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Assault on Cobra Island

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

Hasbro isn't a company that will let hard work go to waste, so if they've got most of the work done on a particular toy, you can be assured they'll find a way to release it, somehow. That's how we got the Assault on Cobra Island 7-pack.

The GI Joe team takes the battle to Cobra Island, determined to crush the Cobra organization once and for all! The team crosses land, sea and air to reach the well-protected base. Cobra forces are ready for them, and the fearsome fight begins!

This is one of two sets (the other being the Cobras in "Defense of Cobra Island") available exclusively online and featuring G3 versions of RAH characters we were still missing.

Before a qualified paratrooper can take the grueling Airborne Ranger training course, he must attend a three week Ranger Indoctrination Program that is guaranteed to weed out 40% of the candidates. Next, there's a three week Pre-Ranger Program to prepare the candidate for the full eight weeks of unprecedented stress, pain, discomfort, forced marching, sleeplessness, and jumping out of an aircraft with a knife between your teeth, just like actual combat, but without live ammo. Spc. Altitude enjoyed every minute of it!

Okay, wow, this guy is a mess. Where to begin? The figure is identified as Altitude, right? A Sky Patrol character from 1990. But the filecard text and his real name come from a different character, Free Fall. The design of the figure, meanwhile, is a clear reference to a third character, Ripcord. Conventional wisdom is that Hasbro wanted to make a G3 version of Ripcord (who was a pretty big player in the early comics), but didn't want to confuse the market between that character and the new movie-based Ripcord, so made the figure and gave him a new name. But as long as they were just going to switch codenames around, why use Free Fall's text instead of Rip's?

The figure is built from myriad parts, including bits from Airborne and Ace, so he definitely looks like he belongs in the sky. If you remove his helmet and facemask (re-used from Blowtorch), you'll find that Wallace John Philip is a hideous little goblin of a man. The head is taken from 2008's Red Star figure, so the helmet is a bit loose - better to just leave it on and not look at the face beneath.

Beyond the helmet, the figure has two accessories: a black rifle, and a green parachute pack. The gun is a Heckler & Koch G36 with an underslung shotgun attachment, which is a nod to the accessory included with "Halo Jumper," the renamed Generation 2 Ripcord release. The parachute pack was originally included with a Cobra Trooper in one of the incredibly rare 2008 dvd battle packs (Best of the '80s - the one with Alpine), so odds are you've never seen it before. You can remove it, with some work, but he looks fine with it on.

Wet-Suit has been called "the nastiest combination of shark and eel that you can think of." He was trained as a SEAL, the toughest training in the Navy, and is an expert in marine operations and demolitions. Called in for the most dangerous and dirtiest jobs, he and his team perform their missions with detailed plans that are executed with precision and speed. He is not known for his social graces - you wouldn't catch him chatting with guys in three-piece suits about the latest Broadway play, but when you need someone who can take out a Cobra underwater base with just some fishing line and a knife, then he's your guy.

It's no secret that these Cobra Island seven-packs are filled with figures that were on the horizon for the Generation 3 line, but cancelled to make room for the movie toys. One of the unreleased comic packs, scheduled to come out after Tunnel Rat vs. Storm Shadow, would have been "Scuba Duke vs. Lamprey," so this version of Wet-Suit is really just a re-use of that unseen Duke - not that there's anything specifically about it that says this isn't Wet-Suit. Wet-Suit's wetsuit has long arms, rather than the short sleeves of the 1986 version, but the colors are the same, and he even has the weird "flying dolphin" logo on his chest.

The body, below the neck, shares its mold with Torpedo - of course, the same has been true of all the G3 divers, to one extent or another, so no big surprise there. The head is new, and while, yes, it does bear some resemblence to Duke, the G1 Wet-Suit was wearing a non-removable dive helmet, so there's an equal chance it looks like him. If you don't think this figure looks enough like the original, one of our readers designed a "fix" that should suit you.

It's the accessories that really capture the classic Wet-Suit vibe. He has the same knife, pistol and spear gun that Torpedo carried, but his removable mask plugs into a new squarish backpack, and he has an orange sea sled to pull him around. The mask is the same as Torpedo's, and so are the flippers, but his webgear is new - maybe that's why, all put together, this figure looks quite distinct.

Rafael "Zap" Melendez is one of the original 13 members of the GI Joe team. He's a specialist in armor-piercing and anti-tank weapons, but he also assists the team as a demolitions expert. From his training in Engineering School, Ordnance School, and Advanced Infantry, he's acquired field skills that he applies with his characteristic coolness under fire and a professional attitude in any situation. He's participated in many battles against Cobra and uses knowledge gleaned from those missions to pinpoint and attack the evil organization's weak points. And just to be absolutely sure of the outcome, he backs up every plan with plenty of weapons and explosives.

Zap isn't just one of the original 13 Joes, he's actually the last original we needed updated in the Generation 3 style. Sure, the only way to get Grunt or Short-Fuze was to buy overpriced store exclusives, but darn it, they were out there. Knowing there are quite a few fans out there who are trying to rebuild the original team, this set could sell just on the basis of Zap alone. The green of Zap's uniform is a bit more yellow than the other originals, but that just keeps him from blending into the background. For a "plain" military figure, this one is very good.

In keeping with the original toys' "mix and match" design work, Zap is constructed mostly from existing parts. The upper body is all Snake-Eyes, while the boots are distinctly Clutch's. For some reason, Zap gets new thighs, of all things. His new head at least makes sense: his slicked-back hair and pencil mustache are unique, and he really seems to have Hispanic features. Still, why new legs?

Zap comes with a green helmet and a new brown belt, which has a working holster on the left hip. Since he has Clutch's feet, there's another holster on his right leg, and thus he's carrying two black pistols. His trademark weapon is his bazooka, of course, and it splits into two pieces because... well, I don't know. So you can getit out of the package easily? His backpack is an update of the 1982 version, but this time the shells can be removed and loaded into the bazooka. Fun! Sadly, the large canteen sculpted on the new belt keeps the backpack from sitting properly, but that's a minor quibble.

Orphaned at the age of three, Hit & Run grew up fearless and tough. His first and best love was running. Whether racing through the trees and vines of the countryside or bounding by the lampposts and buildings of the city, Hit & Run saw the world as an obstacle course - one to be confronted at top speed. At 18, he joined the Army and fought for a place on the GI Joe team, knowing nothing but the best, most rigorous training would take him to his limits. Today, there isn't a better GI Joe team member than Hit & Run to get into a hot zone, do his job, and get out again without a scratch.

When the original Hit & Run was released in 1988, his schtick of being "the guy who likes to jog" would have been pretty damn stupid, and more than a little pointless. Today, however, the filecard description makes him sound like a freerunner or traceur. Can you imagine this guy, all painted in green camo, running through the jungle with a squad of Vipers, BATs and Trubble Bubbles behind him, doing the kind of stuff Sebastien Foucan did in the beginning of Casino Royale? Bad. Ass.

Hit & Run (whose name is actually parsed "Hit and Run" on the filecard) uses the Cobra Trooper torso, Hawk's arms and legs, and Airborne's head. Since everything is painted green, with black camouflage breaking it up, it's kind of hard to immediately recognize all the pieces, and that's never a bad thing. The head in particular looks drastically different in green than it did in whatever cartoony color Airborn was painted.

Most of HnR's accessories come from Airborne, too: he has the same backpack, leg harness and M16, and even the same helmet. That one works particularly well, what with the big red goggles on the forehead. His chest harness comes from the same box set as Ripcord Freefall Altitude's parachute, where it belonged to Duke. There's also a grappling hook and string for him, but it can't be wound into his backpack, like the old version's could.

Stuart "Outback" Selkirk was an instructor at the Survival School and the Jungle Warfare Training Center. Most people are intimidated by wilderness. They don't feel comfortable in an area with no sign of human life for miles. Not Selkirk! He believes in being part of his environment, not its adversary. As a survival expert, he is essential on missions that require the GI Joe team to operate at night and lay low during the day. The team may find a spot that looks like a perfect place to pitch a shelter, but Selkirk can point out the dangers no one else sees.

Outback is a figure with an interesting history. The figure was designed, and planned for release in a vehicle two-pack - FLAK Cannon vs. Cobra CLAW - but the vehicle pack was cancelled. Oops! So Hasbro scrambled, and found a place for Outback in this 7-pack (the other figure from that set, the Air-Viper, was released in the companion "Defense of Cobra Island" set). Yay! But uh-oh, all of a sudden the vehicle pack was un-cancelled, so Outback was suddenly on the docket twice. What do we do?! Hasbro chose to release the two-pack version as intended, and turn this one into a Night Force repaint. Quick thinking!

As a Night Force figure, Outback is wearing dark colors - which just means his shirt is grey instead of white. If you don't like the repaint and would rather have the original, pretend he's just filthy and grimy from being out in the woods for so long. That's what I have to do. His head is new, with shaggy red hair and a big bushy beard that made it so easy to confuse him with Snow Job. His lower legs are new, as well; no one else had a knife tied to their boot in the same way.

The original 1987 Outback was the first GI Joe to come with separate webgear, but for G3, that's been upgraded to a full tactical vest (that, sadly, covers up the "SURVIVAL" acronym on his shirt). The vest and backpack are tan, which is an unexpected choice: yes, 1987 Outback's gear was tan, but the '88 Night Force Outback's gear was black; meanwhile, the figure paired with the FLAK Cannon had green gear, so if you give the tan stuff from this Outback to that one, he'll be even more G1-friendly than he already is. Outback is also armed with a black submachine gun, and has a removable flashlight plugged into his left leg.

(Outback's filecard, by the way, lists his birthplace as "Big Pitney," Wyoming. There's no such place. It should be Big Piney.)

Recondo hates the cold. He'd rather battle Cobra forces in the hottest regions on the planet than spend one minute in a cold climate. He's become one of the top experts in jungle combat and has taught recruits at the Jungle Warfare Training Center, where he portrayed the remote, unforgiving tropical forests as places of extreme danger and extreme magnificence. He uses the skills honed on countless jungle missions to fight Cobra forces on any terrain: he works with the environment to outmaneuver, overwhelm or confuse the enemy, so that he has the advantage.

It's funny that Recondo, the guy from northwestern Wisconsin, hates the cold. Or maybe it's just a holdover from when he was a kid, and couldn't get away from the stuff. They say Wisconsin only has two seasons: winter, and mosquitos. Recondo is made mostly from the Dusty mold, which means it's now shown up more often in repaints than it ever did in stores. The desert gear has transitioned nicely to jungle-friendly khakis, and he's got brown camo stripes on his pants, just like a variant in the '80s did - the other choice would have been green stripes.

Recondo's head is new, but it has the look of an 1890s' take-all-comers boxer. To really capture the look of Recondo, his handlebar mustache should be thicker, and he should have a sterner expression: drop those eyebrows down a bit, so he's not just staring blankly out from beneath his hat. He looks like Sam Witwicky's great-great-uncle or something. Ah, maybe we just caught him in a good mood. The removable hat is a nice new piece, and he's got a separate holster on his chest.

The figure's main weapon is a green rifle, which seems to have been wrapped in a long strip of cloth - probably to secure any parts that would clack or jingle and give away his position in the wilds. He also has a green backpack with a sculpted canteen and two black grenades. The original Recondo's backpack had a carrying handle that this mold lacks.

Chuckles started in "hole-in-the-wall" operations at an insurance group in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, where he still works from time to time when he's not doing undercover missions for the GI Joe team. His affable demeanor puts everyone at ease, allowing him to gain access to whatever group he's been tasked to infiltrate and investigate. His easy-going, good-humored and joking nature could be a facade to disarm targets, or it could be the agent's genuine personality. No one knows, since he always seems to be in the middle of an operation and never breaks his cover.

Perpetually mis-used on the cartoon, and appearing only rarely in the Marvel Comics, Chuckles recently got a big boost in popularity thanks to Cobra, one of the series IDW Publishing started when they got the GI Joe license. After all, unless you give the undercover agent his own spotlight book, how's he ever going to show up in the story? The point is that no one ever sees him or knows what he's doing. This figure is based on the Shipwreck mold, which works decently to create Chuckles' familiar Hawaiian shirt - although the green leaves are tough to pick out against the light blue, and there are no pink apps to make flowers, like the '87 version had.

Chuckles' head is new, and it captures the character very well. The smarmy yet determined look, the slightly poofy blonde hair... it's the guy we remember. The original version had bare hands, while this version is wearing black gloves, but think of it as part of his undercover work: he's just pulled them on so he doesn't leave any prints on the computer when he goes snooping around. He also has Spirit's odd left hand, with the two fingers extended, but pretend he's flashing a pre-arranged covert signal to his handlers, to tip them to what he's about to do.

He's got the same non-functioning shoulder holster that Recondo did, which is a let-down: in 1987, Chuckles was one of the few figures to have a working holster, but now, 22 years later, he's lost it? Shame. Beyond that, there's a large knife in the sheath on his leg, a brown satchel slung over his shoulder (yet interfering slightly with the knife) and a MARS briefcase with another gun inside.

The figures are arrayed next to one another in a long horizontal box. The backdrop shows the shore of Cobra Island, with a fire burning on the far side of some nearby trees. A Skystriker, two Rattlers and a FANG copter are in the sky. It's a nice enough scene, but certainly not something worth saving the box for.

Being stocked with army-builders as it is, the Cobra set is proving more popular (and thus more expensive online) than its Joe Team counterpart, but make no mistake: this is still a very good set, with a ton of new characters who a lot of fans will want. See if you can find a store selling them as a set, and pick up both sides of the battle in one fell swoop.

-- 09/25/09

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