has done a fantastic job with this new figure. Not only does she look like a woman (rather than, as many of Hasbro's figures do, a male figure with boobs and lipstick) but she's a BAD-ASS. Seriously, she looks like she could easily hold her own with the other CORPS! troopers. It's always difficult to get that kind of ''attitude'' in a design (remember Poochie?) but this figure exudes ass-kickery TM. From the punky haircut to the Aliens-esque body armor, Snake Bite is a superb-looking character.
I love the fact that Lanard put so much thought into her design from both a character and practical stance. As longtime readers will know, one of my pet peeves is characters with a lot of gear and nowhere to store it. I'm guessing somebody at Lanard feels the same (or frequents That Figures...) as Snake Bite's sculpt is designed to incorporate all four of her weapons with ease. Not only does she have a working holster for her pistol, she also comes with a back port to accommodate her crossbow and double-shoulder pegs onto which her knives can be slotted. Granted, they can be a little prone to falling off and attaching the crossbow limits her articulation a touch but it's a fair trade-off in my opinion.
Speaking of articulation, Snake Bite has a completely new build, which we'll cover now. From the top she has a twist-joint head, double-joint shoulders, double-joint elbows (as in, both rotate and curl elbows), twist torso, T-bar* mounted hips and single-jointed knees. She may not be quite as articulated as some GI Joe or Marvel figures of the same scale but it's still a very impressive set-up!
* A T-bar and a T-crotch are two different things. The latter is a system whereby the figure's crotch has a single-jointed hip on either side (which makes it look like a capital ''T") whereas a T-bar is a system whereby the ball-jointed hips are attached to a ''spine'' piece resembling an inverted ''T.'' This allows the legs to not only move forward and backward but also in and out. This is the standard system used by GI Joes.
One minor issue though - and this appears to be something that is across the board on Lanard's new figures - is that her joints are a little loose. This is definitely a production issue rather than a design one, though, as my Puma figure (Puma being the other female character) doesn't suffer from any kind of loose joints. Obviously you can't check the figure before you buy but be warned that you may experience some quality assurance issues on this front. However, there are solutions you can try if it really bothers you.
One thing that's always bugged me about the CORPS! figures is that many packs feature motorcycles (including this one) but the Lanard articulation set-up never really allowed the figures to sit properly on the bikes. Not so here. As you can see, Snake Bite looks perfectly at home on her ride!
(I'm not going to dwell too long on the motorbike but I will say that it's a really cool-looking accessory and if you're a Joe fan looking for some sweet rides for your figures, then you'll really want to pick this one up.)
Paint-wise, Snake Bite has a very tight app. Again, this varies from figure to figure (going back to my Puma, her shirt's app is a little messier than my Snake Bite's) but this is one thing you can check for yourself before buying. And whilst her camo paint app may not extend to her rear, it's really not something you'd have noticed - until I pointed it out, of course...
The CORPS! Elite 3-Pack is definitely a game of three halves (yes, I know...)
Ogre is a solid, retro-style figure that CORPS! collectors will not only recognize but will welcome into their ranks. He's a great, solid, durable figure that will survive all the down-the-staircase tumbles and backyard exploration sessions you can throw at him. He also looks pretty damned cool and is a great villain for your CORPS! troopers to fight.
Buckshot is certainly the weakest entry in the line-up. I've mentioned before that I don't have a problem with limited-articulation figures if they can be posed in a dynamic fashion. Chap Mei got this right with their True Legends figures. Sadly, Lanard didn't here. All I can really say is that if you have a spare pilot's seat in a vehicle that will accommodate him, then Buckshot will probably find some role in your collection.
And OK, I know: nobody is buying this pack for Ogre or Buckshot. Snake Bite is the real attraction here, so the question is, does she justify buying the entire pack, just for a single figure? The answer is a resounding ''yes.''
Consider this: the three-figure packs from Lanard retail at about $6 with tax. For that you get a solid figure in the form of Ogre, a throw-away bundled pilot (Buckshot) and the super kick-ass Snake Bite. Oh and a bunch of accessories and a really neat motorcycle. Now let's throw it over to Hasbro and see what they can do at that price... a 5 PoA Avengers figure or maybe a couple of 2'' Guardians of the Galaxy figures?
I know where I'd rather spend my money.
No, they're not perfect. Ogre's limited hip movement may be a deal breaker for some, Buckshot is just there to make up the numbers and Snake Bite's sculpt may be a little stylized (she has classic comicbook too-much-leg-to-torso dynamic female proportions) but these are really very minor points and are included only to provide a degree of balance in what would otherwise be my entry in 2015's Let's Kiss Lanard's Butt Contest.
The real kicker for me, though, is that Lanard has managed to capture an element of retro fun long missing from most toy lines without descending into the realms of the kitsch or silly.
But it doesn't end there. Alongside the new 4'' re-brand, Lanard has also launched a range of very stylized, Sigma-6 influenced 6'' figures dubbed ''Super Soldiers'' and re-introduced a line of 12'' figures. And did I also mention there are two Exo-Battlesuit mechs and at least two new, giant-size vehicles with light and sound play features to accompany the new CORPS! Elite wave? It's certainly an exciting time if you're a fan of their figures, for sure...
Here's the thing: the CORPS! will never be GI Joe. But in this case, that's a good thing, because what we have here is a throwback to the days when GI Joe was an affordable, durable and fun line of quasi-comicbook heroes battling supervillains bent on world domination. And sure, I love my life-like, complex Joes as much as the next collector. But I love them for their technical intricacy as collectible pieces. I love the CORPS! figures more for their sheer fun factor. Handling them is like stepping back to the 80s and remembering when toys were fun and meant to be played with. It's like somebody at Lanard realized that instead of competing with GI Joe on a technical level they should instead concentrate on what makes this line - and what made GI Joe - so much fun back in the day. If, like me, you're a fan of retro goodness then you'll totally get where I'm coming from with that, as Lanard has actually managed to out-GI Joe Hasbro in this instance. If you rate the Real American Hero Joes over the Retaliation line then you're sure to dig what Lanard has here.
I could spend the rest of the day talking about how good this set is. From the exceptional value-for-money the pack represents, to the great packaging (and when was the last time you saw a Review here that mentioned packaging?) and the quality of the figures within but ultimately there's nothing I can say to really convey just how much muddy-funstering FUN this set is.
Just go buy it, already.