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By Thomas Wheeler

The final set of Toys "R" Us exclusive G.I.JOE six-packs has been getting a lot of negative reaction from the fan and collectors' community. Unfortunately, a lot of this negative reaction is justified. However, I'm prepared to be a bit more charitable. A bit...

That's not to say I disagree with the negative reaction to this set. Let's consider what many feel to be the biggest negative to the G.I.JOE HEAVY ASSAULT SQUAD right off the bat -- it doesn't, in several instances, even feature the figures that are advertised in the package illustration, concept explanation, or file cards. The concept explanation reads: "Duke leads a four-man team deep into hostile territory to rescue Ace, who has been captured by Cobra forces. Snake- Eyes was chosen for his skill at infiltrating heavily-guarded facilities, and Sgt. Mutt joins the team to keep the Cobra guards busy while the rescue is underway. Two G.I.Joe Infantry Troops complete this special team that will stop at nothing to return one of their own to freedom!"

Okay, obviously this set was supposed to include Duke, Snake-Eyes, Ace, Mutt, and two Infantry Troops, or "Greenshirts", to use the common designation. The file cards on the back of the package also bear this out. Unfortunately, that's not who the set includes in several instances. The set does include Duke and Snake-Eyes, all right, but Mutt and Ace are nowhere to be found. Instead, we have Roadblock, and THREE Greenshirts.

Lord knows how this happened. Now, I do find the original inclusion of Ace an interesting notion, as Ace has never been part of one of these six-packs, and I rather wonder where Hasbro expected to get an Ace figure from. As far as I've been able to determine, the last time Ace turned up in traditional-style format, it was with an airplane sold as part of the 2000-2002 collection, and was a recoloration of the 1992-93 Ace (which, I will say, was an excellent figure). Maybe Hasbro planned on including him and suddenly realized they didn't have the molds.

Mutt, on the other hand, did appear more recently. They even had to remold some of his parts to bring him in! In fact he was in one of the sets from which this set clearly takes a lot of its cues, and this leads to the second major complaint about the Heavy Assault Squad -- there's nothing really new here. Snake-Eyes, Duke, and Roadblock all turned up, in very similar color schemes to these, in either the Anti-Venom or Desert Strike Team sets, neither of which was especially inspirational. And you can still find six-packs of the Greenshirts set out there, and that mess has to be the single worst of all of the TRU six-packs. Who needs three more of these cobbled-together dust collectors!?

Now, I want to be fair here. There are a couple of high points. The Roadblock figure used is a recoloration of the 1992 version, which to me has always been the single best Roadblock of all time. The original 1984 version was a bit skinny for a character that was supposed to be a mountain of muscle, and the 1986 version had a generally poorly-detailed sculpt. Additionally, the Heavy Assault Squad Roadblock has traded in his desert-patterned pants for some dark grey camouflage pants, and it's an improvement. So this is really a very cool Roadblock.

Similarly, the Snake-Eyes figure is excellent. It's based on the 1991 Snake-Eyes, which to me was always the best. Most people prefer the 1985 Snake-Eyes, with its ridged visor, but I never cared for the body sculpt on that one. The one drawback to the 1991 Snake-Eyes was that it had too much bright blue and pale grey on it. This wasn't entirely in keeping with Snake-Eyes tradition of wearing mostly black.

When the 1991 Snake-Eyes was reissued as part of the Desert Strike Team, Hasbro sort of got it half-right. The upper body was molded in black. However, the trousers were molded in a fairly light-colored desert camouflage, which sort of made it look like Snake-Eyes had borrowed somebody else's pants. It didn't quite work.

However, for the Heavy Assault Squad, Snake-Eyes is now outfitted with dark grey pants, with black camouflage. Admittedly the camouflage itself is a little strange-looking. It's sort of speckled, like someone washed with charcoal briquettes or something. But it certainly works from an overall color-choice standpoint, and the end result is really a very effective Snake-Eyes figure.

Duke, unfortunately, suffers from poor part and paint choices. The arms used are obviously not molded as long sleeved shirts, even if that's how they've been colored to resemble. Furthermore, Duke suffers from a problem that really needs to be stopped -- painting the entire head. Look, Hasbro, just mold the head in flesh tone and paint the hair, okay? This painting of the entire head looks awful.

Speaking of painting, Hasbro continues to have some severe painting issues with their current 3-3/4" figures, that even carried over into some of this year's Convention figures. Most severely, the practice of HAND-PAINTING these figures MUST CEASE! There is just no way for anyone to effectively hand-paint thousands of the same toy piece without some of them coming out sloppy. A return to stencils and spray paint for ALL G.I.Joe figure parts is essential.

Worse, when some parts are hand-painted, some parts end up with such a thick load of paint slapped on them that it not only obscures detail, it can actually effect the stance of the figure. Case in point in this set -- Duke's boots. There's a huge accumulation of paint on the bottoms of his feet that is just inexcusable, and certainly would not have been tolerated in the 80's and 90's, so why is is permitted now? And I don't see this sort of thing happening on Star Wars! Roadblock isn't much better off, especially with regard to those red strips of "fabric" tied around the tops of his boots. Now, in fairness to the paint work, there are some positive points worth mentioning. The buckles and snaps on Snake-Eyes' vest harness have all been nicely painted in silver, something even the original 1991 version didn't do. And they've been spray-painted by stencil, too.

And while the Greenshirts seem to have spray-painted boots (which surprised me, since boots seem to be one of the favorite parts for Hasbro to have hand-painted), the blonde one has such a glop of paint plastered on his head to paint the hair that it not only covers the better part of one ear, but it looks more like someone dumped lemon pudding on his head. And the eyes on all three are pretty sloppy, too.

I don't think it's being an overly fussy nit-picker to expect these figures to have a quality level, in all respects of production, comparable to their originals from the 80's and 90's. And these just don't cut it.

I'm not going to say a lot else about the Greenshirts. It was a good idea that received absolutely horrible treatment when they were released in a six-pack of their own, and these three are no better.

I'm also not going to relate the file cards, as I usually do. For one thing, there's no reason to relate the Ace or Mutt file cards, Roadblock doesn't have a file card, and the file cards that are here are ones that have already been used anyway.

I will say this in the set's favor - at least the set I purchased. I didn't see anybody that had the molding problem of deep creases in the head that has sadly continued to plague the line in other sets, including unfortunately the comic-based sets from the DTC online offerings. This shows this problem CAN be avoided.

Ultimately, I can only recommend the G.I.JOE HEAVY ASSAULT SQUAD on the following basis: Completists should have it. Those who want to show Hasbro that there is still a market for 3-3/4" G.I.Joes should get it, just for the sake of the sales (and it's not terribly expensive). And those looking for really very decent updated figures of Roadblock and Snake-Eyes, certainly two popular characters, will appreciate this set.

But for the most part, this was a sad way for a series of store exclusives that gave us the likes of TIGER FORCE, PYTHON PATROL, NIGHT FORCE, WINTER OPERATIONS, and the CRIMSON SHADOW GUARD, among other sets, some good, some not so, to end its run.