REVIEW:G.I. JOE DREADNOK DOOM CYCLE with STORM RIDER
With the advent of the post-movie G.I. Joe action figure line comes a host of new figures and vehicles that are not tied directly into the live-action film. One of these new vehicle entries is quite probably one of the most overdue items in the history of the line.
Venture back to late 1984. A new enemy force, frequently allied with Cobra but occasionally standing alone, has come along. They're called the DREADNOKS. They're a motorcycle gang in the employ of Zartan, a master of disguise and a mercenary working more often than not for Cobra. They hail from Australia, and in the years to come they would be one of the most popular, not to mention offbeat, aspects of the G.I. Joe universe.
The Dreadnoks would come to be played at least somewhat for laughs, in both the animated series and in the comic book. None of them were especially bright. They seemed to have a diet consisting primarily of grape soda and chocolate-covered donuts. Their main threat was not that they were a large, highly-organized group, but that their lack of intellect and penchant for violence made them unpredictable. It was very difficult for the G.I. Joe team to come up with a suitable defense for this pack of miscreants.
The Dreadnoks would first appear in a special assortment that was released to Sears, towards the end of 1984, even though most people consider them to be 1985 characters. This assortment of individually-carded figures consisted of the first three Dreadnoks -- Torch, Buzzer, and Ripper. Over the next several years, more Dreadnoks would turn up, almost on an annual basis, all the way through 1989.
The Dreadnoks would have several entries in the so-called "newsculpt" line, which ran from 2002-2006, consisting mostly of remakes of existing characters, although one new Dreadnok, a fellow named Burnout, would be added to the mix. Also around this time, the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club would have a Dreadnok-centric set of figures offered at its 2004 Convention. This set consisted of recolorations of a number of popular characters, introduce their new allies the Dreadheads, and present two new Dreadnoks, Crusher and Demolishor, to the world.
No great surprise, the Dreadnoks also transitioned into the 25th-style line, with remakes of a number of their most popular members.
But with all of this, the Dreadnoks never really seemed to get the one thing that you'd expect a biker gang to have -- a really decent motorcycle.
Okay -- in 1987, a vehicle called the Dreadnok Cycle came along. This, however, was a rather oddball thing, a three-wheeled, overly colorful contraption with a raised platform that had a gun turret mounted in it. The turquoise, purple, and red color scheme also made it a little difficult to take seriously. Now, I didn't expect every G.I. Joe or enemy vehicle to adhere to a strict militaristic color scheme, but it was right about this time that brighter colors started being brought in, some of them somewhat questionably. Granted, there were far worse than the Dreadnok Cycle. But the end result was still a rather odd thing that didn't really seem to fit the Dreadnoks' image of even a less-than-serious biker gang.
That's not to say they didn't have other vehicles. In fact they did. There was even another motorcycle. It was a recoloration of the original RAM, sold as part of a Sears exclusive set. Sears seemed to like the Dreadnoks. They got two vehicle two-packs out of them, a Ground Assault Set and an Air Assault Set. There was also the Dreadnok Air Skiff, an odd flying contraption owned by Zanzibar, the Dreadnok Swampfire, a vehicle that could operate as either a boat or a helicopter, and my personal favorite, the Dreadnok Thunder Machine. This rolling nightmare seemed to fit the Dreadnoks quite well. It looked like a Road Warriors reject (as did its driver, Thrasher), and it was armed to the gills. And yet, as cool as the Thunder Machine was, it was still a four-wheeled vehicle, and bore no resemblance to a motorcycle.
So in 2010, we finally have a motorcycle for the Dreadnoks that looks like a motorcycle that would belong to a biker gang. It's called the DOOM CYCLE.
First off, I'd like to say a few words about the packaging. Hasbro has created a new packaging design for their latest incarnation of G.I. Joe, and it's really pretty impressive. They have returned to a variant of the original G.I. Joe logo, done in such a way that it looks as though the logo is made out of chrome silver. The vehicle is packaged in a window box. The interior piece can be folded out and used as a display backdrop. In the case of the Doom Cycle, this looks like an urban landscape in the middle of a battle. The overall artwork on and in the box is very impressively done. About my only complaint is that the character file cards remain at their distinctly truncated state, content-wise, that was established for the movie toys.
Now, for the Doom Cycle itself. I don't believe this vehicle to be based on any real-world motorcycle. Granted, my own knowledge of motorcycles is pretty much limited to recognizing one when I see it. But there are a few clues here, not the least of which is that the Doom Cycle is three-wheeled. Although there are some real-world motorcycles like this, they tend to be few and far between. And may I say that, despite this one common point with the 1987 Dreadnok Cycle, which was also three-wheeled, that's about as far as it goes. The Doom Cycle looks far more like something you might actually see cruising down the highway, setting aside the weapons modifications.
It's a fairly large vehicle for something in the motorcycle class. It measures about eight inches long -- including the rear blades. The two huge rear tires are over an inch and a half in diameter, and over 3/4 of an inch wide. The design is definitely that of a modified "chopper", as the front "fork" extends outward at a fair angle. The seat is rather low, requiring the rider to stretch up quite a bit to reach the handlebars.
However, on the whole, the basic design of the Doom Cycle is entirely plausible, and very well executed. The framework of the Doom Cycle is molded in a silver gray. This also includes the gas tank. The seat is black, as is the engine contained within the lower framework. The wheels are black, and very slightly rubbery, and have silver-gray centers. The only significant color on the Doom Cycle is a bit of red, on a tank on the back, which is definitely not the gas tank, and on some of the wiring on the engine.
Unlike most G.I. Joe vehicles, the Doom Cycle has no labels or stickers. Honestly, one would be hard pressed to find a place to put any. It does have some markings, though. Both sides of the gas tank have a scary-looking skull image followed by the words "Doom Cycle". It's as well that this design was imprinted onto the vehicle. The gas tank is so curved, that trying to apply flat labels to this particular surface would've been totally unworkable.
The Doom Cycle has a number of hidden, spring-loaded weapons. Not that it's an especially friendly-looking bike to begin with, but if you press the black button between the handlebars, a pair of long-barreled shotguns spring upwards, and two long, curved blades spring forth near the front wheel. Press the center of the red tank on the back of the Doom Cycle, and what looks like a pair of semi-ornamental blades springs out and fans outward into a series of six double-bladed extensions, sort of like a Swiss Army peacock or something.
There's an additional weapon, which can be wielded by the driver, and to be perfectly honest, I'm not sure what it is. It attaches to the tank in the rear by means of a length of black hose, and it has a resting port nearby. The weapon itself is rather short, and mostly red and black with a bit of silver trim. The back of the package describes it as a "spike blaster" -- so maybe it's something on the order of a weapons-grade nail gun.
Overall, this is an extremely impressive vehicle, very Dreadnok-ish in appearance, and certainly any of the Dreadnok figures would be able to ride it. Even the original style figures, who are slightly shorter than the modern figures, are able to reach the handlebars.
Now, let's consider the designated driver of the Doom Cycle. His name is Storm Rider. That sort of strikes me as almost too classy a name for a Dreadnok, but maybe I'm just thinking it sounds a little too close to Storm Shadow. Storm Rider is the twelfth official Dreadnok character/figure in the concept, if one counts Torch, Buzzer, Ripper, Monkeywrench, Thrasher, Zanzibar, Road Pig, Gnawgahyde, Burnout, Demolishor, and Crusher. Reading that list of names, you can also see that Storm Rider almost sounds too classy there.
Storm Rider -- well -- he looks a lot more serious than the previous Dreadnoks. As I said before, the Dreadnoks came to be played for something along the lines of comic relief, as far as was possible, within the G.I. Joe comic books and animated series. Also granted, in real life, there's nothing much funny about the average biker gang, at least not those that are out looking for trouble as part of their lifestyle or whatever. There's been no shortage of shows on any number of cable stations as to just how dangerous they can really be.
Storm Rider definitely leans more towards the "real world" look of a biker gang member. Generally speaking, a somewhat more "real world" approach seems to be the order of the day for the current G.I. Joe line, so from that standpoint, it fits. Fitting Storm Rider in with the existing Dreadnoks may be a little more difficult.
The figure is dressed in a black, short-sleeved shirt, dark greyish blue pants that I suspect are intended to be jeans, and black shoes or, more likely, boots that are covered by the legs of the jeans. The back of Storm Rider's jacket has a stylized image of the classic Dreadnoks logo on it, a horned and fanged skull, with the word "Dreadnoks" above it in a sort of banner, and the word "Australia" below it in another banner. The Dreadnoks are originally from Australia.
Storm Rider has tattoos on both arms. The tattoos on his lower arms are somewhat nondescript -- except for what I think is a skull and definitely an 8-ball -- but they look good for the character. His upper arms show the lower portions of tattoos of the Cobra emblem. The top parts are covered by his shirt sleeves.
Storm Rider has a pistol holster on his upper right leg, and the figure does come with a pistol, which fits into the holster and seems to stay put quite well. It helps that the pistol actually goes through the holster and out the other end. Additionally, the figure wears a fabric-looking mask that covers his lower face. Unlike a Cobra face mask, this one hangs loose, and down to his chest. It is black, and has two red flames imprinted on it.
The face mask IS removable, and honestly it's a slight improvement, but you have to pop the head off to remove it. This is no big deal, as the head is simply mounted to a ball-and-socket design at the top of the neck. If you want to remove the face mask, just pop the head, remove the mask, and replace the head.
Storm Rider has white hair, so closely cropped that it's just painted on, and I wonder if it was initially considered to make him bald, with a short gray mohawk down the middle. The white and gray combination, along with his more serious overall appearance, has the effect of making him look older than any of the established Dreadnoks. Whether this was intentional or not, I do not know. He is wearing black sunglasses, and has several silver piercings in his ears. These have been surprisingly neatly painted. Storm Rider doesn't have any really unusual features to his face. If anything, it's surprisingly straightforward.
The figure is, of course, well-articulated. Storm Rider is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, double-jointed knees, and ankles. The black shirt does a decent job of keeping the mid-torso articulation point from looking too obvious. There is the unusual effect that his elbow articulation points are molded in black plastic. I suspect the entire upper torso was, with the arms painted flesh, except for the articulation structure. This is a little strange looking, but I suppose we could just claim that Storm Rider has some additional tattoos...
The only real structural problem is around the feet. The jeans flare out and have cuffs. This, unfortunately, hinders the ankle articulation, and the jeans are low enough so that it's actually rather difficult to position Storm Rider's feet in such a way that he can stand up straight well on his own. It's not impossible, but it's not easy, either.
Storm Rider's file card reads as follows:
Storm Rider is a member of the Dreadnok gang that works for Cobra. He is equally skilled at fist-smashing brawls and complex martial arts battles. Born to ride as well as fight, he customizes motorcycles with unusual and effective weapon systems. He chases the G.I. Joe team through the city after he spots them leaving the Cobra warehouse.
Then there's this: Mission Equipment: POPS-2 Pneumatic Oscillating Pressure Spike Weapon System.
So, THAT'S what this handheld weapon attached to a tank on the back of his bike is called? Somebody strained themselves a bit coming up with that one, I think.
So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. Storm Rider may not be the most impressive Dreadnok I've ever seen in my life, and honestly he sails a little too close to what a real-life biker gang member would look like for my tastes, but the Doom Cycle itself is extremely cool, extremely impressive, well made, with interesting features, and for the Dreadnoks in general, from any era of G.I. Joe, is certainly long overdue. They've needed a mean-looking bike for over twenty years, and they've finally got it!
The G.I. JOE DREADNON DOOM CYCLE with STORM RIDER definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!