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Steel Brigade

GI Joe: Pursuit of Cobra
by yo go re

It's not just the villains who can employ an army of masked footsoldiers to do their dirty work for them.

Steel Brigade troopers are the backbone of the GI Joe fighting force. The "grunts" of the team, they are chosen for their exceptional dedication and skills. They work hard to hone their skills so that they can move up the ranks into specialized positions. They meet every challenge with determination and enthusiasm, and eagerly go on missions where they can watch and learn from their superiors.

Okay, no, these guys are not the grunts of the team. They're not even the Grunt of the team. The lowest ranks of the Joes are the Greenshirts, and these guys are above that level. It's like Cobra: Troopers are the bottom rung, and Vipers are a step up; so assume the Steel Brigade fill a similar function, giving recruits something to do between wearing non-descript military uniforms and being allowed to dress any gol-dang way they want. And heck, since the uniforms conceal the wearer's identity completely, it would even give the "real" Joes the chance to do field work without making themselves a high-value target.

Modern GI Joe figures are all about reusing existing parts to get the most value out of the molds as possible, and we're fine with that. But like Starduster, this plan works out better than average for the Steel Brigade trooper, because the original toy was built the same way. In fact, there were at least six different versions of the Steel Brigade, all cobbled together from different random bodyparts. This one uses Snake-Eyes' chest and the Cobra Shock Trooper's limbs, and has the "collar" piece used for a couple figures in the Resolute box set.

The helmet he's wearing is the same one that came with the Pit Commando, and it's a great update of the '80s original. Like that piece, it completely covers the wearer's head, concealing any trace of identity (though even with the turtleneck, the neck is still exposed, and this is a white guy). Unlike the original, the helmet is removable - but the wearer is still disguised, since he's wearing Beachhead's mask.

Since the G3 Joes use separate webgear and body armor rather than torsos that have those details molded on, the Steel Brigade gets a reused vest to complete his look. It's the same one introduced on the Cobra Shock Trooper, painted green and black, with a red wire running up the left side. Over that he's wearing Duke's bandolier, which has been cast in black and given a silver paint app for the grenade. Together they make for a really nice look, and it's not immediately obvious that the body armor is shared with other characters.

Beyond the helmet, vest and sash, the Steel Brigade trooper gets a nice assortment of accessories. To begin with, there's Airborne's M4 Carbine, which is a nice choice since the original Airborne's gun was one of the weapons the Steel Brigade mailaway came with. Then there's a SCAR FN seen with a few POC figures, an M249 SAW with tripod that came with "1986" Roadblock and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, Zap's bazooka.

Fittingly, he also comes with Zap's backpack (molded in tan to match the bazooka) and four small black rockets that fit into the end. And if you don't want that, there's a green backpack with a bedroll at the top and a black entrenching tool in the middle. This particular mold came from 2008's Tiger Force Duke, but it's an update of the original Airborne's accessory, which was the backpack every vintage Steel Brigade figure came with. So smart choice there. All the accessories are good choices, honestly. No, he can't hold them all at the same time, but they provide a lot of display options.

The Steel Brigade figure was released in one of the final "phantom series" of the Pursuit of Cobra line, so nobody ever saw it. However, it's also being re-released in the first series of 30th Anniversary figures, with all the same accessories and filecard text, so you'll have another shot at it. The Steel Brigade isn't an amazing groundbreaking figure or anything, but it is a very solid, above-average offering that does a terrific job of updating the old figure, and is sure to be a favorite for the Joe army-builders out there.

Oh, and one final fun fact: the space for the character's name on the filecard is just a blank line, so you can fill in your own name, just like on the original figure. Awesome!

-- 09/16/11

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