REVIEW: G.I. JOE TIGER CLAW A.T.V. with LEATHERNECK
I'll have to admit right here at the start that I don't really know enough about modern combat to know for certain whether All Terrain Vehicles -- ATV's, are really used on real-life battlefields. On the one hand, I can see where they would be. They're small, fast, rugged, and can conquer a wide variety of harsh terrains. On the other hand, they don't offer a lot of protection for their drivers. Riding an ATV through a rugged forest is one thing. Riding an ATV through a rugged forest while trying to dodge enemy gunfire is another matter entirely.
However, within the world of G.I. Joe, ATV's have been fairly commonplace. And in 2010 -- a new one -- was added to the line-up, on the side of the Joe Team -- called the TIGER CLAW ATV.
The Cobra Ferret was the original designation of this vehicle. Looking very much like a real-world ATV -- armed, admittedly -- the Cobra Ferret has a basic ATV-type body, mounted on a framework chassis with four huge tires. It had a single motorcycle-type seat in the center, although could arguably carry two people (and frequently did so in both the animated series and the comic book, and had a small storage bin in the back. Like all 1985 vehicles, regardless of the side of the conflict it was on, it had a fuel nozzle that could connect to a fuel hose in the Cobra Terrordrome.
The front wheels of the Ferret turned, as did the handlebars, but not really in concert with each other. What turning the handlebars DID turn, however, was a small double-barreled gun at the very front of the vehicle. This, coupled with a far larger cannon that was mounted to the left side of the top of the Ferret, and two missiles that clipped to the sides of the vehicle, pretty well removed the Cobra Ferret from the category of "recreational sport vehicle" and placed it squarely into the realm of "battlefield vehicle".
The Cobra Ferret proved to be a popular vehicle. It was small, well-made, could stand up on its own unlike the average motorcycle, handled rough backyard environments well, and had some interesting play features. Along with seeing frequent use in both the animated series and the comic book, the toy was recolored into Tiger Force in 1988, and a mail-order version, manufactured in South America, was a distinctly brighter shade of blue than the very dark Cobra blue original.
Several years ago, the G.I. Joe Collectors' Club made good use of the long-absent Ferret, turning out two entirely new recolorations of the vehicle, specifically for the mercenary armies that were part of the 2007 concept. These Ferrets had a molded-in camouflage pattern, which made them look very impressive, along with distinctive labels and emblems. One was assigned to Major Bludd's Skull Squad, and the other one was given over to the COIL.
When the live-action movie came along, the Ferret was once again pressed into service -- with modifications. Renamed the Snake Trax ATV, a somewhat predictable but interesting enough name, the Ferret was given an entirely new front end as a distinct attachment, which featured a headlight system and a non-working tow cable. It was also given a huge new cannon on the left side, that actually fired missiles.
Which brings us around to the TIGER CLAW. Apparently someone figured that if the Ferret could be slightly modified once, it could be far more extensively modified a second time.
Despite the name, the vehicle does not belong to Tiger Force. The Tiger Force incarnation of the Ferret was named the Tiger Paw, not the Tiger Claw, and in fact, none of the original Tiger Force vehicles were named the Tiger Claw, so it's an entirely new name.
For the most part, the Tiger Claw looks just as much, if not a little moreso, like a real-world ATV as the original Ferret did -- just a different and, one would have to say, a more rugged-ized model. And as I said earlier, it's so different, that I wasn't even entirely certain that it WAS a recolored and reworked Ferret at first. But, it is.
Beneath all of the added-on body work is definitely the Ferret. This time, the vehicle has been molded in a very military dark olive green. The only really visible parts of the original Ferret are the center seat, and the mid-sides of the vehicle -- and the four large tires, of course. The front and the back of the vehicle are radically different in appearance.
To both the front and the back of the vehicle, large flat sections have been attached, that have been given the look of ridged sheet metal, although they are also the same dark olive green in color. For the back of the vehicle, this causes a distinctly different visual especially, since it blocks not only the somewhat iconic fuel access port, but also the rear storage bin behind the seat, which is no longer there.
For the front of the vehicle, the small, double barreled gun that turned with the handlebars has been removed. The new front is entirely different from the one that came with the Snake Trax, and features a framework in front of the handlebars that almost looks like it should be a windshield, as well as square headlights on the front.
As much as anything, the Tiger Claw looks like an ATV that's trying its very best to be a classically-styled Army Jeep. It has the color, it has the shape. It just doesn't have the size or the seat occupancy capability. Still, the end result is an interesting design.
The side missiles have been removed, and in their place, steps have been attached to the former missile connection ports.
Then there's the matter of weaponry. Along with the removal of the small front gun, the side gun is also no longer present. But there is a large new piece of hardware in the back, mounted to the left side. It's a fairly high-rise cannon, very nicely detailed and quite sophisticated-looking, complete with an adjustable barrel and a sighting scope, and it has a spring-loaded capability to actually fire a missile. A large yellow missile comes with it. The color of the missile admittedly throws off the otherwise very realistic look of the vehicle, but at least you're not terribly likely to lose the missile. For those insistent on a more realistic look, may I recommend the acrylic paint section at your local art store.
In an interesting additional feature, this entire cannon can be removed from the Tiger Claw, and it has two sets of fold-down legs, so it can be used as an entirely separate weapon.
The Tiger Claw retains all of the other abilities of its predecessors. The handlebars still turn, as do the front wheels, and all four wheels have a certain amount of "suspension" to them, just to make the ride a bit more interesting if bouncing down a rocky hill.
The labels for the Tiger Claw are not overly extensive, and a couple were applied in advance for the sake of display in the window box. Most of the labels are of the "warning" type, such as "No Step", "Hatch Release", and so forth, and have been lettered in an effective and fairly military-looking stencil pattern. Curiously, there was no label with the actual G.I. Joe logo on it.
On the whole, the Tiger Claw is a really outstanding vehicle. It has a good military color scheme to it, it looks cool, and it looks different enough from its predecessors that it's virtually an entirely new vehicle. The high mounted cannon is a little implausible, perhaps, but since it can operate as a separate weapon, just set it up somewhere else on your battlefield, and let the driver of the Tiger Claw head off without the extra top-heavy weight.
Speaking of the driver, that brings us to the other portion of the review. The driver provided with the Tiger Claw is LEATHERNECK. He's an interesting choice.
Leatherneck was first introduced into the G.I. Joe line in 1986, as the team's second Marine, after Gung-Ho. His introduction timed with the second season of the animated series, and as such he was given quite a bit of time in that series.
Leatherneck, real name Wendell Metzger, was as rough and tough a Marine as they came, and he was perhaps best known for his perpetual sparring with Wet-Suit, the G.I. Joe team's new SEAL, as to which organization really had the toughest recruits. Their shouting matches reached the point where Shipwreck, of all people, had to break them up one time, but when it came time for the firefight, Leatherneck and Wet-Suit were more than ready to throw down on Cobra instead of each other.
Leatherneck has continued to be a presence in the world of G.I. Joe ever since, and has had multiple figures over the years, although as one would expect, his original incarnation remains the best known.
So, why is he such an interesting choice for the driver of the Tiger Claw? I recall an interesting set of products that came out during the original G.I. Joe line. They were small motorized items, with little wind-up motors. Most of them were either backpacks or small station-like objects, such as a small radar station. But there was one item, that was a small ATV.
While an interesting enough design, it was almost absurdly small for a G.I. Joe figure to actually ride, but that didn't prevent a promotional picture from turning up of a G.I. Joe team member trying to do exactly that. And unless my memory has completely gone by the wayside, that particular Joe Team member was Leatherneck.
The original Leatherneck was dressed in a light green uniform with a tan vest, and brown camouflage. A 25th-style version of this incarnation of Leatherneck was a part of the 2011 G.I. Joe Collectors' Convention Set. The second best known version of Leatherneck actually came out the same year as the first, 1986, and was part of a Toys "R" Us exclusive set of figures. This Leatherneck, using the same molds, had a mostly tan uniform, with a brown vest, and no camouflage. A 25th-style version of that Leatherneck was sold with a new tan version of the AWE-Striker
So, the Leatherneck that came with the Tiger Claw ATV sort of had to find his own look -- and he did a heck of a good job. Now, when Leatherneck first debuted in 1986, G.I. Joe hadn't really gone too far afield with uniform colors just yet, and so both of the Leathernecks issued that year worked very nicely. But from a military colors standpoint, they pretty much pale in comparison to the Leatherneck that comes with the Tiger Claw.
The headsculpt is unquestionably Leatherneck, and if any one part of this figure is an improvement over the original, it's the headsculpt. As one might expect for a rough-and-tough Marine like Leatherneck, he was portrayed in the animated series especially as having a very strong jawline. The original figure -- not so much. This Leatherneck has a prominent chin and a scowl on his face of the sort that makes new Marine recruits cringe at the sight of the drill sergeant, and he's just daring one of them to so much as look sideways at him, and they'll be on K.P. for the rest of the month. Leatherneck has a tough, absolutely no-nonsense expression on his face, accentuated by his mustache, and enhanced by his Marine cap, which almost but doesn't quite conceal his eyes.
His uniform is a dark military green, a slightly darker shade than the Tiger Claw ATV itself, and a little less gray than the ATV. It's pretty much a consistent color from shirt to trousers. The uniform has dark brown camouflage on it, and it's so well painted that initially I wasn't sure if it had been painted on, or was one of those instances where the camouflage is molded into the plastic. But it's painted on.
Somewhat oddly, the sleeves of the uniform, and the cap, are dark brown. One would think it would be an odd look, but the green and the brown work so well together that you really don't notice it all that much. The shoes are also dark brown.
Leatherneck is wearing a belt around his waist and a strap over his right shoulder. These are also dark brown, and they have a number of little gray hand grenades on them. Now, it's common enough to use existing parts as much as possible, and this isn't something that I complain about. And, for that matter, I'm not really knowledgeable enough about the 25th-style line to entirely know what parts came from who. But in this case -- when I see a skull and crossbones on the belt buckle, I can pretty well figure out that Leatherneck's swiped something from a Dreadnok. Fortunately the belt buckle isn't painted, and it's not all that glaring, but that can't be in accordance with the uniform code! Buckle aside, the belt and strap look good, and the grenades are very highly detailed.
Leatherneck has a small pouch attached to his left leg, that is light gray in color. And I think someone at Hasbro was really having some fun with this. The design is virtually identical to the "Pocket Pack" that was sold during the original line, which was supposed to enable kids to carry three G.I. Joe figures with them in a small plastic pack that could be looped onto their belt! Now, maybe this design has some legitimate military counterpart..
Leatherneck also has a light gray holster attached to his left leg, which contains a small, nicely detailed pistol.
The paintwork on the figure is excellent. Most of it is the uniform camouflage, which is superbly done. The facial features are also nicely done. Of course, Leatherneck is very well articulated. My only moderate issue here is that he has huge feet, and the way they're tucked into the pants cuffs, they're not quite as well articulated as some ankles I've seen in this line, and for some reason, Leatherneck's feet are such that he tends to lean back a bit when he should be standing straight up. It's correctable enough, if not the best posture.
So what's my final word? This is an impressive set. The Tiger Claw ATV looks different enough from any of its predecessors to almost classify as a new vehicle, and of its own accord certainly looks like a military incarnation of an ATV, ready for the battlefield. The detachable cannon is a nice touch. Leatherneck is a good fit, with his very military uniform, arguably the most military the character has ever appeared. I believe that any longtime G.I. Joe fan would be very pleased to add both the vehicle and Leatherneck to their collection.
The G.I. JOE TIGER CLAW ATV and LEATHERNECK both have my most enthusiastic recommendation.