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By Thomas Wheeler

The two new small vehicles for the G.I.JOE 3-3/4" line are surprisingly impressive. Better still, they both come with traditional-style figures, so when I saw them turn up at Wal-Mart in late January, I decided to bring them home.

The COBRA VENOM CYCLE is especially impressive. The one thing that Cobra has ALWAYS lacked, dating all the way back to 1982, if you like, is a decent motorcycle. The G.I.Joe Team had several, notably the RAM and the Silver Mirage. But there were only two motorcycle-like vehicles ever assigned to Cobra, and technically, both belonged to the Dreadnoks. One was a recolored RAM that was part of a Sears Exclusive, and the other was an odd three-wheeled contrivance called the Dreadnok Cycle that didn't look especially motorcyclish or even all that threatening.

Finally, after over twenty years of waiting, COBRA has a decent, and plausible-looking, motorcycle. It's about darned time. The COBRA VENOM Cycle is a grim-looking piece of work, decidedly a battlefield motorcycle with no shortage of attitude. Molded in dark greenish-grey with dull olive trim, its only claims to any bright colors are the jagged red lines running across the cycle and sidecar. This is certainly a far cry from the likes of the old Cobra Earthquake, probably the most ludicrously-colored vehicle in the entire original collection, an attack steam-shovel molded in colors of yellow-green, red, and purple so bright they were unfit for baboon posteriors.

The cycle has no shortage of moving parts, the sidecar especially. It has a moving antenna, one side of the sidecar opens up, and its wheel pivots under to turn the sidecar into a battlestation. It also includes a spring-loaded missile launcher with a turning hand-crank (although it's a button on the top that activates the launcher.

About the only deficiencies in the vehicle is that the front wheel of the Venom Cycle itself does not turn. It seems most of the moving parts were put into the sidecar for some reason. The Cycle is the center of the Sound Attack features. However, I don't care for this feature. Additionally, the bike is a bit too big for a 3-3/4" figure. It might even be a bit too big for the closer-to-4" new-style G.I.Joes. I suspect this was done, again, to accommodate the Sound Attack device. But, it's still a cool bike, it's a nice addition to the G.I.Joe collection for collectors, and I doubt any little kids that get this item are going to be that picky about "fit".

The Venom Cycle comes with a new coloration of the COBRA VIPER, arguably the best "basic" trooper ever turned out for the Cobra forces. I'm glad to see its continued use. This figure is like a darker version of the green-and-grey one released on card in early 2002. Personally, I preferred the carded blue-and-black one that came along later, but this new one isn't bad. For one thing, his colors resemble those of the Venom Cycle itself. He's done in a very dark olive green and very dark grey, with a dull gold visor on his helmet. It's very clear he goes with the Venom Cycle.

Now let's turn our attention to the G.I.JOE ROAD REBEL TANK. I am somehow reminded of an odd cross between the G.I.Joe Armadillo, a mini-tank from 1985, and the G.I.Joe Battle Force 2000 Pulverizer, a small vehicle with a huge weapon on top. The Road Rebel is a small tank with such an immense weapon on top that I suspect if this thing existed in real life it would be too prone to tipping over to be a practical vehicle, to say nothing of the vehicle's weapon potentially smacking the driver in the head.

In fairness, the huge spring-loaded weapon atop the tank does have one interesting feature. It can load all five missiles that come with the vehicle and fire them in fairly rapid (manual) succession. The overall design isn't bad, and there have certainly been more implausible vehicles than this over the years, but the Road Rebel is actually smaller than the Venom Cycle, and it just doesn't look quite as plausible.

The Road Rebel comes with an oddly revised version of BIG BEN, the popular British SAS Trooper. Curiously, the Big Ben head has been put atop the General Tomahawk body. I'm not sure why this was done. It doesn't look bad, but it does look a little strange. There doesn't seem to be a lot of paint details on the figure, either.

While I am not putting the vehicle down, I tend to feel that it was almost an afterthought compared to the Cobra Venom Cycle. Studying the packaging, the Venom Cycle has a small illustration on the front of the card -- the Road Rebel does not. The Viper's card has been revised to mention the Venom Cycle -- Big Ben's does not. There's just enough discrepancies between the packaging of the two to make me wonder if someone realized that a counterpart for the Venom Cycle was needed, and they didn't have as much time to plan it as they would have liked. That doesn't make the Road Rebel a bad vehicle. It's just an observation.

One thing in the Road Rebel's favor, in my opinion, is the logo sticker on the vehicle. It's the traditional G.I.Joe 3-3/4" logo, not the newly revised logo that combines the 12" G.I.Joe logo with the 3-3/4" logo's stripes. This may be the last vehicle to have those markings.

However, speaking of the stickers, I really wish Hasbro would go back to letting the CUSTOMER put the stickers on. A few of the ones on both vehicles are not as straight as they should be. I can't really fault the people at the factory who do it. After God knows how many Venom Cycles or Road Rebels over a day's work, I'd probably get a bit careless/bored/sloppy myself. All the more reason, though, to include a sticker sheet and let the buyer do his best with his ONE Venom Cycle or ONE Road Rebel.

Bottom line? If you're a 3-3/4" G.I.Joe collector from any point along the way, you should unquestionably and immediately get the COBRA VENOM CYCLE as soon as you see it. It's a long, looooong overdue vehicle for Cobra, and it's a nice piece of work with a cool figure. I can't recommend the ROAD REBEL TANK quite as strongly, but if you like cool features, this has one with the missile launcher. And at least the Big Ben figure is a traditional-style G.I.Joe. That alone makes it worth it.