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GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

Never judge a book by its cover. Or a character by his codename.

Sci-Fi is a laser trooper who is a master of precision and patience. A laser weapon requires someone who can hold his position for an extended time. Sci-Fi is perfect for the job because he's a slow-moving, easy-going guy, and an experienced marksman. He can keep perfectly still as the laser burns through enemy weapon systems in a continuous-burst beam.

If you followed the cartoon, then Sci-Fi didn't make a lot of sense: after all, all the characters used laser rifles, so what was the point of him? He'd make more sense in the comic continuity, where both sides were using real bullets, but it's also important to remember that despite his name, he's not using a Star Wars blaster: this is a realistic laser device, which is why it requires patience and focus; it takes time to burn through whatever he's aiming at.

It's hard to tell, but Sci-Fi shares most of his sculpt with the Snow Serpent - it's just the arms and lower legs that are new. The old figure made him look slightly portly, and this body keeps that alive; it's just that now he looks like he's wearing a padded suit. His chest pad is a separate, removable piece, but it still looks very nice - the old one seemed to have spaces that allowed the uniform beneath to show through, but the matching shapes on this harness are raised above the surface. There are pockets sculpted on his upper arms, and spare battery packs in the pouches on his thighs - stuff you can find on the old figure, if you know to look for it.

The helmet is similarly an update of the old toy, but at the same time, it's not. See, the old toy just molded the helmet as part of the head, but today, it's removable. There are two versions included: one in the vintage style, which just has a black visor, and a second one with a full black faceplate. Other than that, the two are the same, right down to the buttons at the base of the skull.

Beneath the helmet, he's wearing a head-sock that makes him look a bit like a diver - you know, like Torpedo wears. There have been unmasked Sci-Fi figures before, so we know he has black hair, but it's not on display here. Sci-Fi gets another one of Larry Hama's punny names: the guy with the focused light weapon is named Seymour Fine (see more fine)? Come on!

Sci-Fi is painted a bright neon green, because if they'd changed that, how would anybody recognize him? It actually contrasts against his silver and black accents very nicely. Sure, almost anything would contrast nicely with black and silver, but green is true to the original, and this guy is more about the design than the personality. He's got all the modern articulation, including bonus hinges in the wrists, but his neck balljoint doesn't have any up-down motion: it just swivels.

There are random wires running from his battery packs to the sides of his boots - yes, that means they run over the joints, but they're long and flexible enough that they don't impede the articulation at all. Still, do the batteries power the boots? Do the boots recharge the batteries? What's the design about? It's times like this we wish the GI Joe fandom were as "wired in" as the Transfans - those guys seem to know every secret before the toys even hit.

In addition to the two helmets, Sci-Fi comes with a laser rifle and a backpack. They're both updates of the old toy's accessories, but of course they have a lot more detail now. A ton more detail! And complex paint apps that really make the accessories "pop," and make them a lot cooler than a solid-molded color would be. The gun can plug into the side of the backpack, and he has a black hose to connect them - someone wrote us recently to ask about the durability of this kind of hose, whether the ends would split after repeated use. We haven't done any experiments, but I expect the hoses would hold up fine. After all, there were hoses just like this one included with lots of old Joes, and I've never heard any stories about people having problems with them. Have you?

I didn't really care about Sci-Fi when he was unveiled - I had the 1986 version when I was a kid, but he wasn't one of my favorites. Heck, when I saw this figure on the shelf (at the "bad" Walmart, oddly enough), I only bought him on a whim. And even then, I wasn't sure I wanted to open him, figuring I might return him or pass him on to someone else; it was only the fact that he fit this year's "Old Toys Month" Joe Friday theme so perfectly (Generation 1, Generation 2, Sigma 6 and now Generation 3) that reading about him today. I had almost zero interest in this figure going into the review, but now I'm impressed with what they managed to do with him.

-- 02/24/12

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