REVIEW: G.I. JOE THE RISE OF COBRA - SNARLER CYCLE with BEACH-HEAD and ROLLBAR By Thomas Wheeler
Motorcycles have certainly been a part of the G.I. Joe series since its inception, but what surprised me a bit when I was doing a little backtracking for this review was how relatively few motorcycles there have actually been in the line.
Of course, there is the RAM Motorcycle, which was introduced in the very first year of the line. This olive drab motorcycle with the machine gun "sidecar" is probably the best known of the G.I. Joe motorcycles. It was recolored several years later as part of the Sears-exclusive Dreadnok Ground Assault set, and would be the only really motorcycle-ish motorcycle that the Dreadnoks would receive, oddly enough for that biker gang. That three-wheeled Dreadnok Cycle a few years later was a bit of a stretch.
Then of course there was the Silver Mirage Motorcycle, assigned to the G.I. Joe team, and notable for having almost as extensive assembly needs as a model kit. Still, the end result was impressive, and the Silver Mirage had a sidecar that actually accommodated a passenger, unlike the RAM.
Ninja Force picked up the Ninja Lightning, a capable if somewhat weird motorcycle, during the later years of the G.I. Joe line when neon colors and assorted built-in gimmickry had taken hold.
Both the RAM and the Silver Mirage have been remade since their original releases, the RAM most recently, but there hasn't really been an all-new motorcycle for the G.I. Joe team in years. Until now.
As part of the line based on the live action G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA movie, we have an all-new motorcycle for the G.I. Joe team. I'm not sure if it was actually in the movie?
So, let's just review the Snarler Cycle in and of itself, along with the two figures that come with it.
Clearly, the Snarler Cycle is an entirely new vehicle. The 2009 copyright date on the underside of the sidecar is proof enough of that. And, the Snarler is an entirely plausible-looking motorcycle, which is more than can be said for a few of the cyclish entries that have turned up in the line in earlier years.
I do not, however, believe it to be specifically based on any one real-world model of motorcycle. Unlike the Cobra Steel Crusher, which was derived directly from a Hummer to the point that the vehicle carries the Hummer logo on it and its package declares it to be an officially licensed product from the automaker, there are no such specifications on the Snarler Cycle.
Does the Snarler Cycle look like it COULD be a real-world motorcycle? Absolutely. The sidecar with the machine gun and missile launcher mounts might get you into trouble with the local constabulary, but the motorcycle ITSELF is entirely plausible. But it's not any one specific real-world motorcycle.
The Snarler Cycle, in and of itself, is about 5" in length. It's not especially military in appearance or color. It looks to me -- and keep in mind I am far from any sort of expert on motorcycles -- like a motorcycle that has been designed for both high speed and heavy duty. Usually a motorcycle will go one way or the other. The Snarler looks capable of both.
The seating area and fuel tank are sleek and angled. The exhaust pipes are upswept and backswept. That's sort of the "racing" or high speed side of the bike. The engine appears to be rather heavy duty, and the front of the bike has a large headlight and fairly standard-looking handlebars. From the front, the fuel tank is a little wider than one might expect.
The wheels are a little over 1-1/4" in diameter. There is a small kickstand underneath the Snarler Cycle, so it can stand on its own if detached from the sidecar.
The sidecar is likely a little more fanciful than the motorcycle. It has a rounded look to it, sloping down in the front. Actually, there's a vague shape resemblance to a bullet. There's a narrow seat in the center, with sculpted padding. The outside of the sidecar has a double-barreled machine gun attached to it, complete with what look like installed ammo boxes. There's a standing platform in the back with two foot pegs. Frankly, I think you'd have to be one crazy G.I. Joe to be willing to ride back there.
There's a spring-loaded missile launcher on a post mount for the passenger in the sidecar to use, but the thing doesn't stay put very well. It's advertised on the back of the box as "removable", and brother is it ever. It's still a cool enough weapon, although it took me a few moments to figure out where the activator switch was for the launcher (all right, so I didn't have the instructions right in front of me...). Just so you know, it's the scope on top of the launcher. Rather clever, really.
The sidecar does detach, and has been designed to be able to roll on its own. Along with the one obvious wheel on the side, there are two additional tiny little wheels on the underside of the sidecar. Interesting effect, really.
There's a small sheet of labels that come with the Snarler, mostly logos, display screens, and a couple of warning labels. Nothing all that extensive, but then there really isn't room on this vehicle for anything all that extensive. They add a nice bit of enhancement to the overall look of the Snarler.
The color scheme, to me, is unusual, and not especially military. Of course, it might be more in keeping with the G.I. Joe team as they appeared in the movie. The main body of both the Snarler Cycle and its sidecar is a light silver grey, with extensive red trim. Interesting color choice. The red is mostly ornamental on the cycle, and is the color of the upholstered seat in the sidecar. The rest of the detail is black.
This is perhaps where the Snarler reminded me a bit of the Silver Mirage. Of course, the Silver Mirage was a bit more real-world motorcycle-looking than the RAM, but living up to its name, the Silver Mirage was mostly silver.
On the whole, the Snarler Cycle is a very cool and very impressive vehicle that will be a welcome addition to any G.I. Joe collection.
Now let's consider the two figures that come with it.
BEACH-HEAD - Officially dubbed "Wayne 'Beach-Head' Sneeden" for this set, Wayne Sneeden being Beach-Head's long-established real name, Beach-Head was first introduced into the G.I. Joe line in 1986. He saw his best time in the second season of the animated series, where he was fourth-in-command after Hawk, Duke, and Flint.
Beach-Head, whose specialty was that of a Ranger, was constantly portrayed as a no-nonsense, by-the-book tough guy with a bad temper, absolutely no tolerance for any sort of shenanigans among the troops, and unfortunately, rather limited bodily hygiene. He made no secret of the fact that he thought he could run the team better than anyone else presently in charge, and was known to be rather vocal in his opinion of even superior officers' occasional rule-bending.
Perhaps no great surprise, by 1987, he'd been assigned to the training of new recruits. In the animated G.I. Joe movie, he was responsible for putting a group of new arrivals, dubbed the "Rawhides" and consisting of Lt. Falcon, Jinx, Tunnel Rat, Big Lob, Chuckles, and Law & Order, through their paces. The fact that they managed to accomplish their respective training exercises pretty much in their own way and not necessarily by the book as Beach-Head expected frustrated him no end.
Beach-Head was never that prominent a player in the comic book, although one storyline in the Devil's Due run did have Beach-Head out with a group of trainees, largely carrying over his responsibilities -- and personality -- from the animated series.
Beach-Head gained a certain prominence in the toy line, as in 2004, he was one of three members of a revitalized Tiger Force, along with Mutt and Hardtop, that turned up in the Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention Set that year. The set pit the team against the Dreadnoks and their new allies, the Dreadheads, all of whom, according to their file cards, had something against Beach-Head.
While one doesn't wish to sympathize with those who would ally themselves with the Dreadnoks, no one's ever going to give Beach-Head the nickname of "Mr. Warmth", either. He's abundantly capable of ticking off just about anyone with minimal effort.
The Beach-Head figure that comes with the Snarler Cycle is interesting. It's an effective enough 25th-style rendition of the character, complete with the ridged ski-mask and sweater, and the thick equipment vest. However, with the figure keeping to the very subdued color palette of the movie-based figures, the end result is a Beach-Head that looks very much like a Night Force version of the original Beach-Head that came out as part of a Toys "R" Us 6-pack some years ago, and was even available more recently on a single card to clearance type stores and K*B Toys before they shut their doors.
This Beach-Head has a black ski-mask and sweater, olive green equipment vest, and green and brown camouflage trousers, along with black boots. There's a little bit of color on him, in the form of his red beret, folded and tucked into the top of his vest (a Beach-Head trademark), and a grenade clipped to his belt that's been painted a rather surprisingly bright metallic green.
The file cards for the movie figures don't go into a lot of detail, but it does have Beach-Head's name correct, and it lists him as a former Army Ranger specializing in urban combat.
Now let's consider the second figure packaged with the Snarler Cycle:
ROLLBAR - You know, when I first saw this set, and before I looked at the text carefully, I thought this might have been Sneak Peek. The roundish helmet and goggles are what made me think that, perhaps, as well as the greyish color scheme on the figure, along with the grey and red color of the bike.
Of course, given the separately-molded straps attached to Rollbar's legs, it might have been just as reasonable a guess to see this figure as Crazylegs. However, he is neither Crazylegs nor Sneak Peek. He's Rollbar.
The name actually does have a bit of history within the world of G.I. Joe. I thought I'd heard it before. While certainly not as prominent as Beach-Head, a character named Rollbar was first introduced into the line in 2004. He was the driver of a vehicle called the Jungle Strike Humvee.
That Rollbar was a relatively unremarkable figure, dressed in dark cammies that were pretty much as straightforward military in appearance as you were going to see in the G.I. Joe line, which, in a way, was rather remarkable in and of itself.
Rollbar saw a second appearance the following years, in 2005, once again as the driver of the Humvee, except this time, the Humvee had been recolored in black and was designated the Night Ops Humvee. Originally available online, it later turned up briefly at Toys "R" Us. In this case, as one might expect, Rollbar's uniform was colored black, but it was otherwise the same figure.
I don't believe that this new Rollbar is necessarily intended to represent the same individual. The original Rollbar never really ascended to any sort of media coverage, so there was no real reason to carry the entire character over into the movie-based line. It's just a convenient code-name. The reason I think this is that the original Rollbar's actual name is Robert Dube'. The new Rollbar's real name, according to his file card, is Reed D. Williston.
The figure is actually very nicely done. The head is fairly straightforward, and underneath the helmet has somewhat slicked back dark brown, almost black hair. The helmet is grey with black goggles with metallic light blue lenses. The goggles are not removable. There's also a microphone attached to the helmet, which thankfully also isn't removable. There's one improvement I'll acknowledge. The number of those things that could get lost from the original line!
Rollbar is wearing a camouflage jumpsuit that is very pale grey with grey and dark blue-grey camouflage imprinted on it. Very urban in appearance, as is appropriate for the figure. He has black gloves, boots, and knee pads. Rollbar is wearing a non-removable but separately molded grey vest with ridged padding, black straps, and a knife and small grenade attached to them.
And, as I mentioned earlier, he has these straps on his legs, of the type one would normally associate with a paratrooper. Precisely what he would need these for I have no idea. Still, he was seated in the sidecar in the vehicle package. Beach-Head was packaged standing behind the Snarler Cycle, but if the inference is made that Beach-Head is the driver, then one is sort of left wondering how bad a driver he is if the guy in the sidecar feels obliged to wear paratrooper equipment!
There's no shortage of additional accessories for the figures, either. There's two backpacks, two pistols (and both Beach-Head and Rollbar have holsters on their legs for the pistols), two rifles, and one crossbow that attaches to the back of Beach-Head's backpack.
So, what's my final word here? Look, regardless of which G.I. Joe figure series is your preference, the Snarler Cycle is an immensely cool item. It's an excellent new motorcycle for the G.I. Joe team, and it has plenty of features and capabilities to keep it interesting. Beach-Head and Rollbar are nicely-done new additions to the movie-based line of figures, as well.
The G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA SNARLER CYCLE with BEACH-HEAD and ROLLBAR definitely has my very enthusiastic recommendation!