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GI Joe Classified Series
by yo go re

On your feet, soldier! Your re-enlistment papers have just come through!

Duke is the go-to squad leader capable of command on any type of mission. A decorated operative who has set records, received commendations, and achieved honors every step of the way. Duke has distinguished himself even among the elite ranks of GI Joe field commanders. Worthy of a top-level command post, but believes that leaders who aren't in the field aren't being leaders.

After the end of 2016's TЯU-exclusive 50th Anniversary Collection, GI Joe went dormant. Sure, there were random exclusives (and cross-promotional repaints), but for four years we didn't hear a peep. But in the unrelenting hellyear that is 2020, a bright spot: Hasbro announced that not only would the Joes be back, but they'd be the 6"-scale figures fans had been asking for since at least the time Star Wars' Black Series came out! There was much rejoicing. The first figure made available was a deluxe Snake-Eyes... which has been repeatedly delayed (until August now), so instead the first one to arrive here is Duke.

That's fine, though, because Duke is basically the face of GI Joe, and has been since the '80s. This one looks a bit younger than expected, but still has the tightly set jaw that makes him look like a military man. As one of our readers pointed out, he looks like an untooned version of Jonesy from Fortnite - the haircut, the shape of the nose... it's uncanny! Jonesy may not have a little scar over his right eyebrow, but would a cartoon consistently depict that anyway?

While lines like the Black Series or Lightning Collection are all about accurately re-creating existing designs, the GI Joe Classified toys are new updates - this is not "the same thing, but bigger," though Hasbro's design team knew the toys still had to pass the squint test, so Duke is still wearing green pants and a tan shirt, as he do, but they're different. Like, his shirt has a dark green pad that crosses the shoulders, and the trousers have a matching patch that runs all the way down the outside of the legs. It makes them look like two equal parts of one outfit, not just two garments he grabbed and put on.

Other than the original 12" figures, GI Joe has always been slightly futuristic. Just a little bit. Next Sunday, AD. Yes, the cartoon armed everybody with lasers because that was more parent-friendly than real guns, but as early as 1983 the vehicles were already leaning more toward "Michael Crichton" than "Tom Clancy." Classified is keeping that alive, giving Duke some slightly advanced armor on his shins, knees, and left elbow. They're just metallic pads with some bright blue lights painted on them (nothing as silly as the live-action movie's Accelerator Suits), but judging by the bullet impact craters molded in, they're already keeping him safe.

Duke stands just over 6¼" tall, in scale with Marvel Legends - no Overwatch Ultimates tininess here! The articulation is terrific too, with a balljointead head, hinged and balljointed neck, swivel/hinge shoulders on pectoral hinges, swivel biceps, double-hinged elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, hinged chest, balljointed waist, hips that are a balljointed mounted on a hinge (something we've only ever seen before on DC Direct's Bombshells), swivel thighs, double-hinged knees, swivel shins, and swivel/hinge ankles. It's not often a toy will one-up Marvel Legends when it comes to articulation, but Duke does.

The accessories include a rifle, a pistol, a backpack, and a pair of binoculars - all appropriate, believable stuff. The backpack is molded from green, with a dark silver shovel strapped to the middle of it. It's wrinkly like nylon, with small (unpainted) canteens on both sides. He wears a belt, bandolier, and thigh holster that are all done with the same green plastic, plus a little bit of silver paint. The binoculars plug onto the belt, and the pistol of course fits into the holster. The rifle is another piece that's just a little futuristic, suggesting it would fire something other than bullets propelled by gunpowder. Is it lasers? Is it a handheld rail gun? It's your toy, you pick!

As the "plain" Joe, Duke is the perfect figure for us to get first. Because it's easy to be impressed by the cool black ninja man, the hot redheaded martial arts champ, or the man with the metal face, but if you can pick up a figure of freaking Duke and be blown away by him? That says Hasbro is throwing their whole weight behind this relaunch, and it gives us die-hard Joe fans hope.

-- 06/26/20

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