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REVIEW: G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA - TARGET EXCLUSIVE WAVE CRUSHER with COBRA EEL
By Thomas Wheeler

In conjunction with the new live-action G.I. Joe movie, Target has produced a series of exclusive items. These consist of small vehicles, even smaller than the so-called "Alpha" series of vehicles in the movie line that are available at all retailers, accompanied by a figure. One is called the WAVE CRUSHER, a Cobra vehicle, accompanied by a Cobra Eel figure.

"Wave Crusher" is not a new vehicle name for G.I. Joe, and for that matter, neither is the vehicle, bearing a 2003 copyright date, placing its first appearance within the early years of the "newsculpt" line.

The very first Wave Crusher, however, was not this particular vehicle. The first Wave Crusher came along during the 2000-2002 era, specifically in 2001, and was a recoloration of the SHARC, the infamous "Flying Submarine" first released in 1984. Designated on this occasion as a Cobra vehicle, it came with a recolored (and it was an improvement) Sludge-Viper given the new moniker -- which was also an improvement -- of Sub-Viper.

The Wave Crusher that is akin to the one in this Target set first came on the scene in -- 2003. It was a G.I. Joe vehicle, colored mostly dark blue and a sort of yellow orange, and came with a new G.I. Joe character named Depth Charge. It was part of the Spy Troops line.

The Wave Crusher put in a second appearance in 2005, as part of the Valor vs. Venom line. Once again a G.I. Joe vehicle, it was colored in grey and yellow orange, and once again came with Depth Charge, who'd picked up a new diving suit, the colors of which were closer to the vehicle this time around.

Somewhere along the way, Cobra apparently got hold of the thing, or stole the designs for it, or whatever, because this time around, it's a Cobra vehicle. Cobra even stole the name.

Although there's no particular vehicle description on the package, but it is "able to transform from a water sled to a jet ski", and that's a pretty accurate description.

There have been water sleds and the like in the G.I. Joe line before, on both sides of the battle. But I have to say that I am very impressed with this one. It's an amazingly detailed and intricate little watercraft, especially for one that doesn't really have a lot of moving parts involved.

It comes fully assembled, which it would pretty much have to. Upon inspection of the vehicle, one notices that it's assembled with a series of six screws on the underside. Unlike the "snap together" nature of most of the "build it yourself" vehicles of the G.I. Joe line -- not that I ever disliked that, I rather enjoyed putting most of them together -- there's no real way that the Wave Crusher could have come unassembled. That's fine.

The level of detail is really quite remarkable. I won't say "more than expected", since I've always had high expectations of G.I. Joe product. It's just that the Wave Crusher does such a superb job of meeting those expectations.

The Wave Crusher is, in basic shape, sort of an angular vehicle. It has a wide, angled front, that tapers distinctly in the back. There is a platform that comprises approximately the rear two-thirds of the main vehicle, which can be used either for standing in jet-ski mode, or laying flat in water sled mode.

The front part of the vehicle, essentially the frame and main body, has been painted red for this version of the Wave Crusher. The platform, which has ridged detailing on it, I presume to make it look somewhat padded, is colored black. The underside of the vehicle is split about evenly between red and black, and the red sections have interesting panel-and-rivet detailing on them.

In the rear of the Wave Crusher are two small propeller engines, which sort of makes me wonder how a Cobra Eel or Depth Charge or anyone else is supposed to lay down on this thing without getting their feet chopped up?

On either side of the Wave Crusher are two additional propeller engines (so maybe the ones in the back are just for jet-ski mode, perhaps?). These are colored a sort of pale copper. The framework around the propeller's in the back is also colored copper, but the propellers themselves have been painted red.

Up front are two machine guns, and underneath are two small torpedoes, which despite appearances are not removable. There's also two small handle grips under there, the function of which I can't quite determine. These are also all in the pale copper color. The only other significant color detailing on the Wave Crusher is a bit of copper piping on the black platform, and some very bright green trim near the machine guns up front.

In water sled mode, the Wave Crusher has a set of handlebars which snap into the front of the black platform. To transform the vehicle into jet ski mode, you remove the handlebars, rotate the center drive pole up from underneath the vehicle, and snap the handlebars into the top of the pole. It is reasonable to assume that any Cobra agent taking one of these things into battle is going to decide beforehand which mode he wants to use. It doesn't look like it would be very practical to try to switch midway through.

The Wave Crusher also comes with a missile, which can be fired out of a spring-loaded launcher that is actually the jet ski drive pole, when the vehicle is in water sled mode. It won't work in jet ski mode.

What surprised me a little bit, and perhaps it shouldn't have, was that the Wave Crusher did come with a small supply of labels, which the buyer gets to apply himself. This is definitely the preferable option for me, as I tend to be very picky about the placement of these and like to do it myself.

The only one that's a little tricky to get into place is a display screen. It's a little too big for the area it's supposed to go, but it can be very carefully trimmed to size with a good eye and a good pair of scissors. Somewhat oddly, two of the labels have red printing, and are supposed to go on the red part of the craft. I don't really know if some of these labels were a holdover from a previous releaset. I put the labels on, though. They pretty much vanish, but you can see them if you look close.

A couple of the labels are rather interesting. They read, "Danger" and "Secure", but they use this very strange, super squared-off font that's barely legible. Cobra has used some weird type before, but this one may rank near the top. Actually took me a while to figure out the "Danger" ones. I mean, really, are warning labels something you want people to have trouble reading?

There are, of course, Cobra emblem labels, that affix to the side engines. Just so there's no mistaking who this vehicle belongs to.

I haven't put it to the rest, but I rather doubt that the Wave Crusher actually floats. It MIGHT, but the front area where the drive pole rotates upward from underneath. If nothing else, I'd be a little worried about rusting the screws with too much water use, even if it does float. The Wave Crusher is probably best suited for imaginary sea battles. Go find some blue carpet.

Then there's the Cobra Eel figure. Now, there is an individually-sold Cobra Eel figure in the movie figure line. This isn't him. That Cobra Eel is another one of those helmeted Cobra soldier divisions that are turning up as part of the movie. Although the Cobra Eel sold with the Wave Crusher is technically part of the movie line, he has a somewhat more conventional look to him.

The body looks to be pretty much the same one that's been used to make quite a number of diver figures since the 25th-style figure format got started. That would include the Cobra Eel from that line, as well as the Cobra Diver, Torpedo, and probably a couple of others. But the figure has been given a darker color scheme, to help him blend in with the movie line a little better.

What's weird about this, is that the color scheme that this Cobra Eel has been given is extremely close to that of Torpedo's. The Cobra Eel is wearing a black diving suit with grey trim down the middle, just like Torpedo. If it weren't for the distinctly Eel-like cuffs around the wrists, and that silver Cobra emblem on the chest.

Really, though, what one needs to do in order to diminish the "Torpedo" comparison is to give the Cobra Eel all of his gear. This includes a distinctly Eel-like "collar", turned out in a very dirty silver this time and a very Eel-like oxygen tank and mouthpiece, that attaches to a reasonably Eel-like, but definitely not particularly Joe-like, helmet, that's mostly black with a silver faceplate, and once in place, even allows the figures eyes to show through the front through a clear visor. Nice touch!

The Cobra Eel is otherwise well-accessorized, too. He comes with swim fins, which are actually made from a flexible plastic (an awful lot of swim fins over the years were made from rigid plastic, and I never entirely understood that), two knives that fit into small sheaths on his legs, and a nasty-looking spear gun.

The small amount of bright green trim that appears on the Wave Crusher vehicle has its counterpart on the Eel's equipment. There's a green stripe down the oxygen tank, a small green mark on the collar, and another small green mark on the helmet. I like green -- so I think this is a cool color for a little added trim on what would otherwise be a figure with a very limited color palette.

The Cobra Eel's file card, like any of the other movie-based file cards, is not especially extensive. It reads as follows: "Cobra Eel troopers are demolition experts who work for M.A.R.S. Industries. They specialize in aquatic environments, testing weapons systems that are in development. Cobra Eels are skilled in marine engineering and underwater combat techniques."

There's something additional on the package. Apparently Target is running some sort of internal G.I. Joe promotion of some sort. There's extra text on the box that reads, "The chase for the nanomites is on! Cobra is taking control of the world with nanomites - programmable microscopic robotic weapons. The G.I. Joe team uses highly advanced technology as they race around the globe to capture the nanomites and save the planet!"

There's also a little cardboard briefcase in the package, with the M.A.R.S. logo on it. I suspect there's some special promotion out there, which will likely have run its course by the time you read this review.

So, what's my final word here? Pretty much the same word I've been using with most of the G.I. Joe merchandise I've been reviewing. Whether or not you're interested in the movie, there's no shortage of interesting new toys available. Granted, many of them aren't even IN the movie. If Hasbro restricted themselves to that, I suspect it would be a rather limited toy line. I have no objection to "old favorites" being brought back if they're done well. They can be incorporated into any G.I. Joe collection, movie-based or not.

Certainly this Wave Crusher is an impressive little vehicle. I sort of regret missing its previous releases. But I have it now, and it looks like I'll get another chance. It's being recolored yet again and renamed the Dragonfish for use as another Target exclusive, with G.I. Joe team member Wet-Suit.

That aside, if you're looking for a very cool and impressive little vehicle to bolster your aquatic Cobra troops -- here it is. I don't impress easily when it comes to G.I. Joe, and the Wave Crusher impresses me. And the Cobra Eel's not a bad addition to this figure format, either.

The TARGET exclusive G.I. JOE COBRA WAVE CRUSHER with COBRA EEL definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!