I’m not a huge fan of the plethora of sub-teams that seemed to proliferate in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Groups like the Eco-Warriors and the DEF featured (for the most part) either new sculpts of existing characters or brand new characters. Others like the Tiger Force and the Sonic Fighters seemed to produce mostly redundant repaints while the Night Force actually seemed to improve on previously-released characters by giving them darker color schemes. One constant among all of these groups is that they relied on the use of existing characters rather than introducing new blood into the line. However, in 1990 a group of airborne specialists was introduced; they reused the bodies of existing characters but featured all new head sculpts and a new cast of soldiers. They were dynamic new additions to the line and made up a self-contained unit. They were the Sky Patrol.
As a young Joe fan I was never fortunate to own a Night Raven. My Cobra air force was limited to Rattlers, Fangs, CLAWS, and a lone Flight Pod. As a result I never actually owned a Strato-Viper until just a few years ago. The mold, if not a bit ornate for my tastes, was well-conceived, stylish without being over stylized, and featured a terrific color scheme in grays, blacks, and reds. For the Sky Patrol release of Drop Zone, Hasbro went back to that same mold but took it in an entirely different direction color-wise. The primary color is now a “rust brown orange” (try finding that in your 128 Crayola box), with the gloves and boots painted brown. The chest panel is now gray instead of red and the molded belt and pistol holster are painted in the same brown as the boots. There are some gray highlights on the boots. In other words, it is a radically different color scheme from that of the source figure which does help differentiate Drop Zone from the rest of your Strato-Viper forces. There are some great details in this mold such as the wrinkled nature of the chest panel as well as the laces that run up the side seam of Drop Zone’s boots. Hasbro even added some silver stitching along those seams for some extra detail. Overall, I have no complaints about the color scheme or the paint applications in this figure whatsoever. So, why then am I not more excited about the reuse of the Strato-Viper body for Drop Zone? I guess my indifference stems from the fact that I see this body more as that of a pilot than a paratrooper. It’s one of those situations where I’m looking at a terrific figure design but I can’t quite see in being used in its present context. Don’t mistake my indifference for any sort of outright dislike for the character—my new-found respect for the Sky Patrol simply won’t permit that. However I do think that Drop Zone might have been made even better by retaining this color scheme and simply applying it to a different figure body rather than that of the Strato-Viper.
One area where Drop Zone shines is with his head sculpt. At first glance this could almost be an older version of Flint. Both characters have a similar structure to their cheek bones and fore head. In fact I almost wonder if this might have been intended as a Flint head at one point. Superficial resemblances aside, Drop Zone, like the rest of Sky Patrol, has a head sculpt that just oozes character. The face is not that of a young soldier but rather the visage of an older experienced jumper. The hairline is starting to recede and the forehead is deeply lined. There is a shallowness to the cheeks that is not found in a youthful face. His expression is serious without being grim and the slight cleft in the chin adds yet another layer of character. Upon re-reading his file card I was amazed at just how well this facial sculpt seemed to fit his character description. Drop Zone is a man who loves his job and takes it extremely seriously. This is not to say that he is a dour humorless individual but rather someone who is extremely focused on the “task at hand”. He believes in the US Military and is truly happy with his lot in life. Perhaps I’m reading too much into a sculpted piece of plastic but I get all of this and more from this head sculpt which pushes Drop Zone over the edge of indifference and thoroughly into the “glad I own him” category.
There are two recurring themes in every review I’ve written for the Sky Patrol figures: “great head sculpts” and “odd accessories”. Drop Zone is the team’s weapons specialist—which means he’s proficient in the use, care, and repair of the team’s armaments. He’s the trooper who can grab just about any rifle or pistol off of the rack and show the others just how best to use it. As such, I’d expect him to come with a broad choice of pistols, SMG’s, and rifles. So, imagine my surprise (and amusement) when I saw that Drop Zone had been saddled with what appears to be a miniature anti-aircraft turret from WW2 without the deck mount. While not nearly as bizarre as Static Line’s “torso UFO”, this is an accessory that makes little or no sense to me—especially when characters such as Airborne, Skydive, and Airwave come with more believable gear. (Okay, “more believable” is a subject term when it comes to GIJoe.) Still I find it hard to believe that this is the best piece of weaponry that Hasbro could come up with. It’s just a bit too outlandish for me to believe. Like the rest of his unit, Drop Zone comes equipped with a helmet (with raising visor) and a parachute pack.
So, is Drop Zone worth buying? Sure, he’s got a great head sculpt but does the Strato-Viper body repaint really necessitate a purchase? I’m going to have to reply with an “affirmative”. Let’s face it; with only six members it’s foolish to only buy part of Sky Patrol. Each figure has some terrific qualities and Drop Zone is no exception. Sure he has a “doofy” primary weapon but that’s what someone like Marauder Inc is for. Is his body mold a bit odd for a HALO jumper? Probably, but he’s no worse than characters like Skymate for an impractical costume. While his parts might be a bit off, it’s the “whole character” that makes Drop Zone a worthwhile addition to any Joe collection. My advice is to go out and snag a complete set of the Sky Patrol. Once you’ve got one you just can’t stop until you’ve got the whole team.