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Troop Builder 5-pack set 1 of 2

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
by yo go re

To tie in with the Rise of Cobra line, Hasbro had a ton of store exclusives. They were mostly repaints, but that's nothing to be ashamed of. They were a good way to fill out the ranks of GI Joe and Cobra. If that was your goal, you could certainly do worse than the two Troop Builder 5 Packs.

The GI Joe team guards the GI Joe Pit headquarters from attack as the plan their next mission to stop Cobra. But unknown to them, Zartan has disguised himself as a GI Joe trooper and infiltrated the headquarters to sabotage the base!

There were two five-packs - one with four Joes and a Cobra, the other with four Cobras and a Joe. In order to shamelessly pad out our regularly scheduled Joe Friday slot, we're going to be reviewing this entire set - one figure at a time.

Dialtone is a communications specialist for the G.I. Joe team. She is an expert at combat communications and provides the team with the latest technology to ensure instant, reliable contact and the prevention of electronic attack and sabotage.

It's interesting how quickly a new idea can propegate. For instance, the notion that Dialtone is female. It started with Resolute, and like your little brother, it was entirely unplanned. The producers noticed that they had this generic character who was doing a lot and becoming important to the plot, so they just figured "hey, we might as well make her somebody." After that came IDW's new GI Joe comics, with a second female DT, and finally the Rise of Cobra videogame gave us a third.

In theory, this figure is based on the videogame DT, since she's the only ROC version, and that's the logo on the packaging. In practice, however, the figure looks nothing like the videogame. It's basically just Cover Girl's body and Agent Helix's head, which is a good enough way to make a new female (as long as sculpting new parts is out of the question), but isn't without its flaws.

For one thing, Cover Girl's neck is very long. That's fine if the head is designed to account for that, but Helix's neck was shorter, so now Dialtone looks like she's half giraffe. It's not quite inhuman, but it's right on the borderline. The hair, a separate piece that's glued (lightly) into the scalp, is molded in pink plastic, then painted brown; unfortunately, only the outside has been painted, so the underside is clearly a different color.

On the plus side, the brown "desert camo" pattern is enough by itself to keep this body from looking like a simple re-use. She has a folding laptop, and her rifle is a black IMI Tavor TAR-21 with an ITL MARS red dot sight. Those are the same accessories Cover Girl came with.

So why did the folks behind the scenes feel free to change Dial-Tone's gender? Because the '80s version wasn't a guy you liked for his personality. The only thing of note about him was that he had a big crazy backpack. There wasn't a lot to lose, there. They did pay homage to him, though: his civilian identity was Jack Morelli (named after a Marvel Comics editor), and the new Dialtone's real name is Jill Morelli. Jack and Jill? Aww, how cute!

Law worked in the military police before joining the GI Joe team as a security specialist. With his trained canine Order, Law trains and oversees the troopers who guard the GI Joe Pit headquarters from attack and intrusion.

Being a good, well-informed nerd, you already know all about how Tunnel Rat is based on Larry Hama. And you could probably guess that he wasn't the only one. This right here? is one of those guys. Law's real name is Christopher Lavigne, but in the '80s, his face was based on Kirk Bozigian. You've probably never heard of Kirk Bozigian, but you know his work. Comic and cartoon tie-ins? Direct market sales using proof-of-purchase rewards? Invididualized bios on the packaging? That was all him. Larry Hama may have been the one to write the filecards, but they were Kirk Bozigian's idea in the first place.

This figure doesn't take any cues from its G1 progenitor. The original Law was wearing fairly realistic military outfit, but was still very colorful. This figure has the "real military" thing down pat, but the brown desert camo doesn't come close to "colorful." This is the same body used for Zartan, which is good (since he was disguised as an MP), but it's not terribly exciting.

The head, sadly, does not look like Bozigian - this is just a repaint of the Dusty head, same as the Pit Commandos he's in charge of. Obviously the entire point of the set is to do as much as they can with nothing but repainted parts, but wasn't there some other head that would have worked just as well? Something we haven't seen so much of?

His accessories include a pistol with laser sight, an FN 2000 rifle, a simple nightstick, a riot shield, and a helmet with flip-down eye shield. Yes, they're all from existing sources. And speaking of existing sources, let's look at Law's dog, Order. He's a German shepherd, and he has a spiked collar with a built-in leash. Know where both of those originated? With the original 1987 release. Yes, this set includes 23-year-old accessories, and boy are they showing their age! Order really does get some nice paint apps, though.

Zartan, who has been injected with nanomites, is a master of disguise and expert mimic who can impersonate anyone; he's also a Cobra mercenary and covert agent. He impersonates a GI Joe agent to infiltrate the GI Joe Pit Headquarters and sabotage the base.

As we said, the set includes four Joes and one Cobra - obviously, that Cobra is Zartan. Now, this figure is a straight repaint of the single-carded Zartan: instead of blue camo, he has brown, but that's it: all the parts, all the joints, it's all the same. Since we've already reviewed that figure, we won't bore you by repeating all the info here. You can get all the pertinent info by following the link to last year's review.

Zartan's accessories are repaints, as well. He has the rifle with the blade bayonet, and the hinged backpack with the extra head inside. The Backpack's been repainted tan, matching the rest of the uniform. It's also worth noting that the hair on both Zartan's head and the MP head are brown, now, rather than blonde. That's an improvement! Zartan also has dark shadows under his eyes now. If you were unhappy with Zartan's appearance before, it might be worth swapping this head for that one.

Footloose is a physical fitness specialist for the GI Joe team. He makes sure the team is at the top of their strength and agility at all times. His combat readiness training is notorious for being the most grueling and demanding regimen ever experienced.

Footloose is a what what? Is Hasbro just pulling personalities out of a hat, now? What about the name "Footloose" says "grueling and demanding?" Unless it's an ironic nickname, nothing. When you hear "footloose," what do you think? "Fancy free," naturally! [If you said anything about small towns, dancing, or Kevin Bacon, go hang your head in shame --ed.] G1 Footloose got his name because he was a completely mellow, kind of spacey guy. Like The Dude, you know? You can change gender or race, but the personality needs to remain the same. And while we're at it, how many damn drill instructors does this team need?

Footloose uses the Sgt. Stone body, so he's a big guy. Interestingly, he's also the one figure in this set who looks the most like his G1 version. The original, released in 1985, wore green jungle camouflage while this one has desert print, but that's not a huge change: he's still a guy in a simple camo uniform; and besides, more of our wars are fought in desert conditions than forests today, aren't they? It's a change that makes sense, and if they'd made that change for a G3 Footloose release, most fans probably would have accepted it.

The figure's head is a repaint, naturally, but odds are good you won't be able to recognize it. Here's a hint: it's not the same ethnicity now it was originally. Give up? This is G3 Airborne! It's amazing how much of a difference the skin color and a small (painted) mustache can make! There's a paint splotch on his chin, but that's an error, not an attempt at a beard.

His accessories all come from the Pit Commando: he has a brown vest with a black pistol molded on it, a black HK G36C, and a black PASGT helmet with a clear face-shield. If only they'd bothered to mold a new helmet, with some brush sculpted on top - that was always Footloose's defining feature, and it would have made this a passable G3 incarnation.

Repeater is a seasoned combat specialist on the GI Joe team and tests the latest military advances in machine guns. Always the first one to charge into battle, he meets the MARS Industries troopers head-on when they attack the team's headquarters.

Hey, speaking of changing races, here's Repeater! The original Repeater, released in 1988, was white; that means this set has a black guy who used to be a white guy, an angry guy who used to be a mellow guy, and a girl guy who used to be a guy guy. The times, they are a-changing! It's not like this is some major upheaval for the character, though. He barely ever appeared, and his filecard was all about how he'd been a soldier for 20 years but never worked his way up the chain of command - something this version's mention of him being a "seasoned combat specialist" seems to mirror.

Repeater is another Sgt. Stone repaint, but he doesn't even get the benefit of a new vest, like Footloose had - he does have a different head, at least. It was originally Serpentor's, so at least he doesn't look like any other Joes (or any other movie characters). The nose is a bit narrow for a black guy, but it's not noticable from a distance. He still has a very bored look on his face, though.

Repeater's accessories are the vest mentioned above, the same gun Resolute Roadblock carried, and a hat. It's one of those slighty squarish baseball caps military types often wear, and was first seen with Shockblast. The original figure was armed with a "steadi-cam" machine gun, so it's disappointing that there was no way to do the same here.

The Troop Builder 5 Packs are a decent idea with so-so execution. Yes, buying one will fill up your ranks pretty well, but the way they're frankensteined isn't the best. They're mediocre and visually uninteresting. If you paid full price for these (the $30 range), there's not a lot to recommend them. However, the sets made their way to closeout retailers, so it's possible to get these five figures for the price of only two, and that definitely makes them seem a lot better. None of the figures is truly bad - in fact, a few small changes could have made them all very, very good - so if you find this one at your idea of the right price, go for it!

-- 12/10/10

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