I have to say, I find the sophomore run of the GI Joe Club’s Figure Subscription Service to be really lacking in comparison to the first series. From the character selection to the design, this batch of figures just hasn’t had that same sense of excitement and “cool” as the first series. Sure, there’s great exceptions, like Cesspool and the well-designed Night Force Falcon, but most of this lineup– even figures I was very excited about like Toll Booth– wound up feeling very “meh” to me.
Keel-Haul is another figure to add to that category. The GI Joe admiral gets a Modern/ 25th update, and there’s some stuff to like, for sure– the head is great, with not only an all new portrait but a very well sculpted Admiral’s cap, and the USS Flagg flag is a nice touch– but his design is wonky. I understand using the existing tooling of the busy General Hawk jacket from Rise of Cobra, and the crummy old Shipwreck torso at least gives Keel-Haul a sense of uniformity with the other navy Joes, but the legs are way too skinny, making him look awkward and top heavy.
The accessories, again, are a mixed bag. The flag is awesome, as is the coffee mug, and it’s nice to have the removable binoculars. The flare gun makes sense and isn’t bad, but then Keel-Haul gets the old (way too big) pistol, which looks out of scale, especially in the hands of a smaller figure like him. Overall, Keel-Haul is nice to have for the collection, but there’s nothing about him that would make me go out of my way to own him had I not been a subscriber.
As for Bombardier, well… it’s a cool concept. This guy was one of the never-released Special Weapons Force figures intended as part of the Action Force collection in the UK. He never made it out to retail, and there’s debate on whether he ever made it past prototype… so it’s cool for the Joe Club to reach that deep and finally release a character who has literally never seen the light of day, in any iteration of GI Joe.
However, in keeping true to the unreleased 80s figure, Bombardier is literally just a repainted Flash. From the helmet to the head, there’s nothing unique about this guy except the paint job, the accessories and the back story. I’m sure there are dyed in the wool Joe fans out there for whom that is enough… but when it comes to Joe lore this arcane, I cannot say I am one of them. I appreciate the behind the scenes tale of Bombardier… but all I see is yet another Flash in different colors.
It’s tough to find the balance of where to consider the Figure Subscription Service toys. On the one hand, I admire the effort the Joe Club has put in to making these guys and releasing them at the impressive two-per-month schedule. For what amount to short-run exclusives, self-funded with Hasbro’s blessing, what the Club is doing is very commendable.
On the other hand, these stipulations dictate that the figures will be far more expensive than a standard retail figure. I believe I’d be more forgiving of the shortcomings of these guys had they been standard $10 retail pieces. I’d happily have bought both figures at Toys R Us if they were part of a new assortment, and I’d be impressed by them both. But as higher end, much more expensive toys, these two figures just do not feel worthy of the price tag. They’re not bad… but they’re not $30 good, either.