I’ve never been a huge fan of subsets. I can still remember seeing the first Tiger Force figures and wondering what was so great about a bunch of repaints. The colors were garish with gratuitous “tiger striping” everywhere; the only place that the TF figures were going to blend in was in a pumpkin patch at Halloween. I passed on all of them. Flash forward to present day; Hasbro is reproducing classic figures in themed subsets for Toys R Us. Now, this should be a no-brainer—I should hate these figures as much as I disliked the original Tiger Force. It’s just a sign of how much times have changed because I think that the Anti-Venom Task Force is one of the best subsets I’ve seen yet.
The premise behind the AVTF is pretty simple—Mindbender has converted innocent civilians into V-troops for Cobra and the AVTF is the group that goes out into the field to detox them and bring them back to normal. With that purpose in mind, it’s easy to see why these particular figures were chosen. Duke commands the team, Charbroil uses his flamethrower to spray the anti-toxin, Barricade is frontline assault troop, Roadblock is heavy fire support and Lifeline is the standby medic, just in case things go wrong. However, if you’re not a fan of the entire “Valor vs. Venom” theme this is a group that for the most part still makes sense as a team. Granted, you might want to substitute Charbroil for a communications officer if you’re looking for an assault group but to my mind this is still a fairly balanced group. I can already see them playing a big part in various dioramas that I may set up. However, a team is just as strong as the sum of its parts and this team has some fairly interesting parts.
I’ve never owned a Barricade figure before this set. As such, I’m really glad he’s included in this set, as this is one of the more interesting 90’s molds I’ve recently acquired. First off, I love the armor plating on the figure; considering that Barricade is supposed to be the first man through the door the extra protection just makes sense. Secondly, the color scheme of this figure really comes together quite well. His basic uniform simulates the same camo pattern used on the pants of all the other figures in the set tying him in nicely with the others. His armor plating has a slight metallic sheen and is colored a nice dark olive. When you add in his Steel Brigade inspired helmet you have a trooper that is ready to kick some Cobra tail all the way back to Springfield.
Barricade only has two detractors—one is his neck and the other is his accessory. It’s not quite so noticeable when his helmet is removed but Barricade has some serious giraffe-neck going on. It’s a matter of his shoulders being sloped or the torso colors distorting his proportions—his neck is just really really long. When you gear him up with his helmet its even more noticeable and old Barricade goes from resembling Jackie Chan (in my opinion) to resembling Ichabod Crane. Doing a little research at YoJoe.com shows that this has always been the case with Barricade so I can’t fault the AVTF version for this. It seems that just maybe he’s related to the Elongated Man. The second issue with Barricade is that the poor devil is only given one weapon. Sure he comes with the AVTF helmet that most of the team is equipped with and he also comes with the obligatory figure stand but one rifle just seems a bit scant to me. It’s a rifle that hasn’t been reissued to death yet, but it’s still just one rifle. Maybe it’s just me but Burnout’s Spy Troops shield would make a great accessory for Barricade.
This is also the first version of Charbroil that I’ve ever owned. I’ve seen him before at shows and on the web but I could never get past the bizarre color schemes that he was subjected to. (I also didn’t really like his helmet!) This version of Charbroil is a welcome relief from the Mardi-Gras palette of the past. In fact, his color scheme not only blends well with the other figures in the set but it also conveys a sense of military realism. While I may not understand why he has Michael Jackson “Thriller” shoulder pads, I really do like this figure.
Like Barricade, Charbroil has two real detractors. First off, his head sculpt is rather bland. It’s uncannily close to the mold that was used for Super Soldier, Knock Down, and Rapid Fire. It just seems really… blah. Add in the fact that his hair is the same color as the red used on Mutt’s and Roadblock’s uniforms and you a head that doesn’t seem to fit in with the rest. Maybe I’m just being too picky but Charbroil’s hair is unnaturally red—you’d almost swear that he’s dyed it that color to make a statement. I don’t see his AVTF helmet coming off too much in the future. Charbroil’s other issue is one that dates back to his original figure. He comes equipped with a flamethrower, a backpack, and a hose to connect the two. Instead of the usual rubber tubing, CB’s equipped with a thick plastic hose that is about as flexible as the religious right on the issue of gay marriage. This thing just doesn’t budge and attempts to bend it only strain the plastic. I’d much rather that Hasbro include extra rubber tubing for the connection and just left this piece at the factory. It is, however, part of his original equipment and a great many fans wouldn’t have been happy without it. So, that being said, Charbroil is a welcome addition to my Joe collection.
Conrad S. Hauser, v15 reporting for duty! I’ve read a lot of anti-Duke backlash on the web of late due to the high number of Duke figures that Hasbro has been producing. It seems like everywhere you turn around, the First Sergeant of the GIJoe team has a new figure. I don’t mind this abundance of Duke—just as long as they are good figures and this figure comes really close to being a good figure. He uses almost the entire mold of the original Duke—with the arms of what appear to be Gung-Ho v1. The color scheme works well for him; the olive drab shirt goes quite well with the tan camo pants that the entire AVTF is sporting. It’s nice to see the v1 head sculpt again even if he does have a goofy grin that goes against every impression of Duke I’ve ever had. I’m not certain why the original arms aren’t reused as well—but it’s nice to see that Hasbro at least has most of the original parts left.
Duke’s issues are again two-fold. First off, the colors used to paint his head are just--- unnatural. I realize that the skin tones on everyone but Roadblock are a bit off (too much red) but nowhere is this more obvious on Duke. His hair is excessively red blonde—almost to the point of being very light orange and I haven’t seen a skin tone this odd since George Hamilton starting doing television commercials again. I’m hoping that this figure sees a running change similar to what occurred with the Tiger Force set and that more natural skin tones return. My other issue with this figure is the use of Gung-Ho’s arms. Simply put: they don’t work. I’m not talking functionality—I’m referring to form. The arms appear as if they were transplanted from another person entirely. They have a smooth texture that is completely at odds with the rest of his uniform and, until this figure, I’ve never noticed just how spindly the original Gung-Ho arms are. I’ve read of people switching these arms with those of Lifeline but that just doesn’t work well as it leaves Lifeline with the same problem. (Note: if anyone is willing to part with an extra Lifeline I’ll gladly use those arms for Duke!) It’s the paint applications and the arms that keep me from ranking this as one of my favorite Duke figures.
I’ve always been a fan of this character. I can still remember getting him for Christmas in 1984 and thinking that he was one of the coolest figures ever! This reissue does the character justice! AVTF Mutt uses the same head, torso, and waist as the original 1984 version and thus retains a lot of his original character. He’s still got the snarling expression and straight hair that made him great back in the 80’s. Granted, he has some of the same skin tone issues as Duke, but it seems much less drastic here. His colors are great: red piping on the vest, brown t-shirt, olive shirt, gray vest, silver insignia, and black toggles on the vest. The only real oddity here is that his sleeves are the same color as his vest rather than his shirt. I’m not certain why this was done but it’s not enough to make me dislike this figure.
Mutt’s accessories aren’t really all that noteworthy—until you come to Junkyard. Unlike Snake Eyes, who has apparently lost his original companion, Mutt and Junk are back in business. I always loved the pair and found them much more interesting than Law and Order and I’m glad to see that the storage of the molds for years in warehouses couldn’t separate my favorite K9 officer and companion. Mutt is my second-favorite reissue in this set; I even like how he looks in the AVTF helmet! This is a great reappearance of a classic character!
Here it is—the pinnacle reissue of this set. If you buy this set for no other reason, get it for this Roadblock figure! I discovered this Roadblock mold a few years ago when I first becoming a part of the online fan community. I was blown away but just how distinctive this sculpt made Roadblock and once I owned him I could never again accept the original Roadblock mold. This sculpt has everything—a goatee, an earring (unpainted in this set but that’s easily remedied), and a terrific expression. (Maybe it’s just me but I think he bears more than a passing resemblance to Christopher Judge from “Stargate SG-1”. I’ve been watching the show on Sci-Fi recently and noticed that in some of the middle seasons his character Teal’c is sporting a soul patch and that he bears quite the resemblance to my favorite rhyming machine gunner.) The entire mold from Roadblock v3 is used here and it’s loaded with some of the fantastic detail that was found in the molds of the last two years of the regular series. Even his “RB” belt buckle is present on this previously un-reissued mold! The AVTF colors also work well for RB; green shirt and vest, black sleeves and harness, gray belt, and brown and black boots. I’m not really certain why he’s got red trim on his boots other than Hasbro felt a bright color was needed to “jazz up” the overall color scheme. Regardless, this is my absolute favorite piece in this set and a must-own for everyone who has a soft spot for the chef with the biggest gun!
Another fantastic aspect of this figure is the simple fact that he comes with most of his original gear! I’m not referring to the original gear for RB v4 but for RB v1! His ma deuce, tripod and backpack are present and look fantastic on this figure. Two years ago when I first acquired a RB v4 I equipped him with this same weapon set and it looks just as good on this figure as it did on the one I’d just acquired. My advice: quit reading this review and go to TRU. Snag this set and take RB out of the package first! Trust me, you won’t regret having him in your collection!
Here we come to the figure in this set that has caused the most controversy on the web. I’ve read everything from “he looks great” to “@#%$ing Hasbro! They turned him into Michael Jackson!” For whatever reason, the mold originally used for Stretcher has been used for Lifeline—including changing the paint apps to reflect Lifeline’s Caucasian ethnicity. This could have happened for any number of reasons—the most likely being that the copyright that Hasbro held on “Stretcher” has expired. The simple fact that this figure is referred to as “Sgt. Lifeline” implies that Hasbro no longer holds the copyright to “Lifeline”. Regardless of the reason, Stretcher has become Lifeline for this set. If you don’t like that—then get out your paint set and repaint him. Post pics of your handiwork on Joecustoms.com or JBL! No amount of bally-hooing or ranting is going to change the fact that this figure is now a Caucasian medic so let’s look at what we have instead of what we don’t have. At least we’re seeing the mold reissued—and in my book that’s a major plus.
The Lifeline/Stretcher mold is another mold that I didn’t have in my collection until just recently and that was in the form of the 2002 Sideswipe. I’m impressed with the mold—most especially the head sculpt. For some reason I’m a sucker for figures with com gear molded on to them. Big Ben, Mirage (Gasp! Sacrilege!), the latest Snake Eyes, and now this figure—it just adds a sense of “mission readiness to the figure” that isn’t found on every Joe. His expression is stern and the cap is a nice crowning touch. (Pun intended.) The torso of the figure is also loaded with nice detail; from his holstered pistol to the harness and straps this sculpt reflects the attention to detail that returned near the end of the original RAH run. One particularly noteworthy set of details is the two patches found on Lifeline’s biceps. The right arm sports a gray American flag and the left sports what is presumably the sigil of the AVTF. (These symbols are also found on the matching helmets that are issued to the other five figures in this set.)
Lifeline is equipped with all of the Stretcher’s original accessories and these are a mixed bag. I’m a big fan of the over-sized backpack that also apparently carries communications gear. I absolutely love the fact that the handset for the radio connects to the backpack and also mounts on the small post located on Lifeline’s left shoulder. It’s such a great variance from the standard backpack that simply hauls gear. This has both form and function and really adds to the character. What I don’t like about his accessories is that he comes with the same Jetson’s sled that Stretcher came with. I don’t mind the fact that Joe is not strict military realistic but I like accessories to at least be believable. I can’t look at this sled without hearing the sound that the Jetson’s car made as it flew by. Combine that with the fact that I can’t see this thing moving across anything other than ice and it’s pretty much useless to me. I hope that the mold for the stretcher that Doc came with hasn’t been lost, as I’d love to see that released in a future six-pack. As far as the “2099 Scooter” is concerned this mold could be sent to Antarctica and buried in the ice. I wouldn’t miss it one bit. Otherwise, this is another great figure in a set that is growing on me more and more the longer I own it!
What? You don’t recognize this character? Good, because it’s just an accessory. In previous subsets, paint schemes were used to tie figures together but for the Anti-Venom Task Force Hasbro has provided us with a unifying accessory. Seemingly based on the helmet of the Steel Brigade, this helmet also bears more than a passing resemblance to the molded headgear of Wild Weasel v2. (This is the figure that was included with the reissue of the Cobra Rattler at Toys R Us in 2002.) Regardless of its inspiration, this bit of protection is surprisingly detailed. The two sigils found on Lifeline’s arms are present, as well as the name of the character the helmet is assigned to. It’s that last extra detail that really makes me appreciate these and I plan on using them on the figures when they’re displayed. Now, the helmets aren’t a perfect fit on every character; in fact, they’re a bit sloppy on some. Barricade and Charbroil are a snug fit (although CB’s has to be positioned just right), Duke’s fits adequately but with some “play”, Mutt’s is a decent fit, and Roadblock’s goes on but fits extremely loosely. Granted, these helmets are cast from the identical mold so some variance in how they rest is expected with this “one size fits all” approach. The sloppiness in the fit on Roadblock’s could probably be corrected by placing some poster putty inside the helmet to fill some of the excess volume. Still, I prefer the matching headwear approach to some of the unified paint schemes of the past.
Overall, this is one of the absolutely best reissue sets TRU has stocked. The Night Force set was decent but some of the figures (Roadblock) just didn’t fare well in the set. The Tiger Force set was one that I passed on completely and I’ve just recently reviewed the Cobra Strike Team- Urban Division set. The Anti-Venom Task Force stands tall as the best of the Joe team reissue sets to date. Good character selection, great color schemes, good accessories all contribute to this being a must-have for many Joe fans. Hopefully this set will sell well enough to warrant a second AVTF—with even more classic molds being reissued in these colors. Get this set today—it certainly doesn’t disappoint.