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By Thomas Wheeler

Despite the presence of Cobra Troopers during the run of the G.I. Joe Sigma Six animated series, there really haven't been any enemy "army- builder" figures in the 8" G.I. Joe line -- at least not human ones. There was, of course, the Ninja B.A.T. and Sky B.A.T. But not a Cobra Trooper figure. In that light, it may be termed a little unusual that the first one to turn up -- is an Iron Grenadier.

And at this point I should stop for a moment and explain something of a conceptual overhaul that has taken place in the 8" G.I. Joe line, which you'll notice I am not referring to as Sigma Six. Basically, the Sigma Six concept has been dropped. There's still some evidence of it here and there, as figures using previous parts might still have the Sigma Six wrist communicator, or peg-holes on their uniforms for the placement of equipment, but the packaging no longer says Sigma Six, and the "6" logo is no longer on any of the uniforms. A new G.I. Joe logo, more or less a cross between the Sigma Six G.I.Joe logo and the 3-3/4" logo, has been developed. So, in fairness, these now just have to be called 8" G.I. Joes.

The basic style of the figures remains unchanged, a sort of semi-anime look to the overall design, that is certainly a departure from the more realistic 3-3/4" and certainly realistic 12" G.I. Joes. And it could well be argued that these 8" G.I. Joes are intended more for the kids than the collectors. Ultimately, that does have to be Hasbro's main audience if they are to survive as a toy company. So be it. That doesn't mean that these aren't interesting action figures, with enough cool features to keep adult fans interested.

The overall package design, despite the absence of any references to Sigma Six, still has a few carryovers. The typeface used to spell out the Iron Grenadier's name is the same as the Sigmas, and the character's file card on the back also uses this typeface. So I suspect we're looking at a sort of gradual departure of Sigma-related details.

Now granted also, the Cobra side of the Sigma Six line never displayed the same level of -- Sigma-ness as the G.I. Joe Team. Cobra didn't have Sigma Suits of their own, although it might have been interesting to have seen what they might have come up with after Firefly, planted on the Sigma Team by Cobra, rejoined the Cobra forces and took his Sigma Suit with him, as outlined in the animated series. But this will have to remain speculation.

As for the Iron Grenadiers. Most longtime G.I. Joe fans know that in 1988, Destro, a longtime ally of Cobra, set off on his own, no doubt thoroughly fed up with Cobra Commander, and established his own army called the Iron Grenadiers. This new enemy force continued in the G.I. Joe toy line through 1990. After that, things get a little murky. Some former Iron Grenadier trooper designations became affiliated with Cobra. The TARGATs became part of Cobra's Star Brigade forces in 1993. The Undertow frogmen were designated as Cobra underwater specialists in 2000. And there was an Iron Grenadier trooper designated to Cobra that was part of the Spy Troops line during its run.

The Iron Grenadiers were brought back in 2005, as part of that year's Convention Set. Once again under the control of Destro, the set featured half a dozen reworked Iron Grenadiers, half a dozen Iron Anvils, a new detachment under the Iron Grenadiers banner (and made from the previously less-than-impressive 1994 Cobra Vipers), along with Destro, Metal-Head, and their ally General Mayhem.

There was also a new Nullifier figure, but interestingly, between the Convention and the Club Membership figure, the Nullifer saw release as both a Cobra and an Iron Grenadier-related figure.

I believe that most fans see the Iron Grenadiers as an army created by Destro, aspects of which he's willing to loan to Cobra from time to time -- for the right price, of course.

And then we come to the 8" Iron Grenadier, and it's a whole new situation. According to the file card, the entirety of which I will relate later on, these troopers are not affiliated with Destro at all. They're strictly Cobra, trained for their jobs as Cobra's Elite Infantry by Firefly. This connection was brought in, I suspect, due to the fact that the Iron Grenadiers use the same body, for the most part, as the Cobra version of the Firefly figure. I don't own that particular figure, so it's not a comparison I can make myself, but such is what I have heard.

I still find it interesting from a story standpoint that Firefly apparently didn't turn the Sigma Suit he was issued during his time as a G.I. Joe over to Cobra for analysis and duplication. Then again, maybe he did, and Cobra's tech department is having a heck of a time with the thing, and meanwhile, they've got to do something to build up the troops. Again, pure speculation on my part, and somewhat pointless at this point when applied to the toy line, which has moved beyond the Sigma Suits for both sides. Sue me, I rather liked the Sigma Suits, and a Cobra version would've been interesting.

As one might expect, there's no sign of Destro's insignia anywhere on this 8" Iron Grenadier figure. There is a Cobra emblem on the helmet, however. How does the figure compare to its 3-3/4" predecessor? Well -- there's sort of a resemblance, but it's honestly not all that strong. I'm not saying that's a bad thing necessarily. The 8" Iron Grenadier is still an interesting figure. But honestly, the level of resemblance to its smaller counterpart is pretty much restricted to a certain similarity around the sort-of gas-mask-like face mask that emerges from underneath the helmet. The face masks of the 3-3/4" Iron Grenadiers always were a strange bit of work, and that's certainly carried over to the 8" Iron Grenadier. But that's about the extent of the resemblance.

And the gas ask isn't even the creepiest part of the helmet, either. That would have to go to the two beady little red eyes peering out. Now, the Iron Grenadiers are not robots. They're not Battle Android Troopers. They're supposed to be human. But there's something very B.A.T.-like about these two beady little red eyes. It's as though they were designed to diminish the humanity, or at least the appearance of humanity, on the part of the wearer. If such was the case, they succeed.

The overall color scheme of the Iron Grenadier isn't especially close to his predecessor, but it's a color scheme that just on its own manages to be sufficiently sinister. Even without the creepy face mask on the helmet, you're not likely to mistake this guy for one of the good guys. The uniform is predominantly a dark burgundy in color, with significant amounts of greyish-silver armor. This is in evidence on the torso, upper arms, elbows, boots, helmet, and the upper left leg. The rest of the uniform, including the face mask, gloves, and boots, are black. Theres some dark grey trim on the figure as well.

The Iron Grenadier is well-equipped with additional uniform pieces. There is a wide belt with a huge buckle that provides some armored protection of its own. There is a large backpack whose purpose is not defined anywhere on the package, but it's a fairly high-tech piece of work, with red hoses, two of which run to the helmet's face mask, and a third running to a small tank attached to the upper right leg. Frankly, I'd be concerned about getting the hoses entangled in something in the midst of battle, but I have to admit that it looks cool, and adds to the creepiness factor of the figure.

The Iron Grenadier is about of average size and build for an 8" G.I. Joe, as one might expect him to be. Technically, this could readily be an army-builder figure for those so inclined. The fact that the figure is part of the Soldier assortment category of 8" G.I. Joe figures is no doubt a further incentive to buy more than one of them should a collector (or for that matter a kid or his parents) be able to afford them.

It's often been said that the bad guys in G.I. Joe tend to get stranger hardware than the good guys. That's certainly true in the case of this Iron Grenadier, who comes with some truly peculiar but interesting accessories. The Iron Grenadier has two major weapons. First off is the "Irogren-5 Grenade Launcher". This looks like a machine gun with its own missile rack. It's a spring-loaded weapon that fires one missile through its barrel, of course, and keeps two others in reserve. Large and nasty looking.

The second weapon is called the "X-3C Capture Spear". This is a really weird contraption, basically a long pole with a rope on it that has spiked handcuffs and a neck collar attached to the rope. The illustration on the back of the package shows the Grenadier hauling a cuffed and collared Gung-Ho around. Gung-Ho doesn't look especially happy (not that he does very often anyway). As to the origin of this strange device, I might speculate that the weapons designers at Hasbro have been watching a little too much "Animal Planet" lately. This looks like the sort of thing you might use to secure rowdy wildlife.

There is a new feature with the latest 8" G.I. Joe figures -- it's the return of (or at least a new incarnation of) something that was quite legendary towards the end of the original 12" line of G.I. Joe figures -- KUNG-FU GRIP! And it's a little hard to miss the bright red and yellow sticker on the package attesting to that fact.

However, where the 12" G.I. Joes accomplished this by clenched hands with rubbery fingers that allowed them to grasp objects that could fit within their hands, the 8" G.I. Joes accomplish this with spring-loaded fingers on the right hand. They even went so far as to paint the back of the right glove with a little area of red, which personally I don't think was that necessary, although at least on the Iron Grenadier it blends fairly well. Honestly the only one that this mark of red paint looks pretty blatant on is Gung-Ho. The spring inside the hand seems to have a good amount of tension to it, even though the grasping radius of the hand is relatively small, due to the size of the figure, of course. However, it should still be useful in helping the figure hold onto his accessories.

The Iron Grenadier has a file card on the back of his package, of course, which reads as follows:


Code Name: Iron Grenadier

Specialty: Elite Trooper

Personal History: These specially trained troopers are hand-picked by Firefly for their endurance, tenacity, and pure meanness. They won't stop until they've captured their target. To capture someone they use stun grenades, which emit a chemical that makes the target temporarily unable to move. The immobilized person is retrained with a collar and cuffs that zap him with an electric jolt if he tries to remove them. Able to creep into G.I. Joe territory unnoticed, Iron Grenadier troops are a silent and dangerous enemy.

Stun grenades that emit a chemical, well that explains the gas masks, anyway.

While I won't say that this figure looks like either a typical Cobra Trooper or Iron Grenadier as longtime collectors have come to know them from the 3-3/4" line, I do have to say that this 8" Iron Grenadier is impressive and nasty-looking in his own right, and the 8" G.I. Joe line really hasn't had all that many enemy "army-builders". It's tended to concentrate on individuals such as Cobra Commander, Storm Shadow, and others. So this is honestly a welcome addition to the 8" G.I. Joe collection, especially for those who believe that Cobra -- in any size and style -- should represent an enemy ARMY as much as anything.

But even if you just want one, I certainly give my enthusiastic recommendation to the 8" G.I. Joe IRON GRENADIER!