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Grunt & Destro

GI Joe SpyTroops
by yo go re

Sometimes these GI Joe packs really confuse me: how do they decide which figures to put together?

In a daring bid to gain hard intelligence on the new Cobra satellite tracking system, Grunt dons his SpyTroops disguise to penetrate a Cobra command center high in the mountains of Trans-Carpathia. Seeming to blend in among dozens of real Cobra C.L.A.W.S. troopers, Grunt is able to reach the main control complex before he is confronted by Destro, who wants to ask a few questions about the anti-blast capabilities of the new Cobra C.L.A.W.S. combat suit. Grunt had never been briefed on this information.

Last year, we got a pack featuring Flint and the Baroness. So wouldn't it make sense, then, to put Destro and Lady Jaye together? No, apparently not. Not if you're Hasbro, at least.

Grunt is an all-American collection of contrasts and contradictions; independent yet works well with others, disdainful of authority yet follows lawful orders, personally frugal yet generous to strangers, and shrewd to a fault yet earnestly believes that professional wrestling is totally real. An original member of the GI Joe team, Grunt left the service to get his engineering degree. He's a wizard with anything technical or electronic, so he could have worked anywhere he wanted and named his price. But he chose to return to the GI Joe team, where he could put his skills to work for peace and justice around the world.

Like the card said, Grunt was one of the original Joes. One of the first 16 figures released in 1982, Grunt was the epitome of "plain." Plainer and more boring than even ultra-generic Flash, Grunt was eminently forgettable. Hell, he even got written out of the cartoon, that great bastion of poor shots, parachutes and an "everyone gets out alive" attitude. Still, at least this update has given him a bit of a personality, if not a better name or uniform.

Grunt is, really, just a guy in a beater: no special uniform, no snazzy outfit, just ordinary olive drab togs. That's in keeping with the way he looked in the original generation of toys, but aren't we supposed to be getting interesting updates now? His gun is at least slightly fancy: he comes with an M4 carbine with a large sight and a foregrip. Not completely mundane. With a different figure, such a weapon might have been a cool dash of reality to offset the eccentricity. With Grunt, it's just the crust on this big slice of white bread.

To make up for his flaming unsellablity, Grunt comes with SpyTroops gear to disguise him as a Cobra C.L.A.W.S. trooper. This includes a helmet, boots and gauntlets. To old school fans, he might bring to mind Big Boa, the Cobra drill instructor: those red gauntlets look a bit like boxing gloves, and Grunt's tanktop shows off enough skin to suggest the big spiked straps that crossed Boa's chest.

The small amount of armor he has does do a good job of re-creating the C.L.A.W.S. gear, but he'd need a lot more before he actually blended in acceptibly. Grunt's a big black Cobra emblem shield to help complete his look (and possibly help hide his obviously-a-GI Joe torso).

Descended from a long line of arms dealers, smugglers and tax-evaders that dates back to the time of Robert the Bruce, Destro has expanded the family business by making it a truly international operation. His corporation not only manufactures and brokers weapons and war materials, but it also employs agents to spark new conflicts and create new market opportunities for his products. An excellent tactical thinker, Destro is known for his calculated cunning, coolness under fire and ruthless determination. For all of his despicable dealings and heinous affiliations, he still considers himself a man of honor and takes pride in the unflagging loyalty he has shown to both Cobra Commander and the Baroness. A person of serious contradictions, he is arrogant but humble, mercenary but generous, and cruel but fair.

The first Destro figure we got in this revamped Joe line was, in short, terrible. His trademark mask was redesigned, leaving a lot of skin exposed. He had a ridiculous look on his face, a poor costume and was just disappointing. Thanks to revelations made about Destro by the new GI Joe comicbook from Image and Devil's Due, we can completely ignore that figure.

The new Destro is more suited to casual Friday at the Terror Drome. Wearing maroon pants and a black turtleneck sweater, Destro's got his big family crest medallion around his neck, just like he did back in the day. His mask - once again a full-head covering, sculpted with rivets running up the brow - is vac metalized, which is kind of a let-down; really, a nice two-tone gray would create the same look without as great a chance of flaking off in a few years.

Destro comes with two large revolvers that fit, with some difficulty, into the holsters on his belt. Why a technological genius and international arms dealer would strap on something as mundane as an old six-shooter is a bit of a mystery, unless you think he's doing it as sort of affectation - keeping in touch with his roots by carrying around obsolete weaponry. He also has a black Franchi SPAS-12 combat shotgun, which is slightly more advanced.

This set is hard to recommend, even with the great new Destro; Grunt is just a big useless lump, destined to be tied to a firecracker and thrown off the roof.

-- 02/19/04

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