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By Thomas Wheeler

With the release of the R.H.I.N.O. vehicle - Hasbro continued to turn out amazing, incredible, outstanding vehicles that if they had been released twenty years ago at the height of G.I. Joe's popularity would've been regarded as incredibly cool additions to the line even then!

The RHINO (enough with typing all those periods...), like the ROCC, was featured in the G.I. Joe Sigma Six cartoon. Since that animated show originally started out as an extension of the 3-3/4" line - and since doing versions of these vehicles to the right-inch scale of Sigma Six figures would not be practical - this isn't terribly surprising. It also isn't terribly relevant, except to say that it's nice such an impressive vehicle as the RHINO is getting some good TV time like that.

This is not the first time that the name "RHINO" has appeared as a G.I. Joe vehicle, although there really aren't any connections to this vehicle. The first was a basic but decent jeep that turned up in the 12" Hall of Fame line. The second was the Night Rhino, a recoloration of the Warthog AIFV, that turned up at the tail end of the 2000-2002 line of 3-3/4" action figures, just before the newsculpts started in.

In this case, RHINO is an abbreviation. It stands for Rapid Heli- Integrated Neutralizing Offensive vehicle. And brother, if this isn't a case where they came up with the abbreviation first and the explanation later, I'll eat the box that I just opened.

Acronyms aside, the vehicle is amazingly cool. In a sense, it's really two vehicles. There's the ground portion of this vehicle, a sizeable and tough-looking machine that looks heavily armored and armed to the teeth, and then there's the air portion of the RHINO, a mean, angular two-man helicopter that rises out of the center of the vehicle to take off and go after any Cobra air power that might be in the area.

While the design of the machine doesn't particularly resemble any existing military vehicle, it doesn't look at all implausible. Basically, the RHINO looks sort of like what you'd get if you took some of the principles of a stealth fighter and converted them to a land vehicle. It's fairly angular in design, and it uses a lot of dark colors. There aren't a lot of curved areas on this vehicle, and its primary color is black, with metallic dark grey trim. The driver's area isn't particularly large, and takes up a small canopy on the front left side of the vehicle. The front right us a gunner's station. In "fully assembled" form, the cockpit of the helicopter section comes down almost to the front of the vehicle. There are two large side doors on the vehicle, which allow the Joes to board the RHINO. And there are two rear hatches on the ground portion of the vehicle that pop open for further play. There's also a gun turret in the back on one side, and a missile launcher.

About the only design flaw in the entire vehicle are the two large missile launchers, each of which carries three missiles. These things, which normally mount on either side of the top of the vehicle, can also fortunately be mounted elsewhere (this is really quite a versatile vehicle), because if they were fixed in place, they'd consistently get in the way of the top-opening rear hatches, not to mention the helicopter elevation.

Fortunately, they don't get in the way of the helicopter elevation as badly as they do the rear hatches. Turning the missile launchers one notch outwards clears the way to raise the helicopter, and this is one of the coolest effects of the RHINO. Press the button at the bottom of the rear of the vehicle, and watch the helicopter platform SLOWLY raise. It doesn't just spring up as one might expect. It takes its time, much as a full-size RHINO might be expected to do. I'm honestly not sure how this was achieved in the design of this toy, but it's pretty impressive.

So's the helicopter. As it comes up, its side wings spring outwards. Bring one of its rotor blades forwards and it's ready to go. Whereas the ground vehicle portion of the RHINO is mean-looking but a bit bulky, the helicopter portion is mean-looking and sleek. This is clearly intended to be a high-speed helicopter, designed for fast strikes and evasive maneuvers.

The play value for this vehicle if given to a child is incredible. Essentially two complete vehicles, both of which have no shortage of moving parts. One might expect with a double-deal like this that one portion of the vehicle might have received more attention than the other, but although the ground vehicle portion is larger and somewhat more versatile than the helicopter, no one's going to say that the helicopter is just a lump of plastic. It most certainly isn't.

The RHINO is pretty good-sized. It's certainly not as large as the ROCC, but neither would it have the capability, as shown in the cartoon, of parking itself in the back of the ROCC, even assuming the rear section of the ROCC were entirely empty, which is isn't. The RHINO measures a little over 14" in length, is 7-1/2" inches wide, and is roughly 5" in height. The helicopter alone is 13" long, 7" wide with side wings extended, and almost 4" high. The overall detail work, painting, and labels on both portions is superbly well done. As I've said, given the quality control problems plaguing the figures these days, this is nothing short of astounding.

Then there's the driver figure. His name is CANNONBALL. I'm sure a certain occasional member of the X-Men appreciates that. Unlike Long Range, the driver of the ROCC, Cannonball has not been carried over into the Sigma Six concept.

The figure, of course, is a newsculpt. And he's pretty unremarkable. The most distinctive thing about him is his color scheme. There haven't been many times in the history of G.I. Joe where off-white and dark grey have been blended with fairly bright yellow in the uniform. Cannonball's shirt is a off-white. His trousers are a fairly light grey, with dark grey knee-pads, shows, gloves, and belt. Then he has this fairly bright yellow harness or near-vest or something, along with a yellow bandanna. Between that and the his beard and sideburns are just painted on, (there's no indication that they were ever sculpted onto the head), he looks like a semi-reformed Dreadnok. The helmet he comes with helps a little, but you can still see the weird beard. The copyright date on the bottom of the figure's foot reads "2003", so no doubt the body was someone else's before it was Cannonball's. The file card reads as follows:


R.H.I.N.O. Driver

File Name: Warden, John

Primary Military Specialty: Transportation

Secondary Military Specialty: Infantry

Birthplace: Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Rumor has it that Cannonball got his nickname because he once did a stint as a human cannonball. The wild-and-crazy driver/helicopter pilot for the powerful R.H.I.N.O. won't confirm or deny the rumor. He used to test-drive trucks before enlisting in the military, littering roads with the remains of vehicles that he'd rammed, crashed, and blew the cylinders out of, to test their stamina and stability. The machines were towed away in pieces, but Cannonball always walked away without a scratch, ready for more. He knows exactly how much the R.H.I.N.O. can take and drives it to within a lug nut of its life. He pilots the helicopter with the same fearless enthusiasm he demonstrates on the ground, making for a white-knuckle ride on land or in the air.

"You want the slow lane? Don't look at me. I only know one way to drive: eating up the road with a full throttle and a screaming engine."

Some longtime Joe fans may be understandably leery about a lot of the modern G.I. Joe product, and certainly that concern is warranted in many instances. But I have found nothing but good things to say about the gigantic ROCC vehicle, and I have nothing but good things to say about the RHINO. It's a fantastic and amazing item. Both of these vehicles are entirely worthy additions to any G.I. Joe collection, even if you haven't bought an item since the original line ended in 1994, or even earlier. You will in no way be disappointed by these vehicles.

The R.H.I.N.O. has my highest recommendation! Any G.I. Joe collector will appreciate this fine vehicle. YO JOE!