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By Thomas Wheeler

What's a cool set of action figures without some vehicles? There were no less than twenty-one figures offered at the 2005 G.I. Joe Convention -- the 15-figure Iron Grenadiers boxed set, the three-pack featuring Gung-Ho, Dragonsky, and the Steel Brigade Commander, the Steel Brigade Paratroopers two-pack, and a recolored Jungle-Viper for a parachute drop. Hey, at least one Cobra managed to get in on the act.

But G.I. Joe, as a toy line, has always been known for cool vehicles as well
as cool figures. Even though I don't have any substantial use for the new-style figures that have been produced since 2002, there have been some immensely cool vehicles along the way, that fortunately will work with any 3-3/4" G.I. Joes. The Patriot Grizzly, the Cobra Command Copter, the various Humvees, and some of the DTC vehicles look pretty cool, too.

So of course, there are going to be vehicles at the G.I. Joe Convention. Let's take a look at them, shall we?

IRON MECH - This requires some real background. The concept behind the Iron Mech actually goes back to another toy line entirely, in the mid-90's. That toy line was called EXO-SQUAD, and it was immensely popular for several years, and enjoyed a fantastic animated series that had a level of storytelling quality and continuity to it that, at least in America, had been pretty much unheard of at the time. The story focused on the future military adventures of a group of soldiers that used machines called E-Frames, essentially robotic suits of armor into which the soldier rode in something of a cross between a cockpit and a suit. Heavily armored and distinctly customized, they were devastating weapons.

G.I. Joe tried to get in on the act in 1994 with the Power Fighters, released
as part of the Star Brigade series. But the results were less than impressive.

Fast forward a decade or so. Exo-Squad isn't around any more (although it is fondly remembered by many, even if the animated series ended on a doozy of an unresolved cliffhanger), but G.I. Joe is. "E-Frame" like suits are not unheard of in several toy lines. So G.I. Joe decides to make another attempt, and try to get it right this time. And they succeeded. The G.I. Joe DEFENSE MECH and its Cobra Counterpart were released, and were heads above the old Power Fighters.

So -- what's the IRON MECH? It's a recolored version of the G.I. Joe Defense Mech, which honestly was by far the cooler-looking of the two vehicles. A word here about the packaging. This "Limited Edition of 750" is superbly well-packaged. Most Convention exclusive vehicles come in large plastic bags. Not the Iron Mech. It's in a very sturdy, nicely-illustrated box, with a foam lining, perfectly fitting the Iron Mech. Very much like how the boxed set of figures is presented.

The Mech has been completely recolored from its original. The more military green and brown colors have been replaced by black, gold, and red, the colors of the Iron Grenadiers. The vehicle does have light and sound effects. The right arm has two "gunfire" sounds, and the green LED that the original Mech possessed has been traded in for a more appropriate red one. The left arm has two spring-loaded missile launchers.

The Destro logo has been added to the vehicle, as well as the words "Enhanced by M.A.R.S. Inc", the first ever vehicular reference to Destro's armaments company.

Overall, the IRON MECH is a real treat!

STEALTH A.G.P. - One of Destro's hallmark vehicles when he first started the Iron Grenadiers in 1988 was the AGP, or Anti-Gravity Pod. It seemed impossible that such a strange-looking contraption could fly, but that was indeed its purpose. This one-man flying craft was designed to not only fly, but stop, hover, turn on a dime, and be a really nasty piece of business in battle. So were its pilots, the surgically enhanced Nullifiers. They had to be surgically enhanced, or the gravitational effects of this vehicle's capabilities would've turned their brains to mush.

Hardly surprising that the listed pilot for the Stealth AGP is Metal-Head,
who's also been surgically enhanced, and whom it might be argued either doesn't have enough brains to turn to mush, or whatever he did have were turned to mush years ago.

The original AGP was solid black, with a red canopy and gold trim. The
Stealth AGP is a very cool piece of work, molded in transparent red, with a molded transparent black underwing, a smoky, semi-mottled black transparent cockpit, and it still has the gold trim on the guns and missiles.

It might not be the most plausible-looking vehicle in the world, but you sort
of get the sense, with the moving parts, that it almost might just work, if a
pilot could be found that could tolerate flying the thing. And it's certainly
a cool addition to the Convention Collection.

STEEL BRIGADE SKY HAWKS - The Sky Hawk is one of the cooler vehicles in the G.I. Joe Collection. This one man flying vehicle, that looked like it was one part helicopter and one part jet fighter, was first introduced in 1985. It received a recolored version as part of the Sears Exclusive Dreadnok Air Assault, and was given a nice chrome finish in 1990 as part of Sky Patrol. It hasn't been seen since. Nice to see it's still around.

Granted, one part is missing -- the front firing guns. But aesthetically, the
vehicle still looks very cool. While the pilots might miss the firepower,
there's still two missiles on the landing skids, and since these are Sky Hawks for the Steel Brigade, whose primary responsibility is reconnaissance, going in with guns blazing might not be the best idea anyway.

The Sky Hawk is an excellent counterpoint to the AGP. Like the AGP, the Sky Hawk is able to turn on a dime, and has greater maneuverability than either an airplane or a helicopter.

These were offered at the Convention in a set of three, one each for
Dragonsky, Gung-Ho, and the Steel Brigade Commander. Even the label sheets that came with these fine vehicles reflect those names. They were molded in a mottled combination of grey and black, in a sense a molded version of the "Urban Rain Camo" that is featured on the Steel Brigade uniforms.

The Sky Hawk has been long considered one of the coolest "small" vehicles in the G.I. Joe line. It's sleek, it looks impressive, and looks reasonably plausible. Its return to the collection is certainly welcome, and the color scheme is very cool!

COBRA MORAY KIT - At the 2004 G.I. Joe Convention, a special edition of the COBRA MORAY Hydrofoil boat was offered, colored to make it look like a Tiger Force vehicle, and renamed the TIGER RAY. But remember the details of that mission -- Zartan had disguised himself as General Hawk, and had sent three G.I. Joes -- Beach-Head, Hardtop, and Mutt, all members of Tiger Force, into a trap against the Dreadnoks and their allies, the Dreadheads. That so-called Tiger Ray was nothing more than a disguised Cobra Moray.

That scheme is over. Isn't about time the boat returned to its origins?
Unless the Joes just decided to keep the thing. Well, in 2005, YOU get to decide. The TIGER RAY was made available once again, but this time, it came with some extra parts and labels, in case you wanted to restore it to being a Cobra vehicle.

This "Moray Kit", for lack of a better term, included a recolored "top" for
the boat, molded in Cobra Blue instead of Tiger Orange, and came with a
completely new set of labels for the vehicle, this time Cobra based instead of Tiger Force.

Orange or blue? Joe or Cobra? It's up to you!

Every year, it seems, the G.I. Joe Convention Exclusives get that much more impressive, and this year was certainly no exception. Twenty-one immensely cool figures. Five new vehicles, and a kit to overhaul a sixth. I have no idea what Brian Savage has planned for 2006. But topping 2005 will not be easy, because this was some immensely cool stuff, and I'm sincerely delighted to have it all as part of my G.I. Joe Collection. I hope you have enjoyed these reviews. YO JOE!