Cloudburst (Project: Downfall)
When I got back into Joe collecting during high school, YoJoe exposed me to a lot of interesting figures I didn’t know existed. Growing up in Kansas and South Dakota, there was some Joe stuff that just kind of slipped by me. I think that geography is what helped me find earlier figures like Lady Jaye that wound up being a huge part of my playing because the older stuff would get gradually shipped further inland to make room for new product. However, that also meant that there were certain products I don’t recall seeing at all. One of those figure sets I never knew existed was the Air Commandos with their large, functional gliders. I think I remember seeing the Air Commandos Spirit once when we were on vacation in the Chicago area visiting my grandparents, but I don’t recall seeing them much beyond that. However, after I saw them online, I was kind of intrigued by these figures. If you told me that the GIJCC was going to be updating them as souvenir figures for what was initially believed to be the last Joe Con, I would have laughed. I just didn’t think they had a big enough following to warrant a modern update, but they fit nicely with Sky Patrol and I’m very pleased to finally get to discover the Air Commandos. Not all Air Commandos are created equal, though, and unfortunately, I think Chuck Ram (aka Cloudburst) isn’t quite as good of a figure as he could be.
Cloudburst’s parts recipe is actually pretty complex and I kind of like that. The vintage Cloudburst figure had a pretty complex design and that’s reflected quite accurately on the modern version. Cloudburst’s legs are a combination of Pursuit of Cobra Recondo’s lower legs and knees and what looks to be Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Viper uppers. Truthfully, I can’t quite tell whose upper legs they are, but they’re fairly basic but the internal panels look like a detail from that particular figure. The only thing I can’t quite crack is that the upper legs look a bit thinner than the Jungle Viper’s, so I’m not 100% sure that’s where they came from. Regardless, the pieces work well together and replicate Cloudburst’s legs quite effectively. Cloudburst’s torso and belt come from 25th Anniversary Dusty while his arms are from Rise of Cobra Ninja Mercenary Storm Shadow. To disguise the very basic Dusty parts, the GIJCC grabbed the removable webgear from the DTC Night Viper to make things a little more interesting and bring his look a bit more in line with the vintage figure. The DTC Night Viper webgear was a great piece to grab. It’s got straps similar to the vintage figure’s chest and a strap running across his chest. Plus, it’s a piece that hasn’t been seen since it was first used, so it feels really fresh. I knew it had been reused but for quite a while, I couldn’t figure out where it first saw use. The Storm Shadow arms are also quite effective at recreating the slightly insulated look the vintage figure’s arms had. Considering Cloudburst spends his time flying a glider at high altitudes, a little extra padding isn’t going to be out of place. Topping off the figure, Cloudburst has a brand new head sculpt. The overall design of his helmet is nice, but I kind of wish the GIJCC had done it as a removable piece instead of a static one. I always prefer removable helmets. Plus, I’m not wild about Cloudburst’s face sculpt. Like Lift Ticket, he just looks a little doofus-y and the vintage figure looked like a very serious military operator. I think part of my Cloudburst’s problem is that the eyes on mine are painted a bit wonky, but even without the wonky eyes, his dopey grin kind of reminds me of Gomer Pyle and that definitely doesn’t fit with Cloudburst’s established character. Despite some missteps on the face sculpt, Cloudburst is a very well put together figure and the GIJCC did an incredible job at updating a relatively obscure 90s Joe figure.
Cloudburst’s colors are heavily influenced by the vintage figure and while that means his color scheme is a little odd, it’s also rather striking. His pants and gloves are white while his torso is black and his sleeves, webgear, belt, kneepads, spats and helmet are a golden yellow color. It’s a very stark look, but it works quite well. Part of why it works well is that the paint work is so crisply done. If there were any slop, it would really hurt the look of this figure, but the clean work adds to the starkness of the contrasting colors. Black, white and yellow aren’t ideal colors for a commando, but considering his specialty, I can see Cloudburst wanting some bright colors on his uniform so it’s easier for friendlies to spot him in the field. There’s a little blue up on the helmet’s visor, referencing the original figure’s removable blue visor. I do wish the visor could be placed over his eyes, but as it stands, it’s a sharp static piece. As I mentioned before, my Cloudburst has some pretty wonky eyes and that’s a bit of a bummer. Being able to cover the wonky eyes with a visor wouldn’t have hurt my feelings any. As it stands, though, the GIJCC did an excellent job of putting the vintage figure’s colors on its modern iteration and keeping them mostly in the same places. The only missing color is some bright orange on his thigh pockets. While I would have liked to see it for completeness’s sake, I think the figure does look a little better without the bright orange, so I think the GIJCC made the right call to cut that color from the modern figure.
If there was one place the vintage Air Commandos fell a little short, it was on the accessory front. Most of the money went to the functional gliders, so the vintage Cloudburst figure only had one weapon. The GIJCC was able to up his gear load considerably and give him a great non-functional glider instead and I think he’s a better figure for it. For a glider, the GIJCC tapped the SpyTroops Barrel Roll glider that Hasbro retooled for modern figures during the Rise of Cobra era. The glider is far better armed than the original Air Commando glider with a Vulcan cannon mounted in the middle of the glider, two large missiles mounted near the pilot, two machine guns mounted on top of the glider out near where the wings attach to the body, and a pair of rockets on each wing tip. Cloudburst is definitely one well-armed Air Commando this time when he’s in his glider. The glider is painted teal with a purple geometric camouflage color scheme on the top. The guns, Vulcan cannon and rockets are painted black, while the larger missiles are painted teal with yellow bands on them. The number “7-66” is tampoed on the underside of each wing, which is what was on the top of the vintage glider’s wings. The glider has a removable steering bar, which adds a little bit of realism compared to some Joe and Cobra gliders, however, there’s no way you can get Cloudburst’s hands on it, which is a bit of a drawback. For weapons, Cloudburst comes with the silenced and scoped Uzi that first came with Rise of Cobra Paris Pursuit Baroness and the very cool assault rifle that came with Retaliation Cobra Commander. These are both excellent pieces and look great in Cloudburst’s hand. The assault rifle also has an open spot in the stock that you can hook on the hook built into Cloudburst’s webgear. If Cloudburst’s hand could get on the bar, that would be a neat feature because it means he could carry his gun on him while he’s piloting the glider. Giving him the retooled SpyTroops glider was a great way to reference his signature accessory without breaking the bank and the GIJCC gave him two great weapons to fight with, so I’m very happy with his gear.
I’m sure Cloudburst wasn’t terribly high on anyone’s update list. However, that’s what makes him a perfect candidate for a souvenir figure. The Air Commandos set sold briskly enough that it was sold out by the end of the con, but I imagine the supply is such that if someone wanted Cloudburst, they were probably still able to get him. However, if you didn’t care about Cloudburst, his not being in your collection wasn’t going to be a gaping hole like Frostbite. Cloudburst was a nice surprise as a souvenir for Joe Con and I’m glad I was able to get one at con. While I know the Air Commandos weren’t on my radar as a kid, they have been as an adult, and for some reason, I’m kind of drawn some of the weirder and more obscure facets of the Joe brand, and those two adjectives definitely describe Cloudburst pretty accurately.