REVIEW: G.I. JOE PURSUIT OF COBRA - SKYDIVE FIGURE
One of the things that surprised me, just a bit, about the original G.I. Joe: Real American Hero line, was how long it took them to get around to doing a paratrooper -- to say nothing of a working parachute toy. The 3-3/4" figures seemed ideal for something like this, if perhaps a little overqualified in some respects.
For all of the military technology that had developed since those days -- and for that matter since the days of the original Real American Hero line to the present day -- we still use paratroopers. But it wasn't until 1984, the third year of the line, that the Joe Team enlisted Rip Cord, and even then, he didn't come with a working parachute, although one would become available as a mail-order offer around this time. Cobra took even longer. It wasn't until the 25th Anniversary line that we finally saw a Para-Viper. I mean, talk about overdue!
But there was one special team in the original line, that came along in 1990. Called SKY PATROL, it was a special team of G.I. Joes, each of whom came with a silver mylar parachute that really worked. If any evidence is needed of the popularity of this special unit, I'd say on a personal level that it would have to be found in the difficulty it took for me to round up all members of the team. I hadn't had this much trouble with other special teams. Battle Force 2000, Tiger Force, Python Patrol, Slaughter's Marauders, even the Toys "R" Us exclusive Night Force -- I'd found all of them readily and completely at the time of their respective release. Sky Patrol took a while. Apparently kids still liked throwing soldiers into the air and watching them (hopefully) drift back to earth. They still do. The annual G.I. Joe Collectors' Club Convention still has a parachute drop as one of its most popular events.
And one of the members of Sky Patrol has made his way into the modern G.I. Joe line, although admittedly he doesn't come with a working parachute. He comes with a fancy jet pack. But he's still listed as a HALO Jumper, so parachuting is still his primary specialty, and he's certainly well geared for it. His name is SKYDIVE!
One question that was in the back of my mind was whether or not this was intended to be the original Skydive with a whole new look. It wouldn't have been the first time a code-name had been re-used for a different character. For that matter, within the original Sky Patrol, itself, the unit member named "Airborne" was not the same individual as the original "Airborne" who had been released in 1983. And certainly, the new Skydive doesn't look all that much like the original, and "Skydive", while a cool-sounding code name, is also perhaps just a little predictable for a paratrooper.
The best way to determine this was to compare the names on the file cards. Although the modern file cards are not as extensive or informative as the originals, they do generally give a character a code name and a real name. The original Skydive's real name was Lynton N. Felix -- certainly unusual enough so that it wasn't likely to be duplicated by accident. The new Skydive's real name is -- Lynton N. Felix. So it is intended to be the same character.
Since the modern file cards don't go into as much character background, although certainly I will be presenting appropriate information from it over the course of the review, I thought it would be fitting to present some of the character background from the original Skydive file card, since I believe it would be applicable to the new figure as well, since they are essentially the same individual.
Skydive's place of birth is listed as Pensacola, Florida. He spent ten years on the staff at Ranger School in Fort Benning and gained a reputation for being the toughest Non-Commissioned Officer in the program. He would skip breakfast just so he wouldn't spoil his appetite for eating snakes and water bugs. A twenty-mile forced march is a piece of cake for this guy. Ranger trainees hate his guts when he puts them through the wringer in the program. In time, most come to to appreciate his devotion to "train hard and fight easy", especially after they've fought their first hand-to-hand battle.
Need it be said that Skydive wasn't just a member of the G.I. Joe team's Sky Patrol -- he was the unit leader. Sky Patrol never turned up in the original comic book, but it did have a couple of appearances in the second animated series, produced by DIC, and even though that show tended to be somewhat over-the-top and not as well-regarded -- deservedly so -- as the original Sunbow-Marvel series, Sky Patrol fared reasonably well within it, with most of the characters reflecting their file card personalities and performing capably enough.
There is little resemblance between the original Skydive and the modern one. Sky Patrol used an interesting technique when it came out. Although all of the figures had bodies that had been previously released -- substantially recolored, of course -- every one of them also had a brand new head! This made sense from a production standpoint. It was a way to create six entirely new characters with minimal expense. The heads didn't involve any complex assembly aspects such as arm rivets or leg pegs and screws -- they just had to accommodate the then-common neck joint. And the headsculpts were most impressive.
The original Skydive wore a uniform that was recolored from the Cobra Gyro-Viper, a somewhat obscure Cobra pilot first released in 1987 with the interesting if unusual Cobra Mamba, Cobra's largest helicopter. The Gyro-Viper wore a tan-colored uniform with piping on it that made it look a fair bit like an atmospheric pressure suit. This made perfect sense for a member of Sky Patrol, of course, so the uniform was transferred over to Skydive, recolored in a very dark blue, and the piping became white. It was a radically different color scheme from the original, and made for a very cool figure.
Skydive's headsculpt gave the figure fairly short, dark brown hair, combed back away from the forehead, a thin mustache, and a decidedly stern expression. He looked like the team leader, and he certainly looked like someone that would live up to the details of his file card.
So now we come to the modern Skydive. Certainly the uniform is nothing like the original, but what about the face? Unfortunately, there, too, there's no way of knowing. Skydive's headsculpt has the head encased within a protective black "ski mask" that covers everything except the eyes. Although one might presume that, as with many comics universes, time moves more slowly for the G.I. Joes, since many of the original members are still active; technically speaking, it's been over twenty years since Skydive first appeared. If Skydive's gone gray, I doubt he wants anyone to know...
In package, Skydive is very extensively equipped. He is wearing a somewhat futuristic-looking pale gray helmet with a translucent visor. The helmet has been molded from a flexible clear plastic -- or near clear. It's a little on the foggy side. I'm not entirely sure what sort of visibility Skydive would have through this thing. The gray helmet details have been painted on. The he;met is a good fit, and it's possible to see Skydive's eyes through it -- sort of.
Skydive is wearing a massive harness, that is essentially the totality of his equipment, with one notable exception, and which presumably contains a parachute of some sort somewhere, I suspect in the large pack near the belt on the back. The harness has a high, thick collar that even Destro would envy, and thick shoulder and upper back padding that almost looks like armor. These are painted in gray. Skydive's helmet nevertheless fits well over his head in spite of this high collar.
The rest of the harness is also thickly padded, and mostly olive green in color. There are two black straps on the front, which lead down into two small black tanks, which are clearly intended to supply oxygen to Skydive at high altitudes. These are connected to two flexible hoses, which attach to two holes on either side of the front of the helmet.
Personally, I'm impressed with the engineering here. It can't be an easy thing to get all of these disparate parts to work together, and in my experience, connecting hoses on G.I. Joe figures tend to have a somewhat variable success level over the years. The two most significant examples, other than Skydive, that I can think of, are the Cobra Heavy Water trooper, and the Cobra Para-Viper. The Cobra Heavy Water Trooper had a very complex network of visible hoses, which were intended to be plugged into various sockets on the figure itself. This, honestly, looked cool, but it didn't work terribly well. Even assuming you could get them all plugged in without detaching others in the process, posing the figure generally yanked them out. The Cobra Para-Viper was somewhat more successful, but even so, the sockets to the face mask weren't quite as good a fit as they should've been.
Skydive's assembly works. The two hoses plug into the helmet and stay put reasonably well, certainly the best of any such assembly I've seen within the G.I. Joe line.
The harness continues into a belt which has numerous, very well-detailed equipment pouches on it, and then descends into a protective flap of some sort in front of the lower torso, with two straps leading over to the back of the figure.
The harness CAN be removed from the figure -- but not quite as easily as one might hope. Honestly, you look at the figure and you sort of want to get him out of it, if only because, scale-wise, he looks like he's wearing about a hundred pounds of equipment. The harness is secured by four plastic snaps. There is one on each side, one of which is concealed by an equipment pouch, and the other two are based on the straps that fit underneath the lower torso plate. If you carefully undo all four of these, you can gradually raise the entire harness over Skydive's head. However, be advised -- the upper part of this harness, due to its thickness, is not as flexible as one might like. Make sure you have removed Skydive's helmet before you attempt harness removal. Given that the heads of modern G.I. Joe figures generally pop off and back on on a fairly straightforward ball-and-socket design, you might even want to remove Skydive's head, but I found this wasn't entirely necessary. Might make it easier, though.
Skydive's torso is clearly based on some figure from the live-action movie. It has the "body-armor" look of the fancy suits that were used in that film. I'm not entirely sure whose armor this might be, but I have seen it once before. It was used as the torso for Sandstorm, a figure that came with the rather hard-to-find Desert RAM Motorcycle, an item originally intended for Target that ended up at Ross stores instead. As to who might've used this torso before Sandstorm, I don't have any idea.
The torso has been molded in olive green, with the armor plating on the front painted in a very dark metallic copper. That alone makes me think that the harness is intended to be removed if one so wishes. Interestingly, the armor plating on the back of Skydive has not been painted.
The rest of the figure is not based on Sandstorm or any other movie-based figure of which I am aware. The arms, although largely olive green, have extensive gray armor pieces on them, including at the shoulders, biceps, backs of the arms, elbow pads, and lower arms. Skydive is wearing fairly thick gloves, that are gray in color.
His trousers have a somewhat more conventional military design, but even these have some armored padding on them. The trousers are a different shade of olive, with dark gray camouflage patches painted on them. The outsides of his upper legs gave fairly fancy-looking armored plating on them, with an interesting pattern of ridges. This plating is black, as are the armored knee pads. Skydive is also wearing black boots, fairly straightforward military in design, although they have square-shaped handles on the back. I'm not entirely sure what purpose these serve.
Skydive also has a pistol holster strapped to his left boot, with a small removable pistol, very nicely detailed.
As for Skydive's accessories -- well, now, the biggest accessory of all is really rather unavoidable.
Skydive's file card -- his modern one -- describes him as an airborne combat specialist who is experienced in both HALO and HAHO jumps. These are legitimate military specialties.
HALO stands for High Altitude Low Opening. This technique dates back to 1960. The technique is used to airdrop supplies, equipment, or personnel at high altitudes when aircraft can fly above surface-to-air missile (SAM) engagement levels through enemy skies without posing a threat to the transport or load.
In a typical HALO exercise, the parachutist will jump from the aircraft, free-fall for a period of time at terminal velocity (and you'd think they could come up with a better name for it), and open his parachute at a low altitude. The combination of high downward speed, minimal metal and forward air-speed serves to defeat radar, enabling a stealthy insertion.
The HAHO technique is used to airdrop personnel at high altitudes when aircraft are unable to fly above enemy skies without posing a threat to the jumpers. In addition, HAHO parachute jumps are employed in the covert insertion of military (generally special forces) personnel into enemy territory, in circumstances where the covert nature of an operation may be compromised by the loud noise of parachutes opening at low altitude.
In a typical HAHO exercise, the jumper will jump from the aircraft and deploy the parachute at a high altitude, 10–15 seconds after the jump (typically at 27,000 feet or so). The jumper will use a compass or GPS device for guidance while flying for 30 or more miles. The jumper must use way points and terrain features to navigate to his desired landing zone, and correct his or her course to account for changes in wind speed and direction. If deploying as a team, the team will form up in a stack while airborne with their parachutes. Usually, the jumper in the lowest position will set the travel course and act as a guide for the other team members.
All fine and well, and certainly Skydive seems well-equipped for both of these. But then the file card mentions that his mission equipment includes a "Zeta Rocket Pack with Turbojet Engine and Aerosonic Wings".
And that's where we say good-bye to reality and enter the world of fantasy for a while. Now, jet packs are nothing new for the G.I. Joe team. They've had them since the Team's inception since 1982. The reason jet packs have never been used extensively in the real world is because of fuel limitations. Jet packs do exist, and have for decades -- but they're only good for about thirty seconds of flight. That's literally all the fuel they can carry.
Now, some reasonable if "Top Secret" explanations have been devised over the years to explain the presence of working, practical jet packs on the G.I. Joe team. As for Skydive's "Zeta Rocket Pack" -- apparently we're getting into some interesting design parameters at this point.
The core of the pack itself is molded in olive green, and has a semi-triangular shape to it. Press the button in the center, and these very weird, somewhat curved wings spring out to the sides, ending in almost finger-like ailerons. Honestly, the first time I pressed the button and the wings sprang up and out, the first thought in my head was that Skydive could do this in a dark urban alley and announce "I am Batman...!" -- and just about get away with it. Although the wings are a little narrow for that.
The outsides of the wings are painted in the same dark metallic copper as the armor plating on Skydive's torso. They have the modern G.I. Joe emblem imprinted on them, as well as a registration number. The insides of the wings are painted in a pale gray, and in an interesting if somewhat fanciful touch, have a portion of the registration number painted in a lighter gray across their length, resulting in a sort of numerical camouflage.
There are two attachment sockets on the jet pack, which even has a strange sort of tail. These sockets can accommodate either the two rocket-shaped bombs that come with Skydive, or the two -- well, I'm assuming they're also bombs, but they look like a cross between a hand grenade and a canteen. I'm not entirely sure what they are.
The remainder of Skydive's file card makes mention of a specific mission. It reads: Using an advanced rocket pack, he flies to a mysterious Cobra base under construction in the jungle. On the ground, he heads for the building, unaware that Shadow Tracker is following him and preparing an attack.
Shadow Tracker is a new Cobra agent. I'm surprised that the file card would be this specific. The last time file cards referenced such specific missions and match-ups, was back during the newsculpt era when the figures were being offered as two-packs.
Of course, the Skydive figure is superbly articulated, and the harness doesn't pose too much of an articulation problem, although it does hinder the legs somewhat. It's well balanced enough so that he can stand on his own while wearing it, but not while also wearing the jet pack. Skydive does come with a display base.
Paintwork on the figure is also neatly done. I especially like the camouflage on the trousers. Details on the harness are nicely done, although a few may have been hand-painted. The emblem of the G.I. Joe team appears on the harness, in yellow-gold outlined in black. The eyes on the head are very nicely done, and for what you can see, he appears to have a very determined look. About my only criticism with the paint job is that the gray and the olive are a little too close to each other. If I were to take a black-and-white picture of Skydive, it'd all look to be the same.
So what's my final word? I'm impressed. I'm pleased that a relatively obscure character such as Skydive has been brought back into the G.I. Joe team. He's been given an interesting new look, and some impressive equipment. The Rocket Pack is probably the most fanciful item to come along in a while, and it's a little weird, but still cool. On the whole, this is an impressive, well-equipped figure that will make an excellent addition to any modern G.I. Joe collection.
The G.I. JOE figure of SKYDIVE definitely has my highest recommendation!