Black Vulture (Project: Downfall)
I’ve mentioned before that I’m not super into foreign Joe figures. While I think they’re interesting variations on things we’ve seen in America, I generally don’t think they’re something I need to track down. However, there is one exception to that rule—the international Sky Patrol figures. I’ve always been strangely fascinated with those figures, especially since the international releases added two Cobras to the mix. I was hoping that when the Sky Patrol theme was announced that we’d be seeing the international members as well, and though the Joes, Albatross (Albatroz) and Eagle Commando (Aguia Commando), didn’t make an appearance, I’m quite pleased that the Cobras, Black Vulture (Abutre Negro) and Flying Scorpion (Escorpiao Voador), made the trip up from South America. Honestly, the Cobras were way more important to me than the Joes. The figures were all fairly simple kitbashes, but I think the choices for the Cobras were more effective than they were for the Joes. Abutre Negro, now Black Vulture, was definitely the harder figure to part out and unfortunately, that does mean he’s the weaker of the two.
Black Vulture uses a wide range of parts and they do come together quite well. However, there are a few issues with parts choices that impact my enjoyment of the figure. Black Vulture’s legs come from Pursuit of Cobra Beachhead, and I really like that choice. Those are good legs that we have seen reused extensively. While they aren’t perfect stand-ins for the vintage Dee-Jay legs, I think they’re a good call. The GIJCC even remembered to justify the computer on the leg by turning Black Vulture into a data acquisition expert in addition to being commander of the Night Vultures. The legs work quite well for a stealth operative who specializes in breaking into secure installations to steal valuable data. Black Vulture’s torso comes from the Rise of Cobra Accelerator Suit Ripcord figure. I applaud the GIJCC for trying to find a way to replicate the raised Cobra sigil that the original figure had courtesy of Cesspool, but this is just kind of a weird choice. The neck is still a tad too long for most heads meaning he’s got a bit of a giraffe neck, though it’s not as pronounced as it was on FSS 4.0 Barricade. The sloping armor on the back also makes it difficult to securely attach his wing pack. The armored look works well for Black Vulture, but this piece just doesn’t quite work as well as it should. The arms are shared with Retaliation Snake Eyes and while the vintage Black Vulture wasn’t quite as armored as the modern version, the armored arms mesh well with the more armored torso. Plus, they’re well designed pieces, so I don’t mind seeing them here. Topping off the figure, Black Vulture uses the unmasked 30th Anniversary Renegades Cobra Trooper. I’ll admit, whenever I parted out Sky Patrol, I tended to give this head to Airborne and used a newly sculpted piece for Black Vulture, but it does approximate the original look fairly well. The helmet is not quite as round as the original Dee-Jay head, but it’s still very effective. The scowl molded into the figure’s face is a nice touch, since I seem to recall after dropping the vintage Abutre Negro’s filecard text into a free translator program that even Estrela’s original characterization made him sound kind of thuggish and that face sculpt works well with it. Much like the vintage Abutre Negro figure, Black Vulture pulls parts from a wide variety of figures and truthfully, the parts used shouldn’t work together, but they do. I’m still not wild about the accelerator suit torso, but I do feel I should applaud the GIJCC for at least trying to recreate that detail, even if I don’t think it was effective as it could have been. I think that it works better than the 30th Anniversary Techno-Viper vest would have worked for this character.
Much like the Crimson Guard, Black Vulture’s name gives you a pretty good idea of what his color scheme is going to be. However, I think it’s great that the GIJCC added a little more color to him to make him slightly more visually interesting. The base of the figure is black, but compared to the vintage figure, there’s a lot more silver, and truthfully I kind of like that. I know it would be a bad choice for a covert insertion specialist like Black Vulture, but it’s still a striking look and I’m a big fan of that. The figure’s legs are mostly black, with silver used on the cuffs of his pants, the kneepads, and the straps on his legs. The leg computer is molded out of silver and gets a bit of red for the display screen. The figure’s torso is, again, primarily black but there’s silver on his belt and codpiece and up on his chest armor. The bottom three-quarters of the chest armor is done in red and it does approximate the vintage raised Cobra sigil surprisingly well. However, I will say, if you don’t know that’s what it’s supposed to be, it doesn’t make quite as much sense. KansasBrother thought that’s what it was supposed to be but he wasn’t sure until I confirmed it with him when we were looking over our sets the first night at the hotel. The arms are also black, but there’s silver on the shoulder armor as well as the bracers and gloves. Truthfully, all the additional armor being done up in silver is a pretty nice change from the vintage Abutre Negro look. Up top, Black Vulture’s head is quite similar to the vintage figure, with Caucasian skin tone, silver goggles and a black helmet. However, to tie him to the A.D.D.E.R.S. and Cobra Air Corps, he gets the red winged Cobra sigil on the center of his helmet. I think that’s a great detail and I love that the GIJCC remembered this logo existed and used it extensively in this set. It was a great logo when Hasbro designed it, but since there’s never been much of a Cobra air force, it hasn’t seen that much use. It makes perfect sense for it to be used here with the Cobra A.D.D.E.R.S. and it’s a sharp-looking piece.
Black Vulture doesn’t have a lot in the way of gear, however, that’s not terribly surprising since he’s got a pretty large backpack. Black Vulture uses the Pursuit of Cobra Skydive jet pack and that’s a great call. It’s an incredibly well-detailed piece and the wings look fairly avian. I like that Black Vulture’s backpack fits with the bird motif that his name establishes. The backpack also has a pair of small missiles that I can see Black Vulture using to deter pursuit or as a distraction when he’s on his way out of a facility. Truthfully, the design of the backpack almost makes me think of it as a jet drone. I’m going to be dating myself a little bit here, but bear with me on the tangent. In the 90s, there was a C-list comic character named Cardiac whose schtick was that he was an anti-hero that targeted corporations that were doing bad things but had a good front to them. He usually ran afoul of super heroes who would fight him until they realized that Cardiac was stopping these corporations from breaking the law. Cardiac had this neat bird drone that he used to insert and extract himself from the field and for some reason, I get that same kind of vibe here. I can see Black Vulture flying in on this, dropping off from it and then it just patrolling the area until Black Vulture summons it back and him leaping off a rooftop onto the drone to escape pursuit at the last minute. Tangent aside, I like that Black Vulture’s jet pack gives me some neat story ideas. For weapons, Black Vulture doesn’t have a lot, but that fits with the characterization in the filecard. He’s much more of a covert operator, so he wouldn’t be carrying a full arsenal of weapons. He’d be packing something in case the mission goes sideways, but he tends to rely on stealth rather than overwhelming firepower to get in and out of situations. His firearm is the same great gun that came with 30th Anniversary Renegades Law. It’s a nice, compact piece that has stopping power, but wouldn’t necessarily weigh Black Vulture down too much. As a nice touch, the clip sticking off the bottom of the gun is fairly similar to the clips molded into the Beachhead legs. That’s a nice bit of synergy there, and I’d guess that was something that was planned rather than just a happy accident. Black Vulture also carries the same great knife that I believe first came with the Rise of Cobra M.A.R.S. Industries Officer. I’m on record as to saying how much I like this piece, and I think it’s a great fit for Black Vulture. Knives are quieter than guns, so I can see Black Vulture being quite adept at stealthily eliminating guards with it, but I can also see him using it as an interrogation tool, threatening a guard (or a captured Joe) with this wicked blade so they’ll tell him what he needs to know. Black Vulture’s gear really helps me define the character even more and I love it when gear gives me ideas like this.
Black Vulture unfortunately isn’t one of my favorite figures out of the Project Downfall con set, but he’s still a solid figure. The issues between the figure’s back and backpack are kind of a bummer, but I don’t know how the GIJCC could have recreated the vintage figure’s chest without tooling up something new, so I’ll accept it. I’m not wild about it and that’s why Black Vulture isn’t higher on my list for this con set, but he’s still a good figure. Black Vulture is a character I’m glad to see enter the ranks of modern figures. He’s a neat addition based on an excellent foreign Joe figure that is, most importantly to me, a new character. I think that’s part of why I’m usually so cold on international variants. A lot of them are just figures we got in the United States with slightly different color schemes and a different name. However, with Abutre Negro and the rest of the international Patrulha Do Ar figures, the folks at Estrela pieced together their own figures out of existing Joe parts. The new characters Estrela created weren’t all great, but they were doing something different and I appreciate that. I kind of enjoy when the GIJCC dabbles in international figures because that means I’m adding someone new to me and I get to meet a character for the first time. Black Vulture works well despite some of the problems and really, it’s hard for me to be disappointed in him. He had a lot to live up to because I’m strangely fascinated with the Brazilian Sky Patrol figures, but the GIJCC did a decent job of capturing the spirit of the original figure without doing a straight up recreation of him.