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Ghost Hawk vs. Cobra W.O.L.F.

GI Joe 50th Anniversary
by yo go re

GI Joe is at something of a low point right now. There's no current mass retail toyline, no cartoon, two movies have failed to catch on the way Transformers did, and even its free mobile game is being shuttered. It's the 50th anniversary of the brand as a whole, and almost nothing is being done. The only thing we're getting is a series of Toys Я Us-exclusive multipacks.

GI Joe ninja commando Snake-Eyes speeds across the snow in a Ghost Hawk arctic-terrain vehicle, in pursuit of a Cobra WOLF vehicle driven by a deadly Ice Viper. Freezing cold and a brutal blizzard bombard them both, but the real battle they face is their own chilling showdown!

"Snake-Eyes speeds across the snow"? He's in an aircraft. If he was flying over the ocean you wouldn't say he was "speeding across the waves." It implies a certain level of contact with the ground that an aircraft should not have. Also, not matter how you count it, "sky" is not a type of terrain.

Hasbro obviously still hasn't regained the right to call this thing a Sky Hawk, even though that's what it definitely is. On the plus side, they've stopped acting like "HAWK" is an acronym for anything, so maybe it's just a Ghost Hawk because it's painted white instead of green?

Well, off-white with irregular, dark grey stripes on the sides and top (but not on the bottom, which is where a bit brilliant when you consider it: the stripes would only be visible when the Sky Hawk is on the ground, while the blank area underneath - which would best blend with the overcast skies - could only be seen while looking up from below). The glass in the cockpit is blue, suggesting it's polarized to help cut down on glare. After all, you can't pilot if you've got snow-blindness.

This vehicle is, as you might expect, a repaint of the Generation 3 Sky Hawk, with all the sculptural improvements that entails - multiple mount points for missiles, removable engine cover, all that stuff. There's also a sheet of stickers to apply - it's mostly tiny warning stickers and such, nothing that will be missed if you choose to ignore it.

Speaking of nothing to be missed if you ignore things...

Snake-Eyes is proficient in 12 different unarmed fighting systems including karate, kung fu and jujitsu among others, and he's highly skilled in the use of the katana, dagger and other edged weapons. Has received extensive training in mountaineering, underwater demolitions, jungle, desert and arcitc survival, and one form of holistic medicine. He's a qualified expert in all NATO and Warsaw Pact small arms.

Yes, a Snake-Eyes figure, just like nobody demanded! Sorry, that was just mean - there's probably someone out there who's been waiting for this figure, since it was technically cancelled at one point. This is a repaint of Pursuit of Cobra "Desert Battle" Snake-Eyes, which was itself an inexplicable repaint of the cancelled PoC "Arctic Threat" Snake-Eyes. Confused yet?

The heavy jacket makes a ton more sense for an Arctic figure than a desert figure. It's thick and padded, and looks like it would keep him nice and warm, and even has a few armored plates on the chest, back and shoulders. The only substantial difference between this figure and the previous Desert Battle version? There are metallic blue paint apps on his jacket, shoulders, gloves and leg harnesses - features which the Arctic Threat version would have had, as well. He's got fairly plain pants tucked into his boots, and he's got kneepads. Instead of the Rise of Cobra logo on his right breast, there's a golden 50th Anniversary star.

The head is the same one Arctic Assault Snake-Eyes had, right down to the white visor. What's the difference between Artic Assault Snake-Eyes and Arctic Threat Snake-Eyes? Well, AA SE was from the movie, and actually came out; AT SE was from the post-movie line, and didn't. Credit to Hasbro, though: this time his eyes are fully painted beneath the visor.

Snake-Eyes' accessories are appropriate to him: Paris Pursuit Snake-Eyes' sword and scabbard, and a pair of MAC-10s that can clip onto rings at the bottom of his coat. Nothing new, but it doesn't need to be. And of course, he doesn't get a Timber, because the Sky Hawk doesn't have a passenger seat (and he already has a tough enough time fitting in there, because his stirrups or whatever they are keep the legs from moving up very far).

A swift new winterized attack craft has just been deployed within the Cobra battle arsenal! The WOLF poses a major threat to the GI Joe forces, guarding the Earth's Arctic regions!

Since the Arctic HISS didn't exist until 2010, the WOLF was Cobra's first forray into cold-weather transportation.

The WOLF (which is an acronym, either for "winter operational light fighting vehicle" [per the box] or for "winter operations land fighter" [per the stickers on the actual toy]) was introduced in 1987, when GI Joe had begun breaking away from realistic vehicles, like motorcycles and jeeps, but before they got into the really crazy designs.

The angled shape of the body not only would make it harder for enemy artillery to land a solid hit, but would help keep snow from accumulating on the surface - like a sloped roof on a northern house. Instead of wheels, it has a pair of hydraulic skis in the front, and tank treads in the back (which can be folded away for times when the snow is too deep or too loose to use them). The two-man crew sit in a tandem cockpit, with the pilot closer to ground level so he can monitor the terrain, and the gunner elevated so he can more easily spot targets. Each of the seats has a different style of controls: the lower seat has two sticks and a computer in the center, while the higher seat has a single stick and several large switches. The glass is the same blue as the Ghost Hawk's, and one of the decals, placed near the rear canopy, suggests that this WOLF's crew has taken out four Snow Cats.

For armaments, the WOLF has a top-mounted 20mm "Ripper" cannon that can rotate and tip upward, a pivoting panel that opens next to the pilot's seat to reveal four winter-oriented heavy-ordnance surface-to-air missiles, and two SNAARL snowpedoes. We've talked about the WOLF's snowpedoes before, when one was included with the Rise of Cobra Ice-Viper. These are all the same weapons the 1987 version of this vehicle came with, and there's a good reason for that:

This release is made from the original molds. No new details, no different assemblies, just the same pieces that could be found almost three decades ago. How can we be sure? There are footpegs on the running boards (sorry, the "side-mounted personnel transport platforms," according to the blueprints), but there're the thick kind used in Generation 1 feet; there's no way a modern figure could ever use them. Compare those to the retooled pegs on the grey skis, and you can see the difference. The side skids are removable, for those times when the WOLF breaks down and the only way to escape is on a one-man ski.

Ice Viper troops are a specially trained branch of the Cobra Viper forces. To become an Ice Viper, you have to prove your endurance in marine environments as a Cobra Eel frogman, then demonstrate mechanical and technical proficiency as a Techno-Viper. Only then are you trained to survive in brutal arctic conditions. Throw in a high-fat diet to help you retain body heat, and you have the perfect Ice Viper trooper.

The Ice Viper is an update of the original WOLF driver, and, like Arctic Threat Snake-Eyes, is a figure that's been rescued from the dustbin of history. You know how Boss Fight Studios is made of ex-Hasbro employees? Well, one of the Boss Fighters, Erik Araña, has said that he'd done design work on a G3 Ice Viper years ago - it was supposed to come with the Arctic HISS, but for whatever reason we got the Arctic HISS Driver instead.

The '87 figure had a smooth red mask, like a ninja. This one trades that in for the same ski mask the Rock- and Para-Vipers had, which makes a ton more sense. He's also been given the Resolute Alley-Viper's helmet and goggles to complete the classic look. Now you can actually get the goggles over his eyes - it used to be you could only fake that by tipping the helmet too far forward!

The majority of the figure is made from the Arctic Snake-Eyes figure, because we really needed to complicate this review by adding a fourth Arctic Snake-Eyes to the discussion: the one that comes in this set, the cancelled one it's made from, the movie version that was actually released, and now the Real American Hero one. Yeesh! His suit is white, with a little bit of pale gray camo painted on, and a golden Cobra logo on his chest. The gloves come from the movie Neo-Vipers, which is a little weird, but not terrible. The "fur collar"/"bandolier of pouches" combo is a new mold, and one that is very specific to only the Ice Viper.

The same can be said for tan things on the side of his legs. They're designed to hold the Ice Viper's trademark weapons, a pair of sais that didn't make any sense in 1987 and still don't make any sense today. Here's a challenge for you: come to our message board and tell us why the guy who drives a glorified snowmobile needs a pair of sais. He's also armed with a submachine gun and a Rise of Cobra pulse pistol, but guns make a lot more sense than sais.

This set is larger than it needed to be. The Cobra WOLF with the Ice Viper would have been a cool offering by itself, without the added cost of the Ghost Hawk and Snake-Eyes. But these TRU exclusives are all about "versus," so if you want one side, you're saddled with the other. Still, Snake-Eyes and his VTOL aren't too bad, so they don't really bring the set down.

-- 11/07/14

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