The Collaborative Megatron release was one of my favorite toys of 2022. So naturally, I knew I had to get the next one.
G.I. Joe and the Autobots team up to protect the world! Stalker and Bumblebee, disguised as an A.W.E. Striker, scout out Cobra-Decepticon strongholds.
While the HISS Tank is the iconic Cobra vehicle, there is no Joe equivalent. Oh, there may be plenty of tanks and jeeps and whatnot, but the most quintessential Joe ride would probably be either the Sky Hawk or the SHARC (the fact that we had to name two of them instead of just one likely underscoring
the fact that neither has as strong a connection with its affiliated team as the HISS has with its). If you made a list of the top 10 GI Joe team vehicles, the AWE Striker would probably be on it, but not in the top half.
Originally released in 1985, the All Weather/Environment Striker is based on a real military thing: Chenowth's 1982 Fast Attack Vehicle. It's basically an unarmored dune buggy used for speedy reconnaissance, a descendant of Germany's WWII Kübelwagen. This one has rolling wheels, blue headlights, and two guns: a small one mounted in front of the passenger seat (since the driver will be busy with the turning steering wheel) and a large blaster up on top of the roll cage in front of the paired antennae.
While converting Megatron was fun and elegant, working Bumblebee is less so. The way the roll cage bars (or specifically, the fenders over the rear wheels) plug into the back of the vehicle is awkward enough to require flexing the plastic no matter which direction you're going. The way the robot's torso fits into back of the car isn't very secure, meaning the whole thing will flop apart if it's not just right.
Choosing Bumblebee for this line makes sense. If you're going to make a crossover line between GI Joe and the Transformers, you're going to want major characters (which is why this isn't Beachcomber, whose original altmode was already a Chenowth FAV, same as the AWE Striker). And presuming also that you want Optimus Prime, the major character, to be a large and therefore expensive set, then you probably also want to wait a while so it's not coming out at the same time as the expensive Megatron. So who's a popular character who's also on the small side? Bumblebee is your guy.
The biggest problem with turning any military vehicle
into Bumblebee is the color. With the exception of the WWII scenes in Planet of the Earth, 'Bee is notoriously bright yellow, not olive drab. This toy at least makes an effort to reconcile that, giving us yellow on his forearms, shoulders, chest, and head. The head is the traditional style, with a vertical crest on his forehead and his little horns. The face is silver, and the eyes are lightpiped blue (though it's blocked by the kibble on his back).
The gun from the top of the vehicle mode can either be stored up on the robot's right shoulder, or held in his hands. Articulation is decent, but not great. Bumblebee gets a swivel neck, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, hinged elbows, swivel wrists, swivel waist, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, and hinged knees. The arms seem minorly too long for the body, and will always have to hang out to the side because of the AWE Striker's wheels. This would all be fine, if not for one really terrible piece of design.
If you remember how Megatron was very hollow and had some major kibble hanging off his back, this is similar, yet still different. On Megs, it was done so a figure could still stand in the gunner station and man the weapons (a figure can still stand on Bee's back, but that is incidental to this point); on Bumblebee, it's just the buggy's roll cage hanging in a solid lump behind him. That might not be so bad, except that the very shape of it means the front bars bump straight into the back of his legs. Even worse, it bumps into the running board kibble, almost notching into place and limiting the way you can move the legs. Any time you want to pose him, you'll have to work around those struts, which is annoying. This honestly feels like a design from 10, 15 years ago.
These GIJ/TF mash-up releases don't just put a Transformer inside some GI Joe kibble, they also include an action figure. Sadly, it's
a garbage old G1 sculpt, rather than anything you'd actually want. How utterly embarrassing. We said it last time and we'll say it again: if the giant robot doesn't need to be a mold from the 1980s, there's no reason the human half of the equation should be, either.
The figure included this time is Lonzo "Stalker" Wilkinson. I would have been happy about that, since the only G3 Stalker I have is the Resolute version, but again: this is a figure that was already tired in 1983. That's why Scope has been posing in all these photos: it's more worthwhile to me to leave Stalker on his specialized card than to bother opening him. Why'd they choose Stalker? Process of elimination. Duke, the likely first choice, was just released in that stupid two-pack (same reason Megatron came with Baroness rather than Cobra Commander); Snake-Eyes, the next logical choice, would be held back to pair with the future Optimus Prime, to help up the demand for a very expensive set. Maybe Scarlett, too. So with those off the table, who do you turn to next? The one other guy in the OG 13 who stands out at all. Stalker was the sole black soldier among a fleet of (literally) interchangeable white guys, so he's a natural pick. It would just be better if the version we got in this set wasn't one someone who's now on
a daily Ibuprofin regimen for their back problems might have played with when they were young.
The Megatron/ Baroness set was put up for Toy of the Year because of how good it was. I was sorely tempted to nominate Bumblebee for Worst of the Year, mainly because of his frustrating way the kibble interferes with the poseability. I was nixxed, because the toy really isn't that bad, it just doesn't live up to the standards the previous release set.