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REVIEW: G.I. JOE THE RISE OF COBRA - ICE DAGGER with FROSTBITE
By Thomas Wheeler

There has never been a shortage of arctic characters and vehicles for the G.I. Joe line. And this has been carried over into the current G.I. Joe line, which is based on this past summer's live-action G.I. Joe movie, "The Rise of Cobra". Hasbro has obviously expanded the toy line well beyond what was actually seen in the movie. They had to. The toy line would have simply been too limited otherwise. That's okay, though. The end result is nevertheless an interesting lineup of characters, and certainly some very impressive vehicles.

One of these, which proved to be rather elusive, is indeed an arctic-themed vehicle, called the ICE DAGGER.

Arctic vehicles have certainly not been a scarcity in the world of G.I. Joe. It was only the second year, 1983, when the G.I. Joe team acquired not only their first arctic trooper, Snow Job, but their first arctic vehicle, the Battle Bear Skimobile. This was followed a couple of years later by the very impressive Snow Cat, with its driver, Frostbite. Much more would follow, including the massive Avalanche, the Blockbuster, and much more. Cobra would counter largely with the Cobra Wolf, but both sides would continue to maintain an arctic presence through the years, right up to the recent Cobra Arctic HISS, which barely made it out before the movie.

One of the vehicles, released several years ago during the so-called "newsculpt" era, was the G.I. Joe Ice Sabre. Technically taking its name from a Cobra vehicle from the early 1990's, one of the stranger designs, as well, the G.I. Joe Ice Sabre was an impressive, somewhat tank-like vehicle, molded in pale grey with darker grey camouflage, with a number of special features. It had skis up front, and heavy treads in the rear, and was clearly heavily armored, ready and capable to withstand just about anything thrown its way on some frozen tundra battlefield.

The Ice Dagger is essentially the Ice Sabre, significantly recolored. Somewhat curiously, in my opinion, Hasbro updated the copyright date on the base of the vehicle. It reads 2008. The original Ice Sabre has a copyright date of 2004. As far as I can tell, other than the color and the labels, this is the only change made to the Ice Dagger from its predecessor. I'm sure there's some legal reason for it, but there's also been no shortage of G.I. Joe vehicles over the years (and for that matter figures) with copyright dates all over the map depending on when they were originally released. The Dragonfish jet-ski currently being produced for the line still has a 2003 copyright date on it. Just strikes me as a little odd, is all.

But it's also a decidedly minor point on an otherwise extremely impressive vehicle. While no such thing as the Ice Dagger may actually exist, it does, for the most part, look entirely plausible. The basic design is not at all overly fanciful or too futuristic. Some critics of certain aspects of the G.I. Joe line over the years have argued that some designs just got too weird. While opinion may vary on whether this was true or what it might best be applied to, it's probably fair to say that there were some items that weren't the best fit for what was at least initially conceived as a largely military concept with a reasonable amount of realism.

The Ice Dagger is not a stretch in the least. One can readily imagine it turning up on an arctic battlefield someplace. Some of its features, which I will be discussing, may stretch credibility, but in its basic form, it looks very realistic. And it looks like a snow tank, plain and simple. As I said when describing its ancestor, the Ice Dagger looks like a heavily armored, rugged, ready-to-fight arctic tank. It has skis up front, and treads in the rear.

It has been recolored from the original pale grey of the Ice Sabre into a very impressive steel blue. While perhaps not as effective in the "arctic camouflage" department, it nevertheless looks very cool. The skis, treads, and several other features have been done in black.

The Ice Dagger measures about 11" in length, 5" in width, and is around 4-1/2" in height. The skis up front are highly adjustable. Along with turning left and right, they can be slid forward and backward somewhat, along a small track underneath the vehicle. Precisely what advantage this offers to the Ice Dagger, I'm really not certain, but it's an interesting feature.

The front half of the vehicle is the cockpit. The canopy opens to reveal a two-seater cockpit, for a driver and passenger, who would presumably be a gunner. Directly behind the cockpit is a gunner station, with a small machine gun attached to it. This is an open, standing area, not a third seat.

Behind this is a weapons platform, and here is the only point at which the Ice Dagger really stretches credibility. This weapons platform is a somewhat encased area, where a weapons specialist can sit, and fire a series of missiles. That's not implausible, but what is a little implausible is the fact that the entire weapons platform rises up over the rest of the vehicle. There's a spring loaded button in the very back of the vehicle. Press it, and the sides of the vehicle fall open and the platform shoots up, at a speed that in real life would probably give the person seated in the enclosed area instant whiplash.

I don't question the speed of the feature -- there's only so much you can do with spring-loaded mechanics. I do question whether or not something like this would be feasible in real life. However, I am not a student of modern military technology.

This weapons station has a machine gun mounted where the gunner can access it readily, a rotating radar dish, and four spring-loaded missiles mounted on two missile racks to either side of the enclosed area. These racks are adjustable up and down (although down wouldn't be too bright as you'd likely shoot your own vehicle) and the entire weapons station turns around on its post. This creates a rather considerable range and field of fire for the missiles. The entire assembly snaps back down into place quite readily.

In the VERY back of the Ice Dagger, accessible from the rear, is seating for two additional troopers. Seriously it's a tight fit back there.

Toywise, the Ice Dagger is not propelled by either the skis or the treads, which are not actual treads. This isn't the MOBAT. Rather, there are three small wheels underneath the vehicle, that allow it to roll along on any smooth surface very capably.

The Ice Dagger has, in my opinion, a very above-average range of "play features". Give this vehicle to an imaginative child along with a couple of Cobra Snow Serpents or something for it to fight, and he'll have plenty to do. You have the opening canopy with a detailed cockpit, you have the raising weapons platform with the rotating turret and the multi-positionable firing missiles, you have the rear area to conceal additional troopers -- there's really a lot to offer here.

The Ice Dagger comes almost completely assembled. All you really have to do is insert the missiles into their launcher and attach a couple of the smaller items, such as the machine gun, the radar dish, and the antenna. Sometimes I miss the days when you had to basically assemble the entire vehicle, but I suspect in this instance, it was necessary because of the spring-action weapons platform.

However, you do get to do the labels. And that's something of a challenge in and of itself. Now, I don't object in the least getting to put the labels on any G.I. Joe vehicle. As a graphic artist, as well as a writer, I tend to be very particular about precision placement of such details, and so I'm more than happy to handle this sort of thing myself.

Which doesn't mean that they were all easy. Obviously, the labels differ considerably from the original Ice Sabre, as far as the Ice Dagger is concerned. If nothing else, the "G.I. Joe" labels use the movie logo, rather than any prior toy logo. And there are several labels with the "eagle head" insignia that was developed for the movie, arguably as a counterpoint to the Cobra emblem, I suspect.

Most of the labels go in place well enough. Interestingly, the instructions indicate that the "G.I. Joe" logos should go in a different place than the outside package illustration indicates. Frankly, I thought the package illustration was an improvement, so I went with that. A few of the labels don't quite want to fit where they're supposed to. In some cases, trimming them a bit very carefully with a good pair of scissors can help. In some cases, putting them somewhere else reasonably logical on the vehicle can help, although I am not saying that to advocate defying the instructions.

A few of the labels are quite tricky, and that would be the four that are supposed to go on little screens in the cockpit. Now, I've had it happen before whereby a given label on a vehicle was clearly intended to be placed by hands smaller than mine -- a child's hands, more than likely. But in this case, I think even a kid with hands as steady as a surgeon would be hard-pressed to get these in place. Personally, I recommend placing the labels gently on the tip of a toothpick or an X-Acto knife, and getting them into position that way. Once in place, press down with your finger once you've removed the toothpick or knife. It's what I did, and it worked extremely well.

There is also a driver figure included, named FROSTBITE.

Frostbite first came onto the G.I. Joe team in 1985, as the driver of the Snow Cat, one of the coolest (no pun intended) arctic vehicles from the original line. He was essentially the second arctic trooper assigned to the Joe Team after Snow Job in 1983, but he would hardly be the last. The original Frostbite was dressed all in white, with black hair and beard, and a furry hat and fur trim on his uniform

Interestingly, both Frostbite and the Snow Cat were overhauled into Tiger Force three years later, and Frostbite turned up with red hair this time around! Just to confuse matters that much more, a 1993 Frostbite gave the character sort of dark reddish brown hair, as if somebody couldn't decide if he was supposed to have black hair or red hair, and just split the difference.

The Frostbite that comes with the Ice Dagger -- well, I think they decided just to not worry about it. He's wearing a ski mask. All you can really see are his eyes. Now, he has black eyebrows, for what that's worth.

This Frostbite figure is obviously designed along the current construction format, which commenced with the 25th Anniversary line. Frostbite has a black ski mask, looks like he's probably scowling underneath it if the position of his eyebrows is any indication, and is wearing a very pale grey arctic coat, green military trousers, and black gloves and boots. There's a non-raising good placed around the collar of the coat, which adds a nice bit of detail. The coat and the trousers have numerous pouches on them, and he looks like he's bundled up rather well for the arctic chill. The eagle-head insignia is on the left sleeve.

What surprised me was that the figure can actually be posed in a sitting position sufficient to get him into the seat of the Ice Dagger. I expected the extra length of the coat would be a hindrance to that, but it's decently flexible, and is actually a separate piece that -- well, rides up a bit. It probably wouldn't be terribly comfortable, but it works.

Frostbite doesn't come with any additional accessories, no small rifles or anything like that. But when you can take over the guns or missile racks of something like the Ice Dagger, who needs a rifle?

The background information on the file cards for the G.I. Joe movie line is very limited compared to previous incarnations, but it does correctly identify Frostbite as Farley S. Seward, which is his name from the original series, and goes on to describe Frostbite thusly:

"Frostbite is an arctic operations specialist and expert in winter and mountain combat operations. He can drive through the most extreme weather conditions and roughest terrain imaginable. An ace mechanic, he can repair any vehicle in the middle of nowhere with only the materials on hand."

So, what's my final word here? Is the Ice Dagger actually in the G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra movie? No, it is not. Neither are a lot of other things presently in the toy line. That doesn't mean they're not cool additions for ANY G.I. Joe collection, and in my opinion, the G.I. Joe Ice Dagger is precisely that -- a cool addition to any G.I. Joe Collection, that will work well with any incarnation of the figures from any point in time. It looks impressive, it looks quite plausible for the most part, it looks like it can handle any arctic battle it gets involved in, and it has plenty of features to keep a player interested.

The G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA ICE DAGGER definitely has my highest recommendation!