REVIEW: G.I. JOE DESERT ROCKSLIDE A.T.A.V. with DUSTY
Sometimes it seems that in the increasingly mercurial world of action figures, one never quite knows when or where something is going to turn up -- or if, for that matter. Certainly this has been the case with G.I Joe in 2010, as a certain clearance retailer seems to be receiving a fairly abundant supply of G.I. Joe items previously impossible or at least very difficult to obtain, assuming that they were supposed to have been released in the first place.
One of these vehicles is called the DESERT ROCKSLIDE A.T.A.V., which stands for "All Terrain Attack Vehicle", and it comes with a figure of DUSTY, a long-established desert trooper for the G.I. Joe team.
I find it interesting that this vehicle is called the "Desert" Rockslide, and that it's branded as an "All Terrain" vehicle. It had better be. The original Rockslide, which came out prior to this one, was specifically branded an an ARCTIC vehicle. It was even sold a second time in a special "Past and Present" set with a modern figure of Snow Job, the G.I. Joe team's primary arctic specialist, alongside an original-style version of Snow Job, and a remake of the Battle Bear Skimobile, which had been redubbed the Rockslide as well.
Now, certainly there have been repaints of vehicles before. I've lost count of the number of times the VAMP has turned up in one form or another. And sometimes, if infrequently, previous vehicles have been given specific environmental assignments. Witness the Arctic HISS, or the Desert RAM. However, their original incarnations were not environment-specific. The original Rockslide arguably was, specifically assigned to arctic environments. And now, it's been repurposed for the desert?
There are degrees to which arctic and desert regions have certain similarities. Both can certainly have the look of lifeless wastelands. Both can certainly be treacherous to human habitation. Both certainly have extremes of temperature. So I think the question needs to be raised -- could a vehicle, regardless of its "all-terrain" designation, originally intended for the arctic, operate in the desert? Well, let's consider the design of the Rockslide. Keep in mind that any speculations I make are very speculative. I am hardly an expert in either engineering or the environment.
Now, admittedly, the Rockslide is a pretty strange-looking piece of machinery in any environment. As much as anything, it looks like a contained-canopy jet-ski that merged with part of a tank. One gets the impression that it was designed to be fairly aerodynamic, but the results are still a tad on the bizarre side.
The main body of the Rockslide has a huge, backswept, curved canopy, that opens from the back and swings forward. Within is a single-seat cockpit with motorcycle-like handlebars. In this respect is certainly bears a resemblance to either a jet-ski or a skimobile. The "sweep" of the canopy goes well back past the cockpit, and almost looks like a sort of fin.
The rest of the main body is a bit more plausible in appearance, looking a fair bit like the lower body of a fairly stylized skimobile. It has a wide, somewhat curved front, that tapers back into a somewhat angular rear. Two "fins" emerge from below the back section of the vehicle. Again, I think the intent here was a certain aerodynamic styling, and if you can accept the moderate peculiarity of the design in the first place, it pretty well works.
To either side of the Rockslide at the front are two thick skis, that turn in unison. Mounted on top of these skis are spring-loaded missile launchers. The Desert Rockslide includes two missiles, colored in blue, that can be fired from these devices. Additionally, two additional missiles, non-functional, are mounted on top of the missile launchers.
Underneath the rear half of the Desert Rockslide is a medium-sized, tank-like tread system. The tread itself, like many G.I. Joe vehicles of similar properties, is very nicely detailed and very effective looking, but isn't actually a "real" tread. There's a wheel concealed underneath, allowing the vehicle to roll along on any decently smooth surface. Still -- it looks cool.
I think the biggest question raised by transferring the Rockslide into a desert environment is this -- would skis work on desert sand? And to be honest -- I don't know. There's all sorts of types of desert out there with the constantly shifting sands. Would skis work? I haven't heard of a lot of sand-skiers out there. Then again, I'm not much for watching sports, certainly not of the "extreme" nature. Given some of the stuff people get up to these days, it would honestly surprise me if somebody HADN'T tried to ski in a desert by now. As for that person's success -- as I said, I don't really know.
But let's exercise a little "willing suspension of disbelief" and assume that the Rockslide would work as well in the desert as it does on snow. Certainly its new desert colors look cool! The vehicle has been molded in a pale tan, and given a remarkably complex and highly impressive desert camouflage pattern using two different shades of a darker brown. It's even a bit more impressive when you realize that the canopy has been molded in a dark transparent color, but parts of its sides have been painted to match the molded color of the main body, and given the camouflage pattern as well. It's as impressive as if it were a Tiger Force or Python Patrol pattern, especially given the rather unusual lines and shape of the vehicle.
The front of the vehicle ahead of the canopy has been painted in a rather interesting color, a sort of metallic military brown, a color which has also been used on a panel on the underside of the Desert Rockslide, and for the skis out to the sides. The tread system in the back has been molded in a dark brown.
Let's discuss the labels. Now, I enjoy putting labels on G.I. Joe vehicles. I think it lends an added air of authenticity to them, and it gives me a chance -- such as tend to be rather infrequent these days -- to exercise my graphic arts and precision skills, in making sure that these cool labels are placed as neatly as possible,
That having been said, it does seem that with the advent of the post-movie line of G.I. Joe toys, Hasbro has decided to develop as extensive label sheets as they possibly can for their vehicles. The ones for the new VAMP numbered over a hundred! I got them done, but -- wow! Took me a couple of hours, and I hadn't seen the likes of that since the days of the USS Flagg and the Defiant Space Complex.
In that respect, fortunately, the Desert Rockslide, technically hailing from the movie line, cut me a bit of a break. Its labels were far fewer in number, and far more manageable in size. There were only a few that were so small or needed to be tucked into some hard to reach spot that I needed to use tools such as the tip of an X-Acto knife to place them properly.
The most dynamic labels are the ones forming the fanged mouth that runs from the front of the Desert Rockslide over to each side. The front sticker is a little small for the space it needs to occupy, but the side stickers work well enough. One label already in place features the G.I. Joe logo, and there are registration numbers and a few warning labels. Overall, they enhance the look of the vehicle without overwhelming it.
For those interested in vehicular dimensions, the Desert Rockslide is about 7-1/2 inches in length, 3-1/2 inches high, and 4-1/4 inches wide at the skis. The main body of the vehicle is 2-1/2 inches wide at its widest point.
Now, let's consider the Desert Rockslide's designated driver -- DUSTY. Here is a character with plenty of history in the G.I. Joe universe. Dusty was first introduced into the action figure line in 1985, looking very authentic in his tan and brown desert camouflage uniform, at a time when desert troopers were nowhere near as common as they are today.
Dusty saw quite a bit of play in the animated series, including being the featured player in a two-part episode where it looked for a while as if he'd turned traitor and was serving Cobra. Of course, this turned out to be a ruse in the end, but it was an interesting and complex plot that wasn't really revealed until the end, with the sort of writing that is seldom seen even in live-action television these days, never mind most modern animation.
Dusty also fared well in the comic book, turning up whenever a desert specialist was needed, and being one of the main characters in a desert adventure alongside Mainframe and a local kid named Rashid who learned a few lessons about what a modern warrior was really all about.
Figure-wise, Dusty would return in 1991, in a slightly less realistic uniform, and accompanied by a pet coyote by the name of Sandstorm. Dusty would continue to make appearances from time to time, including throughout the newsculpt era of action figures, and to this day is considered the G.I. Joe team's primary desert expert, even if more and more military personnel are dressing in desert fatigues these days, given where our real-world military conflicts have taken us.
So, how's the Dusty figure that comes with the Desert Rockslide? Is "all kinds of awesome" overstating it? Seriously, this is an amazingly impressive figure, and as I'm sure many who read this know, I am not easily impressed by the modern 25th-style G.I. Joe figures. But Dusty is an absolutely astounding figure.
For those who are looking for the height of military realism within the world of G.I. Joe - here it is. Okay, he comes with a pretty strange-looking vehicle, that doesn't look like anything we're likely to see crossing the battlefield anytime soon. Never mind the vehicle for the moment, consider the FIGURE.
Dusty is dressed in an amazingly authentic-looking modern desert military uniform. An early tag line for the G.I. Joe 3-3/4" line was "Modern Army Action Figures", and here you've got one. Dusty's uniform is molded in a very authentic desert gold-tan, and has been given an entirely modern, squared-off looking camouflage pattern in green and brown. It's based on legitimate military camouflage patterns, and looks absolutely incredible on the figure. It's also been applied to his helmet, which is removable.
Dusty has dark brown gloves, belt, and boots, and is wearing a small set of straps over his shoulders that join in the back. Among his accessories is a fairly large, dark brown backpack, which connects to a hole in the figure's back, but which would look as though it's being supported by the straps when in place.
The sculpted detail on the uniform is excellent. Dusty has protective elbow and knee pads, pockets on the front of his uniform, on the sides of his legs, and the laces on his boots are very neatly sculpted. His helmet even has straps dangling from it.
Dusty's hair is short-cropped and light brown. He has dark brown camouflage on his face, something of a nod to the original Dusty, who had such camouflage, and certainly it's not inappropriate.
His other accessories include a set of goggles, which can be affixed to the helmet, and a small gray rifle with a little tripod attachment. I strongly recommend attaching the tripod and then storing the gun in a safe place if you don't intend to display it with the figure, to prevent far too easy loss.
Of course, Dusty is very well articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. Even the mid-torso joint doesn't look bad on this figure, and that particular articulation point has been a bone of contention -- deservedly so -- for G.I. Joe fans since it was first implemented.
The file cards for the movie-based line are not as informative as their predecessors, but Dusty's is worth reporting. It reads as follows:
Dusty is a desert survival specialist on the G.I. Joe team. He is an expert in how to survive extreme temperatures, lack of water and the many other hazards that threaten anyone who ventures into the inhospitable desert areas. He makes sure the team is fully prepared as missions take them into arid regions in search of Cobra.
It's worth mentioning that Dusty's real name, Ronald W. Tadur, is a backwards spelling of Ronald Rudat, who was one of the conceptual artists for the G.I. Joe product line. In fact, in the animated two-parter that I mentioned earlier, Dusty's given name was stated as "Rudat".
So, what's my final word here? Granted, the Desert Rockslide is a slightly peculiar vehicle. But if you also happen to own the arctic-based original, which I do, then it's kind of cool to have both environment-based vehicles side by side. And the design really is pretty cool. A little peculiar, but cool.
And the Dusty figure that comes with this set is absolutely outstanding. Really, it's one of the finest efforts I've seen in this particular incarnation of G.I. Joe. It's truly excellent. Any G.I. Joe collector would be pleased to add both Dusty and the Desert Rockslide to their collection.
The G.I. JOE DESERT ROCKSLIDE A.T.A.V. and DUSTY definitely have my highest recommendation!