A few months back, the GI Joe 50th Anniversary Collection kicked off, with a solid group of figures and vehicles that tied up some loose ends within Hasbro’s stellar Modern Era of Joe toys while also revisiting some of the best figures over the past few years. It was a good lineup, and the figures, by and large, were great new additions in a year in die need of any new GI Joe toys.
And now, the final two sets under the 50th Anniversary banner have been released– two more figure two-packs to round out the set. One of these sets is pretty solid, but the other one, sadly, is so bad it left a bad taste in my mouth over not only this latest wave, but the entire 50th Anniversary collection.
Let’s start with the good– the Arctic Ambush set is a winter themed two-pack, which reissues the amazing Pursuit of Cobra Snow Job along with a new Arctic BAT. Some people have always been down on this Snow Job, but for the life of me I cannot understand why. He features a great sculpt with an awesome amount of detail and an excellent sense of proportion. Despite his bulky arctic gear, he features a good range of motion, and his accessories are insane. Snow Job packs an oversized backpack, which can house his skis, ski poles, fuel tank, lantern, cloth blanket, radio, antenna, and a cooking pan. If that weren’t enough, the arctic survival expert also sports a great sniper rifle and a taped up laser rifle. His new blue camo arctic uniform changes Snow Job up just enough, and as much as I would have been happy to see Hasbro include a new head here to call this one of the Joe team’s other arctic troopers, Snow Job is good enough to merit inclusion in this line, even as a reissue.
The Arctic BAT is fun, with a cool white, grey and silver deco. He features all the stock BAT stuff– swappable damaged head and chest plate, swappable weapon arms and storage backpack, as well as a boss laser rifle and two ice axes. Hasbro’s Joe team have done a great job over the years making their silly, environment specific BAT figures look legitimately cool, and the arctic version is no exception.
Overall, the Arctic Ambush set is a solid, if somewhat forgettable inclusion in this GI Joe series. The same cannot be said for our final pack, the eagerly anticipated Social Clash. This two-pack pits The Baroness against Lady Jaye, an all-new version of the Joe Intelligence operative based on her “Concept Vault” prototype. That concept figure was one of the most beloved and most desired Joe figures of all time, which is why it hurts so bad to finally have her in hand and realize she’s been severely compromised by lazy QC issues.
The new Lady Jaye body is good, with a nice sense of proportion and great range of motion, but having the figure in hand brings to light the unpredicted shortcomings of this seemingly perfect figure. The new web gear looks good, but its bulk restricts the figure’s torso movement. And Lady Jaye features exactly no weapon storage on her harness, belt, hips or ankles, which is definitely a bummer. The biggest strike here is the head, a new sculpt which on its own wouldn’t be terrible… but the paint work is beyond awful. Everything about the paint here is terrible– the dark hair and black hat blend into one another with no clear delineation, she is missing one eyebrow completely, and the figure’s eyes are horrible off center. Like, they look like eyes she painted on her closed eyelids. It’s bad.
I have seen a number of these sets now, so I don’t think I just got one from a “bad batch”… and it’s a shame Hasbro allowed this set to go out as-is. I imagine repainting this head from scratch would yield a much better figure, since the sculpt is good, but something about how lazy and disappointing the factory version came out has left me without the motivation to make that simple repaint a reality.
Baroness doesn’t fare any better. She’s a reissue of the second five-pack version, which is a nice enough figure. But her paint work is also awful, with absurdly pale skin and a strange kabuki-style lower lip paint. The result just looks odd, and leaves me confused… even more so when I remember that Hasbro used this version of Baroness instead of the version they already upgraded to, which came packed in the Transformers crossover SDCC exclusive. That was a better Baroness, built off this very same base body, and its omission here is completely illogical, a truly disappointing step backwards.
The Social Clash figures feel annoyingly lazy, and their accessories only enhance this feeling. Yes, these ladies include a lot of stuff, but none of it makes sense– Lady Jaye gets her Retaliation movie accessories, while Baroness comes packed with the gear from her first Rise of Cobra movie figure. So we get Lady Jaye with a six-gun arsenal, which she cannot store at all, and not a single spear like her Real American Hero figure would use. And Baroness sports an empty briefcase along with a bunch of movie-oriented guns, all of which include pegs which do not clip to this non-movie figure’s body at all.
This set should have been a highlight of the 50th Anniversary collection. Lady Jaye is a perennial fan favorite, and for some reason she often gets the short end of the stick when it comes to action figures, but the concept vault promised to correct that, finally. And yet here we are, with another figure that fails to be nearly as great as it could have been, all because there seems to have been no follow through to ensure the production version of this figure would remain as good as the prototype.
It’s a true shame, and seeing this level of apathy from a product that is supposed to be celebrating the Golden Anniversary of this great, much beloved toy property, leaves me with the sense that maybe the 50th Anniversary of GI Joe was more hollow than we thought? Hasbro’s GI Joe team made a name for themselves over the past decade, crafting an ambitious and thrilling toy line filled with classic characters, perfectly realized in modern toy form. And as the talents of Hasbro’s designers continued to grow, their passion for the Real American Heroes grew with it, creating some of the all-time coolest, most intricate, most fun and totally badass GI Joes toys of all time.
That excitement, that sense of fun and awe and wonder, and that passion spread quickly to all of the fans since the debut of the 25th Anniversary line, but it started with Hasbro. And the very though that maybe that passion, that dedication and that love just isn’t there anymore? Well, that’s a though that is, quite frankly, more devastating than anything Cobra could dream of.