Watch out, America: here comes Captain Whitebread!
Duke is a natural leader who is driven to do what is right, no matter what it may cost him. He is committed to uncovering the evil truth about Cobra Industries, so that he and the other Renegades can clear their names. A born soldier, he earns the respect and loyalty of the others through his heroic actions.
That's all very true - however, despite what the filecard says, Duke isn't the "squad leader." Renegades plays with the existing GI Joe mythos, and one of the changes is that Scarlett is the highest-ranking member and the one responsible for assembling the team in the first place. Duke may have the personality of a leader, and thus inspire others to listen to him, but he's still just a member of someone else's team.
Commensurate with that, Duke on the cartoon looks and sounds like a fairly young guy. The Renegades figures have been untooned, so Duke doesn't end up looking like a Clone Wars or Batman the Animated Series figure. The face is very intense, but it really does seem to be a "human" version of the face we saw every week on the cartoon.
The "heightened realism" thing extends below the neck,
too. The character design casts him in baggy green cargo pants with grey patches on the knees; a grey T-shirt and beige tactical vest with green shoulderpads. Pretty simple stuff, but the toy tweaks it all. His pants are darker now, almost grey themselves, and while there are patches sculpt at the knees, he's also wearing kneepads - removable ones, like Snake-Eyes. He has two tall pouches strapped to his left leg, which definitely isn't a feature on the cartoon. His shirt is the same style, but the vest over it is bulkier, and lacks the appropriate shoulderpads. If these weren't all new sculpts, we'd think someone had tried to kitbash a Renegades Duke from existing parts.
The articulation is as good as we expect from modern
4" figures. The swivel/hinge wrists (which Hasbro refers to as "injection molded" joints, so maybe we'll start using that term) are pretty bulky, but fortunately since he's wearing gloves, it ends up just looking like he's folded over the upper edges. The socket for his balljointed neck is molded slightly to the side, so his head is permanently off-center. The neck also seems to have been molded with two balljoints, one above the other, as though the neck was designed and tooled one way, then they realized it wasn't long enough and retooled it with a second.
Duke's accessories are not as good as they could be.
When he was shown at JoeCon, he had a grappling hook/rappelling backpack, a missile launcher and a Renegades pulse rifle. The final release has a gasmask, an HK G11 rifle, and four plasma pulse pistols. Four!? Why? One can plug into his right leg, but that still leaves him with three superfluous guns. Yes, you can give them to other characters, but I think we all would have been happier to lose the extras and the reused pieces, if it meant we got the new show-accurate rifle instead.
The change in accessories has also led to a variant. The earliest releases (ie, the ones that were sold from the Philippines
to people too dumb to wait for retail) had a filecard listing all the old acessories. If you snapped Duke up the first time you saw him in a store, like we did, you get a filecard listing only his pistols, rifle and gas mask. Get cracking, completists!
GI Joe: Renegades is an excellent cartoon, doing a great service to the franchise (unless, of course, it was all a dream). One of its biggest feats might be transforming Duke from his usual boring self to an interesting character. And while we've had a ton of Duke figures in the last few years, this is still a worthy new addition. The head sculpt is nice, and the body beneath the vest is plain enough to serve as a generic real-world soldier - which makes sense, since that's pretty much Duke's description.