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Black Dragon w/ Cobra Air Trooper

GI Joe Renegades
by yo go re

As we wait here, in the gap between when GI Joe 2 was supposed to come out, and when it's actually going to come out, we're left to think: boy, it sure would be nice if Renegades was still on the air, huh? A little something to keep attention on the brand during this dry spell?

The Cobra Black Dragon VTOL flies through the sky, carrying powerful Cobra leaders to a secret meeting. If anyone threatens this sleek aircraft, the pilot responds instantly with heavy cannon fire and high-impact bombs.

Obviously, this is the same vehicle featured in GI Joe: Renegades - it's smaller, since it had to hit a retail pricepoint, but the shape and function is identical. The box may not mention Renegades outright, but there's no mistaking what it is.

The Black Dragon comes in a surprisingly thin box, for its eventual size. A lot of assembly is required, but no decals: all the decorations are already painted on when you open it. Fully assembled, the copter is about 15" long and 4½" tall, and has a 14" wingspan. It's been downgraded from a corporate transport to a one-man attack craft. The lines of the vehicle are very sleek and rounded, which, coupled with the minimal details on the outer shell, gives us an aircraft that looks like it would be very stealthy as it rips through the sky.

The Black Dragon is black, of course, with red details and just a little bit of grey. The canopy opens to allow access to the fully detailed cockpit, the rotors spin and the engines rotate so the blades can point up - it's a VTOL, after all. The "wings" can be pushed back for a more narrow profile; you know, either so it takes up less space when it's parked, or maybe to take off/land between close buildings (it would be terrible for forward motion). The joints feel a bit touchy when you move them, but everything is designed to give way rather than break.

There are two buttons on the roof: press one, and the wings automatically snap back into their "forward" position; press the other and a gun deploys under the nose as the pods on the sides of the helicopter drop open to spew bombs on anyone unlucky to be beneath them at the time. And of course the landing gear can retract, as well.

Cobra Air Troopers specialize in air assaults and extractions from hot battle zones. As ground forces keep the enemy busy below, these experienced air troopers sweep in from above. Cobra troopers who show exceptional aerial combat skills are selected for this elite force and given special training in airborne attack tactics. They also conduct scouting and reconnaissance missions and transport Cobra leaders.

The Air Trooper gets his name from a character who debuted in 2007, but it fits with the Renegades style better than calling him an "Air Viper" would: remember, in that universe, Cobra had cultivated a benevolent image, so "Air Trooper" sounds much more... mundane. It's a job description, not a codename, and thus helps hide the fact that he's working for a supervillain.

As you'd expect, the Air Trooper uses a lot of existing pieces. He's got the upper body of Dusty and the legs of the movie version of Wild Bill with the Para-Viper's cockblocking kneepads. His highly detailed vest/parachute pack is entirely new, and it looks quite nice. His gun is reused, too - it originally came with Cobra Commander. Be sure you don't overlook the gun, by the way: it's sealed into a corner of one of the bags that hold the pieces of the vehicle, so it's easy to throw away by accident. Then you'll be sorry!

The head is a new sculpt, but it looks quite a bit ridiculous. There's a huge, angular, black visor that runs from the bridge of the nose to the crown of the head. The rear of the helmet is all blocky straight lines, and then there's what appears to be a respirator wrapping around the chin. It's just a total goofball design that seems to come out of nowhere.

And yet the thing is, only one time in the cartoon did we ever get to see who was piloting the Black Dragon. And when we saw him, he was wearing this exact helmet! Okay, the gray panel in the center of the face was missing, allowing us to see a little bit of face, but there's no mistaking that this toy takes its design directly from the cartoon, as odd as that deign might be.

And at the end of the day, that's why I bought this set. Renegades was an excellent cartoon, and I want every toy I can possibly get from it. I probably would have passed on this vehicle if it weren't a Renegades release, and that would have been my loss: the Black Dragon is a snappy vehicle, even if it's been reduced in scale.

-- 10/12/12

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