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Dreadnoks

GI Joe Generation 3
by yo go re

With the Slaughter's Maraduders Battle Set, I wasn't planning to pick it up until I saw Mercer. But the Dreadnoks? I knew I'd be getting this set as soon as I heard about it.

Burn Out is a mechanical genius and could have been an engineer if he hadn't dropped out of a top technical school during freshman orientation. When he's not doing some mechanically destructive job for Zartan, he builds custom motorcycles. He can assume another person's body language and speech patterns with amazing perfection.

Wow, and we're going obscure right off the bat! In musical terms, this is a "deep cut." Burn Out was introduced in 2003 in the SpyTroops line (which is why his filecard talks about his disguise skills), and we actually reviewed him! Generation 2 doesn't get a lot of love these days, but this is an impressive update. He's basically a "Rise of Cobra" Recondo repaint, but it's amazing how well that works. He gets the brown camo (oil stains?) on his shirt, the dark wrappings on his arms, the armored kneepads and even has his pants tucked into his boots.

The head is new, and it looks terrific. The old figure looked more like Luis Guzman than whoever the card art depicted, but this splits the difference between the two. It used to be "is he black or is he hispanic," but this one looks Blaxican. Nice choice! He's got his hair in dreadlocks, and has those pulled back and tied behind his head.

Burnout's accessories include a sawed-off shotgun and a flamethrower. The gun makes a bit of sense, as the previous figure came with one, but it seems that Torch's backpack and flamethrower were included based simply on the character's name. Yes, he's called "Burn Out," but it's not because he works with fire or anything. We know they still have the mold for the shield he used to come with, and that had to be cheaper than this three-piece flamethrower.

Clyde "Gnaw" Hyde is a poacher, hunter and trapper. In other words, he's a lethal threat to every living creature on the planet. This alone would have made the Dreadnok gang greet him as one of their own. He's also a thief, card cheat and he always smells like the rancid hog-fat he covers himself in when he hunts. To the Dreadnoks, these are truly prize-winning qualities.

Like several of the figures in the Marauders set, this one had to be renamed. And like those figures, we'll be ignoring that name and calling him who he is: Gnawgahyde. He never had a file name before, either - "Clyde Hyde" is new. It's a bit strange that they changed his name anyway: "Gnawgahyde" is a made-up word, and thus completely copywritable; it's an amalgam of "gnaw," of course, and "Naugahyde" - a kind of fake leather that was popular in the '60s and '70s. Unless Michelin complained that the name was too close to the Nauga dolls they sell (through their Uniroyal division), there's no reason Hasbro had to switch.

Gnawgahyde is built from Zartan's legs, Arctic Storm Shadow's chest and Duke's arms. The chest, with its scars, works really well for a big game hunter, but you may not even see those because his vest is so cool that you might never want to take it off. He's traded in the 1989 leopard print for a plain brown vest with a lion's mane across the shoulders and a necklace of teeth. It's a great update that still fits with the character perfectly. It's worth noting that Gnawgahyde used to have an anti-GI Joe tattoo on his left arm, but it's gone. Maybe an animal bit it off.

The original figure had a removable hat, so it would be a step back if this one didn't as well. He's bald beneath it, and it grips his head no matter which side you want the "leaf" on. He's got his big mutton chop mustache, and a delightful sneer on his lips. He kind of looks like someone - like Hasbro based his face on someone they based some other Joe on, but we can't place it.

Gnawgahyde comes with his vest and hat, of course, but also a knife to fit in the sheath on the small of his back and Resolute Scarlett's rifle. The rifle has a bit of leopard print on the butt, so that old feature of the character is still preserved in some small amount (it's also on his hat band). I think I still have the warthog '89 Gnawgahyde came with, so I'll have to see if I can dig that out to complete his look. Do wish he had a bow or a machete or something, though.

Road Pig was kicked out of every low-life outlaw biker gang from one coast to the other for smelling worse than was acceptable even by their standards. He joined the Dreadnoks as a probationary member. They're still making up their minds about him, even though his brute strength makes him useful to the gang and he'll willingly stomp anything to pieces with little or no provocation.

Road Pig is my favorite "non-Z" Dreadnok (ie, excluding Zartan and his family), and the one figure in this set I was most looking forward to. In the comics, he suffered from dissociative identity disorder, switching between gentle, stuttering "Donald" and loud, destructive "Road Pig" - the lettering even changed when he switched personalities! Donald had a crush on Zarana, but she only put up with him because she could use Road Pig's brutality so suit her own ends.

Since all the old Joes were built on the same buck, all the figures were the same size. That meant that Hasbro's attempt to make the 1988 Road Pig look strong just made him look beefy, which Little yo go re thought was related to the "Pig" part of his name. This figure uses the Resolute Roadblock body, so there's no doubt now that he's meant to be a mountain of muscle. He has his red "anarchy A" tattoo on his left bicep, and if you take his Mad Max-style football pads off, you'll see a Cobra tattoo on his chest. Both of those have precedents: the has been there since '88, and the snake showed up on the 2004 Joe Con exclusive (as a reference to the '91 Sonic Fighters figure, which was identified as a Cobra rather than a Dreadnok on his filecard. While this set uses the Dreadnok "flame" logo on the packaging, Road Pig gets the good one printed on his belt buckle. Cool!

Road Pig's real name, Donald Deluca, was taken from a former Hasbro design director, but the original figure's face wasn't - and neither is this update. He looks like a tough, brutish fellow, and he still has the white flattop with a red stripe running around his head. Wow, remember when we made fun of Storm Rider for his hair? Guess we have to take all that back.

Two of Road Pig's accessores are direct updates from the old toy, and two are... less so. Like we said, he has his football pads, but they're a ton more detailed now. Ditto for his trademark weapon of choice, the cinder block on a stick - it's done as two pieces now, with a brown handle that has a wrapped handgrip near the end. He used to have a fancy armored plate that he wore on his forearm, but that's gone, replaced by an improvised shield made from a highway sign. This is a great choice for several reasons: first, it fits the "made on the fly" nature of his other weapons; secondly, the sign reads "alligator alley," which not only suggests the Dreadnoks' Everglades base of operations, but is also the name of the former U of F basketball arena. Why's that cool? Because his birthplace of Goblu, MI, is a fictional town invented for roadmaps in the late '70s, and is a reference to the University of Michigan - "go, Blue!" Anyway, since the Michigan Wolverines and Florida Gators are known to play each other in sports, it makes it look like Road Pig ripped down a sign as part of that rivalry. Love it!

Finally, he has a sword, apparently. There's a sword packaged next to him in the box, and the filecard says he uses a saber, so it's clearly his. It even fits into a slot on the back of his pads. But the question is why. He's never been seen to use a sword in the comics or anything, so where is this coming from? Well, the planned 1995 series of Ninja Commandos would have included a new Road Pig, and he would have come with a sword. Man, this figure is just a whole stew of tiny obscure references! It still doesn't make a lot of sense for him, really. I'm probably going to give the sword to Taurus.

Dreadnok Thunder was spoiled rotten as a child, but getting everything was never enough to satisfy him. When he was in his teens, he stole a motorcycle and hit the road to corruption. he ended up in the swamps, where the Dreadnoks welcomed him into the fold and channeled his destructive tendencies into profitable acts of sabotage and chaos.

This is another renamed character, but this time the renaming is extra stupid, because his new name is already taken. When he debuted in 1986, he was "Thrasher," driver of the Thunder Machine (which is why they're calling him "Thunder" today). But Thunder has been a Joe since 1984 - though when he got a new figure in 2009, he was "Sgt. Thunderblast." What the heck, guys? If you can use the name, use it for the right person. And call this one "Dreadnok Thrasher," like you did in 2004 and '05.

Thrasher is built from PoC Zartan, which means he shares Spirit's arms and Quick Kick's torso, but the head is new. He's always looked like a slimeball, and this figure keeps that tradition alive. His hair isn't as big, but he still has the big pompadour in the front. If not for the two inexplicable green stripes on the right side, he'd look like he belongs in Grease.

Generation 1 Thrasher never had a name, but a G2 release dubbed him "Bruno La Crosse." This version renames him Brutus Cross, so let's consider it an alias. His accessories bespeak his affluent origins: the weapon his filecard identifies as a "mace" is actually a lacrosse stick with a spiked ball held in the head, and the armor he wears over his torn green shirt? Lacrosse pads. He's a preppy slumming with the Dreadnoks, sort of the GI Joe equivalent of "Common People."

Zandar is a master of camouflage and covert movement. In other words, he's good at hiding and sneaking up on people. And, of course, he doesn't behave this way to do anything good for his target. Like his brother Zartan, he can disguise himself as anyone. He's also an expert with silent weapons and can remain motionless for long periods of time.

Ah, Zandar - of the three Z family members, his gimmick was the one I liked the most. Zartan had his holographic chameleon thing, Zarana was a method actor, but Zandar just faded into the background. His original filecard went into more detail: "Zandar was the kid who never got noticed. Teachers forgot he was there and never called on him. Nobody that has ever met him can remember what his voice sounds like. His anonymity was no accident. He worked at it all through his formative years and after he grew up... he got even better at it!" Damn, I'll take that!

Zandar shares his brother's arms (just like he did back in the day), Quick Kick's torso, Shipwreck's legs and boots from the movie. His head is new, and he looks a lot like Mark Pellegrino. He's got orange hair and so did Zarana (plus the hideous '93 Zartan) - maybe that's their natural color? Ah, probably not.

The paint on this figure is really good, too. It's not just the big red lightning bolts on his face and chest, but the subtle weathering pattern on his shoulder amor: the edges of each plate have a silver app that suggest the blue paint is wearing off. Nice! His accessories include a large pink scarf, a blue holster with a silver pistol, a fancy crossbow and a tan harpoon gun. Though there's a knife sheathed on his right leg, it's not removable: his knife is a separate piece.

The daughter of Zartan is tough, tenacious and never gives an inch. That's how she can more than hold her own in the dangerous Dreadnok gang. She stole and panhandled to get by as a child, and learned how to take down opponents twice her size in hand-to-hand combat. She never knew her father until she found a way into the swamps and revealed her identity to him.

Now this is really exciting - a character who's never had a toy before! Zanya was created by Devil's Due Publishing, and so tends to be unpopular with a lot of the die-hards. Their loss! Zanya never really got along with her aunt, but the two women share the same mold, mostly - to set this figure apart, she has Cover Girl's legs. Her shirt has the good Dreadnok logo on the chest and "for life" on the back. The shirt she usually wore in the comics? It wasn't tattered like this one, but sure enough, it read "Dreadnoks For Life."

The head is good, though it does make her look slightly older than the character in the books - she was still a teenager, not an adult. It's a great sculpt though, with her green dreadlocks pulled back into a ponytail and her multiple piercings all present: labret, eyebrow, multiples in the ears... she's the girl all the bad guys want!

Most of the Dreadnoks were known for a single type of weapon, but Zanya never got that far. Thus, he accessories are plain, simple guns: an AK-47 and a .44 Magnum. They're both nice pieces, plain enough that we can't tell you if they've come with previous figures or are new. They work for her.

Zanzibar was raised on a garbage scow and spent most of his youth picking pockets on crowded piers. He's tried river piracy, stock fraud and smuggling, but they were too much like real work and not nasty enough for his tastes. His lucky break came when he delivered bootleg gas to a filling station owned by Zartan and was immediately invited to join the Dreadnok gang.

Of all the figures in this set, Zanziber has changed the most. If you were shown this figure with no further information, you might be able to guess he's meant to be the same as this guy, but chances are slim. The fact that he uses Iron Grenadier Destro's legs makes him look vaguely "piratey," but that's about all he has going for him. I guess every group of figures needs one to be the worst, so at least in this set it's easy to pick.

Zanzibar gets a new head, just like all the Dreadnoks in this set, but his is... let's not beat around the bush, it's terrible. It looks entirely out of place, like it was designed for some other toy and repurposed as Zanzibar. Anybody know if there was going to be a pirate in that scrapped Jurassic Park line? His eyepatch isn't even on the right side! He's got a fauxhawk and a mullet, instead of the ponytail from the previous versions. Man, this thing is a total mess, and does nothing to redeem the lame design.

He's got the same shoulderpads/belt/holster combo that Taurus wore, so it seems likely that piece was designed to split the difference between the two characters. It's closer to Zanzibar's waist, since he's a shorter figure. He has the same knife to put in the holster, but a new flintlock pistol to go in the holster over his heart. He gets the same sword and snub-nose pistol that IG Destro had, so the gun fits in the holster on his leg. Overall: nice accessories, but a crap figure to put them on.

Really, though, Zanzibar is the only clunker in this set. The rest of the 'noks are awesome, even with the changes that have been made to make them more "G3 friendly." So yeah, this set is definitely worth buying, if you're a Dreadnok fan - but it does make you ask yourself whether it's better to get an entire box set where all the figures have a few corners cut, or one where most of the figures knock it out of the park and one is majorly disappointing.

-- 01/20/12


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