REVIEW: THE CORPS! KOMOTTO MISSION VEHICLE
The Corps!, a line of pseudo-military toys that has been produced for decades by the Lanard Toy company, will never be known as a high-level collectible along the lines of G.I. Joe, Star Wars, or anything else.
What it HAS succeeded in doing, however, is creating a nice little niche for itself as a decently-made, generally bargain-priced, good-quality action figure line that works well as a companion line to other 3-3/4"-scaled action figure series, most often G.I. Joe.
Indeed, during the traditional-style years of G.I. Joe, Lanard's Corps line was constructed along the same lines, and even continued after the traditional-style G.I. Joe line was first retired in 1994. Although neither G.I. Joe nor The Corps is designed along these lines today, and certainly The Corps was not the only line to emulate the Real American Hero, it could successfully be argued that The Corps is quite probably the most extensive and popular "secondary" line to follow on the heels of G.I. Joe.
Lanard is very much a global company, and they have produced 3-3/4" scale action figures for many different countries and product lines, most ultimately coming back to The Corps to one degree or another.
The Corps, conceptually, has gotten a little better organized in recent years. The toy line has a new logo -- and an impressive one at that -- and there's about a dozen or so team members divided into largely environment-specific teams, and even, for the first time ever, a clearly defined enemy force called the Marauders.
The back of the package defines The Corps as follows: "In a time of confusion, a fearful world requires men of honor and courage to step forward; heroes whose mettle has been tested and whose skills have been honed. From around the world they step forward; the best of the best, and take up the mantle of THE CORPS, an ever-ready team devoted to protecting every person, every country; our world."
These days, The Corps can most often be found at Wal-Mart, in the form of multiple figure sets, and assorted vehicles. Most of these vehicles have seen prior release over the years, but recently, three new vehicles have been added to the line, under the group banner of "Mission Vehicles".
One of these, the Beach Assault, which I have reviewed separately, caught my eye. However, the package it came in made mention of two other new vehicles -- a mid-sized tank called the Dire Wolf, and a jeep-like vehicle with the rather odd name of "Komotto". I made a mental note to keep an eye out for these, and not too long after I purchased the Beach Assault, the supply was replenished, and I saw the Komotto. Interestingly enough, I didn't see the Dire Wolf. Tanks must be popular.
The first thing that garnered my attention about the Komotto was the name. "Komotto"? Okay, "Beach Assault" is almost too literal for a seagoing hovercraft. "Dire Wolf" is a little generic, but a decent and sufficiently menacing sounding code-name that could probably be applied to almost any vehicle -- or as a code-name for a trooper as far as that goes. A tank is as good a recipient as any.
The title is strange and I expect it was meant to relate to the species of particularly large and frequently nasty reptiles, known often as "komodo dragons", but even that struck me as a bit of a stretch. As far as I can figure, Lanard just made the name up. Why, and what their explanation for it might be, if any, I have no idea. It is an unusual practice for them, as most of their product names have tended to be a good bit more straightforward than this.
But, what's in the name if you're getting a cool vehicle? And the Komotto is that. Now, certainly four-wheeled jeep-like assault vehicles are nothing new for any semi-military action figure line. G.I. Joe brought out the VAMP in the very first year, 1982. That vehicle alone has seen well over a dozen incarnations in its history, including the VAMP II, the Cobra Stinger, the Tiger Sting, and a whole lot of others. And that doesn't even count all the other four wheeled vehicles that have been part of the line, including the AWE-Striker, the Hammer, several versions of licensed Hummers including the recent Cobra Steel Crusher from the movie, and even the six-wheeled Desert Fox.
Lanard, for that matter, has produced no shortage of four-wheeled attack vehicles over the course of its history with The Corps, from Hummer-like jeeps to at least one peculiar-but-cool contrivance that looked like a moon buggy done in green and brown military colors.
So, what's the big deal about the Komotto? Well, much as the package boasts as much and as often as possible, it is indeed a brand new vehicle. There's a 2009 copyright date on its base. And, in my opinion, it's a darn cool design. It doesn't really look like anything I've ever previously seen from either The Corps or G.I. Joe.
It can be remotely compared to some previous products from those lines. One can see a little bit of Hummer in it. One can see a fair bit of Desert Fox in it, even though it doesn't have six wheels, but rather four.
The vehicle looks a little like the four wheeled vehicles from the HALO video games, the Warthogs. I've got a small model of one of those here, and frankly, color notwithstanding, I'd say the Komotto looks a LOT like one of those. But there's definitely some aspects of resemblance.
I'd even be willing to throw in a little resemblance to a Cobra Stinger, given the missile rack in the back.
Sizewise, relative to certain common G.I. Joe vehicles, the Komotto makes for a good mid-sized vehicle. It falls pretty might right between the average VAMP and the average Hammer. A typical VAMP is about 8-1/2" long and 4" wide. The far larger, four-seater Hammer is around 13" in length, and is a little over 6" wide, depending on where you measure it.
The Komotto is a little over 10" long, counting the grill up front, and is 5" wide. It's a good size. This also puts it very much in the same size range as the G.I. Joe movie Cobra Steel Crusher. Now, granted, the Steel Crusher, being based on an actual Hummer to the point where the toy is considered a licensed product from GM, looks a lot more "real world" than the Komotto. But they are of a size, and if that's any indicator whatsoever, probably a fair match for each other on a battlefield.
The Komotto, unlike all of the other vehicles I have just mentioned, does not look as angular. Although a close study reveals a great many straight lines, there are more of them, and so the Komotto ends up with a somewhat more futuristic look to it. I won't call it "sleek". It isn't that. It's clearly designed for rugged use. But it's somewhat more complex body design makes it look like it's about ten years ahead of any of the other vehicles I have cited.
The main body of the Komotto is a pale tan in color, ideal for desert environments -- like the one in which I life. The upper framework around the seating area is grey, and the underside of the vehicle is a very dark grey. Some of the trim, including the hubcaps, is done in orange -- a slightly odd choice, but nothing we haven't seen before in both The Corps and G.I. Joe.
The four tires of the Komotto are large, about 2-1/2" in diameter, and they raise the vehicle a fair distance off the ground. The Komotto has no distinct doors, and standing a 3-3/4" figure next to this vehicle, one gets the impression that it's not easy to get into this thing. You would not want to find yourself suddenly tossed out of it in the middle of battle, because you're not going to get back into it very easily.
There are some ridges on the sides, but these look more decorative than anything, although I suppose someone sufficiently sure-footed could use them for making the climb a little easier.
The Komotto has an open seating area, with two seats within. The side bars on the grey framework do flip up -- I sort of wondered why they were tied down with wire twist-ties that didn't seem connected to anything else. So, assuming you can make it up the side of the vehicle, at least you're not going to whack your head on the side safety bar getting into the seat. The seating within the vehicle is raised up enough so that a 3-3/4" figure can be seated in the driver's seat, reach the steering wheel, and still look over the dashboard and look like he can see where he's going.
The Komotto has an orange machine gun mounted to the hood on the passenger side of the vehicle. While it doesn't look to be within direct reach of whomever might be sitting in the passenger seat, it's probably reasonable to assume that there would be some sort of remote control and aiming system accessible to either the driver or the passenger. Creatively, there's an ammo belt molded to the side of the machine gun that runs into a slot in the hood. Sort of leaves a mystery of just how much ammo might be stashed in there. It's an interesting little feature, really.
The vehicle has a separate front grill, molded in grey, with molded and painted headlights, as well as molded and painted taillights in the back. These are all yellow, and highlighted in the orange color, which in both plastic and paint uses has a slight metallic sheen to it.
A curious little feature in the back of the Komotto is that where the tan upper body is connected to the dark grey lower body, a series of little pegs pops through the tan body. These almost have to be decorative, as I doubt they're what's holding the vehicle together. It's an interesting detail feature. Lanard really went all out on some of these intricate little design features.
The back of the vehicle, much like a number of G.I. Joe vehicles, has a missile rack. Here is one of two areas where the Komotto differs from its prototype as pictured on the box. The missile rack is much more "low-slung" on the actual vehicle than it is on the prototype -- and it doesn't raise. The missiles still have enough clearance to launch, although I would hope that the driver and the passenger are wearing some blast-proof helmets.
Here's one thing about the missiles. They are very well secured. They are removable, but each of the three missiles -- each of them -- is mounted to the launcher on three sturdy pegs. I think there was an important reason for this.
Lanard tends to present many of its vehicles in "open boxes". No windows, nothing. The vehicle is packaged in a cardboard framework, but is readily on display. This, unfortunately, has led to a certain amount of damage and parts theft over the years.
To that end, Lanard has been taking steps to ensure that the "loose parts" on their vehicles are better secured. The missiles on the Beach Assault were so well secured Lanard went so far as to make an extra part just for that purpose. The missiles on the Komotto were wrapped in a clear plastic bubble of their own, but also, the fact that they were attached as well as they were to the missile launcher, and possibly even that the missile launcher was lowered slightly (although this might have been for any number of reasons, from lowering the budget to accommodating the box).
The other difference between the pictured prototype and the actual vehicle are the tires. The ones shown on the box are of a completely different design. Honestly, I like the ones that are actually on the vehicle better. They're more detailed, have a more interesting tread pattern, that looks a bit more rugged, and the hubcaps are significantly more detailed.
All four tires are connected to two metal axles that are inserted into the body of the Komotto, so it rolls extremely well on any reasonable surface.
There's a series of labels secured to the Komotto. These are printed on clear vinyl, and are very sturdy. They're well placed, but what's interesting is that, if necessary, they can be removed far more easily than some other types of vinyl labels, and are strong enough to be removed intact, and placed back on the vehicle.
There are small CORPS! logo stickers on the sides, a small label reading "THE CORPS!" on the hood, and a series of angular stickers on the sides. The largest of these has the alphanumeric sequence "K0-177-10" Now, here's the one place where "Komotto" might, and I say just might, make sense. The stylized type used for these letters and numbers could ALMOST look like "KOMTO" It's a stretch, but no moreso than my attempts to get a better explanation.
My final word on this? Okay, the name's going to drive me nuts, but -- it's a cool vehicle. I think a lot of toy collectors tend to overlook The Corps because it doesn't have as prominent a name as some action figure lines, or they see it and they think it's some cheap knockoff. It's NOT. There's any number of collectors out there, especially in the G.I. Joe community, who know that there's some very cool stuff being produced by Lanard. This is one of them. New stuff doesn't come along from The Corps all that often. Here's something new. And I'm impressed with it.
If you don't collect The Corps in and of itself -- fine. Assign it to G.I. Joe. Might even be able to slip it into Star Wars. Looks like something Sandtroopers might use. Paint it black and give it bat-logos, and Batman's got a new Batmobile for those really rough missions.
There has to be some use for it, if for some reason you don't want it for itself. But really, the Komotto is a very cool vehicle in and of itself, and as anyone will tell you, The Corps is a very affordable toy line, as well. This much cool for that small a price tag isn't easily found these days.
The CORPS! KOMOTTO MISSION VEHICLE definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!