REVIEW: G.I. JOE "PAST & PRESENT" ROCKSLIDE ATAV with SNOW JOB SET
One of the coolest items to come out of the world of G.I. Joe in 2009 was a special Target exclusive set called "Past & Present". This set focused on the ROCKSLIDE ATAV, a small arctic vehicle, and its driver, the G.I. Joe team's pre-eminent arctic specialist, SNOW JOB!
The set was especially interesting because it presented two versions of the vehicle, and of Snow Job. One was a modern, movie-connected incarnation, while the other was the original Snow Job figure, with the closest available equivalent to the Rockslide ATAV vehicle.
Even the packaging was particularly cool. This set came in a notably long box, almost two feet in length. The center of the box featured a large silver star as the dividing point between the two sides, with the logo "PAST AND PRESENT" emblazoned on it.
To the left was the "Past" side, with the packaging design reflecting the original Real American Hero, of course. A black background with the yellow and orange "explosion" effect, framing both the figure and vehicle in a window box setting. The original G.I. Joe logo was also present and accounted for.
On the right was the "Present" side, using the green coloration of the movie packaging, as well as the movie-based logo. This dividing line was carried over to the entirety of the box, including the pictures on the back, and the file cards on the bottom. Really I regard this to have been very cleverly done, and the final package design is really quite impressive. The two designs are not especially compatible with one another, not because one is more disagreeable than the other, but simply because of how different they are from each other. It's an interesting effect to see them on the same box.
And, interestingly enough, each item is separately packaged within the box! Each figure and vehicle is on its own little cardboard mount.
I am now presented with the dilemma of precisely how to review this set. We have two distinctly different vehicles, and two distinctly different figures, even though, technically, they're named the same. I think the most logical thing I can do is to review the vehicles, and then the figures, taking each version, "Past" and "Present", as separately as I reasonably can.
PAST: ROCKSLIDE ATAV - okay, first off, that wasn't the original name of this vehicle. The original name of this vehicle was the Polar Battle Bear Skimobile. It was changed to the Rock Slide (two words) in 2002, but this version is clearly intended to represent the original edition of the vehicle.
As the Polar Battle Bear, this vehicle first saw the light of day in 1983, the second year of the line. Following the hugely successful first year of G.I. Joe in the 3-3/4" size, the entire line was dramatically expanded, and especially notable is the fact that the G.I. Joe team, essentially a land-based force in its first year, received a number of environment-specific additions to the team. Among these were Torpedo, who was a Navy SEAL, several pilots and airborne specialists such as Wild Bill, Ace, and Airborne, and the team's first, but hardly only, arctic specialist, Snow Job.
I was once told by a Hasbro representative that the reason that so many arctic vehicles were brought into the G.I. Joe line over the years was because arctic-based toys always sold well. Granted, I can see the marketing logic here.
So perhaps it's no great surprise that in the second year of G.I. Joe, when the team was expanded to include more environment-specific specialties, an arctic vehicle was one of the first things out.
Now, the Polar Battle Bear did not actually come with Snow Job. Both were sold separately. Snow Job was part of the individually carded figures, and the Polar Battle Bear was one of those smaller vehicles that generally didn't include a figure of its own, like the RAM Motorcycle of the year before.
Nevertheless, who was driving the thing on the package illustration on the front of the box? Hint -- it wasn't Gung-Ho.
It was renamed the Rock Slide in 2002. While using the same molds, for the most part, there were two distinct differences. One was that it was given a camouflage color scheme. The other was that it was given a huge spring-loaded missile rack in a rather towering mount in the back, which was formerly an engine cover. It wasn't a bad re-use of the vehicle, but the missile tower did tend to stretch plausibility somewhat.
Now, this vehicle has been brought back in all its original glory. The new edition in the Target set is truly superb. Clearly, the molds for this vehicle have held up abundantly well, and what we have here is a perfect new version of the original vehicle, regardless of what it's being called these days.
The vehicle looks like an entirely plausible skimobile. Most skimobiles or snowmobiles that I've seen (on television) look, scalewise, somewhat smaller than this does, proportionate to its driver, and the Rockslide/Polar Battle Bear is also far more angular in appearance. Most conventional snowmobiles that I've seen tend to have a rather rounded-off look, at least up around the front of the vehicle.
That's not the case here. This vehicle is all angles, front and back. Of course, that just makes it look that much more streamlined, fast, and dangerous. This is indeed a battle-ready skimobile.
The vehicle, like its original counterpart, has a slightly off-white main body, with a black seat and black treads on the side. These conceal the small wheels that actually allow the vehicle to roll along. There are two skis up front, which can turn from side to side.
The vehicle comes with two small missiles that can be attached to the skis. Since the original Polar Battle Bear came out well before spring- action features were brought into the G.I. Joe line, the missiles do not actually launch. There are also two machine guns that protrude from the front, and can be turned from side to side.
There's also an engine cover in the back that can be raised up to reveal the vehicle's engine.
Hasbro has done a nice job of bringing back the original labels, as well. These are printed on clear vinyl, and instructions are included for placement. One of these labels even features the silhouette of a bear, so we know what this vehicle was really originally called!
PRESENT: ROCKSLIDE ATAV - Technically designated an "arctic sled" on the package description, it is indeed fair to say that the Rockslide ATAV is the modern counterpart to the original Polar Battle Bear.
Interestingly enough, despite a fairly radical difference in appearance, both vehicles are almost precisely the same length -- about 7-1/2".
However, the modern Rockslide has a far wilder appearance. Nevertheless, I would not call it an implausible appearance. There's certainly been no shortage of oddball vehicles over the years of any incarnation of the 3-3/4" G.I. Joe lines that are not especially likely to be seen in any real-world armada. The Rockslide isn't one of these. It's a little bizarre, but not so much so that I'd call it impossible by any means.
It's a good bit taller than the Polar Battle Bear, and where the Polar Battle Bear is all angles, the Rockslide is all curves. Except for the treads and the skis, there isn't a straight line on this thing.
The driver's seat is a lot further forward than it is on the Polar Battle Bear, and it's concealed by a protective canopy of dark transparent plastic, that swings forward to allow access. The rear half of the vehicle appears to be a platform of some sort, possibly to transport a second rider, if anyone feels crazy enough to sit back there. Clearly, the Rockslide has the same basic purpose as the Polar Battle Bear -- quick transport over snowy surfaces. Nobody said that would be a particularly smooth ride, though.
The main body of the Rockslide is the same off-white color as the Polar Battle Bear. However, a generous amount of camouflage has been painted on. Blotches of a slightly darker grey, and streaks of a very dark grey, have been added to the main body. This helps to make this slightly outlandish vehicle look that much more military. The camouflage is even more extensive than when the Polar Battle Bear was reworked into its Rock Slide incarnation.
The Rockslide does have a number of features that the Polar Battle Bear does not. Like the Polar Battle Bear, it has two front skis, and these do turn. It also has spring-loaded missile launchers attached to the skis. Although the missiles that appear on top of the missile launchers are not removable, the Rockslide comes with two launching missiles.
Additionally, the rear treads turn. Like the Polar Battle Bear, these are not real treads. They serve to conceal a wheel underneath that allows the Rockslide to roll along. However, the Polar Battle Bear cannot turn its treads. The Rockslide can, which likely gives it a much tighter turning circle.
While obviously lacking the history of the original Polar Battle Bear, the modern day Rockslide ATAV is nevertheless an impressive arctic vehicle for the G.I. Joe team.
Now, let's consider the drivers:
PAST: SNOW JOB - As I said when discussing the Polar Battle Bear, Snow Job first came along in 1983, as the first but hardly only arctic specialist the G.I. Joe team would have. In point of fact, they would have quite a few over the ensuing years -- Frostbite, Iceberg, Blizzard, Avalanche, Cold Front, Wind Chill, Sub-Zero, Snow Storm, and several others.
However, Snow Job remained the first. He turned up a couple of times in the 1997-98 and 2000-2002 eras, as well as his molds being used in an Arctic 6-pack from Toys "R" Us during the 2002-2006 era.
But, this Snow Job figure is designed to look as much like the original as possible -- and in that it does a truly superb job.
The only significant differences between this Snow Job and the original are a few paint matters. The arm pouches, painted black on this version, were left white on the original. Additionally, the small area on the head above the goggles but before you get to the hood of the coat, which was left white on the original, has been painted flesh tone on the new version.
This has the rather odd effect of making Snow Job look as though he might have a receding hairline. But, hey, it's been quite a few years, y'know?
Otherwise, the only significant difference is with regard to the copyright date. As one would expect, the original Snow Job has a 1983 copyright date on his inside leg. The new Snow Job has a 1997 date on his posterior. While that may sound like an odd date, it was the year the Snow Job molds were pressed back into service for the Toys "R" Us exclusive three-packs.
Apart from these minor differences, the new Snow Job is identical to his predecessor. He is wearing a white arctic uniform, with a black collar, black goggles, brown shoulder straps, a brown belt with black buckle and small pouches, and a black pouch and a black holster on his upper legs.
The only facial details that are visible are his nose, mouth, and his signature thick red mustache and beard. Scarlett notwithstanding, Snow Job was the first red-headed member of the G.I. Joe team, and doubtless his beard added a little color to a figure that otherwise would have had a rather limited color palette.
The new Snow Job is absolutely identical in construction to the original. This marks the first time in over two years that a traditional-style G.I. Joe figure has been available anywhere at retail. The Official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club has had some, but there's been nothing in any of the stores since the Cobra Viper Pit six-pack, and the last couple of comic-based three packs, one based on the Oktober Guard, the other featuring Lady Jaye and a couple of Cobra, all of which were sold through Toys "R" Us.
Let me also add this. I'm especially pleased to see Snow Job. Okay, he's not that major a character. But there's a reason I'm pleased we got a new Snow Job based so closely to the original, and it's the same reason I was glad to see a close relative of the original Storm Shadow turn up in the comic-based three-packs a few years back.
Snow Job, like Storm Shadow, is molded in mostly white plastic. And for various reasons -- including bad water in the chemical mix of the plastic and exposure to sunlight, figures that were molded in lighter colors, especially white and light blue, have been prone to yellowing and discoloration over the years. My original Snow Job was certainly a victim of this. Yours, if you have one, might well have been, too. So were a lot of them.
It's not IMPOSSIBLE to find a clean, white Snow Job these days -- assuming you have the time for that sort of search and the money to buy him when you find him. I have neither. So I am more than happy to have this nice, new, WHITE Snow Job figure.
As I write this review, I have him standing here next to my original Snow Job, who is sadly rather yellowed -- although I've certainly seen worse (my original Storm Shadow turned TAN...!) I also have a recent Star Wars Stormtrooper here. Snow Job may be just fractionally off-white, but if he is, then it's maybe 3% into the grey, and he's certainly not the rather unfortunate shade of yellow that my original Snow Job has become.
But my point is -- for those like me whose Snow Job figure has become a victim of environmental conditions, this "Past & Present" set is the absolute perfect chance to get a nice, new, clean, white Snow Job figure, that is as close to the original as you could ask for, and newly made -- hopefully from better plastic.
For a lot of longtime collectors, that ALONE may be worth the price of the set, never mind the other Snow Job figure and the two vehicles, as cool as they are.
Snow Job comes with his original accessories, which include a nice set of skis, ski-poles, a backpack to carry the skis, and his rifle, which if memory serves was called an XMLR-3A Laser Rifle.
A version of his original file card is printed on the package, correctly identifying him as Harlan W. Moore from Rutland, Vermont, with military specialties in Arctic Ski Patrol and Rifle Instructor, with a background as an Olympic Biathlon contender. It also includes the quote from Gung-Ho that Snow Job isn't called Snow Job so much because of his arctic capabilities, but because he tends to be something of a con artist! This was generally in good fun, as shown in Snow Job's first appearance in issue #11 of the Marvel G.I. Joe comic.
PRESENT: SNOW JOB - The present-day Snow Job figure is a reasonable 25th- style, movie-based equivalent of the original character.
Much like the Rockslide vehicle itself, this Snow Job is somewhat more ornate than his predecessor. He's wearing a winter uniform, but like the Rockslide, it has grey camouflage printed on it. Snow Job's head is in full view. He's wearing a grey protective cap, but has the traditional red mustache and beard. The figure does have his goggles and hood, but these are separate pieces among his accessories.
Snow Job has a brown harness around his chest, with two grey pouches in the center. He has a brown belt, brown gauntlets, black gloves, grey pouches on his legs, as well as a black holster, white knee pads, and black shoes with a seriously rugged design and treads.
Snow Job's accessories include skis, ski poles, a rifle, and a backpack for the skis. Astoundingly, these accessories are all NEARLY identical to the original Snow Job's. The only difference is the foot pegs for the skis, and as such the holes in the backpack to hold the skis. They're narrower for the "Present" Snow Job. I find myself wondering what sort of fits that particular variance must've given them at the factory.
The Present Snow Job also comes with a small pistol, which can fit into the holster on his right leg, as well as a separate hood and goggles. The goggles have transparent lenses, unlike the original version's black goggles. In this instance I'm a bit inclined to give the nod to the newer figure. It's nice to be able to see his eyes.
On the whole, the figure is a good rendition of the original Snow Job in the 25th-style format and adjusted somewhat to fit in with the movie motif.
The movie-based figures don't tend to have a lot in the way of an extensive file card, but there is some information, which is presented in a second card on the package. The artwork, I have to say, is spectacular. Nearly photographic in its precision and quality.
Snow Job is still Harlan W. Moore, and the Serial Number is identical. No mention is made of an Olympic background, but then the movie cards don't really get into that sort of thing. It is worth noting that on the movie figure card, Snow Job's rank is listed as E-5, a Sergeant, whereas on the original figure file card, it's listed as E-6, a Staff Sergeant.
A demotion? Somebody must've gotten fed up with his con jobs...
So, what's my final word on this set? Okay, it's no secret that I'm a longtime fan of the original Real American Hero, and to see one of them back in the store -- even as a store exclusive to just one store chain-- Target -- was a real treat. And in the case of Snow Job, as I said earlier, it was a chance to get a "clean" version of a figure that -- it's pretty darn hard to find clean versions of otherwise. So no complaints there.
But really, the entire set is impressive. You get two very cool vehicles, and two cool figures, one of which has a lot of history in the G.I. Joe line, the other a decent representation of its present concept. For ANY G.I. Joe fan, this set is a real treat as such.
I find myself sincerely hoping for more such sets, but I have no idea if it will happen. This item is being offered as a Target exclusive, and when I found it, it was on an end cap, away from the action figure aisle, on a shelf with a Transformers exclusive and some Star Wars exclusives. And given the time of year when I found it, it was clearly intended for holiday shoppers.
Additionally, there is the factor of what might be available. To create additional sets, it would be necessary to take an existing current vehicle, assign an appropriate figure to it, and then try to find a plausible original-line counterpart to that vehicle, and driver, and hope that they both still exist in usable condition. Unfortunately, the odds of all of that coming together aren't very good. Heck, even with this set, they had to change the name of one of the vehicles.
But that's what "might be". What IS, is that we have a set here that pays a very worthwhile tribute to the line that got us to the point where we are now with the line that's currently available. I think that's very impressive.
As such, the G.I. JOE "PAST & PRESENT" ROCKSLIDE ATAV with SNOW JOB(s) most definitely has my highest recommendation!