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The Epic Conclusion!

GI Joe and the Transformers
by yo go re

These GI Joe and the Transformers sets just keep getting more elaborate: In 2011, we had one vehicle, one action figure, and one character accessory; in 2012, we had one vehicle, two action figures, and four character accessories; this year dwarfs them both.

In the 1980s, Marvel Comics produced a four-comic series that told the story of GI Joe and Cobra discovering the existence of the Transformers. The series revealed dramatic events surrounding this epic encounter between two worlds. With the recent discovery of lost episodes #5 and #6, more of this amazing story was revealed for the first time. And now, the stunning final episode has been found! Lost episode #7 is here in this exclusive Autobot Jetfire Fighter Jet!

Yes, this is apparently the last time Hasbro is doing the GI Joe/Transformers crossover thing (at least in this form). Hopefully the idea will continue, because this is a great series. The only thing that would be better is in-scale Joe vehicles that actually convert. But for now? We make do with clever repaints.

Jetfire was once famous across the face of Cybertron. As a great scientist and explorer, he was the first to journey to the black depths of deep space, and the only one to ever face and defeat the Star pirates of the Blot Nebula. It was because of his status as a hero that his sudden disappearance was greeted with worldwide dismay. He was discovered millions of years later, frozen deep within the arctic glacier on Earth, and rose immediately to the challenge presented by the Decepticons. He is among the mightiest and bravest of the Autobots, diving into battle without a moment's hesitation, the stuttering roar of his particle beam repeaters drowning out all other sounds.

We've written before about the complicated history of Jetfire, so here's the short version: the mold Hasbro used as a Transformer was from a different line, so the character had to be redesigned for his appearances in the fiction. That'll be important later. Jetfire is, like Starscream before him, a repainted Skystriker, an F-14 Tomcat. That's the same jet the original Macross Valkeries was based on, so it's a perfect fit - especially once you apply the stickers.

And oh, those stickers! It took two and a half hours to apply all the stickers in this set. Most of the time was spent dealing with the decals that create the red and black stripes around the cockpit - you're putting flat labels on a round surface, trying to match curved lines. The one that goes over the nose is particularly frustrating. The best I could manage was to get the decals close to where they belong; you might be able to do better. Beyond that, you've got the usual assortment of "NO STEP" and "CAUTION: HOT EXHAUST" stickers to pepper all over the surface, but the instructions are kind of a mess: some of the numbers are wrong (like having 25 and 26 reversed) and some of the diagrams would have you put them in the wrong spot (like air intake warnings behind the intakes rather than in front of them), so take your time and use your best judgement on what needs to go where. The final product will be better for it. Oh, and don't put the fake-rubsign on the wing; put a normal Autobot logo there.

The decals can only do so much to make a Skystriker look like Jetfire; the final part of the likeness is the big red thing on the rear end. In the Macross universe it would called a FAST Pack, but here it's just "removable booster engines." It plugs into the slots where the tailfins would normally go, and the tail fins plug into the sides of the booster. As a cool bonus, the booster engines turn into a little one-man fighter: a hatch in the middle opens, revealing a cockpit with a single seat and two control sticks. Fun!

Other than the boosters, Jetfire's accessories include removable engines in the back and maintenance hatches in the front. Beneath the fuselage you'll find a gun pod, two Sidewinder missiles, two Sparrows and two Phoenixes. Phoenices? Two Phoenix missles. The missiles all get their own decals to make them more colorful, too. There are four Sidewinders and four Sparrows included in the box, although only two can fit under the jet - but it never hurts to have extras, just in case.

One thing we are missing is the flip-up targeting screen. The cockpit is otherwise fully detailed, but that little accessory - which was included with Starscream and other iterations of this mold - is absent here. We wouldn't even have noticed, if the sticker sheet didn't include a decal specifically designed to go on there and the instructions didn't tell us to apply it. That's a weird oversight. Doesn't detract from the set's cool factor, however.

One of the identifying features of the F-14 is its mobile wing design - they can sweep from 20° to 68° while in flight. The Skystriker does the same thing, by way of a slider located on the plane's "pancake" (the flat area between the engines). The slider controls both the wings and the landing gear: when the wings are spread wide, the wheels are down; when the wheels are up, the wings are swept. It's fun to move them like that, but it would also be nice if you could sweep the wings back and still have the landing gear down, the better to line these up on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The wheels all roll freely, so your Skystriker can taxi. The jet is 23" long and, thanks to the booster engines, 6" tall.

So like we said, this set puts the previous ones to shame. Previous years only gave us one Transformer-inspired vehicle, while this one gives us two!

Chief tracker and scout for Optimus Prime, Autobot Hound packs some of the most sophisticated sensing technology of any of the Autobots. He is capable of tracking even the most stealthy and light-footed Decepticon - namely Ravage - through rivers, across bare rock, and even through the air by the spare whisper of electromagnetic radiation the robot panther leaves behind. Though Ravage can hide almost perfectly in even the slightest shadow, no amount of skill can prevent Autobot Hound from finding him.

Hound's classic altmode is a military jeep, so naturally, this toy is a reworked VAMP. Hey, how convenient! We've already reviewed the Generation 3 VAMP, so this will be quick. Hound is 8½" long, 4¼" wide and 4" tall, counting the gun on the roof. Of course, the gun can raise and lower, as well as turning, but we're talking its "at rest" position. Two rubber hoses connect the gun to the body of the vehicle. The wheels roll, and the hood opens.

Compared to the VAMP, Hound's green is more blue than yellow. His hubcaps are silver. The stickers only take about 15 minutes to apply, but they really complete the look: yellow stripes on the hood and rear fenders, a couple white stars, etc. They're enough to turn this from a random jeep into a specific character. His only "accessories" are the same gas cans, entrenching tool and rolled-up tarp that the previous uses of this mold have included.

Snake-Eyes served in the military on special missions around the world. He studied mystic arts with the elite Arashikage ninja clan - the same clan that produced Storm Shadow, the evil Cobra ninja who was once his sword-brother when they trained together, but is now his bitter enemy. He is a black belt in 12 different fighting systems and an expert in the use of edged weapons and most conventional small arms. He joins forces with the Autobots, gearing up in special Autobot armor, to fight the Decepticon enemy!

While Cobra Commander and Destro had at least a tangential connection to the Transformers they came with, Snake-Eyes... does not. There's nothing about him that relates to either Jetfire or Hound. Still, the reasoning behind his inclusion is clear: if they're only ever going to get one shot at releasing a member of the Joe Team in this series, of course Snake-Eyes is the one they're going to go with! He's their Wolverine.

While the previous figures were Frankensteined from several different sources, Snake-Eyes is a straight repaint: this is the first Retaliation Snake-Eyes, the one that was available in the Amazon.com preview pack. It was an original sculpt at the time, yet it doesn't feature the lowered articulation of those early movie toys (possibly because they knew they could reuse it later). Apparently wearing "special Autobot armor" means "green camouflage pants," because that's the only thing different about him. Well, that and the Autobot logo painted on his right shoulder - a cool little detail.

Snake's accessories include a large piece of web gear, and two weapons that come from Desert Battle Snake-Eyes: a black sword done in the style of his G1 original, and an Uzi with a removable silencer. It's not much, but it's enough for him (considering that he's also got two [and a half] vehicles to drive). Oh, and just like last year's set came with Soundwave, this year's set includes Blaster.

He finds all Earth music interesting, but it's rock 'n roll - good, hard and loud - that really sparks his circuits. He's in the forefront of any situation he's involved in. As an AM/FM stereo cassette player, he can perform as cassette deck plus receive radio signals of all frequencies with power outputs as low as 1/1,000,000 watt. Acts as Autobot communications center and can transmit up to 4,000 miles. He carries electro-scrambler gun that disrupts electrical devices.

Blaster is 1½" wide and ⅞" tall, and there's a peg so he can be worn like a backpack. All the details from the real toy have been copied over here, even if he can't turn into a robot. Like Soundwave, Blaster has a slot on top where you can fit the included tapes - he gets ones representing Ramhorn, Steeljaw and Eject, and unlike last year, all three get unique sculpts, rather than just being the same sculpt in three different colors. Innovation!

We've covered a lot of stuff already, and we're not even close to being done yet! Moving on!

The spoiled offspring of wealthy European aristocrats, the Baroness was a student radical who began her destructive activities at universities then moved to the international arena. She eventually found her way into the Cobra organization and became a close associate of Destro and a trusted lieutenant to Cobra Commander. Her relationship with Destro calls into question her true loyalties to the commander, since she allies herself with the strongest individual in an organization and will change allegiances when necessary to keep herself in a position of power. And now, she has joined forces with the most powerful beings she has ever encountered - the Decepticons!

Yes, the Baroness! Last year's set had two Cobras, this one has a Joe and a Cobra, ready to fight it out! The body is a reused mold, but not one many people have seen. It was originally used (for Baroness, duh) in one of the G3 box sets that didn't see much distribution. It's a very detailed sculpt, definitely looking like bodyarmor instead of a leather catsuit. The Cobra symbols on her chest and belt are fully sculpted, not just painted.

There's one issue with this figure, though: the head is too large. She's got this very small, slender body, and then a great huge head on top of her shoulders. The face is very nice, with sculpted glasses and a microphone headset molded as part of her hair, but it's so large that she looks like a teenager. If the size were reduced slightly, it would be perfect.

Baroness comes with three guns: a black FN SCAR, a black version of whatever the Viper's assault rifle is, and an HK USC, also in black. The girl knows how to work a theme. Of course, if we count Blaster as an accessory for Snake-Eyes, then Baroness also has a bonus:

Light slides off Ravage the way a duck's feathers shed water. Even in the brightest light, he is nothing more than a shadow, slinking unnoticed toward his prey. He is the ultimate infiltrator, absolutely silent, endlessly patient, but savage and lethal when the mission calls for it. No creature in the galaxy is better suited to be a thief and spy, which is just fine with Ravage. He takes delight in working in the darkness for the glory of Megatron.

Ravage! A full-bodied, semi-poseable robotic version of Ravage! How fun! His inclusion here is the long-awaited culmination of an idea that's been percolating for a decade now. In 2003, the Transformers Collectors' Club offered an exclusive cover to DDP's GI Joe vs The Transformers #3, featuring Baroness holding Ravage on a chain. Aww!

Then, at Toy Fair 2006, a company called First4Figures announced a Baroness and Ravage statue, inspired by the cover. Sadly, they were never able to raise enough retailer interest in the statue, and it was officially cancelled in early 2009. Damn!

In a 2011 panel at JoeCon, Hasbro revealed they'd had plans for a Pursuit of Cobra Arctic Assault Baroness that would have come with a pack-in "panther robot" accessory that definitely wasn't called Ravage but was clearly inspired by him. So this is the third attempt at pairing these characters, and finally it works!

Ravage only moves at the base of the neck (a balljoint), but that's more articulation than most GI Joe pets get. He's sculpted to suggest he's stalking forward, with three paws on the ground and one raised, and his guns/rockets are on his hips. The eyes are yellow, the mouth is red, and there's a Decepticon logo on his shoulder. There's a silver drybrushing on all the black sections of the body, to make him look weathered.

Baroness can't hold Ravage on a chain unless she has a chain, obviously, and the one included here is decent. It's molded from plastic, rather than being metal - a real chain would have been preferable, but maybe it wuld have cost too much with everything that's already going into this set? The spiked collar is shaped to fit around Ravage's squarish neck, and has a split at the bottom so you can get it on and off easily.

This is a pretty phenomenal set... and we're still not done yet!

A merciless, emotionless master of Metallikato, the deadly Cybertronic martial art, he attacks his enemies' fracture points while remaining outside their line of fire. High-powered antennas produce electrical fireballs with a range of over 400 yards. His battle armor secretes odorous, mucus slime. Smoke generators in his legs produce billowing clouds of black smoke that disorient the enemy. The inner robot is armed with high-voltage electric cannon.

In much the same vein as this cool custom, the final figure in this set is a Transformer made from a GI Joe body. In recent years, Bludgeon has increasingly been shown to have a robot mode that looks like his old G1 Pretender shell, which was a skeleton wearing samurai armor. This figure splits them into separate things again, giving us the shell's design the way it was meant to be: a human-sized disguise with no hints of the robot inside.

Bludgeon is a prepaint of the upcoming Retaliation Budo figure, who's been shown at conventions a few times, but is fairly unlikely to show up in stores. He's yellow, purple, and black, a decent homage to the 1989 Transformer, and he gets a cool new head - it's not just a skull, it's clearly a mechanical object, hinting at his true nature.

He comes with a black coat/shawl thing that's hard to fit over his free-floating armor. He looks better with it on, but it pushes his hat up just far enough that it doesn't want to clip onto the head securely. He's armed with a long and short sword, and both of them have tech detailing on the front edge of the blade that comes right off the character's model sheet. When they're not in his hands, you can fit the swords into his belt. Bludgeon isn't a terrific figure, but as a part of this set, he's a nice extra.

As a whole, this set is amazing, and I'm lucky Rustin was able to get me one: while the rest of Hasbro's SDCC exclusives appeared on their web store after the show, this one didn't; when contacted and asked about it, Hasbro confirmed that it was held back because of Harmony Gold's lawsuit (which, by the way, isn't actually about the toy in this set, but rather the box art and the filecard, which show the Macross Valkerie in jet and robot modes, instead of the modified design used for the comics and cartoons). So if we're lucky, some day a supply of these will randomly show up on Hasbro's site and everyone will be able to get one; if not, it was still a hell of a way to end the series of exclusives.

-- 08/16/13

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