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Starscream Skystriker w/ Cobra Commander

GI Joe and the Transformers
by yo go re

Allow us to open this review with a simple question:

WHY HAS THIS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE?!

For the first time ever, we are celebrating a unique episode in the history of GI Joe. From 1985 to 1987, Marvel Comics produced a four-comic series that told the story of GI Joe and Cobra discovering the existence of the Transformers. This special series briefly brought together these two epic worlds and chronicled the dramatic consequences of this discovery. To celebrate this special moment in time, we have created the first action vehicle that combines GI Joe and Transformers vehicles and characters!

The comic they're refering to, GI Joe and the Transformers, didn't start in 1985. The first issue was cover-dated January 1987, which means it probably hit stands in November 1986, so maybe '85 was just a typo. Like the copy says, GIJ&TF was a four-issue limited series, but the packaging is styled as though it were issue #5. Cute!

Anyway, this is technically a GI Joe vehicle set, but it's still a Transformers crossover. How's that? Well, it's easy: one of the most famous Joe vehicles is a fighter jet; one of the most famous Transformers is a fighter jet; the rest writes itself!

Seeks to replace Megatron as leader. Ruthless, cold-blooded, cruel... considers himself the most sophisticated and handsome of Decepticons. Believes Decepticons should rely more on guile and speed rather than brute force to defeat Autobots. Fastest flyer of group, can reach Mach 2.8 and an altitude of 52 miles. Shoots cluster bombs and null-rays which disrupts the flow of electricity. Very good at what he does, but sometimes overrates himself.

Starscream's classic mode was an F-15 Eagle, while the Skystriker has always been an F-14 Tomcat. Is that a significant difference? No, it's really not. This mold was created for the new GI Joe line, and simply given some clever new decos to convert it (no pun intended) into Starscream. Hasbro had to create an all-new mold, rather than reusing the original with some tweaks, because they'd loaned the original tools to Funskool, and that company hadn't stored them very well. There's some assembly required, and we'll tell you right now: once you put this this together, it's not coming back apart again, so there will be no storing it inside that cool box. What a shame!

Now, I've never owned a vintage Skystriker, but the new plane has the same recognizable outline as the original. The plastic feels very durable, and I can already tell you that a short drop won't break anything: some pieces (the tail stabilizers) are designed to detatch safely, while other pieces (the wings) have extra support to make them stronger. The nosecone is blunted, so no one puts their eye out, and the translucent orange canopy slips out of its hinge very easily. I wouldn't whip this thing at the wall or throw it off a roof, but it's not going to shatter if it falls off your TV stand, either.

One of the identifying features of the F-14 is its mobile wing design - they can sweep from 20° to 68° while in flight. The Skystriker does the same thing, by way of a slider located on the plane's "pancake" (the flat area between the engines). The slider controls both the wings and the landing gear: when the wings are spread wide, the wheels are down; when the wheels are up, the wings are swept. It's fun to move them like that, but it would also be nice if you could sweep the wings back and still have the landing gear down, the better to line these up on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The wheels all roll freely, so your Skystriker can taxi. The jet is 23" long and 5¾" tall.

And all that is true of the normal Skystriker release, but this is Starscream - he needs to be different! Hasbro has molded this vehicle in colors inspired by the Decepticons' Air Commander. The body of the plane is grey, the nosecone and vertical stabilizers are blue, and there are red stripes over the air intakes. Then, of course, there are the stickers, which (among other things) add red stripes to the wings and tailfins, and Decepticon symbols all over.

Actually, it's more than just the Decepticon symbols that nod toward the Transformers. The plane's designation is D-22, same as Starscream's Japanese ID number. You can put Starscream's name under the canopy as the pilot designation, and there are Autobot symbols with slashes through them to show enemies shot down. There's even an unknown Autobot on the targeting HUD in the cockpit! Putting all the decals on took about an hour and a half.

The stickers provide lots of choices, as well; you can pick whether you want the Cobra/Decepticon combo symbol on the tail to be red or purple (we suggest red - the purple looks cool but blends in), whether you like italic or upright fonts, and which of a half dozen TF-themed squadrons you want him to belong to. There's even a sticker designed to look like a blank rubsign - unless you choose to replace it with the one designed to look like a rubbed rubsign! Some of the stickers don't fit properly (you'll have to cut a chunk out of the HUD label to get it on, for instance), but many of the smaller ones have more than you need, just in case of accident. It has to be noted, however, that whatever nameless graphic designer was in charge of prepping the decals for print forgot to knock out the white background from the interiors of closed shapes - for instance, the inside of the O and P on on 30 individual "NO STEP" stickers. Whoops!

Starscream gets several missiles, but sadly, no special new ones molded to look like the old toy's null rays (and no, a sticker on the gun pod reading "NULL CANNON" doesn't count). There are two Sidewinders, two Sparrows, two Phoenix missiles (with stickers that identify them as AIM-22 missiles instead of the proper AIM-54) and the gun pod. All the missiles attach to the underside of the plane via short tabs. Too short, in fact: the Sparrows keep falling off at the slightest bump; all the weapons have some degree of problem staying in place, but the long, skinny Sparrows are the worst. The plane also features removable engine covers, and you can pull out the actual engines to reveal the fully sculpted turbines that power them.

Though Starscream is, of course, capable of piloting himself, that's not as much fun when it comes to a toy of this sort. But Hasbro didn't just give us a pilot, they gave us the only pilot. The only one who would deserve to sit in Starscream's ejector seat.

Absolute power! Total control of the world - its people, wealth, and resources - that's the objective of Cobra Commander. This fanatical leader rules with an iron fist and demands total loyalty and allegiance. To achieve his goal, he causes revolution and chaos, then steps in to take control. When he discovered the existence of powerful, sentient robots that convert to vehicles, he believed victory to be within his grasp at last. He formed an alliance with the Decepticons, convinced that no one on Earth, not even the GI Joe team, could defeat these awesome robotic foces.

Yes, Cobra Commander! Is there anyone who could possibly be a better choice for pilot? Does he actually know how to fly a plane? No, probably not, but Starscream is doing most of the work anyway. And you know CC is just the kind of megalomaniacal villain to put on a flight suit and pose for "Mission Accomplished" photo ops. Stragerey. Ih foolmuh can't get fooled again.

The figure has a piecemeal body, but that's fine - paint brings the whole thing together. He uses Skydive's arms and shins, Ace's thighs, and Duke's torso. The head is the one with the seam down the front, and he's wearing the slightly longer Resolute helmet. He also gets jump gear from various figures, to complete his look.

Other than the things he wears, Cobra Commander has one accessory - and it's important enough to warrant its own filecard in the package.

Megatron combines brute strength, military cunning, ruthlessness and terror. Aches to return to Cybertron to conquest after destroying all Autobots on earth. Plans to possess all Earth resources. Incredibly powerful and intelligent. Fires nuclear-charged fusion cannon. Can link up interdimensionally to a black hole and draw antimatter from it for use as a weapon. No known weakness.

This was the crown jewel when it was revealed at Toy Fair. Starscream as a Skystriker? Yeah, that's cool. Cobra Commander is the pilot? Okay, even better - both characters were voiced by Chris Latta. He comes with an in-scale gun Megatron? Sold! Yes, there are third-party sources that have been making Joe-scale Megatrons for years, but let's be honest: those don't count. There's never been a toy of Hearts of Steel Optimus Prime, and there's never been a Megatron that could be used by GI Joes before. The gun is silver and black, and looks perfect in Cobra Commander's hand. It doesn't convert, of course, but who would expect it to? What it does do is show you what the size comparison between Starscream and Megatron would be like if there was no size-changing in Transformers.

Hasbro rules the market when it comes to boys' toys, with GI Joe and the Transformers near the top of the charts. And yet, in nearly three decades, the closest we've come to a proper crossover is a single Energon character? That's ridiculous! It's even worse when you realize they make Star Wars Transformers and Marvel Transformers; we should have been getting GI Joe Transformers for years now! As a first step into overlapping the properties, though, this is a wonderful set, and an exclusive that's sure to be in high demand for a long time to come.

-- 08/09/11


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