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REVIEW:
G.I.JOE COBRA B.A.T. SIX-PACK
By Thomas Wheeler


I'd heard rumors for a while that the G.I.Joe DTC (Direct to Consumer) line might be headed back to Toys "R" Us, but I was still amazed when I went into one of Tucson's local TRU's recently, and there was the Cobra B.A.T. 6-pack, formerly a DTC online exclusive!

Now, I wish that these were the traditional-style figures and not new sculpts, but it seems that the traditional-style figures have been relegated to the comic-based three packs, and whatever Convention and Club Exclusive items the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club comes up with. I really don't have much of a problem with the latter aspect of that, since I believe the G.I.Joe Collectors' Club and the personnel involved will continue to produce items at their high level of quality and imagination.

The description on the back of the package for the entire set reads as follows: B.A.T. ATTACK - Half-machine, half-human, OVERKILL is the ambitious leader of the Cobra B.A.T. Army. He has developed highly advanced micro-circuitry in his mad quest to create the perfect android army. Using the original Cobra B.A.T. robots for parts, he began his experiments with the V3 Cobra B.A.T. Trooper, constructing what amounted to an animated weapon system. Growing more ambitious, he constructed the V4 Cobra B.A.T. force, tougher to destroy and more heavily armed. His greatest achievement so far is the V5 Cobra B.A.T. army, a deadly force of androids programmed for self-modification: blow them apart and they join together in deadly new combinations. Lock and load, because the battle is about to begin between the G.I.Joe Team and the Cobra B.A.T. Attackers!

This could almost be seen as a somewhat toned-down version of what is believed to have been the intended concept for the 2005 3-3/4" line, before DTC and Sigma 6, which would have likely been called either "Robot Rebellion" or "Rise of the B.A.T.s", and seen an emphasis on the Battle Android Troopers, and Overkill, fighting G.I.Joe, but plotting to overthrow Cobra as well. It's worth noting that the set does show a distinctive logo on the back, that does not include the Cobra symbol.

The Cobra B.A.T. set includes Overkill, one B.A.T. v.3, one B.A.T. v.4, and three B.A.T. v.5's. Let's consider these in order:

OVERKILL

This character is a little difficult to reconcile. The original Overkill, introduced in 1991 as part of the Talking Battle Commanders series, was entirely an android. He was part of an experimental third series of B.A.T.'s, but was deemed too expensive to mass produce. He was given a higher level intelligence, and command of the B.A.T. forces.

In the DIC animated series, Overkill was portrayed mostly as a badly- wired buffoon. Granted, so were a lot of the characters in the DIC episodes, especially the bad guys. Now, I suppose we can reconcile the original Overkill with the modern version in two regards - it would hardly be the first time that a particular code-name was been used more than once in the G.I.Joe universe - the Joe Team is rife with repeats - and secondly, in the animated series, Cobra Commander was always threatening to recycle Overkill into a vacuum cleaner or some other household object, and it might be assumed that at some point, he made good on his threat, thus freeing up the code name for later use.

(Mind you, this still leaves wide-open the file card for the Overkill that came with the mail-order B.A.T. set from a couple of years ago, which featured a recoloration of the original all-android Overkill but the file card was for the cyborg Overkill, but let's not quibble points too much.)

The modern Overkill, who with the exception of the aforementioned first mail-order B.A.T. set has only been part of the newsculpt series, has always been a cyborg, part human, part machine, but all nasty. The early versions of this character didn't look especially robotic. They featured a humanoid figure who seems to have gone to great lengths to hide his cybernetic parts. He's also clearly got a few screws loose, as he was described as having a genuine affection for his B.A.T. troops, who are basically mindless killing machines, even to the point of giving them individual names, and giving his "favorites" special maintenance and attention.

A more recent Overkill figure came out at the tail end of the Valor vs. Venom line, and this one worked a little bit better from a visual standpoint. Clearly, the character was more robotic than ever, but he hadn't entirely lost his human origin. A human face peered out from an otherwise robotic head, and the body was clearly almost all android, with certain proportions, especially the mid-torso region, not only clearly non-human, but likely they would've been almost impossible to accomplish in a traditional-style figure.

Basically, he looks like an evil version of RoboCop...

The Overkill included with the new B.A.T. 6-pack is a recoloration of this version, done with a dark silver caste to the robotic body with copper trim, and a large Cobra emblem stamped on the chest. It's a creepy-looking figure, really, with the thought that someone is so into robotics that he would do this to himself, or let himself be subjected to this.

The paint work is neatly done, and I see no evidence of hand-painted details. My only real complaint with the figure is that, at least on this one, his legs are a little uneven in length, so he doesn't quite want to stand up straight.

Overkill'sfile card reads as follows:

OVER KILL
COBRA B.A.T. LEADER

Over Kill is only half-human to begin with (over 50% of his body has been replaced by mechanical parts), so he has little humanity left to bother him. This means that he truly enjoys performing evil missions and doesn't have any twinges of conscience getting in the way. What feelings he had left were digitally tweaked to not interfere with his duties as the battle commander of the Cobra B.A.T. Legtions. Mechanical and computerized upgrades have made him a formidable opponent for the G.I.Joe Team. He has become the leader of the robot army and is turning them into a powerful fighting force. Over Kill sees his chance to increase his power in the Cobra organization, and he's going to take it. Whoever stands in his way will be crushed beneath the metallic feet of his robotic army.

"I am not simply programmed to destroy the G.I.Joe Team. I personally want to shut them down and guarantee they never return!"

I'm not really sure why his name is spelled as two words on the file card, whereas on the description of the entire set, it remains one word. Hasbro may simply be covering all bases on the name.

It's worth mentioning that Overkill is a major player in the Sigma 6 animated series, which does take some cues from the 3-3/4" concepts. Overkill is dedicated to the eradication of organic life, and works with Cobra to defeat the Joes, whom he sees as the defender of human life, but he likely has plans to stab Cobra in the back as well, if the opportunity presents itself. He seems to spend a lot of his time in a regeneration tank for some reason. Whether this is by necessity, a desire to conceal his plans from Cobra, or just a distaste for human company, isn't certain.

B.A.T. v.3

The B.A.T. v.3 was the first of the newsculpt Battle Android Troopers, and has had quite a few recolorations since its introduction. It's not a bad design, although it's really still too "human" to work well in the newsculpt format, any more than anyone else does. There's also the fact that, at a whopping 4-1/4" in height, this B.A.T. towers over most other Joes, especially traditional-style ones. This was one of the reasons why I don't think newsculpt Joes in general really don't work. A lot of them tend to be closer to 4" in height, an altitude that really should have been left to Destro. A quarter of an inch in the 3-3/4" scale makes a surprising difference.

The design, in and of itself, is largely a fairly logical extension of the original B.A.T.s, which were introduced in the Real American Hero line in 1986 and 1991. Honestly, the figure's appearance is probably a little closer to the first B.A.T., since it clearly has visible "fabric" uniform sections, which the original 1986 B.A.T. also had. The 1991 B.A.T. was a little more indistinct in this area, where one could easily imagine that maybe the figure was wearing a uniform, or maybe this was just how his robot body was designed and painted.

There have been several recolorations of the B.A.T. v.3. This one isn't bad, although the bright green on it really isn't either a Cobra color or a B.A.T. color. Clearly, this is something of a holdover from the Valor vs. Venom concept. However, it looks good, the design overall is a reasonably logical extension from the first two B.A.T's, and I see no evidence of hand-painted details.

The B.A.T. v.3's file card reads as follows:

COBRA B.A.T. v3
COBRA ANDROID TROOPER

Cobra B.A.T. groups are expendable cannon-fodder for Cobra. Components are manufactured cheaply in foreign factories and assembled in secret plants by Cobra Vipers on punishment duty. Final assembly is expected to be completed by the Cobra B.A.T. troops themselves, who are handed a screwdriver and soldering gun as soon as their arms are attached. Version 3 of the Cobra B.A.T. Trooper contains a chip pirated from a popular console video game, which allowed for better target locking and accuracy. The battle android trooper is a "fire and forget" weapon, in that once it is turned on and pointed at the enemy, it keeps seeking out targets until the battery dies or it runs out of ammunition. Weight considerations limited the amount of armor these robots could carry on the motor and gears section, so when hit from behind they burst into flames.

"Now the Cobra B.A.T. Troops have come to town, the G.I.Joe team is going down!" (Digital vocal track programmed into Cobra B.A.T. groups' internal sound system.)

B.A.T. v.4

This particular Battle Android Trooper is something of an oddity. It doesn't really owe much of its appearance to any previous generation of B.A.T., although the predominant black and silver colors, the black clearly being intended to represent a fabric uniform, does give it the needed connection to his "ancestors", but the head is so peculiar that it actually looks unfinished somehow, as if it was in the midst of being assembled when the Joe Team raided the assembly line and they had to kick him into the fight.

Honestly, the original color scheme of this B.A.T. was no help. He was sold in one of the newsculpt two-packs (I honestly don't remember with who), but given the fact that the figure was given a black uniform with purple and silver trim, and with those antennae on his head, he looked more like a B.A.T. who'd been designed by the Insecticons, the insect- like allies of the Decepticons from Transformers, more than he looked like something Cobra had come up with. There were several recolorations that managed to avoid this attribute, but it's still likely to go down as the ugliest B.A.T. of the lot.

While the bright green trim on this edition still isn't especially Cobra- like, it at least tends to diminish the Insecticon comparison. The figure actually looks more robotic than any previous B.A.T., given the percentage of robot parts "showing", especially the torso and the inhumanly skinny legs. He's also a far more agreeable 3-3/4" in height - not counting antennae. This is the only figure in the entire set with any evidence of hand-painted details - the belt buckle. The B.A.T. v.4's file card reads as follows:

COBRA B.A.T. v4
COBRA ANDROID TROOPER

This version of the durable and successful Cobra B.A.T. series is faster, tougher, and better armed than any previous version. It is also cheaper, more energy-efficient and easier to maintain. For all its improvements, the Cobra B.A.T. is still a non-self-aware automaton that is best utilized by turning it on and sending it in the right direction with all weapons blasting.The version 4.0 Cobra B.A.T. Is durable enough to be dropped from low-flying aircraft without costly parachutes and still have an acceptable survival rate. They are capable of continuing to fight with over 80% of their mass shot away. As long as they have one eye for aiming and trigger finger in operating order, they are not down for the count.

"A human Cobra Trooper has enough sense to surrender when the odds are stacked against him. A Cobra B.A.T. doesn't even come with an 'off' switch."

B.A.T. v.5

This was the real treat of the set, and fortunately, there were three of them in the set. This is an all-new Battle Android Trooper, never before seen in any previous two-pack or whatever.

The design is excellent, even though the construction is unlike any previous G.I.Joefigure. It's not even especially close to the newsculpts. There are no screws in the back or legs. Now, on occasion, even the original G.I.Joe line diverged from the standard format. Golobulus, certain aspects of some of the Lunartix Aliens, the Mega- Monsters, even the Manimals.

My main complaints with the newsculpt G.I.Joes is that the newsculpt format they're NOT compatible in size or shape with the original line. Between the disproportionate body design, the cheap-looking plastic rivets, and just the overall inferior look of the figure (and granted a lot of modern traditional-style figures have suffered to some degree), the bottom line is that the newsculpts just aren't good Joes - or Cobras - and are a sorry successor to the original line. Don't even get me started on the massive percentage of repaints.

Now, I've been known to make the occasional exception, when a given CHARACTER outweighs the format sufficiently. I have a handful of newsculpts here, simply because it's the only way to own the character. The Medi-Viper, who was 12 years overdue before he finally came out. Burnout. Bombstrike. Burnout. Kamakura. The Cobra Heavy Water Trooper.

Then we have the Cobra B.A.T. v.5. For the most part, this is actually a very cool figure, and one that I am prepared to make one more exception for. He's sufficiently "non-human" so that comparing him to a traditional-style G.I.Joe just isn't really appropriate, and the overall design is actually quite impressive.

The B.A.T. v.5 is a distinctly new type of B.A.T. It doesn't especially resemble any of its predecessors. It clearly isn't wearing any sort of uniform. In fact, except for the Cobra logo stamped on its chest, it appears that Cobra didn't even bother to try to color the things. The B.A.T. is mostly a steel blue in color, with some silver highlights, and a red Cobra emblem stamped on its chest. I see no evidence of any hand- painted details on the figures, except for the arm canisters - only some of which seem to have been hand-painted.

This B.A.T. very vaguely resembles the "Terminator"-like B.A.T.s that turned up in one issue of the original Marvel Comic, even though the head is clearly not especially human in appearance. I wonder what one of these would look like chrome-plated?

Despite a sort of "stripped-down" look, in that what you have here is very clearly a robotic framework and nothing trying to pass itself off as human at all, these things still manage to look pretty mean, too. And powerful. I wouldn't want to face a battlefield of these B.A.T.s.

The figure is just short of 4" in height, a little over 3-3/4", but hardly the "towering" 4?" of the B.A.T. v.3. Actually, this B.A.T. probably could have gotten away with a little more height just because of his very inhuman design, but I'm not complaining that Hasbro kept him within more reasonable parameters.

But there is one, huge, really annoying design flaw, that just aggravates the heck out of me. They have these huge canisters attached to their arms, right at the elbow. Although these are reportedly rocket-launchers, according to the file card, their bright green color makes them look more like canisters of Dr. Mindbender's infamous "venom" formula, which the file card does make reference to. Furthermore, if they are rocket launchers, they're pointed upwards for the most part, not at the enemy. They also, especially because of the bright green color, stick out like the proverbial sore thumbs.

You'd think, if nothing else, this would throw off the weapon's aim, and from a strategic standpoint, it's absurd. Blast an arm off of one of these things and there goes one of its main weapons.

It also looks silly as heck. I rather doubt that I'm going to be the only Joe collector giving some consideration to a bit of customizing with an X-Acto knife here. Apart from these canisters, the overall design of the B.A.T. v.5 is really very excellent. I have no complaints about it in the least, not even in the construction format.

The B.A.T. v.5's file card reads as follows:

COBRA B.A.T. v5
COBRA ANDROID TROOPER

Cobra B.A.T. Forces are the basic infantry of the Cobra organization. The 5.0 upgrade has a propulsion backpack that launches it into the air, to escape enemy fire or surprise its target with a vertical drop attack. They have rocket launchers on each arm with smart technology to lock onto targets not in line of sight. Most dangerous of all, when they are blown apart, their separate parts rejoin into monstrous new formations to continue the battle. Their one vulnerable area is the central venom- infused circuit board located in the head. Damage to this system prevents them from activating the regeneration program. Also, blowing them into the tiniest pieces imaginable seems to do the job.

"They are no longer tin cans with legs and a grenade. These things can think and rebuild themselves. We have to stop them."

Now, I do need to note this - the B.A.T. v.5 is the most obvious connection between the 3-3/4" G.I.Joes, and Sigma 6. These B.A.T.'s turn up frequently in the animated series, and the Sigma 6 action figure "SKY B.A.T." clearly is an 8" slightly-animéd version of the B.A.T. v.5. Darn thing even has the arm canisters or rocket launchers or whatever, blast it. However, given the B.A.T. v.5's flight ability, we know where the name "Sky B.A.T." came from.

But in any size, apart from that, it's a cool and impressive design, so I'll keep the complaint to a minimum.

My only other complaint would be with regard to accessories. Although the B.A.T. v5's are fully quipped with additional arms as well as weapons, Overkill and the B.A.T. v3 got stiffed in this department. One of the main gimmicks with B.A.T.s all the way back to the original was that you could pop off at least one of their hands and attach a weapon in its place. This has also been the case with the more recent ones. But if they had to cut the equipment, then I at least wish they had given the B.A.T. v3 and Overkill two "human" hands, rather than the practically-dragging- the-ground blade attached to the B.A.T. v3, and the futuristic blaster Overkill's got stuck with.

(On the other hand, if the B.A.T. v3's blade were a little more rigid, he'd make a heck of a letter opener...)

The B.A.T. v4, at least, has two "human" hands. Personally, I predict an upswing in the sale and/or auction of spare B.A.T. parts if this set proves popular. Previous versions of the B.A.T.s are close enough in color to these to do some swapping.

So, what's my take on the B.A.T. 6-pack? Mixed. I don't like the fact that the 6-packs are going to be newsculpt from now on. On the other hand, a six-pack of B.A.T.s is going to work better with the original G.I.Joes, just by the nature of the characters, than, say, the "Viper Lockdown" set, which while trying to promote itself with three Cobra Vipers, the return of the Cobra Interrogator, and the first-ever 3-3/4" G.I.Jane figure, can't escape the fact that it's still a newsculpt set, the Vipers and the Interrogator are not improvements over the originals, and G.I.Jane is just Bombstrike with a new headsculpt and not worth the entire set.

The B.A.T. v.3 and v.4 don't really work that well, although they're OK since they are not human, however Overkill slips by, and the B.A.T. v.5's DO work, simply by virtue of their rather radical appearance compared to ANY previous G.I.Joe, and you get three of them in the set!

From that standpoint, I do give a recommendation, albeit a slightly reluctant one (as I have stated over and over that I don't care for this sculpting design) to the G.I.JOE COBRA B.A.T. 6-PACK - and certainly I welcome G.I.Joe's return to Toys "R" Us.