There are few sub-teams in GIJoe lore that are as maligned by fans as the ill-fated Battle Force 2000. Seemingly dated from the outset, this band of intrepid troopers was the “future” of the “modern military” with prototype gear that was destined to become the staple of the United States Military. Only, in the case of BF2K, this never happened. The majority of the character designs were indicative of the marked shift from “military” to “science fiction” and the vehicles were impractical concepts centered on an ill-executed gimmick. (“Future Fortress” anyone?) As such, the team of “modern warriors” met with a fiery ending in the oil fields of Benzheen in Marvel Comics GIJoe #113—all save for one. The appropriately named “Dodger”, squad leader of BF2K, someone how managed to avoid the fire—both in the literal sense as well as in the eyes of GIJoe fans who widely regard him as the “best of the bunch”. So the question is put forth: is Dodger a figure worth owning or is he merely the well-conceived character in a bunch of Captain EO cast-offs? Read on, Joe fans!
In many ways, Dodger looks as if he’s stepped out of an episode of Discovery Channel’s “Future Weapons” series. At first glance, his green pants would seem to be decorated with the digital camouflage pattern used by the Armed Forces of today—except that this figure was designed back in the mid-80’s. His rust-orange tunic almost appears to be made of overlapping scales—similar to the “dragon skin” body armor featured in the second episode of FW just a few weeks ago. This armor, developed by Pinnacle Armor, stops high velocity rounds while offering unprecedented movement and flexibility. It would seem that Dodger was a bit ahead of the time when he donned this vest back in 1987. Over the top of this tunic is what appears to be a reinforced vest with a series of ammunition pouches similar to that worn by the first incarnation of Beach Head. Painted in same forest green as his pants, the vest only covers the front portion of the torso, being attached over the shoulders by two gray equipment bands and a dual green strap that encircles the torso. Each of the equipment bands is loaded with detail—the left featuring what appear to be either a series of large shells or grenades while the right has what appears to be a compact CCD camera right. Similar to the “helmet cams” seen in the movie “Aliens”, this would allow a mission coordinator to monitor Dodger’s situation in the field from a much more accurate perspective, as opposed to the topside view offered by satellite imagery. Both of his hands are covered in fingerless gloves and the forearm is wrapped with three gray bands whose purpose eludes me. (Could these possibly be anti-static wristbands? If so, he really was ahead of his time.) It is interesting that, in spite of the armored torso, both of Dodgers arms are otherwise left bare. This could be indicative of his specialties of both armored vehicle and electronics maintenance. Dodger wouldn’t want long sleeves to get caught on any of the gear he might be working on and rather than simply rolling up sleeves, Specialist Renwick opted for a more simplistic solution. The result is a uniform that is a bit fantastic while maintaining some credibility as a practical uniform. It is unfortunate that the same cannot be said of most of his compatriots, but they’ll be covered in later reviews.
If I had to describe Dodger’s head sculpt in one word it would be “determined”. Clad in a modified combat helmet, Dodger’s expression is one of a man who is NOT going to let a slipped bogey wheel or some fried circuit boards stand in his way. From the set of his eye brows to the upturned right corner of his mouth, this is not the face of a laid back Chaplain’s Assistant who would rather concern himself with tea cozies instead of vehicle maintenance. Instead, this is the face of a mechanic who doesn’t care about “development budgets”—only that the gear that he and his teammates will be depending on works in the field. It speaks volumes of the man that led the ill-fated Battle Force 2000 and lived to tell the tale. Dodger’s helmet reflects the cutting edge nature of this strike team—fully equipped with a communications rig that would leave Breaker green with envy and a built-in red lens light on the left hand side. It’s a solid design that is so similar to those worn by the Colonial Marines in the 1986 sci-fi action film “Aliens” that it can hardly be a coincidence. Perhaps this similarity is why Dodger is accepted when his teammates are not.
If Dodger has a weak point, it is found in his included gear. The rifle, if I can call it that with a straight face, almost appears to be a dual-handled shotgun with a spiked hand guard and small underside RPG. It’s a truly ridiculous amalgamation of elements from various weapons that fails to come together to form any sort of cohesive whole. The first and only time I’ve ever left Dodger holding this gestalt is when I shot the photographs for this review. The weapon is ungainly and unrealistic and it has no place in my collection. Thankfully I found an alternative in Marauder Inc’s NCM rifle. Bearing a strong resemblance to the pulse rifles used in James Cameron’s sci-fi masterpiece, the rifle looks perfectly natural in Dodger’s grip. I’d even go so far as to say that I’d rearm all of BF2K with this weapon as I really can’t stand any of their included gear.
Before I owned the figure, I had pondered Dodger’s role (if any) in current GIJoe operations. Sure, he’s the last remaining member of a very dated sub-team from the 80’s but that doesn’t render him completely useless in a “modern” GIJoe team. In my “Joe-verse”, after the demise of BF2K, Dodger went to work with DARPA in the development of new and experimental armored vehicles. Immersing himself in his work allowed him to work through his “survivor’s guilt” and after a time he was able to move on. Eventually his work and security classifications enabled him to get involved with Project: RHINO – an attempt to create a multi-strike armored vehicle and air escort. His experiences testing the ROCC proved extremely useful and a prototype RHINO was successfully developed and constructed. The Defense Department ultimately decided against mass production of the vehicle in favor of more cost-efficient and less maintenance-intensive alternatives, however, the prototype was transferred over the auspices of the command of General Clayton Abernathy. While Cannonball was assigned as the “driver” of the vehicle, Hawk recognized the need for an experienced crew chief and so Dodger once again returned to active duty with the GIJoe team. His past has made him a more cautious and hardened individual—one who values the lives of his teammates even before his own.
Dodger is a figure that I can whole-heartedly recommend. His design is rock-solid—a dynamic combination of great sculpting and practical colors. While his gear leaves much to be desired, it’s hard to disparage the quality of the character design. Dodger walks a fine line between realism and science fiction but he walks it well. He’s a figure that espouses the term “military science fiction” (the staple of Baen Books) and wears that mantle rather well. Whereas many of the other members of BF2K now appear as “the 80’s vision of the future”, Dodger carries a plausible credibility in his design that plain works. There’s no other way to describe it—he’s a figure that STILL appears modern, even though twenty years have passed since his original release. My advice should be obvious—snag Dodger immediately if you don’t already own one. It doesn’t matter if he’s complete or not as his rifle won’t see use in the displays of most Joe fans. Instead, give him any “modern” looking rifle (an XM8 or the Marauder NCM rifle work perfectly) and he’ll become an instant favorite! This is definitely a “thumbs up” review!