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By Thomas Wheeler

These could almost be called "The Joes That Almost Weren't". When Hasbro decided to re-vamp the 3 3/4" G.I.Joes for 2002, there was still one assortment of the 2000-01 version in the works. And they were almost scrapped. But a limited supply of these two-packs made its way to online outlets such as SmallJoes.Com and EntertainmentEarth.Com, and were
snapped up very quickly by G.I.Joe fans and collectors.

There are four two-packs in the assortment. I'll review them individually:

SHIPWRECK & SIDETRACK: Shipwreck first appeared as a Navy SEAL in a diving suit in 1994, and a lot of long-time G.I.Joe fans have never been too keen on the wiseacre sailor somehow making it through what is regarded by many as the toughest military training around, to become a SEAL. There have been two
prior versions of this figure, the 1994 dark grey version and the 1998 black version, this being the best of the lot. Unfortunately, the 2001 light grey version doesn't quite work. The problem is that the figure has been smeared with black paint-wipes. Now, I've never cared for this practice to begin with, but it backfires especially on this Shipwreck, because he ends up looking like the parody character "Stinky Diver" from Nickelodeon's show
"KaBlam" (I think that was its name) which had a comedy sketch involving actual action figures, including a slimed-over 1994 Shipwreck. Sidetrack, on the other hand, is a very decent figure. This is one of the new characters created for the 2000-01 line, and this is his second appearance. He uses the body molds of the 1994 Stalker. But since Sidetrack is white and the uniform
colors have been changed rather significantly, and of course has a different head, the end result is a very different-looking figure that is not all that comparable to the Stalker figure. Also, if you happen to be a fan of accessories, then this is the two-pack for you. Along with Shipwreck's diving equipment, there is a huge abundance of assorted weaponry, really enough for about three or four Joes to carry into battle, never mind two.

SIDESWIPE & LIFELINE: This should probably be considered the "medic" set. Lifeline is an established character, and Sideswipe is a new character with a new head sculpt, using the body molds of the 1990 G.I.Joe medic named Stretcher. He even comes with Stretcher's triangular-shaped one-man hovercraft device. The Lifeline figure uses the 1994 Lifeline body, but gives
the figure a new head-sculpt. Overall it's not bad, although I personally could've done without the "I forgot to shave on Sunday and now it's Tuesday" growth of facial fuzz sprayed on the face. As with the previous two-pack, this one has plenty of accessories, very few of which look to be weapons. Even the gun-like items which come with this set have more of the appearance of emergency flare guns than anything else.

TOMAX & XAMOT: The original G.I.Joe two-pack, first released in 1986. The so-called "Crimson Twins", commanders of the Cobra Crimson Guard, are among the most popular characters within the G.I.Joe concept, and received quite a bit of coverage in the original comic book, and certainly in the cartoon series, where their eerie attributes of sensing each other's presence and when the other was in pain made for ideal animated story sequences, and their annoying habit of finishing each other's sentences only contributed in some ways to their villainy. The figures have not been radically redesigned for their 2001 appearance, but then, given how scarce the original set can be to find in any sort of decent condition, not much needed to be changed. Their
uniforms are still predominantly dark blue with red and silver trim. The main thing that has changed is that they have a slightly more complex COBRA insignia on their uniforms. There were actually two main Cobra logos used for the toys. One which had about eight internal "stripes" on each side, and one which had five. Generally if a smaller Cobra logo had to be used, it was the one with the fewer stripes. Perhaps this was a concession to getting the necessary detail, however this was done. But technology advances, and the 21st century Tomax and Xamot have the more intricate "eight-stripe" Cobra logo on their uniforms. Nice touch for two popular characters. They come with the same equipment as they did in the 1980's, which includes a string cable and a device the twins can hang onto and ride along the cable.

SERPENTOR & SHOCK-VIPER: For me, this is the prize two-pack of the assortment, which is why I saved it for last and decided to use it for the main photo for this article. I thought Serpentor, the Cobra Emperor, was an odd choice to bring back, but the file card has been revised in such a way that one gets the impression that Serpentor has not usurped Cobra Commander
for control of Cobra, as was the case the last time this genetic amalgam of history's mightiest warriors showed up. Rather, he's looking for the opportunity to do so. For those into adding a little intrigue into their G.I.Joe adventures, this could be interesting. Serpentor's coloration has been substantially revised. Gone is the regal metallic gold, replaced by a far more sinister black. Even his metallic green cape is not metallic black. One gets the impression of a Serpentor that, while not having the high position he once had, might be much more dangerous trying to re-attain
it. Then there's the Shock-Viper, a new division of Cobra troopers. I had believed for a long time that the body molds of the 1994 G.I.Joe character Ice Cream Soldier, while not maligning that figure the way some collectors have over the years, would make a superb Cobra trooper figure if done in different colors. Clearly someone at Hasbro had the same idea, and the result
is superb. The original Ice Cream Soldier was a rather intense orange and yellow. The new dark blue with red trim Shock-Viper looks so different that you'd hardly think they were the same mold, and since it's a set of molds never before used for a Cobra trooper, the result is in many respects a new figure and certainly a new character, and a spectacular one. The Shock-Viper is easily the high point of this particular assortment of G.I.Joes.

This is the final assortment of G.I.Joes on this packaging style, and obviously, it is very limited in supply. I honestly don't know if any of the online retailers which offered these figures even still have them in stock. And as this article will likely remain in place on Master Collector for some time, they will surely be gone at some point. However, they are all, to varying degrees, worthwhile additions to the G.I.Joe 3 3/4" collection. Everybody's going to have their favorites and not-so-favorites, and I don't pretend to be unbiased in my reviews of any toy line. But the bottom line here is, if you're a G.I.Joe fan, and you have the opportunity to acquire
this assortment for a good price, then I definitely recommend them all.