After two years of Generation 3 figures, the last thing many collectors need is another Duke. After Snake-Eyes, Duke is the "face" of GI Joe, so he's been released over and over. Despite that, it turned out Duke was one of the first Rise of Cobra figures I bought.
Before joining the GI Joe Team, he served as a special forces Army captain. He commands a military convoy protecting MARS Industries' nanomite weapon prototypes, unaware that the convoy is heading straight into a terrible trap.
This Duke, as his filecard bio suggests, is taken from his time before he joined the Joe team, so at least that's something different. Well, mostly: there is of course the "Greenshirt" Duke from the Comic Pack, but that's kind of a fuzzy area. This is clearly a (semi-)civilian Duke, and that's something we haven't really had before. Though honestly, that wasn't the reason I bought him - before landing DVD Battles set #3, he was going to be my stand-in Dusty.
Conrad (no point in calling him by his codename when he doesn't have one yet) is wearing his brown "Desert Storm" camo, and looks every bit the modern soldier. He's wearing a heavy jacket with a scarf, perfect for those brisk Kyrgyztan nights. The coat is a separate piece over the torso (which comes from Dusty, by the way; all the rest is new). Really, this could easily be one of those generic soldier toys you always see hanging near the Joes - just of a higher quality, of course. The colors are good, ranging from light beige to dark brown. His kneepads and boots are khaki, which breaks up the block of color. He has green gloves, and the trigger finger on his right hand is exposed.
The only thing that immediately pegs this as a GI Joe figure is the head. The likeness is a very good approximation of
Stockard Channing Tatum
O'Neal - they even got his jug ears right. Of course, they don't really stick out so far in real life: it's just an effect of his high and tight haircut; anyone would look weird with all their hair suddenly gone. The painting on the filecard shows him with a distinct goatee, but the one on the figure is more accurate to the film - i.e., thin and nearly impossible to see. His scar is just painted on, but he has a nice look on his face: it's an actual expression, not a passive blank. It's just as simple as a slightly furrowed brow, but it does its job.
Since this figure represents Duke when he was still in the normal boring army (who are still 10 times more badass than any of us),
his accessories are, for the most part, plain military stuff. His weapons include an M4A1 assault rifle with a grenade launcher (not the M2X1 named on the filecard) and a pistol with a laser sight. His right wrist is angled, like the Viper, so people will probably complain about that. He has a hole on his right leg, but nothing to plug into it. His Stupid Giant Gun is one of the better ones in the line: if you ditch the yellow missile, it looks like a large shoulder-mounted SAM. Start your own G3 Backblast.
He's got a highly detailed backpack, and a helmet with flip-down night vision goggles on the forehead. He includes one of the nanomite warheads, and the inside of the backpack is molded to hold the warhead tightly. There are actually two spots, but only one warhead, so Duke can carry an extra from someone else. Duke has a display stand, but since he's not with GI Joe or Cobra (like all the other figures are), his looks like a dog tag. Clever!
"Desert Ambush" Duke is as plain a soldier toy as you're ever likely to get in the GI Joe line - any GI Joe line. He's wearing a normal uniform, and has normal weapons. He's not flashy, but he is fun, and that counts for a lot.