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The MASS Device

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

McFarlane Toys was the first US company do a "Build-A-Figure"-type pack-in, with 2001's Metal Gear Ray figure from Metal Gear Solid 2, but ToyBiz is the company that popularized the concept, with 2005's Galactus. Since then, it seems like every company with a toyline bigger than one series has gotten in on the "buy more than you would have to build something you want" game, but no one has embraced the idea more than Hasbro. Sure, they continued what ToyBiz started, but they also did it for Transformers, Star Wars, and GI Joe.

Cobra Commander had Destro design the ultimate battle weapon to take the world hostage! The MASS device is Cobra's particle deployment system, which allows Cobra forces to be beamed anywhere in the world in seconds! And as if that wasn't enough, Destro also developed a climate controlling attachment, the Weather Dominator!

The MASS Device (Molecular Assembler/Scrambler/Sender) really put the "device" in "plot device" for the inaugural G.I. Joe miniseries. It was a teleporter developed by Dr. Laszlo Vandermeer and "appropriated" by Destro for Cobra's use. Apparently it also had a "disintegrate" setting, since Cobra Commander threatened twice to use it that way: once on New York City, and once on the Earth's molten core. Dick. It's a good thing GI Joe was there to stop them.

Pieces of the MASS Device were included with each of the DVD Battles box sets - buy all five of the useless things and you could build the entire device, plus a little extra (which we'll get to in a moment. Set #1 came with the Console and Element Containers. The body of the piece is dark grey, with silver detailing on the keypads, a light blue screen on the side (flatpanel! Years before such a thing existed in the real world!) and metallic blue beneath the containers. Said containers are clear jars with dark silver rings around the base. The underside of each Element Container is shaped to plug onto the Console.

Set #2 had the Generator, basically a big grey rectangle, 2⅜" tall, 3¾" wide and 3¼" deep, with some vague technological detailing and a large cylindrical hole on the top. There are a few silver panels up there as well, and a blue section that runs down the front to a diamond plate platform near the bottom. There are two footpegs there, so the figures of your choice can hang on for the ride.

Set #3 includes the Control Turret, a big grey lump of plastic that has two movable guns in metallic blue. It is, as the name implies, a turret, so it has a round base (for swiveling), an angle (for aiming) and a place for the barrel to plug in. There's a silver paint app in the cut-out section in the back, and it's sculpted with a few loose wires and what look like fuses.

With Set #4, you got the Transport Chassis - aka, a giant treaded conveyance. The treads and flywheels are silver, as are the three diamond plates on the top. There are some techy conrols on one end, and an inexplicable drivetrain (or maybe some kind of gun) underneath.

And finally, we have the Beam Emitter from Set #5. It's basically a big metal carrot, ribbed and studded for her pleasure. The piece is 4¾" long, and the clear focusing crystal is removable. The crystal is sculpted with facets, but a molding error has put a big ol' flaw in one of the faces. Hope the beam doesn't go awry!

Assembling the MASS Device is simple - none of the pieces snap together, they just fit snugly with each other. That means you can put it together for fun, then take it apart for storage. Good deal! All together, the MASS is 6¼" tall, 4¼" wide and 7" long. The turret swivels (as do its guns, obviously), but that's it: unusually for a treaded vehicle, there aren't even tiny wheels hiding beneath.

One thing to note, though: in the cartoon, the MASS Device was huge. It took up the better part of a room. While the design is (mostly) accurate, the scale is way off. A figure would have to be about 1¼" tall to fit properly with the device as it's presented here. And if you want to get deeply nitpicky, the MASS never had tank treads, and instead just sat on the floor. Of course, since the pieces can come apart, you can do that, if you want - pitch the treads in a box and leave your down-sized MASS where it is.

Unlike most BAFs, if you can't buy all five sets, you're not entirely out of luck. For instance, if you only buy Set #4, like Monkey Boy did, the translucent purple Control Cube can plug securely onto the Transport Chassis. Or if you only get Set #2, the Weather Dominator can be mounted on top of the Generator - there are specific plugs there that are used for nothing else! That also means you have a few different options when it comes to displaying all these accessories.

Also unlike most BAFs, the pieces for this one spill out of its assigned series. ["Unlike?" Tell that to Kalibak. --ed.] In Set #1, there's a hand cart with three clear cubes filled with the catalytic elements that power the MASS Device. They should be slightly larger, but we're not going to complain about that. "But wait," you say, because no one ever taught you it's rude to interrupt. "That's included in one of the sets! You said there were pieces outside the sets." Yes, very good. Shut up.

Remember how the Element Containers from Set 1 were empty? Three full ones were included with single-carded figures in the last series of 2008: Cobra Commander included the radioactive red crystals from the Sea of Ice; the Cobra Diver had heavy water from the bottom of the Mariana Trench; and Tripwire included metallic meteor dust from the heart of a volcano. The only way to get full canisters was to buy those three figures, meaning you don't just have to buy box sets you don't want, you have to buy solo figures you don't want... and one of those figures is a duplicate of one in the box set! Not cool, Hasbro. Not cool at all.

If you're a big GI Joe fan, the MASS Device is one of those accessories that will really spice up your display. This is classic, old-school Joe, right here! It's not as big as it was in the cartoon, and it's far from easy to collect, but if the stars align and you can complete the whole thing for a decent price, it's a surprisingly versatile bit of scenery.

-- 06/18/10

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