There are times when I’m just entirely certain of Hasbro’s intent with a particular character design and a prime example of this is the 1989 Annihilator. Billed as “Destro’s Elite Trooper”, this class of MARS troopers would appear to be the Scotsman’s answer to the Crimson Guard. They’re also listed as “airborne assault troops” and their gear reflects this specialization quite well. Yet, their color scheme is almost the complete antithesis of Destro’s army. Combine this with some rather “odd” proportions and the result is a figure that seems to have slipped by the usual quality standards found in the RAH-era figures.
The Annihilator has the distinction of being the very last GIJoe: A Real American Hero figure that I purchased as a young Joe fan. Earlier that same year I’d picked up Snake Eyes v3 and Deep Six v2 and was insanely happy with both updates to favorite characters. However, there was something about the Annihilator that caught my eye and so I snagged him out of habit. The Annihilator’s uniform is very simple in overall design: a featureless two-tone body suit adorned with simple gold braid and gold laces. The only other accoutrements are a pair of gloves and a dual holstered belt with a gold buckle. Now, this sounds like a pretty reasonable uniform for a soldier in Destro’s employ. Not even the fan-favorite Iron Grenadiers wore an overly-complicated uniform and it would seem that MARS soldiers favor function over form to a certain extent. Yet, the Annihilator looks as out of place in the middle of a MARS display as Star Jones does on stage at the Miss America Pageant. Rather than wearing the classic black, red, and gold of the Iron Grenadiers, the Annihilator is clad almost entirely in orange and purple. The result is a costume that belongs more on a Mardi Gras float than it does in the “elite bodyguards” of a renowned arms dealer. The chosen color palette ensures that there is very little “intimidation factor” to be found in these troopers—unless of course you’re an interior designer. It’s another classic example of a bad color scheme ruining what might have been an otherwise solid character design. There is one detail, however, that I must note in the “positive” category and that is the Annihilator’s belt buckle. Unlike more recent GvC era sculpts that are literally covered with faction symbols, Destro’s elite guards show their allegiance in only one area of their uniform and that is the aforementioned buckle. It wasn’t until I was shooting pics for this review that I noticed a very tiny sculpted “Iron Grenadiers” logo molded into the plastic and covered with gold paint. Previously, when I did actually take a look at the figure I had always dismissed the buckle’s design as some type of ornate clasp. You can imagine my surprise at seeing a very tiny Destro mask adorning the figure’s waist. In many organizations, the sigil is worn over the heart but that’s not the case with the Annihilators. The less speculation there is about the significance of the placement of the crest, the better.
When it comes to the head sculpt of the Annihilator, simplicity is the key. The trooper is wearing a helmet that is almost evocative of the COBRA Strato-Vipers in terms of shape and design. The head covering features an elongated muzzle and a rather wide visor—affording the trooper a tremendous field of vision in combat situations. The helmet is otherwise devoid of detail save for one small bit of molding on the upper back side. Whether this meant to be some sort of locking mechanism or the designers just felt the need to throw in some detail is something that we’ll never know for certain. Either way, it is the solitary piece of sculpting on an otherwise smooth helmet. Oddly enough, it’s not the simplistic nature of the head sculpt that bothers me. To the contrary, I prefer functional designs to overly-sculpted exaggerated sculpts. What absolutely drives me bonkers about this head sculpt is something that has plagued the GvC line since the beginning—the proportions. Simply put, there is NO WAY an ARAH era head would fit under this helmet. The dimensions top to bottom are about half of what they should be and the result is a helmet-covered head that is one of the smallest of the entire classic line. While I’ve come to expect this sort of odd proportionality from the “new sculpt” figures (Spy Troops Destro, VvV Vipers, etc), it completely stands out in a line that actually seemed to feature “larger-than-average” heads more often than not. So, unless the file card that I have omitted some text like the following, I’m not buying it.
“Annihilators give up more than just their allegiance to their Laird. Those who prove worthy of becoming one of Destro’s “elite guards” are also subjected to extreme surgical augmentation as a sign of their devotion. The lower jaw is removed entirely and a feeding tube is inserted to provide nutrition. Unlike the COBRA Strato-Vipers who are physically enhanced to withstand the extremes of their craft, this procedure serves no purpose other than to allow the Annihilators to fit inside their signature helmets. Oddly enough, no Annihilator has ever been heard to complain about this… or make any sounds at all.”
If the Annihilators have one bright spot (aside from their color scheme), it’s found in their gear. Equipped with a large SMG, these “airborne assault troops” take to the skies via their helicopter backpacks! Normally a detail like this would make this more realistically-minded Joe fan fly through the roof, but the backpacks are nothing if not well-designed. The rotor shaft is mounted on a ball joint which allows the blade to be folded behind the Annihilator when indoors or on a flight deck preparing for a mission. A control stick is attached on a pivot joint on the left side, giving the pilot full control over the tiny craft while leaving the right hand unencumbered. Over the right shoulder is mounted a small dual cannon assembly complete with two tiny clips for ammunition. The rest of pack is surprisingly detailed—featuring a sculpted rotor shaft, and various “bits” which produce a surprisingly intricate design. There’s no sign of a fuel tank or a power source but we’re talking about a world where Battle Android Troopers run amuck; I’m willing to cut Hasbro a little slack! Oddly enough, if the TARGAT troopers were released in the same year I think that fans might remember the Annihilator and his helicopter pack a bit more fondly. Sadly for “Destro’s Elite Guards”, the TARGAT jet pack is just a much more interesting accessory and so this accessory fades into obscurity.
I’ll be blunt: I have found no use whatsoever for this figure in my collection. Perhaps my judgment is clouded by the fact that this is the last ARAH figure I ever purchased as I found my interests shifting to other venues. Maybe it’s the fact that this figure marks a noticeable shift in the designs of the classic GIJoe figures toward the more fantastic. Or, it could just be that the Annihilator is one of those figures where none of the design elements manage to come together to form any semblance of a cohesive design. Either way, I stick to my earlier assessment: this is one of the “fugliest” figures in the entirety of the classic Real American Hero line. Even the much-maligned Darklon could possibly be saved with a better color scheme but try as I might I can’t find one that makes this helicopter-clad trooper resemble anything other than a bad high school marching band uniform. So, unless you’re a completionist or think that I’m way off base, this is one of those figures that most collectors can omit from their collections and lead full and happy lives. Of course, that’s just my opinion.