We're used to GI Joe characters showing vastly different personalities betwween the comics and cartoons - it's far more rare when those two sources are (more or less) in agreement and it's the toy that brings the conflict.
Edwin "Lifeline" Steen was a paramedic with the Seattle
Fire Department for five years before enlisting in the Army as a corpsman. When something heavy comes down on the GI Joe team, and they're in no condition to walk out on their own, "Lifeline" is the one who goes in and extricates them. As a combat medic, he walks into a battle zone to give immediate medical treatment to those in need.
Like Doc, the character he replaced, Lifeline was a pacifist. In the comics he had a black belt in aikido, so at least he was willing to get into a fight: the cartoon portrayed him as a nearly pathological hoplophobe - someone who has an irrational fear of weapons and can't even bear to touch them because they're "evil." On the other hand, the figure came with a gun, had a gun molded on his leg, and the filecard made no mention of any sort of pacifism. Larry Hama wrote both the filecard and the comic, so which one is right?
Lifeline was a very recognizable character, thanks to his bright red and white uniform. It's reproduced wonderfully here,
a mix of reused pieces and clever new work. The old pieces are the Shock Trooper's upper arms and Snake-Eyes' legs - boy, Hasbro's really been milking those molds lately, haven't they? Ah, it doesn't matter, they look great. 1986 Lifeline had three pockets running down the right side of his shirt, which isn't exactly copacetic with the chest balljoint present on G3 figures; in order to deal with this, the three pockets are connected to each other, and glued to the upper chest; so they still appear to run down the front of the shirt, but they move freely when you pose him. That's smart work!
Lifeline wears green glasses, but it's never been clear whether those are for his sight or to block out the sun. He has a pair of silver goggles pushed up onto his padded helmet. That was a feature present on the old toy, but this is the first time the helmet has been removable - you can pull it off to reveal his plastered-down black hair.
The paint is good. His red manages not to fall into
the trap of looking plasticky, somehow, so it looks like clothes made from bright red cloth. His kneepads are a slightly darker red not used anywhere else. The white sections are bright and crisp, and line up with the vintage figure - they even went to the trouble of only painting one of the pockets molded on his upper arms, because the old toy only had a white pouch on one side. "RESCUE" is printed down his left leg, save for where it disappears behind the kneepad. His skin seems a bit pasty, but that may just be because it has to be viewed next to such vibrant red.
As good as the figure is, his accessories
are even better. Immediately shooting down the idea that he's a pacifist, Lifeline comes with a knife in his right boot, a Browning 9mm pistol and a really cool new rifle. It's either an M4 or a heavily modified M16, with a heavily detailed sculpt showing a grenade launcher, a laser sight, a flash suppressor and more. This is an awesome new gun, and we'll probably be seeing it used a lot in the future.
Moving on to more medical accessories, Lifeline has a gun-like hypodermic needle that fits in the holster on his chest. He also has a white case that opens to reveal not only a slew of sculpted - and painted! - medical equipment, but also a removable IV bag, an oxygen tank with attached facemask and even a pair of shock paddles! Holy moly! And we're not done yet.
Lifeline also gets a 4½" long spinal board. You know, the plastic thing they strap people to so they can move them? Yeah, one of those. It has head blockes molded on one end, and enough handholds for five figures per side (in case they need to move The Fridge, I guess?). The set includes one restraint strap, though the stock photography shows two and the board has enough slots to accommodate four. The IV bag from the medi kit can plug into the board, and there's a tube that plugs into the bag and can attach to a figure's arm. Outstanding!
This is a really nice figure. It's not just an update of an old character, it pushes the old character further. There's great work in the paint and construction, and the accessories are unbelievable. I would have happily lost the assault rifle in exchange for three more restraint straps, but I'm probably alone in that. Lifeline is one of the best Joes released this year, and in 2011 that's really saying something.