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REVIEW: G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA AGENT HELIX
By Thomas Wheeler

You know, regardless of which figure format it may appear in, or from what segment of the G.I. Joe world it may emanate from, one thing will generally attract my attention -- and that's an all-new character.

Find a listing of G.I. Joe figures, taking in the entirety of the line. You'll find about fifty Snake-Eyes figures -- at last count. I realize he's a popular character, and I like him as well as anybody. But I don't really need another figure of him.

But show me somebody new -- show me Matt Trakker. Show me the Para-Viper. Go back a few years and show me new Cobra troopers like the Neo-Vipers or the Coils. That will interest me. And there's an interesting new character in the G.I. Joe line connected to the live-action movie.

There are two particularly interesting things about this new character. First off, it's a new female character. The number of female characters in the vast entirety of G.I. Joe is sufficiently minimal so that this is of immediate interest. Secondly -- she's not in the movie. She was actually created for the movie-based video game.

And, let's throw in a third. She's got a pretty cool code name in my opinion. Her name is AGENT HELIX. Not quite sure why I like it, but it's a cool name.

So I was more than willing to bring Agent Helix into my collection. She had a cool, if slightly offbeat look, and represented both an entirely new character and entirely new female character. She was hinted at in a brief article in ToyFare magazine that discussed the game, which looks like a very decent video game, although I haven't played it, so I can't really comment on it.

And yet, I was left with something of a dilemma. I like to present some background information on the character of action figures that I write, as you've no doubt noticed if you've read any of my other reviews. There are plenty of reviewers out there who will take an action figure and simply grade it on the basis of an action figure, and that's fine. But I like to get a little more in-depth and present the CHARACTER of the figure, as well. I think it adds something to know just who is represented by this plastic figure.

Some characters are easier than others. I'm almost embarrassed writing anything about Superman. I mean, who HASN'T heard of him?! Even within the world of G.I. Joe -- the problem with trying to write something about, for example, Snake-Eyes, is figuring out how to pare it down from its inevitable encyclopedic length. But Helix? Not actually in the movie, only appears in the video game -- and your average video game isn't known for great depths of biographical information... the file cards for the figures on the movie-based line are pretty minimal. There had to be SOMETHING I could write about the character.

Turned out there was. IDW, the current comic licensee for G.I. Joe, had produced a one-shot special comic book on Agent Helix. So I bought the comic. I wasn't really sure what to expect. An origin story? An adventure? Honestly, I got both.

On the toy package, Agent Helix's specialty is listed as "Covert Operations", and apparently for good reason.

The comic book starts off, apparently, with Agent Helix in a training session. Several armed combatants wearing protecting padding enter the room. Helix calmly states not only the precise type of firearm that each combatant is carrying, but how many rounds of ammunition each one has. A very brief battle ensues, where Helix dispatches her opponents in less time than it takes to tell, displaying a frightening level of martial arts prowess, never suffering the slightest injury, and then calmly reports on how much ammunition is LEFT in each firearm.

Cut to a darkened room where Hawk and Duke have been watching this entire scene on video. Duke asks what they've just seen, and Hawk explains it as "Total Organic Battlefield Awareness", and then tells him that the young women is named Helix, an Alpha-Level 6 G.I. Joe operative, and one of Hawk's "special projects". She's also gone missing, and it's Duke's job to bring her home. He then tells Duke that he will be operating independently, and that technically speaking, Helix doesn't even exist.

Duke looks at Helix's dossier. It's a rather thin service record. Hawk tells Duke that Helix is not even actually military, and explains her backstory.

Prior to G.I. Joe, Helix was a near master level practitioner of Capoeira, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Shuai Jiao, Kendo, and fencing.

Hawk continues to explain that Helix competed around the world in both official and underground tournaments, and the rumors were that she could master a fighting style after seeing it just once (and Marvel Comics' Taskmaster called and he wants his gimmick back).

The dossier included a diagram, which Helix drew, of a 360-degree image of the training battle. According to Hawk, the "head shrinks" don't know what to make of her. She can identify and solve complex physical calculations at an alarming rate. Everything she sees has a data set. She knows how many miles a car has left before it runs out of gas, ammo counts in the bad guy's guns, you name it.

And Hawk is concerned that Cobra has her. She was sent to Tokyo to infiltrate a possible Cobra operation. She was supposed to make contact with a man named Koji Sato, Cobra's probable operative. And then missed several crucial check-ins. Someone like Helix would not miss check-ins.

Duke heads to Tokyo, plows through various thugs, and then gets beaned on the head by a pistol butt by Helix herself. Helix checks with Hawk by the time Duke revives, and the two restart on better terms. Apparently Koji Sato was so taken with Helix that he hadn't let her out of his sight long enough to check in on much of anything.

Helix hasn't killed Sato. Sato is planning to do that himself at the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Cobra has his wife held hostage, and is demanding that Sato explode a bomb -- within himself, apparently his lower intestine having been filled with C-4 plastic explosive when the exchange opens.

Helix and Duke head for the Stock Exchange, Duke gets to see just how Helix operates, although apparently it's a little too much even for her at times, and they manage to stop Sato. Helix heads off on her own, and Duke heads back to confer with Hawk, who explains that, not surprisingly, Cobra had killed Sato's wife at least a week prior. As for Helix, when Duke asks, Hawk just replies, "I'm afraid I'm not aware of a G.I. Joe operative with that code-name." End of story.

What's a little difficult to determine is precisely which universe this adventure takes place in. I'm inclined to say "movie", for several reasons. Cobra seems a little more ruthless, and Hawk a little more sneaky, than we've come to expect from most G.I. Joe adventures. On the other hand, Duke was a new recruit in the movie. Not the type of person who would likely be given an assignment at this level. Furthermore, the cover to the comic book uses the traditional G.I. Joe logo -- NOT the movie logo. Conversely yet again, Helix's uniform has the "eagle head" emblem that was developed for the G.I. Joe team for the movie. It may simply boil down to there being yet another G.I. Joe universe out there -- the video game one -- which might combine elements of others, including the movie. As I have not played the game, I can't really comment on that.

The comic book clearly portrays Agent Helix as a highly dangerous and frighteningly skilled young woman who may not even be entirely in control of her own abilities, which frankly border on super-powers, who could probably give Snake-Eyes a run for his money. No wonder they keep her under wraps most of the time.

So, how's the figure? Really very impressive. Helix doesn't really take any cues from the movie per se, except for the emblem, and she isn't going to be confused with any other female operative on the G.I. Joe team, either, that's for sure.

Notable especially is her hair. It's streaked black and very pale blonde, almost white. As to which (if either) is her natural color, that's a mystery not even the comic book revealed. Sort of looks like she got her hair done at a Dreadnok compound somewhere. One gets the impression from this, if nothing else, that Helix is likely a rather young operative.

Helix is wearing a yellow shirt with grey on the interior of the sleeves, and a black collar. The eagle-head emblem is on her upper left arm. I'm sort of ambivalent about it myself. I can see why something like this would want to be developed, since it's more or less "square" as far as space taken up, much like the Cobra emblem itself, and since the traditional G.I. Joe logo is not used in the movie, and since any of the G.I. Joe "word" logos tend to be rather long in shape, something a little more condensed was desirable. However, I can also see the point that after over a quarter of a century, it's a little hard to get used to something brand new out of the air like this.

Helix's torso seems to be covered in straps of body armor, and she's wearing a sort of harness over her chest that, charitably speaking, doesn't look especially comfortable. Detail work is excellent, though, especially the paint, as each buckle and rivet is painted silver.

Helix has a belt around her waist with numerous silver pouches. She is wearing dark grey trousers, black knee pads, and black boots. Not the most colorful look in the world, but effective. And the color palette for the movie-based figures is distinctly dark and not terribly varied.

The sleeves of Helix's shirt come up short of the black gloves she's wearing, and entirely inexplicably, there's a small band-aid on the back of her right wrist. This also appears in the training video. A reminder that, for all her skill, she's not perfect? Who knows. To the best of my knowledge, this is only the second G.I. Joe figure to ever appear with a band-aid sculpted to them -- the other one being Heavy Duty from the Sigma Six line. Just what sort of distinction this might be, I'm not even going to hazard a guess.

Helix's facial details are very neatly painted. She has blue eyes, and just a hint of pink around her lips. I'm not sure I can even call it lipstick. Of course, the figure is very well articulated, and even the mid-torso point, which can be problematic from a visual standpoint on some of these figures, works out well here, since it's a junction point between the upper and lower body armor on her torso.

Agent Helix comes with a considerable supply of accessories. These include two pistols, which are the only weapons mentioned on her file card, a larger rifle, a knife, and a missile launcher that's just about as big as she is. There was also this odd item that I initially took for a radar dish, except I couldn't figure out how it might work. Now, I have no idea if I got this right -- the only paperwork with the figure was a product catalog, but I was able to snap the "radar dish" on the front of the transparent blue missile that comes with the missile launcher. It was a perfect fit. I'm still not entirely sure what its representative function is supposed to be. That may be something in the video game that I'm just not aware of.

Perhaps not surprisingly, all of the weaponry seems to have a rather futuristic look to it. Overall, very impressive.

Agent Helix's file card, although rather limited, is interesting. Her name and serial number are CLASSIFIED. She's listed as a Corporal, with preferred weapons being the dual 10mm autopistols. As to her background, the card reads, "Agent Helix is a covert operations officer with advanced martial arts training and expert marksmanship. An Olympic class gymnast, her distinctive "Whirlwind Attack" is an overpowering combination of kicks and firepower.

Yeah, given the training video, I'd say that's right. "Chun-Li with guns", more or less. But the card sure as heck understated her other innate abilities -- not that I would expect the card-writers to necessarily confer with IDW, although I'm sure it all had to be approved by Hasbro.

Now, as a longtime collector of G.I. Joe, with an admitted preference for the original-style figures, I feel the question needs to be asked -- how well does Agent Helix "blend" with her predecessors?

Well -- unfortunately, not too well. With the advent of what is commonly called the "25th-style" figure design, G.I. Joe figures shot up from an average height of 3-3/4" to 4" or so, which is a pretty dramatic increase in height at that scale, and was a height previously reserved pretty much for Destro, at least in the original line.

And while it's true that female figures have tended to be slightly shorter than most, that's not the case with Agent Helix. She's a full 4" in height, making her the same height as most other 25th-style figures, and distinctly taller than previous G.I. Joe figures from other formats. Working her in with earlier G.I. Joes, as such, is a little tricky.

However, given the rather limited scope of the file cards on the movie-based line, there's perhaps some background on this new character that we don't know about. She's quite slender, and has distinctly long legs proportionate to the rest of the figure, as well as a fairly long neck.

So, what's my final word? I'm impressed. This is a cool figure of a very interesting new character in the G.I. Joe universe. I have no idea to what degree we'll see more of her, outside of the video game, but even if you're not into the video game, the movie, or even the modern figure format, Agent Helix is STILL a very interesting new character in the G.I. Joe universe. And bottom line -- how often do we get a new female character in G.I. Joe? Especially one this cool?

The figure has received a generally very positive reception in the G.I. Joe community, and it's certainly understandable why. I'm very pleased to have her, and I'm sure you will be too. The G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA figure of AGENT HELIX most definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!