Hasbro’s GI Joe and the Transformers Set is a Sticker-filled Throwback [Review]
It's been a long time since I added any new GI Joe figures to my ancient collection. For a long time, GI Joe was pretty much the only action figure series I was devoted to, but that was more than two dozen years ago. I remember playing with those toys for hours on hours, days on days. GI Joe was the be all and end all when it came to my childhood. Okay, sure there were probably more than a fair share of Transformers in the mix, too (Hot Rod 4 Lyfe], which made one of Hasbro's San Diego Comic-Con exclusives particularly adept at tugging on my nostalgia strings.
Additionally, the set released hot on the heels of the conclusion to Transformers vs GI Joe, IDW's absolutely brilliant event from Tom Scioli and John Barber. Though this set isn't tied to the comic in any way, the timing was spot on for those of us who'd been reading the comic and were still jonesing for that next toys-as-comics fix.
The set comes in one of the larger boxes from SDCC this year, which makes complete sense when you factor in the two full-size COBRA and GI Joe vehicles inside. Despite not being based on any particular comic, the packaging has the vibe of the classic '80s comic series for both brands. You get the feel this is a mash-up that's been pulled right from the pages from the middle of a major event, which is good on Hasbro's design team. Unfortunately we'll never how how Powerglide, Scarlett, Soundwave and Zartan ended up in this entanglement because such a comic doesn't exist. At least now we can play-write our own version.
Now it's been a minute since I've cracked open a GI Joe vehicle set, and based on the contents of this package, I think I owe my parents and other older family members some apologies. I never had to personally deal with all of the little stickers and decals for these toys when I was growing up, and I hope they can forgive me for putting them through the tiny sticker hell I endured to get the HISS tank and the Rattler plane looking good.
Okay, maybe that's not entirely fair to the people that made the stickers. It wasn't so much hellish as it was nerve-wracking. Putting stickers on things properly, especially when it comes to toys that are more likely to end up on display than in the sandbox, is incredibly stressful for me. When I'm done with them, the toys in hand have to look like the toys on the box. It's almost never possible to attain such perfection as there is in packaging photography, but it's also not really possible to convince my brain of that fact either. Imperfections, slight as they may be, abound from prototype to final product in the manufacturing of the toy, so I'm already up against it when trying to achieve sticker zen. That didn't stop me from trying though.
The instructions offered inside as to how to place the stickers were solid for the Soundwave HISS tank, as there isn't a whole lot of leeway in how that vehicle is laid out. It has a singular look, and you can achieve near perfection rather easily. However, I do hope whoever decided to include some 2mm stickers for the front of the vehicle by the canopy gets stuck at the DMV for all eternity for putting me through the terror of trying to place those stickers. There are three red stripes --- no, more like dots based on their size --- on either side of the cockpit, and trying to place these nubs with adult hands was more frustrating than near anything I've ever encountered in putting a toy together.
Powerglide's Rattler stickers are another beast entirely, not because they're hard to adhere, but because there are actually too many options. I appreciate the freedom of customization provided with the excess of decals included for the Rattler, but it's also a little stressing because what if I picked the wrong design layout? It's not a rational thought process, I know, but when confronted by too many options, the permanence of these decals can make you question every choice. I think I ended up doing a decent job, but there were so many stickers left over, it's hard to know for sure.
Once both were all finally as final as I could allow my brain to believe they could be, the HISS tank and the Rattler looked rather sharpish. The HISS tank is based on the 2005 release, though obviously the color scheme has been altered to make it fall more in line with Soundwave's aesthetic. Additionally, the top rocket turret has been modified to follow Soundwave's cylindrical design. It's a small touch, and just about the only pure change from a design perspective, but one that gives the vehicle much more personality. You do actually feel like this could have been Soundwave transforming into a HISS tank.
The Rattler, while true to Powerglide's design, doesn't get much in the way of a personal touch. The color scheme is about the only thing that you have to give you any indication this isn't a traditional Rattler, though I suppose you can't really fault Hasbro there. The toy itself is identical to the re-release from 2008, save for the stickers and colorway, and the Rattler itself hasn't changed much in the 30 years since it originally released. I suppose it's fortuitous then that Powerglide already has such a similar design in the Transfomers universe that Hasbro didn't have to go too far outside the comfort zone to deliver this vehicle.
Scarlett and Zartan are also included, and both of those figures are solid efforts. Articulation on both is good for the scale, and when it comes to Zartan there are plenty of accessories. Scarlett doesn't need much beyond her crossbow, as you all know, and the little weapon accessory is fine, if a bit delicate. The paint app on her face isn't great, but it is clean and comparable with other 3.75" figures. Zartan gets the better end of the deal though, and includes three additional heads, multiple guns and swords, and a second hooded vest to wear. All the options are easy to swap out, and are a great touch for the character. That said, he does still look best in his more traditional brown hood.
The GI Joe and the Transformers set offered at this year's convention was much more GI Joe-focused than it was centered on Transformers, but the limited collection still managed to hit all the right notes. It would have been cool to have transforming GI Joe vehicles, but even without those elements, it's hard to be disappointed in this set. Time will tell if I'm going to be okay with my decal choices, but for now, I think things are looking just fine.
The GI Joe vs Transformers set was available exclusively at San Diego Comic-Con. This set was provided by Hasbro for review.