G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Cancelled Target Exclusive Deluxe Figures
4” Scale
By: Hasbro
$5.99 each at Ross Dress for Less

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was a bit of a mixed blessing for people who were into G.I. Joe before it came out. On the one hand it was a fairly dreadful movie as a whole for many, many reasons; however it did get TONS of new G.I. Joe toys onto the shelves and brought the brand into the limelight where it hadn’t been for years. Some purists shunned the new designs initially (I was among them) but the majority have come to realize that, once you let your nostalgia blinders ™ down, G.I. Joes don’t have to be based on A Real American Hero designs to be good.

The sets I’m looking at today were initially intended to be Target Exclusive sets, the 3rd wave of figures like them, but were cancelled for many reasons. Like a lot of other cancelled items have recently, they showed up at Ross Dress for Less for about ½ their MSRP and caused many serious G.I. Joe collectors(many of whom who had paid a premium for them online) to pee their pants, scream their lungs bloody and cry for joy all at the same time.

You see, before they showed up at Ross, these sets of 4 were easily commanding over $100 from overseas sellers peddling them to desperate collectors who were sure it was now or never to fill these holes in their collections. As more of them have turned up at the downright frugal price of $5.99 the online prices have dropped to within a few dollars of retail making them a more reasonable purchase for people without access to the wonders of the Ross toy section. Lets open up these one-time holy grails and find out what the fuss is all about!

The boxes these sets come in are some of the best that Hasbro has put out in years. The only things that have come close are the vintage style Star Wars boxes and those are heavily propped up by nostalgia. The green base color shows that these were intended as part of the movie line while the label of each set shows that they were heading into the Pursuit of Cobra themes of Jungle, Arctic, City and Desert.

The artwork on each box is gorgeous and very eye catching. I’m not usually one to keep boxes but I may end up making an exception for these. The window on the outside allows you to check out the figure you’ll be getting, just in case you’d like to compare paint applications before committing to the purchase. Unfortunately most Ross stores won’t have multiples of each set so you may be stuck with whatever you can find.

All of the figures and vehicles in this wave are either straight repaints of existing items (all of the vehicles, Elite Viper and Range Viper) or kit bashes made from parts of others (Ace and Sandstorm). This is a pretty common practice for toy lines in general and G.I. Joe in particular so it’s not going to affect my opinion of the sets but some may not be interested in buying the same items twice.

My favorite, and by far the most popular if Ebay prices are any indication, is the Range Viper. I’ve loved the crazy skull design of the Range Viper since I was a little kid, he just looked so dangerous that even in bright blue colors I knew he was tough. This new color scheme works nicely for the Jungle theme and fits the survivalist role he was always supposed to fill. I also like that they gave him a darker skin tone than the 25th Range Viper.

Captain Ace, on the other hand, falls on the opposite end of my patented “Fun-O-Meter”. The body is fine, boring yes, but fine. The head is where ya lose me, I don’t get why they would re-use the already crappy Tripwire helmet head when there is a perfectly good Ace head from the comic pack figure. I do like the ol’ soup-strainer he’s sportin’ though!

Sandstorm is my second favorite of the 4 even though, just like Ace, he’s sporting no new parts. He’s a good example of a fairly generic Joe trooper rockin’ the Reactive Impact Armor and some good looking desert camo pants. I wish they’d have given him an unmasked head to go with the nice helmet but that’s a simple head swap away. The Firefly masked head makes it easy to forget he’s supposed to be a unique character.

Last is the questionably colored Elite Viper in pink. I think the Cobra troops from the movie line catch a lot of undeserved flack, they aren’t nearly as memorable as the best classic Cobra troops but they are far from terrible. The Elite Viper has a nice, clean design with a cool armored vest and an intimidating helmet. The pink looks pretty bad in pictures but actually looks pretty solid in person. I don’t know if it’s just that I’ve grown used to the color but I’ve taken a shine to this trooper.

The paint on all the figures is done just about perfectly which is the norm for GI Joe products.

Vehicles (and Accessories!):
Since these are DELUXE figures they each come with what typically amounts to a large accessory. In most cases I haven’t liked the small vehicles that have come with these, I’ve usually bought the sets for the figure while the “vehicle” ended up in a bin. These 3 sets raise the bar a bit compared to the previous 2 Target Exclusive Waves, only 1 of the vehicles ended up in a bin while the other 3 are still on my desk getting plenty of attention.

The Elite Viper gets undeniably the best accessory, the pink-tinted “Cobra Flight Pod”. I loved the Trouble Bubbles as a kid and I love them to this day, there is just something awesome about this glorified jet pack that holds a special place in my heart. This version of the Flight Pod is essentially the same as the 25th version but it’s been repainted to match the pink, black and gray of the Elite Viper. The opening canopy, removable rockets and moving turbine engines make this a true working vehicle rather than a giant-sized accessory. The Elite Viper also comes with a nice sub-machine gun and a laser pistol for the low-slung holster on his hip.

The Range Viper comes with the “Jungle Terror Twin Battle Gun”, a pair of gattling guns and a chair on a swivel. They’re mounted to a pair of wheels and a trailer hitch that lets you tow it behind the movie Steel Crusher or the 25th Stinger. It’s a cool gun emplacement that would look equally awesome protecting the Terror Drome as it would nestled behind some foliage in the jungle. The Range Viper fits into the seat fairly well, although I had some trouble getting his hands to grip the controls. The Range Viper also came with a nice big machine gun(with a tripod!) and a pistol that fits nicely into his chest holster.

Captain Ace is saddled with the poorest excuse for a vehicle out of the wave, the “Air Assault Glider” that offers him little to no protection from enemy fire. The glider is the same as the one that came with Grand Slam in a previous wave and I feel the same way about this light gray and dark gray monstrosity as I did about that one. Not only is it a silly looking way to travel but it doesn’t make any sense, why would you strap rockets and a gattling gun to a glider? I think this must have been a punishment laid down onto Ace when he had just a little too much cognac and took the Skystriker out for a joyride.

Sandstorm gets a nice “RAM Cycle” to hit the town with, a desert tan repaint of the dark green 25th RAM. It’s a good sized motorcycle with a sidecar, only this sidecar is so hardcore that the only passenger is A GATTLING GUN. The sidecar is removable as are the 2 saddlebags. Sandstorm comes with a machine gun that he has a little trouble getting his hands around as well as a green pistol hidden in one of the saddlebags.

The paint on all the accessories is done very well, although overall there isn’t very much paint to speak of.

All 4 of the action figures in these sets have the standard modern GI Joe articulation that I imagine most people are familiar with by now. If you spend enough time fiddling with these figures you’re almost assuredly going to be able to get them to do what you want.

I ran into a couple of issues with Sandstorm’s hands being just a little too small for his gun, this is the kind of thing that you run into when Hasbro uses different parts with gear that’s not made specifically for that figure. I also had to spend a little bit of time with the Jungle Terror, my guess is that this is an older mold being reused for the now slightly taller Joes.

Everything works on the vehicles very smoothly and none of the parts felt like they didn’t fit where they were supposed to.

The phenomenon of desirable GI Joe figures showing up at Ross and other discount stores has made it very difficult to accurately judge the value of full priced figures. At the MSRP of $9.99 I passed on all of the Target Deluxe Figures from wave 1 and 2, none of them felt like you were getting enough bang for your buck to justify the extra cost, especially when none of the figures was anything to get excited about.

I think, if they’d made it to Target’s shelves, I would have happily paid full price for the Flight Pod and for the Jungle Terror. I may have even been willing to buy multiples of the Jungle Terror just to get a few Range Vipers in the green camo. Captain Ace and Sandstorm would have in all likelihood never even made it into my cart before they went on deep, deep clearance.

If you don’t have a Ross close enough to be worth the trip you can still pick them up relatively cheaply through e-bay and similar sites. When they first started to trickle out the prices were pretty high, way too high for me to recommend going that route, however recently so many people have tried to cash in on them that the prices have hit rock bottom. At this point you can get all of them online for less than their original MSRP.

While I’ve recently shifted the majority of my toy budget over to collecting Masters of the Universe Classics, GI Joe continues to claw it’s way back in. When I first started picking up toys with my leisure money it was the 25th Anniversary GI Joes that occupied most of my shelf space. Even though I’ve picked up the available figures of all of the characters that I set out to get when I started collecting Joes I find myself unable to stop!

If you have a Ross nearby it’s definitely worth the trip to pick up some relatively obscure GI Joe figures at a discount. They’d be great as a gift for a kid in your life or just as a cheap peek into the gray area between Rise of Cobra and The Pursuit of Cobra. If you aren’t interested in GI Joes then you can probably safely steer clear of the figures, otherwise they come highly recommended.

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