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By Thomas Wheeler

I've decided to review one of the earlier G.I.Joe two-packs. This rather bedraggled set had been hanging all by its lonesome in an otherwise rather pathetic toy department at a local pharmacy for the past couple of years. Although the two figures in the set are newsculpt, they appealed to me for certain reasons.

Let's start with Hi-Tech. Good name for a modern-day G.I.Joe. Arguably the character could probably be seen as a successor to Mainframe, although Hi-Tech's file card indicates that he's a mechanic as well as a technician. Mainframe was introduced in 1986. At that time, personal computers were still pretty scarce, portable ones were even more so, and a web site was something you swept out of a high corner after you got rid of the spider that put it there. Interestingly, Mainframe DID come with a nice little portable computer accessory. It was no laptop, but it managed, in its little plastic way, to look like a fairly sophisticated piece of hardware for the G.I.Joe Team.

Hysterically, this modern-day two-pack DOES come with a laptop computer accessory! It's even hinged so the screen really flips up! However, based on the photograph in the product catalog that came with the set, it's actually supposed to go with Dr. Mindbender. But, it doesn't have a Cobra insignia on it or anything, so I see no reason why it couldn't be given to Hi-Tech if you wanted to.

The equipment in the package that is assigned to Hi-Tech is a fairly large missile launching platform, and a rather bulky but sophisticated- looking-enough communicator arm gauntlet that also has attachments for small sidearms. I'd think in real like this would be a good way to strain your arm.

The figure, setting aside the new-style sculpt, has a very decent design. Hi-Tech is dressed in dark grey and blue, and is wearing a dark red vest and leg pouches with many pockets. No doubt the guy's a walking tool kit. He's also wearing a headpiece that looks like he swiped it from one of the Borg from Star Trek.

My only real complaint about the assembly of the figure apart from the fact that he's a new-sculpt is that his hair, a rather long and wavy coif, is a separate piece that was glued to the head. This wouldn't bother me if they'd molded it in the proper blonde color to begin with, instead of obviously molding it in a darker color and then painting it. This was a ridiculously wasteful step, and it's not even painted all that well. You can see the original dark color of the plastic around the edges.

Hi-Tech's file card reads as follows:

Operations Support Specialist
File Name: Lewinski, David P.
Primary Military Specialty: Armament Research and Design Secondary Military Specialty: Telecommunications
Birthplace: St. Paul, Minnesota
Although he is more likely to be wielding a soldering gun than one that shoots bullets, Hi-Tech can be depended on to pitch in during a real fight, by taking control of any number of complex technological weapons systems used by the G.I.Joe Team as they battle the nefarious forces of Cobra. A good-natured soul who can't bring himself to say "no", Hi-Tech spends most of his off-duty time reparing the personal vehicles of G.I.Joe teammates, fixing their TVs and stereo systems, and trouble- shooting their PCs and laptops. He doesn't mind it a bit. He said it's all good practice for when a key piece of a weapons system fails during a real fight. His latest work involves developing technology that can remove the animal hybridization venom that has been developed by Dr. Mindbender to create more powerful and dangerous Cobra troops. "If it isn't alive or art, I can fix it."

I love that quote. Now, what about the second half of this two-pack -- Dr. Mindbender?

Unlike Hi-Tech, who is a new character here, Dr. Mindbender was first established in the G.I.Joe world in 1986, as Cobra's chief scientist, which finally allowed Cobra to stop kidnapping scientists right and left in every other episode of the animated series, if nothing else.

But there was something really creepy about the initial figure. Hardly looking like a typical "mad scientist", Mindbender was shirtless, with purple trousers, big black leather-like boots, a huge mustache, and a black cape. It's been said that his unusual appearance was psychologically designed to unnerve others, and in this, it certainly succeeded. About the only place you could get away with an outfit like this and blend in would be certain sections of San Francisco, and I doubt that was Mindbender's intention.

There was a second Dr. Mindbender in 1993, that was at least better dressed, with a purple shirt and yellow trousers (stolen and recolored from some hapless Cobra Viper, which is why all Cobra Viper figures since then have used BAT legs), but he still didn't exactly resemble what one would expect from a scientist, even a villainous one with a few loose bats in his belfry.

Whatever my complaints may be about the fundamental structure of the newsculpt G.I.Joe figures, at least they finally delivered a Dr. Mindbender that looks like what you'd expect someone in his position within Cobra to look like. The figure is wearing a white (well, sort of very, very pale grey) lab coat with a Cobra insignia on it, grey trousers (here they probably could've done purple and gotten away with it, not unlike the figure's 12" counterpart), black boots, and no weird cape.

Mindbender has traded in his monocle for thin glasses, and his former extra-bushy mustache for something a little more Genghis Khan like. He manages to look menacing without looking excessively bizarre.

One thing I'll never understand, and its present on both Mindbender and Hi-Tech, is the practice of painting the entire head. It's turned up on a few of the traditional-style figures in the 6-packs and comic-based three-packs, as well, and it just doesn't make sense. Is there anything wrong with molding the head in the proper flesh-tone plastic in the first place and leaving it alone? All it takes is one misfire of the paint-sprayer to ruin the look of the figure.

As for the accessories, Mindbender is supposed to get the laptop computer, and he also has two silver-tone pistols. I still think it wouldn't be a bad idea to give the laptop to Hi-Tech. If Mindbender wants to pick a fight about it, let's see how his pistols do against Hi-Tech's big missile launcher.

Dr. Mindbender's file card reads as follows:

Cobra Master of Mind Control
File Name: Classified
Birthplace: Classified

The originator of Cobra mind-control programs, Dr. Mindbender turned his evil genius towards the creation of genetically-altered super-warriors, perfecting a Venom that adheres the DNA of the earth's most ferocious and dangerous animals to human DNA. The resulting hybrids are faster, stronger, and more resistant to pain than the normal human Cobra troopers. They also require less maintenance and don't seem to mind that they aren't beind paid. Dr. Mindbender was once a kindly orthodontist who, in his quest to relieve dental pain through mind-control, tested his brainwave scanner on himself and was turned into a malevolent maniac with definite anti-social tendencies. In Cobra Commander, he found a perfect patron who shares his evil views and has unlimited funds to finance his wildest and most unnatural experiments. "Venom is my crowning achievement. It smells like - victory through microbiology!"

So, would I recommend this two-pack? Well -- only conceptually. For one thing, I suspect it might be a little hard to find at this point, although at the rate these two-packs are turning up on clearance at K*B Toys these days, I don't know. I find it difficult to recommend any of these newsculpt figures as these don't fit my personal taste in sculpting. In a perfect world, Hasbro would be giving serious consideration to turning out traditional-style figures of some of the more interesting characters, or even character revisions, that they developed for these newsculpt figures, and in such a scenario, Hi-Tech would definitely qualify as an interesting new character, and this version of Mindbender is certainly an improvement, visually, over his two previous incarnations.

There's other characters I'd throw into that "if only..." category. Bombstrike, the Medi-Viper, Burnout, the Cobra Heavy Water trooper... Heck, for that matter, looking through the product catalog that came with this two-pack, I wouldn't mind seeing some of these BTR vehicles redone without the Lego overtones. Some nice designs and cool names here.

But, none of that is especially likely. As for this particular two-pack, if you're a dedicated traditional-style collector, you probably won't be that interested. If you like the newsculpts and don't already have this set, you'll probably enjoy it, and might still be able to find it. Me? As I said, we've got one good new character here, and one good character revision here. Which in and of itself, is a good thing.