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Mole Rat

GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

Wait, what's this! Can it be? Something new?! It's a Giftsmas miracle!

While Cobra headhunts top scientists and researchers from across the globe, less-qualified recruits wind up as Mole Rats, quarriers and miners seeking new energy sources to power Cobra's war machine. Extracting deposits of volatile Dark Energon has sparked certain troopers to become mindless husks bent on destroying anything in their path.

Not only is this a new character, Hasbro has also started including biography text again! Granted, it's just in the marketing copy, not on the package anywhere (all we get there is the art and the stats - Environmental Specialist 1, Biohazard Detector 2, [CLASSIFED] 1 and Science 1), but the lack of bios is something we called them out on over a year ago, so it's good to see they've finally done something about it. This one figure is directly addressing our two major complaints about GI Joe Classified at once. Big points in its favor already.

If we were really the pedants some have accused us of being, we could point out that the Mole Rat is basically just a version of the Zombie-Vipers, which was itself basically just a version of the Toxo-Zombies, but that's only a thematic connection: new name, new appearance... new character! But based on the bio up above, we do have to question Cobra's hiring practices: the way it's written makes it sound like Cobra is making the low-tier scientists do the digging, which sounds like an issue you'd want to talk to your recruiter about.

Reminiscent of the Hazard-Vipers, the Mole Rat wears a thick, padded containment suit, including a hood that covers the back of his head and a collar where a sealed helmet could be locked in. There are pockets on the legs (which should be larger, if he's meant to be accessing them while still wearing his gloves, but sculptor Dennis Chen [Firefly, Destro] revealed that the knees and upper legs are basically the only pre-existing parts), four vertical pouches on the stomach, and various connectors and plugs on the chest. One of the two included heads is wearing a full gas mask with creepy maroon eyes and a hose that connects to the device on the center of his chest.

The other head is even worse. The gas mask has been removed, showing us the bare face beneath. The skin is a sickly blue-grey, he's snarling in anger, and oh yeah, big cancerous lumps of purple stone have erupted through the upper right side of his face! The art on the box makes the growth look more organic, but the sculpt is more crystaline. His one remaining eye is blank pink, with purple on the lids surrounding it and on his lips. Guess you could have been better at science, dude!

The colors for the Mole Rat's uniform are unusual. I'm not pretending I know how hazardous miners typically dress, I just mean this particular combo of desaturated navy blue and orange isn't something we often see on a toy. You might have expected the standard "Cobra blue" or maybe something like hi-vis yellow, but this does look pretty cool. The rocks growing from his face are a dark purple, because that's what color Dark Energon is. We know most of the Classified figures were designed and directed by Leonard Panzica and Cory Cantelupe (before the latter was part of Hasbro's first round of 2023 layoffs), so it was presumably one of them who had the idea to make this figure a Transformers tie-in, but we also wonder if maybe this started out as a Compound Z thing and someone higher at Hasbro asked them to change it.

Here's something you don't hear often: the figure's articulation is a bit limited by its accessories. Cobra may not worry about OSHA standards, but they still recognize their Mining Technicians need to be able to breathe in order to work, so the Mole Rat gets an air filtration backpack with three large fans arranged vertically on it, and a thick hose that runs all the way up from that and plugs into the side of his mask. Then the front of the mask also has a hose that runs from the mouth area and plugs into a device on the left side of his chest. So that's all cool from a design standpoint, but both of the hoses are stiff enough that unless the head is looking straight ahead, they'll pop out of place and just dangle. No wonder these guys are getting exposed!

The rest of the accessories similarly suit a miner: a handheld sniffer, so he can scan for trace particles showing where they need to dig, and what I initially took to be a camp lantern but is actualy a sample canister filled with the stuff he's been digging out. Finally, there's a handgrip and trigger to which either a gun barrel or a drill bit can be attached. That's pretty clever! The less stuff he has to carry down into the mines, the more stuff he can carry back out.

It's not really clear why the Mole Rats don't get the same kind of "-Viper" suffix the rest of Cobra's troops do, but maybe it's because they're more supply and logistics than combat? Like, the Mole-Vipers are the ones who would tunnel under enemy walls, not just play IRL Minecraft? Couldn't say. All I know is it's thrilling to get a character who's not some older toy, but bigger, so that alone earns any of the design choices a lot of leeway.

-- 12/22/23

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