REVIEW: G.I. JOE COBRA JUNGLE B.A.T.
I'll admit, within the world of G.I. Joe, I've always been a fan of Cobra's B.A.T.s, the Battle Android Troopers. At the same time, I realize that not everyone has been. When they were first introduced in 1986, some argued that they were too unrealistic. That there was no such thing as a fully operational humanoid robot, let alone one that could function in a combat situation.
Well, technically that's true. But I tend to think that Cobra has blurred the lines of realism a little more than G.I. Joe has, and that arguably they started well before the B.A.T.s came along. When's the last time you saw anything tooling down the street or across a battlefield that looked like a HISS Tank?
And while it's true that -- at the time -- there was no such thing as a fully operational humanoid robot, that's no longer the case. Some years ago, while I was at Walt Disney World for the 2004 G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention, I saw a demonstration inside a pavilion at Epcot Center for ASIMO, a fully operational, walking humanoid robot. Granted, ASIMO was something of a promotional prototype, designed for publicity as much as anything else, and he certainly wasn't equipped or capable of storming across a battlefield firing weapons along the way (probably just as well since I doubt the audience would have appreciated that very much), but he certainly showed what was technologically possible.
And there ARE robots on modern battlefields. They don't tend to look very human, but they're programmed robotic machines, designed to do everything from perform unmanned reconnaissance to detect mines.
I don't know that there will ever be anything precisely like a Battle Android Trooper in the real world, but most of the capabilities of a Battle Android Trooper do now exist in the real world in some fashion among actual robots, and I think that's pretty amazing. The Cobra B.A.T., when it first came out twenty-five years ago, was considered an interesting bit of fantasy within the world of G.I. Joe. Now -- most of what it can do is reality, in some shape or form.
And within the current G.I. Joe action figure line, there's a new, environment-specific Battle Android Trooper running around -- the JUNGLE B.A.T.!
Let's consider a bit of history on the B.A.T.s, before we take a look at the newest addition. One of the things I've always liked about the B.A.T.s is the various forms they have taken over the years. Unlike a number of other troopers, they've tended to have a greater level of variety -- and have arguably gotten away with it better, as they are robots and not meant to resemble actual people. Most Alley-Vipers look pretty much alike. So do most Vipers. But the B.A.T.s are all over the map, comparatively.
The original B.A.T. came out in 1986. It had the same basic physical build as a person, although it was clearly mechanical. The head was not quite human in shape, narrower and more oblong. This was clearly not a helmet that a person could have wedged his cranium into. If that wasn't enough, the arms below the short sleeves of the uniform were metallic gray and clearly mechanical. The legs were a little odd-looking as well, a bit straighter and lacking in defined musculature.
The B.A.T. wore a uniform -- odd why someone would feel the need to dress a robot, but there it was. The uniform was mostly black, with bright yellow orange boots and trim, and some silver details. The lower right arm could be swapped out for various clip-on weaponry that came with the figure. Most interesting, visually, was a lenticular-motion chestplate. It has often been wrongly assumed to be holographic. It is not. Lenticular motion is a far older (and less complex) concept, but it still looks cool, and made it appear as though the internal workings of the BAT were readily accessible through the chestplate.
The B.A.T.s were simply programmed to be tossed out onto a battlefield and open fire. Cobra Troopers hated the things because basically, the B.A.T.s would fire at anything that moved. Cobra regarded them, and still does, as the near-perfect soldier. Cheap, easy to mass produce, they don't need to eat, they don't take sick leave, they don't need vacations, they don't need to be paid, and they're tenacious little contraptions that will keep firing as long as they have a working trigger finger and enough programming left to know what to do.
The B.A.T.s figured more heavily in the animated series than in the comic book, although they were fairly prevalent in both. In the comic book, they were initially the creation of Dr. Mindbender, who was "auditioning" for Cobra when they first turned up. He also brought some mutant plant spores with him. These turned out to be less effective than the B.A.T.s, but between killer robots and mutant plant spores.
In the animated series, there was no real "origin" for the BATs. They just turned up as the main force of an attack by Cobra against G.I. Joe Headquarters in "Arise, Serpentor, Arise!", and did a pretty good job of it until Sgt. Slaughter turned up and single-handedly did a promotional piece on recycling scrap metal by turning the entire phalanx of B.A.T.s into a big pile of it.
In 1991, the B.A.T. II's joined the toy line. They more or less resembled their predecessors, but there were some interesting differences. It was a little hard to tell whether they were wearing a uniform, or had just been "constructed" in the colors that they had. The B.A.T. II was primarily black, with bright orange and bright green trim, with no real robotic parts showing, but it was evident that they weren't human beings. The shape of the head made that impossible, and they had the same arm-swap-for-weapon feature as their predecessor. They also had the lenticular chestplate, although it was a new design.
These new B.A.T.s would turn up in the DIC animated series, along with Overkill, intended as a third generation of B.A.T., but instead, only one was built, with more capabilities and more of an individual personality than previously installed in the robots. Toywise, he was part of the "Talking Battle Commanders" series. In the animated series, he was relegated to comedy relief alongside Metal-Head, with a reverberating voice that sounded like the Transformers' Soundwave on helium.
Two years later, the first of the really specialized B.A.T.s came out, the B.A.A.T.s -- the additional "A" standing for "Armored". These bulky fellows were part of the Cobra side of the Star Brigade Armor-Tech team.
As the so-called "newsculpt" line got rolling in 2002, the B.A.T.s returned, as did Overkill, but this Overkill was, for the most part, a different individual, a being who had once been human but had been transformed into a cyborg, and was now given charge over the B.A.T. squads. There was a little confusion here, as one iteration of the "new" Overkill was essentially based on the original, all robotic Overkill, recolored and offered as part of a mail-order six-pack that also featured three B.A.T. II's recolored in a color scheme very similar to the original B.A.T.s, as well as two additional B.A.T. II's molded in a very cool transparent red, and dubbed the Inferno B.A.T.s.
The B.A.T.s would also progress within the newsculpt line, with several versions of the B.A.T. v.3, for starters. Taller and somewhat thinner than before, this version of the BAT had a removable, non-lenticular chestplate, arms that could move forward and backward at the elbow, and the usual interchangeable weaponry. There were several different versions of this B.A.T., mostly a result of different colors.
Around this time was the B.A.T. v.4, as well, which could swap out weapons onto both of its arms. It had a curious, almost insectoid look to its face, and strange, narrow legs. There were actually quite a few color variations of this.
The final new B.A.T. was the v.5, which almost didn't see release, but finally found its way into a Toys "R" Us multi-pack along with a v.3, v.4, and a recolored Overkill. The B.A.T. v.5 was redubbed the Sky-BAT, when it came out as part of the new Sigma 6 line. This was, of course, an entirely different figure, but the original, 3-3/4" B.A.T. v.5 was eventually recolored as a Sky B.A.T. by the official G.I. Joe Collectors' Club for a Convention Parachute Drop. Don't even get me started on Sigma 6's Ninja B.A.T.!
The final original-style B.A.T. was also presented by the Collectors' Convention, and is perhaps the most interesting of all. Literally brought together from recolored parts of all three original-style BATs, and there's a certain friendly irony in that, this edition of the Battle Android Trooper was specifically assigned to a contingent of the Headhunters.
When the 25th Anniversary line came along, it was virtually a given that the Battle Android Trooper would return, and of course it did. However, since the 25th-style line was initially intended to represent new versions of classic characters, this was not so much a new B.A.T., as a 25th-style take on the original. The lenticular chestplate was gone, replaced by "actual" internal workings covered by a clear plate. Apart from this and the revised basic structure of the figure, common of course to all 25th-style figures, the 25th-style B.A.T. did a capable job of imitating its ancestor. There were several versions of this figure, one sold on a single card, another one that was part of the "Hall of Heroes" line, and a third that was done in animated colors that was sold in a special multi-pack of figures based on one of the animated mini-series.
An additional version of this B.A.T. was produced as part of the line based on the short-lived G.I. Joe: Resolute series. This B.A.T. somehow has managed to be the most menacing-looking yet, with an all-black motif, darkened chestplate, red faceplate, and a limited amount of red trim. This thing looks as threatening as any B.A.T. yet produced.
I find it interesting that out of all of these B.A.T.s over the years, far more than just five or six if one allows for the different colors, there haven't been any real environment-specific BATs until now. I suppose it could be argued that the B.A.A.T.'s from Armor-Tech count, since they are intended for use in space, but really -- it took 25 years to come up with the first real environment-specific Battle Android Trooper in the form of the JUNGLE B.A.T.?
Granted, given that G.I. Joe seems to be going for a somewhat more realistic "take" than it used to, I'm a little surprised that we got a new B.A.T. at all -- not that I'm complaining, of course. In the meantime, we shall have to be content with the Jungle B.A.T. figure.
So, how's the figure? Really very impressive. As one would expect, it uses the same molds as the 25th Anniversary B.A.T., to date the only style of B.A.T. brought into the modern line. But, I'll admit, it has a earned a certain iconic look over the years, and the modern version of it works well.
The head has the same sort of oblong, just-a-little-too-narrow-to-be-a-helmet look to it that made the original B.A.T.s stand out. The silver T-shaped visor up front is as iconic in its own way as that of Boba Fett or a Clone Trooper.
The lower arms are the most obviously robotic part of the B.A.T., and admittedly are far more detailed than the original. Hasbro has been in the habit of smearing black paint into the sculpted crevasses of most of its modern B.A.T. versions -- the animated-style one being the only exception. Personally, it's not a practice I approve of, and I questions its necessity here. The lower arms are very mechanical-looking and very well detailed, and don't really need this sort of "enhancement". Although it does create a more stark surface-to-shadow look, it also tends to make the figure look as though his arms were transferred over from a McFarlane Toy or some such.
Whatever the case, the arms definitely have the desired effect of making the casual observer immediately aware that whatever they're dealing with, it's not entirely human. It's a humanoid construct. The sculpted detail is excellent, and the lower right arm can be removed and swapped out for a number of accessories. More detail on those accessories later.
The chestplate -- well, if there's one part of the Jungle B.A.T. that I find a little bothersome, it's this. The transparent cover has been molded to look deliberately damaged. This was done once before, so it's nothing new, but in any case, I'm just not fond of this sort of battle-damage treatment, whether it's with paint weathering or specifically molded parts.
Moreover, in the case of the Jungle BAT, since he's technically an "army builder", and you can have as many in your collection as you can find or afford, technically, every B.A.T. will have the exact same damage to its chestplate. On the one hand, this would tend to make the B.A.T.s seem durable, and yet prone to a very specific sort of damage by gunfire, since most of the damage looks like bullet holes. On the other hand, this would tend to make members of the G.I. Joe team out to be rather remarkable marksmen, managing to inflict identical damage on who knows how many Jungle B.A.T.s. And on the third hand, it makes Cobra out to be pretty darn cheap not to fix it...
The "internal workings" details underneath the damaged chestplate are neatly sculpted and very nicely detailed, possibly a little more brightly colored than average. This section does a good job of representing the details on the original lenticular chestplate of the original 1986 B.A.T., which did use rather bright colors. There's no real rhyme or reason to the parts shown underneath the chestplate. It's just intended to look like mechanical robot detail.
It does stand out a bit, especially against the otherwise rather subdued color scheme of the Jungle B.A.T., and here we get to the main differentiating point of the Jungle B.A.T. relative to his predecessors -- his uniform. And in this instance, it does likely make sense for a B.A.T. to be wearing a uniform, so that he can blend in as much as possible into the environment he has been assigned.
Unlike the original black with yellow-orange trim of the original version, the Jungle B.A.T. is wearing a very cool green camouflage uniform, with black trim. The boots, belt, shoulders, holsters, and other formerly yellow-orange trim is black, whereas the uniform is a light olive green, with darker green and black jungle camo striping on it. It really is very nicely done.
Just so we don't somehow think that this contraption might be affiliated with the good guys, there's a red Cobra emblem on the upper left sleeve. There's also an removable pistol in the holster strapped to the left leg.
Paint work is excellent. The camouflage pattern is interesting and appropriate. Of course, the Jungle B.A.T. is superbly articulated, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, lower arm swivel, mid-torso, legs, knees, and ankles. The chestplate does a decent job of concealing the mid-torso joint, at least on the front.
Now, the primary accessory for B.A.T.s has always tended to be a backpack with an assortment of additional weapon-based appendages that can be attached to its removable lower right arm. And the Jungle B.A.T. comes with that. He also comes with a whole lot more. This thing comes with enough assorted hardware to seriously be a walking arsenal.
First off, there's a secondary head. For those of you who actually like battle damage, and for whom a bullet-ridden chestplate just isn't quite enough, there's a secondary head with distinct battle damage -- like the better part of the outer casing on the left side of the head being blown away, revealing some of the internal mechanism, including a circular "eye" that looks more than a little like something inspired by Terminator. In fairness, this alternate head is very neatly sculpted, very well detailed, and nicely painted. It's just not the sort of thing I personally would be inclined to use. Your opinion may vary, and that's fine.
And, of course, the Jungle B.A.T. comes with the customary Battle Android Trooper backpack with additional appendages, which include a claw-like hand -- that really opens and closes -- something that more or less resembles a flamethrower, and a third appendage that is, with all probability, some sort of high-tech blaster. Looks a bit like a drill but I don't think it is.
However, that's not all the Jungle B.A.T. is equipped with. For those occasions when there just isn't time to switch hands, it has been given no small amount of more traditional weaponry. Along with the small pistol in the holster, which they all come with, the Jungle B.A.T. has also been equipped with a rifle, a machete (hey, even androids have to hack their way through the jungle), and a huge firearm called a micro-barrel gatling gun. Knowing what we do about the random firing tendencies of Battle Android Troopers, if I saw one coming my way carrying this thing, I don't think ducking for cover would quite be sufficient. I'd need to dig for it.
The Jungle B.A.T. also has two ammo belts, one of which is designed to be worn over one shoulder, as well as an ammunition case. He also has a battle stand. Honestly, this may be one of the most extensively-equipped figures I've yet seen in the current G.I. Joe line.
The file cards on the modern era toys are not as extensive as they used to be, but they provide some details. And in this particular case, when it comes to B.A.T.s, you can't really say much about their personalities or training, anyway. They don't have any. The card reads as follows: B.A.T.s are the perfect Cobra troopers. They never question orders, complain about the chow, shirk duty or surrender. They require no leave, sick pay or benefits of any kind, and they are cheap and easy to replace. Jungle B.A.T.s are one of the robotic variants designed for specific environments; this version is extremely resistance to heat and humidity, and can easily find its way through thick jungle foliage.
Now, there's an interesting sentence. "One of the robotic variants designed for specific environments". Let's emphasize that "one of" and the fact that "variants" is plural. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean that other B.A.T.s are actually in the works for the toy line, but I think that one could optimistically say that the door is open, if the Jungle B.A.T. does well enough -- and frankly, given what it took for me to get this thing, I'd say that's a virtual given. Maybe a Desert B.A.T. or an Arctic B.A.T. aren't so implausible for the future.
So, what's my final word here? I'm impressed. I've always liked the Battle Android Troopers, and one cool thing about them is that any of the B.A.T.s over the years can arguably fit into any of the figure formats over the years, because they're robots! They don't have to be a perfect physical match! I'm delighted to see an environment-specific B.A.T., and I really do hope it's the start of a trend. He certainly looks the part, and for those that like their figures to have plenty of accessories -- well, he certainly has that! I believe any G.I. Joe fan will be immensely pleased with this figure.
The G.I. JOE COBRA JUNGLE B.A.T. definitely has my highest recommendation!