Wednesday, October 12, 2011

REVIEW: GI Joe 30th Anniversary - Renegades Duke

Produced by Hasbro | Released September 2011

DUKE is a natural leader who is driven to do what is right, no matter what it may cost him. He is committed to uncovering the evil truth about COBRA Industries, so that he and the other Renegades can clear their names. A born soldier, he earns the respect and loyalty of the others through his heroic actions.

GI Joe 30th Anniversary Renegades Duke
As GI Joe celebrates its 30th year as a 3 3/4''-scale figure, so Hasbro releases this second wave of figures. Themed around the popular-but-not-very-successful-as-a-relaunch-vehicle animated show, GI Joe: Renegades, this wave features four figures: Cobra Commander, Snake Eyes, Firefly and the subject of this Review, Duke.

I'm really not sure why Hasbro has lumped the 30th Anniversary and GI Joe: Renegades toys under the same banner. Yes, both are GI Joe toys but given that Star Wars - another Hasbro brand - manages to support a variety of sub-lines (including Clone Wars, Vintage, Saga Legends and more), why can't GI Joe do the same? Does Hasbro think collectors would be confused if they were to release a dedicated 30th Anniversary line and another for the animated show? My guess is Hasbro has little confidence in Renegades as a brand and is hoping that by trading on the 30th Anniversary motif (whilst downplaying the animated show) the figures will receive a better reception. I don't get it myself though.

The packaging itself is pretty much what you'd expect from a GI Joe figure. Featuring the stylised Duke from the animated show to acknowledge its origins with a small ''Renegades'' tag above the main logo, the remainder of the packaging is indistinguishable from the packaging seen in Wave 1 of the 30th Anniversary figures. Indeed, if you were wondering who the mystery figures silhouetted on the back of the Wave 1 figures were, then wonder no longer: they're the Renegades figures of Wave 2. That just doesn't sit right with me, personally and I still think Hasbro has dropped the ball by combining the two lines.

Anyway, let's take a look at the figure once out of the box.

Sculpt and Design
When I heard Hasbro was producing a line of tie-in figures based on the GI Joe: Renegades show my first thought was ''ugh! Angular Clone Wars-style figures!'' Thankfully somebody at Hasbro realised such figures would jar with the usual GI Joe look and, as a result, we have a more lifelike style of figure.

The sculpt does a good job of capturing the essence of the animated character. Like his on-screen counterpart, this Duke doesn't sport the militaristic look used for ''regular'' Dukes, with his outfit - flack jacket and weapons aside - having a more civilian vibe to it. Some fans may not like the look but regardless of its origins, the figure itself is a good likeness of the show's look

In terms of detailing, the sculpt features some nice touches. The (removable) vest has a variety of straps and panels, which appear to be in all the right places. The figure's proportions are good, with Duke being muscular without being bulky and there's some nice detail to the folds of his pants, the pouches on his belt and his armoured knee-pads.

Unlike other GI Joe figures, Duke's sidearm attaches directly to his thigh (rather than slotting into a holster.) This is a good representation of the in-show character but I'm not sure how much I like having a slot in his leg.

The head sculpt is... interesting. The hair is nicely sculpted and avoids looking too solid and whilst the facial sculpt is generally pretty good, there's something a little off-putting about his stare. Perhaps it's the paint app but Duke appears to suffering from 1000-yard stare. Add to this the intensely furrowed brow and set eyebrows and you'll see why this face sculpt has left a few collectors disappointed with this figure.

It's also worth noting Duke doesn't have his trademark facial scar. Without giving any spoilers, the show explains that...

Still thought - slightly odd facial details aside - it's a solid-enough sculpt, given the minimalist style of design used in the animated show and it does a good job of capturing Dukes Renegades look.

One thing I've always been a fan of is the GI Joe articulation set-up. Although they may occasionally misfire (mainly due to sculpt constraints or production quality issues) the on-paper, basic set-up is superb. With Duke it gets even better.

Although we've seen them before, this is the first time I've encountered a GI Joe figure that uses he new tilting wrist joints to their full advantage. Duke's right wrist now includes a ''horizontal'' tilt joint, allowing him to bend his wrist toward and away from his body. The left wrist features a similar joint but with a ''vertical'' alignment. It may initially sound odd to have such a set up, as you'd expect both to move in the same plane, but there's a reason behind this arrangement: it allows Duke to grip a two-handed rifle and adjust the position whilst ensuring both hands remain on the weapon. Not only does it work very well but it also allows Duke to do some very cool Mantis Kung Fu.

On the downside though, his left wrist does appear a little swollen thanks to the inclusion of the joint (the right doesn't look so bad) but I can just about live with that.

The actual joint production is very good. As you can see from the above image, Duke's joints are firm enough to hold his poses without any feeling of floppiness or looseness. Although the vest limits his torso movement somewhat, it moves freely enough to allow most poses but just be aware that the crotch plate/pad can interfere with some of the wider moves.

Duke's basic palette is pretty close to the animated version but - as he's a 3D representation of that character - Hasbro has wisely opted to include some additional paint detail in the form of washes and low-light tones to accentuate the folds and more intricate elements of the costume design such as the creases and folds in his vest.

The body app is neatly applied on the whole although his left leg pouch features a strap that's only painted on one half of his leg (the inner-thigh piece remains unpainted) and the vest details are perhaps a little unfocused. It's not the worst app I've seen but it could be neater. And it's just a shame there's really not much to work with but that's really not the figure's fault.

The facial paint application is a mixed bag. The eyes and eyebrows are very cleanly applied (even if this does give him a bit of a manic stare) but his hairline is very sloppy, with the blonde/yellow of his hair seeping over onto the skin of his brow. This could be a fault with my figure alone (Hasbro's paint apps do vary from figure to figure) so if you have the luxury of choosing from multiple Duke figures, make sure you check the app before you buy.

Extras and Accessories
Duke comes with an assortment of weapons and equipment, some we've seen before, others that are new to this figure.

The gas mask is a pretty cool accessory but it seems as if Duke's head sculpt and it don't quite want to play together. I found getting the mask on was an easy enough task but getting it to sit properly on his head - i.e. lining up his eyes with the lenses - was something of a chore. If I recall correctly, this mask was first used by the Pursuit of Cobra's Beachhead, which may explain the fit issues or perhaps my fingers are just too fat and it fits just fine. Still, that aside it's a neat-looking accessory.

UPDATE: TheRealDubya over at the HISS Tank Forums has since correctly identified this as the Shockblast 25th Anniversary/Pit Commando gas mask.

The plasma pulse rifle is re-used from a previous Rise of Cobra release is based on a real-world weapon, the name of which (and the RoC figure it came with) escapes me right now. Whilst the design looks pretty cool, I really dislike the single-colour, solid plastic look of it. It would be a much nicer-looking accessory had Hasbro either used a darker plastic or added some paint detail, as right now it looks like Duke is battling Cobra Industries armed with a toy rifle.

Duke also comes with four plasma pulse pistols. No, you didn't mis-read that. He has four pistols. Granted one includes a side-slot allowing it to snap onto his thigh but the other three are designed to be held. This is a very odd decision on Hasbro's part and I really don't understand why they thought he needed so many pistols. Perhaps they're spares. 

As for the pistols themselves, they're - like the rifle - cast from a pretty cheap-looking grey plastic that really makes them look like toy guns. Again, there's no paintwork or detail to make them really pop. Add to this the fact that they tend to sit in the hands in a rather uncertain/wobbly manner and you'll see why I'm not really a fan of them. I've nothing against the concept of plasma pulse pistols - they're not only part of the show mythology but also fall into that ''future war'' concept seen in the GI Joe line. I just think the execution of the toy version is poor.

Duke also includes a name-plated base, featuring an embossed GI Joe logo.

What Duke doesn't have is the ''Rappelling back pack with grappling line'' mentioned on the packaging. Presumably this would have been a re-use of the accessory used by the Rise of Cobra City Strike Snake Eyes (among others.) It's annoying to see Hasbro clearly had plans for other accessories, which they've since dropped. I also personally think the Cobra Industries jet pack would have been a better choice but that would warrant a new piece, something Hasbro clearly doesn't feel could justify the production costs. Regardless though, it's frustrating to see the line being so gimped on the accessories front.

Final Thoughts
Whilst the production and assembly standards are pretty high, there's something lacking with the Renegades Duke. I think it's pretty obvious Hasbro's heart really isn't in it here and this figure is almost being produced simply to check a box to please fans or meet some kind of quota. From the re-used accessories (and missing equipment) to the almost apologetic packaging that seems almost ashamed to carry the Renegades tag, there's just a feeling that this figure is something Hasbro is hoping will just disappear somewhere and die.

That's a real shame, as not only was Renegades a lot of fun (even if it was a new direction for the line) it was also a chance to reintroduce the toys to a new generation and GI Joe deserves a lot more support than Hasbro gives it. This is a figure that's crying out for a Coyote, a motorbike or an animated-style HISS Tank to battle. As it stands, Hasbro has instead simply given us the bare minimum of releases and even then, they've bundled them as part of the 30th Anniversary line. Add to that the fact that Hasbro has even - however jokingly - disowned the entire Renegades franchise and you're left with the feeling that this wave of figures is something they shoved-out to appease collectors.

As for Duke himself, he's one of those figures that - with some better accessories - would have been a very cool figure. I like the wrist articulation set-up (even if it does look a little odd sometimes), he's well assembled and of a pretty high production standard and the figure's sculpt is pretty cool, especially given that it's translated from a stylised, rather angular 2D character. But he's let-down by some poor paintwork and an uninspired set of gear.

I just wish there was a little more to get excited about here.

Sculpt and DesignB
Extras and Accessories B-
Final ScoreB

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