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By Thomas Wheeler

Although the "Sigma Six" aspect of the 8" G.I. Joe line has ended, this interesting line of "mid-sized" and rather stylized G.I. Joe figures continues, with new themes branching out of the line. One of these is called COMBAT SQUAD, a group of figures intended, as far as the design elements of the line will permit, to be somewhat more authentically military than the typical 8" G.I. Joe -- Sigma or otherwise.

Now, obviously, no one is going to mistake these figures for the highly authentic 12" G.I. Joe figures, or any other 12" military action figure line that is a stickler for military authenticity. There's just no way to fit that into the 8" line entirely. The stylized physiques of the figures just don't allow for that.

So consider the new 8" Combat Squad group to be a compromise of sorts. The characters have code-names, they maintain the same stylized look of the Sigma Six G.I. Joes, and yet they do manage to be more military in appearance than the Sigmas, or some of the other 8" Joes that are turning up that are part of the overall line, but are not specifically Sigma-Suited.

Let's start this review with DESERT WOLF. This is a new code-name within the world of G.I. Joe. There are no prior references to this particular name. The G.I. Joe Team's main desert specialist, in the 3-3/4" world, anyway, was always Dusty, although over the years a number of G.I. Joe members have been outfitted with desert colors and gear.

Desert Wolf uses a recolored Duke head and the coloration is much different. it's a fairly recent sculpt, one in which Duke has his mouth open in a bit of a snarl. Since most of the previous Dukes had closed mouths, it's that much tricker to ascertain that Desert Wolf's head has this unusual origin. The shape of the hair is a bit of a giveaway, but not much of one.

Whereas Duke is generally rather fair-skinned, more or less clean-shaven (Hasbro finally dropped the practice of trying to spray a blonde five-o-clock beard on his face), and has blonde hair, Desert Wolf has darker skin, a distinctly dark five-o-clock beard, and black hair.

As to the skin color, I'm not sure if Hasbro wanted this guy to be Hispanic, or just someone who, in accordance with his code name, has spent a lot of time outside in a desert environment. Unfortunately, the Combat Squad figures don't have much in the way of file cards on theit packages, and even the Sigmas were limited in personal information as far as revealing full background names were concerned. We could presume that characters that were carried over from the 3-3/4" line maintained their real names, but with new characters such as this, there's just no knowing.

And take it from someone who's spent most of his life in a desert climate -- it doesn't take much to tan your hide.

Desert Wolf's body is apparently mostly that of Long Range, a character introduced early on in Sigma Six, although technically I don't think he's really supposed to be wearing a Sigma Suit. I suspect that's a little open to interpretation, since the body of course has all of the parameters of a Sigma Suit, it just happens to be molded in a sort of desert yellow-gold. But we've seen characters before whose Sigma Suits were not entirely or even predominantly black. No reference to a Sigma Suit is made on the package, so this is a case where you'll simply have to use your own imagination and decide for yourself.

It's probably worth mentioning that the Sigma "6" insignia is obviously absent from the uniform. In its place is a new G.I. Joe insignia, that looks like the stripes and stars of the G.I. Joe logo that are in place beyond the G.I. Joe "word" itself. This symbol is also on Desert Wolf's dogtags.

The body shape is fairly slender, but not as much as some. Desert Wolf has notable large shoulders, a fairly slender torso, and moderately thin legs. From a Sigma-style standpoint, I'd call his build "average to slightly lean."

Desert Wolf's shoulder pads have been painted black, and his boots have been painted brown. Interestingly, he's outfitted with fabric slacks. Fabric clothing took something of an absence from the 8" G.I. Joe line for a while. It's interesting to see it make a return. The slacks are the same color as the uniform, a sort of desert yellow-gold. They're well made and have a fair amount of stitching across them, which makes for a cool look to the trousers.

Desert Wolf is also wearing an olive-colored helmet, and a bandolier of pouches or ammo packs or some such over his shoulder. This piece originally saw use with Grand Slam earlier this year.

One curious molding attribute that has been mentioned is that the elbow articulation joint has been molded in the same desert yellow-tan as the rest of the figure, even though technically Desert Wolf's uniform has been molded with short sleeves. Personally, I think this is a minor quibble. At a guess, I would suspect that most of the figure was molded from the same set of molds, including the articulation points, and it would've been too expensive to switch them out, and if they tried to paint them, the paint would probably just scrape off. I won't say it doesn't annoy me a bit when this sort of thing happens, but on this figure, it's honestly not that noticeable. It's not as though they molded them in neon pink or something.

Desert Wolf comes with a generous supply of accessories. These include two interesting rifles, one of which is medium sized, the other of which is really quite large, especially when you attach the extended barrel to it. This larger one is capable of firing a couple of missiles, described on the package as "grenades", since this is technically a "grenade launching weapon". Please do not try to fire the two "actual" grenades that come in this set. That won't work very well. Those two grenades are supposed to be used as uniform "decorations" on Desert Wolf himself.

There is a new feature with the latest 8" G.I. Joe figures -- it's the return of (or at least a new incarnation of) something that was quite legendary towards the end of the original 12" line of G.I. Joe figures -- KUNG-FU GRIP!

However, where the 12" G.I. Joes accomplished this by clenched hands with rubbery fingers that allowed them to grasp objects that could fit within their hands, the 8" G.I. Joes accomplish this with spring-loaded fingers on the right hand. The spring inside the hand seems to have a good amount of tension to it, even though the grasping radius of the hand is relatively small, due to the size of the figure, of course. However, it should still be useful in helping the figure hold onto his accessories.

Let me say this about the package design for the Combat Squad series, as well. Hasbro, I believe, wanted to present, much as they have with the figures, a rough-and-tough military-type image, with a certain stylizing to it. In this they have succeeded. The entire package is fairly subdued, military colors, including the plastic top and bottom, done in a dark olive green (these segments, as with the Sigma Six line, can be transformed into a storage locker for the weapons, so don't throw them away -- and hinges are included in the package), the backdrop inside the box is muted colors, looking like a rocky landscape, the logo has been somewhat weathered, and the back of the box presents the figure up against a rocky background, with rather dim but contrast-enhancing lighting. In so doing, Hasbro has brought out as much of a "realistic- military" edge to this line as the design of the figures will allow.

There's not much of a file card for Desert Wolf, but there is some basic information, which reads as follows:


Code Name: Desert Wolf

Expertise: Combat and Reconnaissance

Special Training: Desert Survival Techniques

Weapons Proficiency: Long Range Rifle, Grenade Launcher

Tactics: Desert Camouflage

Background: Covert Operations in arid regions around the world.

Please note the complete lack of mention of Cobra anywhere in this. They're not a part of this Combat Squad series.

It occurs to me that some fans of the Sigma Six concept may have given up on the 8-inch line of G.I. Joes when it moved away from that concept and became a little more generalized and brought in some new concept ideas, such as this Combat Squad series, and may not think that these new figures are worth adding to their collection, since they just don't quite fit since they apparently don't fight Cobra or wear Sigma Suits or whatever.

That assessment would be a mistake. I'm sorry to see the Sigma Six concept go, but that doesn't mean that there aren't some cool action figures coming along in the 8" G.I. Joe line. DESERT WOLF is proof of this. He's an impressive figure, nicely done, with some cool accessories and an interesting specialty. He's a worthwhile addition to any G.I. Joe 8" collection, and he definitely has my recommendation!