Like many youths in the 80’s, my introduction to GIJoe: A Real American Hero in media form was through the animated Sunbow series. In fact, it was the debut mini-series “The MASS Device” that led me to seek out the Marvel Comics series and led to my further immersion into the lore that was GIJoe. It was only when I started reading the comics that I realized that Duke, the then-leader of my meager force of Joes, was in fact not the ‘man in charge’. Sure, I had an MMS and a “Missile Commander” Hawk figure but nothing on the file card gave any indication that Clayton Abernathy was actually the leader my toy chest’s premiere counter-terrorist unit. It wasn’t until 1986 that Hawk’s role as team leader was irrefutably established the release of the first General Hawk figure. It was at this point that my MMS Missile Commander figure was retired to the bottom tray of my figure case as there was a new general in town! It was only a matter of time until Hasbro released an updated version of Hawk’s signature look.
For many Joe fans (myself included) this is THE definitive look for Clayton Abernathy. The camouflage and the leather bomber jacket with the goggle-topped helmet is the look that sets Hawk apart from Duke and yet still gives him a “man of action” feel. In terms of recreating the classic character design Hasbro has once again proven that they are mostly up to the task. (I’ll explain the “mostly” remark later.) Hawk’s BDU pants are functional in appearance without any great amount of sculpted detail. The figure does have some newly-sculpted combat boots that I’ve no doubt will see more use in future waves and the added belt and holster hangs perfectly around the figure’s waist. The real high and low point of this figure’s design however is found in the leather “bomber jacket” that adorns the figure’s torso. In terms of sculpted detail, Hasbro went “all out”! The arms and chest of the body not only have sculpted folds in the “leather” but also feature a variety of molded pockets and medals. The left side of Hawk’s chest is now a literal “salad bar” of ribbons and medals while the right side is adorned by a set of wings and a panel with the moniker of “Abernathy”. I’ll be honest—I’m not enough of a military buff to begin to hazard a guess at what the various medals and ribbons are supposed to represent but the effect is rather impressive. Yes, Hawk probably wouldn’t be wearing all of this pinned to his leather jacket but visually the “salad” makes for a nice bit of detailing that enhances the overall appearance of the figure. I’m not crazy about the “glued on” jacket collar which really doesn’t sit well at all on the figure. (It gives the impression of something tacked on at the last minute.)
In a previous paragraph I mentioned that this figure’s design was “mostly up to the task”; it’s now time to clarify that last remark. Up to this point, the term “Duke arms’ has filled long-time fans of the ARAH-era character with a sense of dread. Used in seemingly endless repetition, these poorly conceived limbs have left many figures in the 25A line with a less than desirable range of motion and a visually distracting cut joint on the wrist. It would seem that part of Hasbro’s efforts to age the character of Hawk a bit (as evidenced by the gray paint wash on the figure’s hair) was to afflict the figure with a nearly debilitating case of arthritis. In other words, Hawk’s elbows have a smaller range of motion than even the dreaded “Duke arms”. The pose showcased in the card art for this figure is all but impossible to achieve as Hawk’s elbows can’t even bend as far as Duke’s. Now this leads me to one very troubling theory—and that is that someone prominently placed on Hasbro’s design team really doesn’t see this limited articulation as an issue. After all, the first 25A Cobra Troopers had a more limited range of motion in their elbows than their ARAH counterparts, as did Duke and now Hawk. Whereas figures such as Destro v2 and Bazooka showcase new levels of design improvement, Hawk represents a step backwards in terms of quality. One of my biggest complaints about this “no-ring” style of construction is that frequently the new version of a classic character is actually less poseable than their ARAH era counterpart. Yes, Hawk has a mid-torso joint and double-jointed knees but the most-used joints on the entire figure are barely joints at all. Call me crazy but I just don’t see this as a size that someone at Hasbro is properly thinking these designs through before putting them into production. (Either that or there is a serious issue at the factory in China.) Regardless, and I’m sure I’ll be called a nit-picker by more than one reader, I find this decreased range of motion unacceptable and disappointing.
In the end, “GIJoe General” is a bit of a frustrating figure for me. On one hand, Hasbro has produced a figure with some really terrific detail in the upper torso that is amazingly faithful to the original character design. On the other hand, the glued on collar and the poorly-designed elbows make me wish that this figure had been delayed for a wave or two until Hasbro was able to really refine this design. Hawk is, in many ways, a perfect example of the inconsistencies that have plagued this new 25A era line from its inception. Sure, lots of new articulation has been added to the figures but the functionality of the most basic joints is severely diminished. Yes, the sculpting on this figure is far superior to the original 1986 version but the “tacked on” collar conveys the impression more of a toy show mock-up prototype than a final production piece. In the end, General Hawk is one of those figure that I’m on the fence about. He’s nice to look at but if I wanted a “nerd hummel” I’d have purchased a McFarlane figure. When it comes to GIJoe I’ve always enjoyed a combination of great sculpting with a wide range of functional articulation. Hawk comes close in some areas but ultimately misses the mark in other crucial arenas. As such, he only gets a moderate recommendation from me.