Lt. Gorky, Dragonsky, Sgt. Misha Zubenkov
If there was any team in GIJoe that made a lasting impression on fans, it was the Oktober Guard. “The peace-loving people of Mother Russia’s” answer to the Joe team, a cameo by the Oktober Guard was always a treat- whether in the comic series or even the Sunbow cartoon. Much like the Joes, the Guard’s roster changed over time with the majority of the original unit being decimated by the forces of El Jefe in Sierra Gordo. However, as much as the loss of Stormavik, Shrage, Horrorshow and Colonel Brekhov may have set the team back, the unit recovered with Daina and Dragonsky returning with a “leaner meaner Oktober Guard”. Thanks to Comic Pack #101, fans can recreate both incarnation of their favorite “Defenders of Rodina” as this set bridges the gap between the original team and the most recent incarnation.
Most fans will remember Lt. Gorky as the young blonde threat to Flint’s ego in issue #101. A naval infantryman, Gorky immediately took to flirting with Lady Jaye as the joint operation between the Joe team and the Oktober Guard made its way to Sierra Gordo. This immediately earned him the enmity of Flint for the remainder of the mission as Gorky repeatedly found ways to ingratiate himself with Lady Jaye. This figure perfectly captures the appearance of the Russian lothario. Using the same body that first appeared in the “Strike First” Grunt from Comic Pack #4, Gorky’s uniform is just as basic as it appeared in the comics. He’s wearing the blue and white striped t-shirt that was a Russian standard for its naval forces, and he’s even sporting a shoulder holster. However, hold no illusions as to having him draw the pistol from its holster—his bandoleer is comprised of a single piece of molded rubber. The very utilitarian nature of the source sculpt works wonderfully as that of a standard Russian military man and does justice in bringing Flint’s rival to life.
Gorky’s head sculpt is youthful and handsome—at least as handsome as you can get in a 3.75” figure. His features are fairly neutral and in many ways he reminds me of a blonde version of Flint. Perhaps this explains both the chemistry between him and Lady Jaye as well as the undeniable jealousy of Officer Fairborne. Regardless, the expression, beret, and even the haircut are all perfect and recapture the comic book character flawlessly. We may have waited 16 years for a figure of Gorky but it was definitely worth the wait. Gorky comes equipped with a pistol, the same rifle as the original Beach Head figure, and a trench knife.
I can still remember receiving a copy of GIJoe Yearbook #2 from a friend for Christmas. It was my second exposure to the Oktober Guard in their frantic race against Cobra for possession of a US satellite. It also marked the debut of a new member to the team—a mechanic as well as a specialist in flame weapons. Dragonsky, with his red full-body armor and enormous flame thrower was an instant hit and it’s great to finally have a comic-accurate figure of him after all of these years. Dragonsky’s armor is just generic enough that the chosen parts work rather well in creating his appearance from the included issue. The SAW Viper torso is a solid choice and gives his chest enough extra bulk to recreate the muscular mechanic from the Motherland. His lower torso isn’t as straight forward. I’m guessing the boots are from one of the later versions of Mutt (DEF?) while the upper legs are match for the Shock Viper/ Ice Cream Soldier parts. Whatever the origins, the parts come together quite well and produce a very satisfying whole. All that’s missing is Dragonsky’s helmet which is uncannily similar to the one used by Wild Weasel. However, the helmet doesn’t actually appear in issue #101 so I can understand its omission. Either way, I’ve got version of Dragonsky that fits in with the rest of my Oktober Guard and is ultimately more accurate and satisfying than the convention exclusive figure that was produced by Master Collector last year.
Dragonsky’s head sculpt is just about perfect when compared to his comic appearances. Now, I can already hear the question “How hard is it to sculpt a bald guy?” If it were that easy, Hasbro could have just reused a RAH-era Salvo head or even gone the recent route of changing the ethnicity and simply repainted a Roadblock head. Instead, we have a Dragonsky that seems both older and wiser at the same time. There is a faint trace of “dark humor” in the set of his eyes and mouth very akin to the “Russian pragmatism” shown by Commander Ivanova in the television series “Babylon 5”. His features aren’t overly stern but instead reflect the more practical nature of someone who is used to have to do more with less. In other words, this is the face of a man who is used to things going wrong and yet still manages to do the best he can.
Dragonsky’s gear is actually interesting for the simple fact that it combines his equipment from Yearbook #2 and from issue #101. In his debut, Dragonsky suits up and uses his flamethrower to regain “fire superiority” yet in issue #101 he is armed with an AK-47. Hasbro gives fans the best of both issues and provides him with the same flame thrower that originally came with the VvV wave 6 Torch as well as the standard AK-47 with folding stock that has become a standard piece of equipment for both Oktober Guard and Cobra troops in the past few years. Again, while I miss the inclusion of his helmet I’m quite happy with this set of equipment. Notably absent is the “flame effect” piece that came with both Torch and the convention exclusive figure. Some fans will lament its omission but I don’t view it as an essential piece of gear. As far as I’m concerned, Dragonsky turned out just fine!
Sgt. Misha Zubenkov:
If there was a character that could be described as “plucky” on this team, it’s Misha. Remembered as the diminutive Russian who pulled rear guard with Roadblock against a column of Demons, Misha is a character that makes an impression. His body mold, which is based on the same torso as Stormavik, Colonel Brekhov and the RAH-era Red Star, is ideal for a standard Russian uniform. Featuring a molded grenade and holster, the uniform is generic enough to be believable as that of a standard Russian soldier. In Misha’s case the body is cast in dark green with a light green camouflage pattern over the top. His belt and harness is painted brown and a brown bandoleer has been thrown over one shoulder as an added detail. The design comes together rather effectively and the result is a very dangerous looking little man. I’ve always said that it’s amazing the difference a repaint can make to a figure mold and this is a terrific example of that practice. The mold, which has been used for a total of four figures from the same military still looks as fresh as it did back when Red Star was first released.
Misha’s head sculpt is so distinctive that it’s almost a caricature! His round glasses, jet-black hair, eastern moustache and dark skin tone are a combination unique to him out of the entire Joe line. His features resemble those of the residents of Mongolia, Nepal, and the far eastern regions of the Asian continent. Misha is a recruit from the furthest edges of the former Soviet Union and his sculpt reflects the characteristics of those proud people who call the steppes home. What really strikes me, however, is his facial expression. It’s as if his face were frozen mid-comment; you can almost hear the sarcastic retort coming from his mouth. Hasbro succeeded in capturing the plucky Spetsnaz Special Purpose Troops fantastically! To top it off, his distinctive pith helmet is included, as are an AK-47 and a trench knife. The crew in Pawtucket really delivered the goods with this figure!
If I sound like an unabashed fan boy with this review, it’s because I am. I’ve always been a fan of the Oktober Guard and have enjoyed every appearance that they’ve made in Joe lore. While the Sunbow appearances were fun, it was the comic portrayal that really stole the show and left a lasting impression. (Okay, except for Horrorshow calling Gung-Ho “ugly”! That was pretty funny.) For years I had hoped that someday Hasbro would release detailed figures of the Guard but instead I had to make to with Red Star, Big Bear, and a set of Toys R Us repaints. However, now my Oktober Guard is complete and I couldn’t be happier! As I said with Comic Pack #6 and Comic Pack #7, these are ESSENTIAL additions to any Joe collection! The head sculpts are unique and dynamic, the body compositions are well thought out, and even the accessories work to create three figures that no Joe fan should be without. Enough of my rambling—go out and snag this set NOW! This is one Joe purchase you will not regret!