Ace and Skystriker (50th Anniversary)
I’ll admit, I was kind of torn on the Silent Strike set. I really liked the HISS, but I felt a little bored by the Skystriker. I already have the 30th Anniversary version and I really only need one Skystriker in my collection. The Wolf Squad concept has made it grow on me, but I’m still just a little tired of seeing the Skystriker. I know most of its other releases have been convention exclusives (Starscream and Jetfire from SDCC and the Night Boomer and Sky Patrol Skystriker from the GIJCC), but it’s still been used a lot since it was first released a few years ago. Part of what made me like the 30th Anniversary Skystriker so much is that it has been so long since we’d seen Skystriker. It’s not a bad vehicle, but absence definitely made the heart grow fonder and the Skystriker hasn’t been away from us long enough for me to think “You know what would be really cool? Seeing the Skystriker again.” It’s a decent enough piece and it fits with the rest of this year’s offerings, but I’m starting to feel a bit burned out on this vehicle and if it hadn’t come with a slightly redesigned HISS (and I actually don’t have any standard modern HISS tanks in my collection), I’m not sure I would have jumped on this set.
I think part of what makes this set feel a little boring is that everything is pretty much the same compared to its 30th Anniversary counterpart. Even Ace is basically recycled from the 30th Anniversary line. It’s a good design, but unlike Sightline being a repainted Ultimate Duke, I just don’t find Wolf Squad Ace quite as exciting. The legs are a combination of Pursuit of Cobra Skydive and Ace and they work well for a slightly futuristic flight suit. The torso comes from Resolute jet pack Duke and once again, it fits with the futuristic flight suit motif. The arms are also shared with Pursuit of Cobra Skydive and they fit well with the overall look. The head and chest harness are from 25th Anniversary Ace and help complete the look. The head is about the only good thing to come out of 25th Anniversary Ace and it still looks pretty good here. In addition to the figure itself, Ace is also wearing a parachute pack around his waist and some leg harnesses. The look comes together very well, I just wish I hadn’t seen it all before. The only difference between 50th Anniversary Ace and 30th Anniversary Ace is the helmet and I really like the helmet he’s wearing this time. It’s shared with Pursuit of Cobra Skydive, but without all the hoses it looks very different. I’ll admit, it does look kind of Cobra-y, but it also looks pretty futuristic and I think it fits Ace’s overall look very well. It’s just a shame the new helmet doesn’t solve the same-old, same-old feeling I get from this figure.
The only thing that really makes this version of Ace different from his 30th Anniversary predecessor is the color scheme. He’s got a very small (and honestly pretty illegible) version of the Wolf Squad logo on his left bicep armor, identifying him as a part of this new team. That means he also shares the urban-styled camouflage of Wolf Squad. The bulk of Ace’s flight suit is an interesting almost metallic gray. It looks good on Ace and is a nice color to be used underneath the rest of the flight suit. Over the dark metallic gray, there’s quite a bit of light gray. Normally, I’d say that this makes the figure look overly dark, but surprisingly, this works for Ace and he’s still a visually interesting character. Like the rest of Wolf Squad, he’s also got a few splashes of red. There are two red stripes on Ace’s left leg and there’s also some red on his chest belt. The metallic gray and red are carried up onto Ace’s helmet, and I honestly think that’s what gives this figure a bit of a Cobra vibe. Ace is dark and kind of intimidating and that’s not a look normally associated with Joe characters. It’s not a bad look by any means and I like that Ace’s color scheme is so drastically different from the 30th Anniversary figure, but I question how well it works for a Joe in general.
I’ve talked about the majority of Ace’s accessories already since they’re important to create the flight suit look, but surprisingly, Ace isn’t completely unarmed. First of all, he’s got a pistol to fill the ankle holster courtesy of the Pursuit of Cobra Skydive legs. If that’s all he had, that would be fine since vehicle drivers have never been really kitted out. However, Ace also picks up a cool submachine gun. I know it’s not a new mold, but it’s something I also don’t have in my collection. It’s relatively small so it looks lightweight and easily stowable, two things that would important for Ace’s weapon. It’s a nice addition to Ace and I’m glad to see the vehicle drivers picking up a few more weapons.
The Skystriker itself, design-wise, is completely unchanged from the 30th Anniversary version. It’s a great modern representation of the classic Joe jet. The missile attachment points have been redesigned since I bought my Skystriker because these hold on much tighter. The only real change between this version and my 30th Anniversary one is the color scheme. The Skystriker’s main body is a very dark gray with lighter metallic gray stickers for the trim. I actually used a combination of the lighter stickers and darker ones because I think the pairing looked cool. The cockpit is translucent red and I’m not sure what I think of it on a Joe vehicle. It looks striking, but it also looks way too sinister. There’s a bit of red trim on the back of the Skystriker as well. The tail fins swap out the standard Skystriker logo for the Wolf Squad logo and it’s really our first good look at it. The fire-breathing wolf head is a striking logo and feels very military. It’s a striking look, but it’s functionally not that different from the Night Boomer. Yes, the Night Boomer was black and red and this is dark gray and light gray with just a little bit of red, but at their core, they’re both dark Skystriker repaints. I wish Hasbro would have come up with something a little more interesting so the 50th Anniversary Skystriker didn’t feel like a bit of a retread.
I’m still a bit of two minds about the 50th Anniversary Skystriker. It is a very nice looking piece, but it just doesn’t excite me like the 30th Anniversary version did. I think part of it is that everything is basically the same as the 30th Anniversary version. I wonder if maybe putting someone other than Ace behind the stick would have made things a little more interesting. Slipstream hasn’t gotten a real update since the 25th Anniversary line and could use a more modern look. However, for my money, I wonder if Jonas “Ghost Rider” Jeffries wouldn’t have been the best call. After all, his profile got raised in the comic series at the start of the Cobra Nation arc and a stealthy Skystriker just begs to be piloted by the Joe team’s first stealth pilot. I know, the Ghost Rider trademark issues would have been annoying, but why not just call him Sgt. Jeffries. After all, his schtick in the comics is that no one can remember his name or codename anyway (probably because of the copyright issues). Why not reference that here? He’d be a pretty easy build with modern parts and he’d look great behind the control sticks of a Skystriker, especially a darkly-colored one that could be termed a “stealth Skystriker.” It would have added a little more value to the Silent Strike set and I think it would be great to own a modern version of Ghost Rider. I have a long and involved history with him and I think he’s another pilot that deserves a little more attention than he gets. As it stands, the 50th Anniversary Skystriker is an excellently executed modern vehicle. I just wish Hasbro could have done something to make it different from the version we saw a few years ago in the 30th Anniversary line.