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By Thomas Wheeler

For years, the Lanard Toy company has made a pretty decent living with their CORPS line of action figures. Scaled to 3-3/4" in height, and initially designed along the exact same line as G.I. Joe, these less-expensive soldiers and vehicles were, to many, a decent complement to the Real American Hero.

A few years ago, right around the same time Hasbro brought out the "newsculpt" G.I. Joe figures, Lanard followed suit and even more drastically altered the basic construction format of their CORPS soldiers. I thought this was a shame, especially since they turned out some designs, groups, and color schemes that, had they retained the original Joe-like construction format, I would've been happy to add to my collection. As it was, though, I pretty much lost interest, and didn't pay much attention to the product that was coming out.

Recently I heard rumblings online that one of Lanard's new "Mission Vehicles" was a brand-new design, and a very impressive piece of work. It was a four-wheeled attack vehicle that was getting very high marks from G.I. Joe fans. I decided to see if I could track it down.

The packaging for the vehicle is very generic. There is no individual name for this item. The box simply says MISSION VEHICLE, and pictures a helicopter, a tank, and this four-wheeled vehicle. I'm reluctant to call it a Jeep or a Hummer because those are trademarked terms, and honestly, it doesn't really resemble either one all that closely. If anything, it almost looks like an Attack SUV.

I have yet to see the tank anywhere, but the picture of it on the box looks like a tank that Lanard has released previously. The helicopter is cool, but nothing I really feel like adding to my collection. Don't get me wrong -- Lanard makes excellent vehicles, and since the Corps, regardless of how it's constructed, is the same scale as G.I. Joe, it's no problem at all fitting Corps vehicles into one's Joe collection from a size-compatibility standpoint. And for just under ten bucks for a decent-sized vehicle, you can hardly go wrong.

Getting the vehicle out of the box is the first step. The vehicle is secured to the base of the box by two astoundingly thick plastic-coated wires that are strung around its metal axles. And it's strapped down pretty tight. The only way -- and admittedly patience is not my strong suit when it comes to these things -- that I could figure to cut the wires without damaging the vehicle was to cut a hole in the bottom of the box, which gave me access to the underside of the wires. I snipped them from there (I recommend wire cutters) and extracted the vehicle.

Don't put the scissors away yet, though. You still need to snip the mercifully smaller and fairly easily removed wires that are holding the doors closed, and get a mess of transparent rubber bands off some of the weaponry. Now, your Mission Vehicle is ready!

So, how does this vehicle stack up against some of G.I. Joe's rolling transportation? Pretty impressively, actually. It dwarfs the VAMP, looks a whole lot better than the Hammer, which I always thought was a bit overstated anyway, and is on a par size-wise and detail-wise with the recent official Humvees in the G.I. Joe line, and I might be inclined to give the Corps Mission Vehicle a bit of an edge in the detail and "looking mean" department. Granted the Joe Humvees had to look like actual Humvees, so there was only so much independent imagination that could be put into them and still keep the name.

The Corps Mission Vehicle is about 12" in length, 5-1/2" wide, and 4-1/2" in height. This doesn't include the roof-mounted weaponry and several antennae. That height measurement is to the top of the car. The axles for the wheels are metal, always a nice thing to see on a vehicle of this sort, since it hasn't always been the case. The funny thing is when the vehicle rolls, it has a slight squeak to it that is almost identical to the squeal I have gotten used to hearing from my VAMPs over the years.

The amount of detail on the Mission Vehicle is very impressive. It's got little sculpted bolts or rivets all over the place, giving it a decidedly tough and rugged appearance. Part of the engine block, painted silver, can be seen on the hood. There's a sculpted shovel and axe mounted near the rear of the vehicle. Overall, it's really an astounding piece of design work.

The front doors open, but not how you might expect. Rather than swinging open towards the front of the vehicle, as is traditional with most automobiles, the doors open and swing towards the back. It's unusual, but it also makes it easier to actually get a figure seated in the driver's and passenger's seats. The seats accommodate a 3-3/4" traditional-style G.I. Joe figure just fine, as well. And I'm sure they would do the same for a Corps figure. Either type of figure will sit well in the seats, be able to reach the steering wheel, see out the windows, and look like he's reasonably comfortable.

The Mission Vehicle's rear doors do not open, but this isn't really much of a problem since the vehicle doesn't have back seats. Instead, there's a platform back there, with nicely a detailed ridged "metal" look, which allows figures to stand, and emerge through two pop-up hatches in the roof of the vehicle, in order to operate the roof-mounted equipment, which includes a machine gun and what looks like a large searchlight.

The final manned position on the Mission Vehicle is in the back, where a fifth figure can stand to operate a second and even larger machine gun on a tripod. All of this equipment can swivel around, and the two guns elevate and lower somewhat, and the operating positions for all of them allow plenty of space for a 3-3/4" figure to function. This is truly a superbly designed vehicle.

The closest thing to a shortcoming that I can see on this Corps Mission Vehicle, and it's almost funny, is that the side of the vehicle that doesn't really show when it's in its package -- doesn't have any labels on it! Granted the labels are somewhat limited to begin with. The doors on the driver's side have a "67" and a "HV" on them. The front left fender has a label with the numbers "421127" on it, the "67" also appears on the hood, and there's a couple of caution stickers, and tiny labels that appear to be the silhouette profile of a rhino, for some reason. But, they're all on the hood or the left side of the vehicle! Not a big deal, really, but sort of amusing.

This is also clearly a brand new vehicle. If there were any doubts, the copyright date sculpted on the bottom of the vehicle is "2006".

One thing I'd like to note. The back of the package this Mission Vehicle came in lists the names of the currently available Corps figures. And between two of them named "Recoil" and "Hawk", and a third one named "Firestorm", I'm a little surprised that Hasbro and DC Comics haven't had something to say about this, especially since all three names are followed by that little "TM" mark.

The Corps MISSION VEHICLE does a very nice job of adding something new to anyone's 3-3/4" collection of military figures. The box reads "Vehicle works with 3-3/4" (95mm) action figures", and boy, does it ever. I was sincerely impressed as to how well it accommodated my G.I. Joes.

And if your Joes could use some new vehicular hardware, then save up ten bucks and keep an eye out for this particular CORPS MISSION VEHICLE. It's a high-quality item that I guarantee you will not be disappointed with. It's well made, well-detailed, and has plenty of "play value" on top of it. And it definitely has my highest recommendation!