Air Devils (Project: Downfall)
When the GIJCC first announced the Sky Patrol theme, I was excited. However, I didn’t really know what they could do with the Cobra side of things. Yes, there were the two international Sky Patrol Cobras, but beyond that, I wasn’t quite sure what way they’d go for army builders. I think Night Vulture was the first army builder revealed and when I saw that, I thought the GIJCC made a brilliant call by tapping the Cobra side of the Air Commandos for the set. I don’t really have ties to any of the Air Commandos, so the GIJCC kind of had a blank slate to work with for me and while I’m starting with the Air Devil instead of the Night Vulture since Night Vulture is a better figure, I think the GIJCC made a great, somewhat outside-the-box choice for their army builders this year and I really find myself enjoying the modern version of the Air Devils.
The Air Devil build is relatively simple, but it captures the spirit of the vintage look quite well, even if the GIJCC made what I feel are a few odd choices. The torso and legs come from the great Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Viper figure. I like these parts a lot because they’re good pieces and we haven’t seen them reused a lot. The legs and torso have a thick but sleek feel to them, which I think works well for a Cobra glider commando. They’re going to need something aerodynamic yet still protective if they want to insert into the battlefield and be a threat. The torso and the inner thighs also have a crosshatched texture, which is something that the vintage figure had as well. I will say, though, that the ankle holsters (which mine initially didn’t have) do create a little problem with clipping on the wing pack. It’s not a terribly big deal, but with as fiddly as I find the wing pack to be to begin with, having to fiddle with it more to get it to look right is a little bit of an annoyance. Thanks to the Jungle Viper torso, the Air Devil also has some large pouches on his chest. Again, it’s a nice touch that references the original figure’s design while not having to tool up new parts. The arms come from a somewhat surprising place, but I do like the choice. Air Devil’s arms are shared with the 25th Anniversary Alley Viper. These pieces are starting to get reused a little more often, but they still make sense for the Air Devil. Like the Jungle Viper parts, the Alley Viper arms have an element of sleekness to them, but they still feel quite substantial. I still love the arm bands with the molded Cobra sigils and the knife sheath on his right wrist is still a nice touch. Topping off the figure, the GIJCC made an excellent call for the figure’s head, though I’m not wild about the choice they made to replicate the vintage figure’s faceplate. The head itself is the same one that was used with Retaliation Night Fox/Ultimate Duke. I really like that masked head and the helmet and goggle combination does an incredible job of referencing the original Air Devil look. I realize the vintage Air Devil wasn’t wearing a helmet, but I think the addition of a helmet is a smart call. After all, I’m hard pressed to think of any footage I’ve seen of glider pilots or parachutists where they weren’t wearing some head protection. The Air Devil does wind up with a masked lower face, but I think that’s fine. I kind of like my Cobras to have completely covered faces and the lower facemask does tie him back to the classic Cobra Trooper look. However, the vintage figure also had a unique head sculpt that had two pegs sticking off the sides so a flip down face screen could be attached. Obviously, the GIJCC couldn’t do this, but they tried to replicate it with the face shield that we first saw with 30th Anniversary Renegades Law. I applaud the GIJCC for trying to replicate this look, but that face shield is just not a great piece. I’ve never found it to fit on Law’s helmet all that well and it’s a fairly fiddly piece when used with the Air Devil as well. I like the Air Devil’s look without it, but it does look pretty good on the figure…if you can get it on somewhat securely. KansasBrother found that if you have it ride at about a 45 degree angle to the molded goggle straps it manages to get enough purchase on the head to keep it on while not having it ride so low that it covers the Air Devil’s goggles. The Air Devil’s construction is solid, though as I said, there are a few things I’m not wild about. However, I also can’t really fault the GIJCC for the decisions they made here, so I’ll chalk my issues with them up more to personal preference than anything else.
The Air Devil’s color scheme is a fairly faithful recreation of the vintage figure and that’s a great choice. While I didn’t have the vintage Air Devil growing up, as I started exploring the Joe brand back in high school, I thought that the Air Devil was a fairly striking-looking figure and one of those late line gems. The figure is mostly red with a lot of black trim. The boots, kneepads, arm bands, gloves, and insulated parts of the suit are done up in black. The black contrasts very nicely with the red on the figure. There’s a little bit of silver on him as well, with the pouches and molded Cobra sigils on the armbands done in silver. The head sculpt is mostly black with red for the goggles, facemask and the little molded detail on the brow of the helmet. The detail might not have originally been a Cobra sigil, but done up in red, it does look kind of like a stylized Cobra sigil. Once again, I have to applaud the GIJCC paint team for the smart choice to take a molded detail and through just paint, repurpose it to something more Cobra. I think this was more successful than repurposing the Accelerator Suit chest armor into a Cobra sigil, so I have to applaud the GIJCC paint team for thinking outside the box a little and turning something that could have just been painted over since it didn’t mesh with the figure and tweaking it a little to make it look like a Cobra sigil. The paint work is cleanly done and the Air Devil is a sharp-looking figure.
I’ve already touched on a few of his accessories, but there are a few additional pieces I need to discuss, plus while I’ve touched on the wing pack, I haven’t said everything I want to about it. I’m still not a big fan of the wing pack, but I think it was a clever way to equip the Air Devils. It stands in decently for a glider, and considering they’re supposed to be commandos, I think the wing pack is actually slightly more practical for them than a full glider would be. The wing pack looks sharp in red and black and I love the added detail on the fabric back. If the color scheme wasn’t enough of an indicator that this wing pack belonged to an Air Devil, the Air Devils also get their own unique logo. It’s a Cobra sigil that comes together at the bottom and then continues into a devil tail. It’s a simple variation on the Cobra sigil, but I think it’s absolutely genius and I love the design of it. To fill his ankle holster, the Air Devil gets a pistol. It’s not a flashy piece, but I do appreciate holsters being filled. The Air Devil also gets a dagger to fill the sheath on his right arm. The Air Devil’s only other weapon is the same futuristic pistol that came with one of the Retaliation Snake Eyes figures. It’s a nice compact weapon that looks like it has some stopping power, but it’s not a heavy weapon by any means. The filecard notes that, like the Range Vipers, the Air Devils are supposed to procure heavier firepower on the battlefield itself. I liked that detail back in the day with my Range Viper, and I like that the GIJCC thought it would be something that the Air Devils would do as well. After all, if you’re a glider pilot, every ounce of weight you carry decreases your flight range, so you’d want to travel light. It’s nice that the figure’s gear reflects that sensibility as well.
The Air Devil is a deceptively simple figure. There aren’t a lot of different parts used, but everything works together quite well. The GIJCC managed to walk the fine line of referencing the vintage figure without having to invest massive amounts of new tooling to do so. I know a lot of people are a bit down on the GIJCC for not making a lot of new tooling, especially in FSS V, but truthfully, not every figure needs new tooling. The GIJCC managed to create a great version of the Air Devil without having to do anything extra. The look is close enough you know who it’s supposed to be at a glance, but it also updated the look and truthfully made it just a little more effective. I’m still not wild about the visor and I’ve never personally been a big fan of the wing pack, but it’s a solid figure and it’s an army builder that’s nice enough that I kind of like having three of them. Everything comes together surprisingly well and recreates a figure that may not have a huge fan base, but truthfully, I think that’s just because it came with a big, kind of awkward glider. I know the reason I passed on the Air Commandos the few times I ever saw them as a kid is because that big glider really drove up the price. I think there are a lot of Joe fans that didn’t have that figure in their childhood collections because it was a more expensive piece. The modern Air Devil does an excellent job of referencing the classic figure’s design while adding a few neat twists on the look that really work well for it.