Sunday, February 20, 2011

REVIEW: GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra - Dragonhawk XH1 with Wild Bill

Dragonhawk XH1 with Wild Bill | Produced by Hasbro | Released July/August 2009

The Dragonhawk XH1 helicopter conducts attack and support missions. It has AG-202 missle launchers that quickly deploy from recessed compartments. The helicopter is swift, maneuverable and capable of extremely low hoverability, and in the hands of an expert pilot, will aggressively perform under any light and weather conditions.

Wild Bill is a combat pilot on the GI Joe team. If it has wings he can fly it, whether it's the latest military attack helicopter or fighter jet. After a convoy is attacked while transporting classified weapon prototypes, Wild Bill is deployed as part of the team to rescue the survivors.

From the GI Joe Rise of Cobra tie-in line comes the Dragonhawk XH1 (with Wild Bill) vehicle set, the subject of today's Review!

The Dragonhawk's packaging, which measures around 12'' by 9'' by 3'', is adorned with an illustration of the helicopter, rather than a photograph of the actual toy. A small window to the left of the box shows the Wild Bill figure included as the pilot and the rear of the box packaging shows photographs of the helicopter and calls-out various details, such as rotating blades and pop-out missile-launchers (more on that later.)

The cover-art is eye-catching enough, in a shooty-pew-pew manner, but personally I'd have preferred to see the toy within, rather than having to rely on illustrations and photographs. 

The box is easily opened and re-sealed, with fold-out flaps on either end that allow access to the cardboard retaining tray within. The pieces inside are held in-place with twisties and thin elastic straps. The Dragonhawk XH1 itself comes without its rotor-blades, engine covers or tail-section attached, but they clip into the main vehicle with ease. Although it would be a chore to place the toy back into the tray, the box itself is resealable, so that's a definite plus.

So what's inside the box? 

Wild Bill
Let's start with William ''Wild Bill'' Hardy, the Dragonhawk's pilot.

The core figure comes with his hat and flight jerkin, both of which are molded from a soft, flexible plastic. The jerkin includes pop-in ''fasteners'' that hold the piece in-place well but can also easily be popped to allow it to be removed. Similarly his hat sits well upon his head. So far so good.

The sculpt is... OK. There's nothing wrong with it but it's not exactly exciting either, given that he's wearing a one-piece flight suit/uniform with a few accessories. His head sculpt is a little sloppy, with his de rigeur pilot's sunglasses - which appear slightly too-small for his face - being molded onto the head. His hands also appear a little on the small side. Maybe he's a carnie. Minor points aside, though, Hasbro's designers did a reasonable job working under such limitations, but Wild Bill isn't exactly a ''must have'' figure, which is presumably why he's bundled along with the Dragonhawk.

Wild Bill has a reasonable level of articulation and he's quite poseable, with nice, flexible joints that hold a pose well and have a pretty good range of motion. His legs are slightly problematic, though, as his groin-piece forces them apart when he sits, making him bow-legged. This can make getting him in and out of the helicopter a little fiddly but the cockpit is large enough to accommodate him without any real issues once you get his legs in-place and the two pieces - figure and vehicle - work well together, with his hands lining-up perfectly with the helicopter controls and the canopy cover is large enough to accommodate the figure.

The paint-work isn't going to win any awards. It's applied relatively cleanly but it's very simplistic, with a single tone of (rather bright) ''strawberry-blonde'' being used on his hair and moustache. It lacks any washes or tone-work, meaning it looks quite plastic-y. Similarly, the silver used on his sunglasses is applied thickly and in a single-tone. Whilst the sculpt is nice enough, the heavy-handed paint application mars this and obscures a lot of the detail. His uniform is fairly uninspired, being a drab olive and tan mix applied in single colours. His hat is nicely detailed, though, with a cleanly-applied band and badge.

Dragonhawk XH1
The Dragonhawk XH1 appears to be modeled (loosely) upon an Apache gunship, but with some modifications, first of which is obviously the scale. Not only is the Dragonhawk smaller than an Apache but it's also a single-pilot vehicle.

That's fine, as the toy doesn't try to pass itself off as being an Apache, but it's clear that the designers had studied the AH-64 when modeling the Dragonhawk.

The Dragonhawk comes in a number of pieces that must be assembled. Clipping the pieces into place is an easy enough task, though. What's not so easy is applying the decals that come with the vehicle. For one, they're quite difficult to get off the transfer sheet. They're also rather small and can be quite awkward to apply. If you do happen to purchase this vehicle, I'd advise sticking the decals in place before you assemble it.

The Dragonhawk is cast in a rather bright green, with black details. The use of this glossy plastic and the lack of any paint-work, washes or detail (beyond the stick-on decals) makes the Dragonhawk appear quite plasticy and toy-like. Yes, I know it's a plastic toy, hence it being plasticy and toy-like, but a matte shade of plastic in a darker tone, along with some paint-detail would have made the Dragonhawk a much nicer piece.

(Indeed, from what I've seen, it looks as if the Rise of Cobra toys present a kind of intermediate state between the cartoony, brightly-coloured earlier GI Joes and the more realistic/collectable Pursuit of Cobra figures.)

With the negatives out of the way, let's look at what's cool about this toy. 

Firstly, the Dragonhawk has twin missile pods, housed within the main body that pop-out when the tail-section ''trigger'' is pulled. Each pod contains two missiles, which are loaded by simply pushing them into the launch tubes until they click into place. The spring-loaded missiles may then be launched by pressing the release switch on each pod. Their range isn't quite as far as you'd expect but they work well-enough.

Although not articulated in the strictest sense of the word, the Dragonhawk does include some moving parts. The rotors spin quite freely (although the prop-mount feels a little wobbly) and the tail-rotor is as equally fluid in its motion. Similarly, the canopy cover is nicely jointed and clicks into place snuggly, thus keeping Wild Bill in his seat. The nose-mounted cannon also rotates without any issues.

Overall, the mold itself is actually quite detailed, with numerous exhausts, ports and other helicopter-y things being present. It's just a shame it was cast in this bright green with no extra washes or detailing, as the toy itself looks nice and I'm sure if you had the painting skills you could do a nice job of ''realistificating'' the toy.

There are no real extras to speak of with this toy. Wild Bill has a hat and removable jerkin and the Dragonhawk includes four missiles. An instruction sheet explains the assembly and a sheet of transfers is also included. Sadly these transfers are a pain to remove from the sheet and are difficult to apply, being rather small and fiddly.

Final Thoughts
The Dragonhawk XH1 set is a nice, sizable toy. I like the fact that the GI Joes at this scale include vehicles and there are a wide range of such toys available. Some are more outlandish - such as Mech-style power suits and mini-jets - and others, like the Dragonhawk, are an attempt to stick to the GI Joe militaristic roots. I'm not a massive fan of military toys, as I've always liked more unusual or sci-fi inspired designs but there's no denying that the Dragonhawk is a nicely-molded toy.

(You may then ask why I bought what I knew would be a military toy. The answer is that it was on-sale at Toys R Us and, despite my usual indifference to toys like this, I do like helicopters and the Apache - on which this is modeled - is a nice piece of design.)

It's just a shame that - like the included Wild Bill figure - it looks so toy-like. I know that's because it IS a toy, but if you compare Wild Bill or the Dragonhawk's detail and finish to that of the recently-Reviewed Zartan, you'll see how he has a much more natural and realistic look, thanks to the more-lifelike paint-work and use of washes. And that's the irony here - the more fantastical Zartan is actually more lifelike that the ''real world'' pilot Wild Bill and the Dragonhawk.

Don't get me wrong, it's a fun piece and everything is nicely assembled, works well and feels sturdy. It's just it ultimately falls into the category of simply being a fun toy that lacks the extra bonus of also being a nicely detailed, display-able collector's piece.

Wild Bill

Production QualityB+
Final ScoreB-

Dragonhawk XH1
Production QualityB
Final ScoreB-

Final ScoreB-

Image Gallery


  1. Nice looking chopper but Wild Bill is a little bland but hey he came with the vehicle so that is cool. I bet if he was sold by himself he would be much better.

  2. Yeah, it's a shame there's not much going on with him and his paint-job is so bland. With a few washes and some better colouring it could have been nice.


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