REVIEW:
G.I.JOE 3 3/4" WAVE 1.5

Email Thomas Wheeler

Some time ago it was revealed that there would be a "Wave 1.5" of traditional-style 3-3/4" G.I.JOE figures, as a sort of "fill-in" between Waves 1 and 2. Many longtime G.I.Joe collectors, myself included, anxiously awaited this particular assortment of G.I.Joe figures to appear in the toy section.

Perhaps appropriately from several standpoints, I found them on Memorial Day. I mean, they are more or less military figures, and frankly, this particular batch of figures is not a bad "memorial" to those original 3-3/4" G.I.Joes from the 80's and early 90's.

Granted, they're all repaints, and a few of the character choices are a little peculiar. But for the most part, this is a superb assortment, in many respects even better than the scarce "Wave 5" of the previous G.I.Joe incarnation, which I reviewed a while back.

There are eight figures in the assortment, packaged in two-packs. I'll review them individually, as well as provide their file card information:

BIG BEN: SAS TROOPER

File name: David J. Bennet. Primary Military Specialty: Infantry.
Secondary Military Specialty: Subversive Operations.
Birthplace: Burford, England.
Grade: Staff Sergeant.
Status: On second assignment in temporary exchange from 22 SAS.

The British Special Air Service (SAS) is roughly the equivalent of the American Special Forces. It maintains an equally tough standard for its recruits. SAS soldiers work in small units as a tightly-knit team. They go behind enemy lines by land, sea, or air for covert missions. Part of the Mobility Troop, BIG BEN has participated in many missions, the details of which remain classified. He's now on assignment with the G.I.JOE forces to lend his commando skills to the team. BIG BEN thinks the Americans have strange accents and even stranger ways of doing things, but be admired their iron-fisted courage. When he fought th COBRA ALLEY-VIPERS in a covert operation, he showed them why it's never wise to be on the wrong side of an SAS soldier.

"I'm here to teach the bad guys that the fight for freedom and justice knows no borders."

Big Ben has always been one of my personal favorites, and to this day, I believe I prefer the first version of him that was produced in 1991. However, this 2002 version is a close second. They've done away with the distracting camouflage face paint, and the uniform has been colored in very military colors including a tan coat and molded-camouflage pants. It's certainly vastly better than the paint-splattered arctic version of Big Ben from 2000, a figure which had a lot of potential if he hadn't looked like he'd been mud-wrestling.

COBRA ALLEY-VIPER: COBRA URBAN ASSAULT TROOPER

The COBRA ALLEY-VIPERS are the inner city invasion forces for COBRA. Recruited from other COBRA combat divisions, ALLEY-VIPERS use various forms of evil to achieve their objectives. They go through extremely tough training in all kinds of environments - streets, buildings, and alleys. Only the toughest can successfully jump down thirty feet to a concrete floor while carrying a full combat load - and that's one of the easy exercises. They look
and act tough, so people are always running away just at the sight of them. But BIG BEN from the G.I.JOE Team did not run - he fought them and sent them packing. Now they live for the day when they can show him that they are the superior fighters.

"We're big, strong, and ruthless! You don't want to be around when we come kicking your door down!"

The ALLEY-VIPER figure has a rather extensive history within the G.I.Joe line. First introduced in 1989 in a rather peculiar orange-and-blue uniform, the character got an overhaul in 1993 to a vastly superior yellow-and-black. That version was recolored for 1994 in a variation of the original orange-and-blue. The Alley-Viper was again pressed into service in 1997 in a debatable attempt at urban camo, molded in dark blue with light grey
splotches that frankly made him look like he was wearing some sort of odd pajamas. Throw in the general lack of paint detail, especially on the face, and the '97 Alley-Viper was likely the least of the lot.

The 2002 Alley-Viper is a lot closer to what one would expect an urban trooper to truly be. Although I rather liked the 1993 yellow-and-black version, it's not exactly "urban". The 2002 version is molded in light grey, which I honestly feel could be a little darker, but it's a minor point, and given black and white camouflage. Upon closer inspection, the grey and white
are both molded into the plastic, and the white is stronger on some Alley-Vipers than others as such, with the black painted over it. The helmet, chestplate, boots, and gloves are molded in dark blue, and the paint details around the eyes are incredibly well done. He also, as do all Alley-Vipers, looks a lot better without the thankfully detachable face mask. Overall,
this is one extremely cool Alley-Viper!

MIRAGE: WEAPONS EXPERT

File Name: Joseph R. Baikun.
Primary Military Specialty: Rocket-Fire Assault.
Secondary Military Specialty: Heavy Artillery.
Birthplace: Molsen,
Washington. Grade: E-6

Fighting the evil COBRA organization calls for powerful weapons and skilled soldiers trained to use them. MIRAGE is just such a soldier. He's a specialist in weapons from machine guns to the TOW missile system. Trained to lay down heavy cover fire and launch shoulder-mounted rockets while under an enemy attack, he has become an expert in all individual and crew-served weapons as well as anti-armor systems. MIRAGE advises and trained the G.I.JOE Team on what to use and when to use it. He takes particular delight in
going up against the COBRA VIPERS, who have lots of weaponry but don't know the best way to use it. MIRAGE showed them that all the firepower in the world won't beat a team of highly trained soldiers.

"It's not just knowing how to use your weapons; it's knowing when to use them."

MIRAGE is one of those oddball choices. The figure was originally part of the slightly peculiar MEGA-MARINES team in 1993, and I suspect if STAR BRIGADE had continued, either he or his uniform, at least, would've been carried over. The figure is rather futuristic in overall design. This is probably why he was designated as a weapons expert, since he looks like he's carrying quite a bit of hardware on his person, even if the function of some of it might be debatable.The colors of his uniform are a rather strong green for the shirt, which is also seen in the trim on General Tomahawk and the trousers for Sure-Fire, with black pants, and dark green, brown, and silver trim. There are reports of two different visor colors -- transparent green and clear. The only ones I've seen are clear. Overall it's an excellent
figure, and Mirage has tended to be a rather popular fellow for some reason, perhaps because he was among a fairly small handful of truly new characters introduced in the early 90's when the line was relying substantially on new or repainted versions of existing characters.

COBRA VIPER: COBRA INFANTRYMAN

COBRA VIPERS are the grunts of the COBRA legions. If there's a dirty job that needs doing, these guys are first in line. They wear multi-layered body armir and wrap-around helmets with built-in radio-telecommunications gear, and carry multi-burst laser pistols, commando rifles, and grenade launchers. They know they're looked down upon by the more elite COBRA groups, but that just makes then fight harder, so they can prove to everyone that plain rottenness gets the job done as well as fancy training. They're ready at a moment's notice to cause harm and do damage anywhere that COBRA COMMANDER sends them. When MIRAGE from the G.I.JOE Team defeated them despite their massive
weaponry, they vowed revenge."G.I.JOE be warned! We have more weapons and guts than you could ever hope to have!"

The COBRA VIPER is probably one of the most often-used set of molds in the entire G.I.JOE concept, even if, as of 1997, they switched to the legs of the original COBRA B.A.T., since the original Viper legs had been used on the 1993 Dr. Mindbender, and the entire set had apparently gone missing possibly in one of the foreign countries which also produced Joes. But the B.A.T. legs aren't a bad choice.

And, certainly, the COBRA VIPER is one superb figure. I would venture to say that it is possibly the best "basic" enemy trooper Hasbro ever created. I'm decidedly leaving out the 1994 overhaul, which was a completely different set of molds and a pretty absurd one at that. Originally introduced in 1986, the COBRA VIPER saw use within PYTHON PATROL in 1989, SONIC FIGHTERS in 1990, was part of the COBRA FLIGHT POD set in 1997, was used for both "Trooper" and "Officer" designations in the COBRA INFANTRY set in 1998, and once again returns in 2002, and will also be used in the 2002 G.I.JOE Convention Set!

This new 2002 COBRA VIPER has an interesting color scheme. Many years ago, when G.I.JOE was first coming on the scene, Hasbro commented that they'd made the basic Cobra troopers blue so that, as bad guys, they wouldn't be confused with any actual military organizations. Since then, G.I.JOE has established an identity of its own so that the enemy troopers can basically be presented in any color whatsoever. And there's isn't a scrap of blue on the new COBRA VIPER.

The figure's basic uniform is camo-molded in two shades of green. This is a little ironic since he is packaged with Mirage, and it was the Mega-Marines who originally made the most extensive use of this multi-color molding system, and the 2002 Mirage doesn't have it! Anyway, on the COBRA VIPER, it works. His helmet and vest are dark grey, and his boots are light grey. Overall, this is a very effective and realistic-looking COBRA VIPER,
possibly the most impressive apart from the original 1986 version!

GENERAL TOMAHAWK: G.I.JOE COMMANDER

File Name: Clayton M. Abernathy.
Primary Military Specialty: Ranger.
Secondary Military Specialty: Military Intelligence.
Birthplace: Denver,
Colorado. Grade: O-8.

When GENERAL TOMAHAWK orders his men into battle, he stands in front of them to lead the way. He believes that a general should be among his men, showing them how to fight and how to win. Under his command, soldiers learn to be courageous defenders of peace. A West Point graduate and two-star general, he has seen plenty of action in conflicts around the world. The United States Army relies on men like GENERAL TOMAHAWK to carry on the proud, tough tradition of America's fighting forces. He has been after the elusive
HEADMAN for some time. He wants to stop the smuggler and thief from his corrupt
undertakings, which have threatened the peace of many nations.

"The commander of any team must be an example to his troops in courage, dedication, and skill."

The name "General Tomahawk" is, of course, a reworking of the name "General Hawk", which Hasbro cannot officially use for reasons unknown to me. At least in the comic book they've explained that "Tomahawk" is more of a nickname than an actual code-name, so I guess I can live with that.The figure is a recoloring of the "Talking Battle Commanders" General Hawk, not a bad version of the figure, but not the best, either. To my mind, the best Hawk was the 1986 edition. However, I do have to say that the colors on this 2002 General Tomahawk are certainly better than the 2000 version, where we all learned that not all colors blend well in the camo-molding procedure. Hasbro tried to mix very light grey with dark brown and the end result was a General Tomahawk wearing a jacket that looked like like it had been carpet-bombed by a squadron of overfed pigeons. Fortunately they stuck to solid colors for this version, which features an olive green-brown jacker and light grey trousers.

And there's the nice added feature of a metallic overspray on his dark glasses. This was a very nice touch that wasn't exactly mandatory for the figure, but it's nice to see.

HEADMAN: INTERNATIONAL SMUGGLER

Primary Military Specialty: Smuggler.
Secondary Military Specialty: Thief

HEADMAN started out robbing convenience stores, then learned the ropes of high-end thievery while serving time in prison. A hardened criminal, HEADMAN doesn't think twice about removing anyone who gets in the way of his plans. He steals anything for the right price - givernment secrets, weapon system specifications, and priceless art treasures. His thefts have undermined the safety of countries and satisfied greedy private art collectors at the expense of museums around the world. He has managed to escape GENERAL
TOMAHAWK time and again, but the relentless G.I.JOE Commander has caused him to abandon some plans, losing money. He wants to remove the threatening general from his trail, once and for all.

"I am a master of crime who can steal anything, and never get caught."

When I learned that HEADMAN was going to be part of this assortment, I was both surprised and worried. HEADMAN was never a Cobra. He was, in fact, the head of a drug ring known as the HeadHunters, which were created for the G.I.JOE DRUG ELIMINATION FORCE to battle, since it was apparently reasoned that however nasty Cobra was, they wouldn't stoop to selling drugs. I of course own the original HeadMan figure, but I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't a difficult purchase. I didn't feel that Hasbro was glorifying drug users or drug sellers, since the character was very clearly a horrible villain, but I still wasn't too comfortable with the idea of buying a figure that was indeed a drug distributor.

I did wonder how they were going to fit him into this new assortment. Clearly all drug references have been removed, although to the best of my knowledge "Smuggler" and "Thief" are not "Military Specialties". The file card is interesting, but it does read a lot like something made up on the spur of the moment to rewrite the character into something marginally more agreeable. The "government secrets and weapons systems" thefts are clearly the only thing that would get a two-star general interested in tracking down a thief.

Notably, HeadMan does have a Cobra insignia on his suit, which I suppose makes sense. Cobra would likely pay a master thief who could smuggle weapons systems around rather well. I should comment about the suit, as well. The original HeadMan was wearing a black stuit with gold pinstripes. I'm not sure this dark orange outfit is an improvement, but some of the prototype pictures looked almost like day-glo gold, so I guess I can live with it. I still say
the character is an odd choice, though.

It's been pointed out to me by a friend with whom I discussed these figures that drug use among young people is still a grievous and very serious problem in our society, and I agree. He argued that HeadMan should have perhaps kept his drug trafficking roots, but I find that I disagree with that. Without the SPECIFIC presence of Drug Elimination Force, I just don't think it would have been entirely appropriate. Just my opinion on the matter. I can see his
point, as well.

SURE FIRE: MILITARY POLICE

File Name: David S. Lane.
Primary Military Specialty: Criminal Investigation Division.
Secondary Military Specialty: Telecommunications.
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California.
Grade: O-5

The evil acts of COBRA are many, and the United States military needs a specially trained force to get all the information they can about COBRA. SURE FIRE is a special agent for the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. At the CID, SURE FIRE is part of the Military Police, trained to look into criminal activities and stop them. He grew up in a rough neighborhood and saw a lot of serious criminal acts. Those experiences made him determined to defend the rights of others at all costs. He went to the U.S. Army Military
Police School and completed specialized training. Now he has joined the G.I.JOE team and is dedicated to fighting criminals as an arm of the law and a soldier on the battlefield. In one investigation, SURE FIRE came up against COBRA SLICE. His finely hones military and police skills got the better of the sword-wielding ninja - and made him COBRA SLICE's bitter enemy.

"If evil is being done anywhere in the world, I'll find out about it - and stop it."

You know, from a conceptual standpoint, this is the guy they should've set up with HeadMan. Anyway, the figure is an interesting one, and it took me a little while to figure out exactly what I was seeing here. The first SURE FIRE figure was part of the 2000-2001 lineup. It used the 1992 Shockwave body from the Drug Elimination Force assortment, with a new headsculpt. It's worth noting that the Sure Fire body was not substantially recolored from the original Shockwave. Both were predominantly blue. I could tell that the new 2002 Sure Fire used the 1992 Shockwave body, this time significantly (and effectively) recolored in greens and browns, but I also was reasonably certain that the head used was not the headsculpt developed for Sure Fire. But I also wasn't sure whose head it was. It finally dawned on me that, for whatever reason, Hasbro went back to the original 1992 Shockwave head! I
think the reason I didn't spot it was because (a) it was so obvious and (b), they drastically changed the hair color from its original Shockwave black to a very light brown.

The end result is actually a very effective G.I.JOE figure. I won't say he's the most distinctive G.I.Joe ever, but he'll work well alongside any traditional-style 3-3/4" G.I.Joe!

COBRA SLICE: SUPREME COBRA NINJA SWORDSMAN

Primary Military Specialty: Martial Arts.
Secondary Military Specialty: Ninja Swordfighting

Captured COBRA documents indicate that COBRA SLICE may be a renegade ninja
from the same clan as STORM SHADOW. It is believed that COBRA SLICE created his own evil sword technique by observing the battle strategies of scorpions and adapting the movements into a backhand swordslash that he calls the "Scorpion Slash". He's an expert with all edged weapons, small hand guns and explosives, and he works with the other COBRA ninjas to form assault teams. COBRA SLICE is usually found in his martial arts studio, practicing his already perfect moves. He was humiliated when he fought SURE FIRE from the G.I.JOE Team - and lost. He lives for the day when he'll meet SURE FIRE again, and this time he'll teach him a lesson he won't forget.

"I fear no mortal man in face-to-face combat, but my sword cuts easiest from behind."

One of the more menacing personal quotes, I must admit. I'll also admit that I was never all that fond of NINJA FORCE, the G.I.Joe special team from which Slice originally hails. I disliked the articulation-hindering spring-action features built into the figures, and I also disliked the fact that as such, the figures could not be disassembled for repair work.

Unfortunately, unlike the 2000 re-do of STORM SHADOW, which kept a glue-sealed body but at least did away with the spring-action feature, SLICE still has his spring-action feature. Move his arm backwards and it'll spring forward. The figure has at least been given a more colorful outfit than in the past, when he was essentially outfitted in just one distinct color.
His new outfit is red with a dark grey vest and light grey trousers. Overall it actually looks pretty good, but I've just never quite been able to warm up to these spring-action figures.

How are these figures overall? Pretty good. I was very pleased that none of these figures came with the "dirtying" paint wipes of some of there recent predecessors. I also noticed that any character that had visible eyes had them painted VERY well. I especially have to commend the paintwork on the Alley-Viper's eyes, which has always been tricky over the years because they're so recessed. This time around they did a superb job.

Are they up to the standards of the 80's? Well, Hasbro keeps getting closer, and at least they're painting the metal rivets in the arms properly, but they're not there yet, and some of the mistakes of the late 90's are still a problem, especially on figures that were used at that time, such as the Viper and Alley-Viper. A weird modification was made to the neck joint which severely hinders movement and sometimes locks the head into a strange position. My Viper had a head that would only point downwards. Looked like the poor guy had a cramp in his neck. These are problems that someone with reasonable skill can correct to a degree, but it's not easy.

The figures also have a different flesh-tone than in the past. It's not a bad shade, though, but it does make them stand out a bit. Granted, within previous years there were a handful of figures that bordered on orange (probably the most blatant example being the Super Sonic Fighters version of Road Pig), and a couple in later years, such as the General Hawk that
came with the A-10 Thunderbolt, that looked rather sunburned.

Some of the movements on some of the figures is a bit jerky, and I'm not sure why. I've got two Alley-Vipers and neither one of them can stand up worth a darn because the upper leg movement isn't consistent. This would happen on occasion with G.I.Joes in the past, but not to this degree.

And there are some new problems, as well. Someone needs to tell the assembly line that when you have a screw holding the upper leg-halves in place, it is most decidedly not necessary to also glue those leg-halves together. I discovered this when I tried to disassemble an Alley-Viper to see if I could fix the legs. At least the upper body can be disassembled.

I should say a word about accessories. This is never a big issue for me since I don't tend to display any of my figures (G.I.Joe, Gundam, Star Wars, or anybody else) with their accessories. This just takes up more room and often makes it harder for the figure to stand up (I dislike using "action bases" since sometimes they don't work very well, either). For those of you who do like plenty of accessories with your action figures, you will not be
disppointed with this assortment. A wide range of assorted weaponry, backpacks, and other assorted parephenalia, including battle stands, is included with each two-pack.

As far as I can tell, the packing ratio is pretty even among the four two-packs. I saw two of each at Wal-Mart when I found these.

So, to summarize, while these Joes are closer than ever to the originals, they're still a little ways off. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the 80's-early 90's G.I.Joes as an overall example, I give this "Wave 1.5" an 8. It's probably the closest we've seen to those glory days of action figures since they were inexcusably cancelled in 1994. But for any longtime
G.I.Joe fan, I do most definitely recommend this assortment, and hopefully, there may be more traditional-style 3 3/4" G.I.Joes sometime in the future!