Comic Pack Duke (25th Anniversary)
It’s taken me a while, but I now finally get to talk about something unusual from the 25th Anniversary line: a Duke figure that I didn’t regret getting. Yes, Resolute Duke was a 25th Anniversary line figure, but the Resolute sub-branding means I tend to place him with his Resolute brothers and sisters rather than the 25th Anniversary line figures. Most 25th Anniversary Duke figures were pretty bad, and honestly, the only one that even excited me a little was one that came in a comic pack. The comic featured Red Star and Duke and Duke was given an interesting new-to-him look. In the comic, it was justified as Duke needing some gear that he could fight in a little more easily. However, the look is clearly inspired by the looks the Original 13 had and I think that’s a neat concept to see. It’s kind of a what-might-have-been version of Duke. Personally, I tend to see this figure as a young Duke, having just joined the Joe team rather than their sergeant wearing battle togs, but regardless, this is something we haven’t seen from Duke, so it’s a nice addition.
This Duke is a pretty simple figure. Hasbro just took the 25th Anniversary Duke head and stuck it on the 25th Anniversary Snake Eyes body. The look actually works pretty well. I like the basic nature of the Snake Eyes mold. However, it does still have a few problems. First of all, there’s the visible mid-torso gap. On Snake Eyes, it was concealed pretty well by his webgear, but the 25th Anniversary Duke bandolier doesn’t hide it as well and honestly, it doesn’t fit on this torso as well as it does on Duke. Secondly, without the webgear, the Snake Eyes torso looks more like a speedsuit than it does a military uniform. Thirdly, the Snake Eyes mold is a bit scrawny. I hadn’t noticed it until I looked at this Duke, but he’s just a bit too lanky for my tastes. Once again, I think it’s a function of the missing webgear not giving the figure a little more visual weight. Finally, as good as the Duke head looks on top of Snake Eyes’ body, the Duke head is still extremely bland. Though I think the execution is a bit weak, it is still a different look for Duke but it’s something that fits with his character. For the time, this was an excellent figure, and I really enjoy that Hasbro did something a little different with Duke. I’d already passed on one weak comic pack with Duke. By making him look like one of the Original 13, Hasbro at least made a Duke figure interesting enough for me to not write him off as the cost of doing business to get Red Star.
The overall execution of the figure itself is kind of weak, and unfortunately, that extends to the paint work as well. The majority of the figure is molded out of olive drab green plastic. However, that leaves the figure looking a bit plastic-y. The boots are black and brown and look suitably military. Brown is also used for the straps on the figure and the removable bandolier. There are some black details on the figure, but the work isn’t great on these parts. Duke’s hands are painted in flesh tone, but the figure’s hands are molded like he’s wearing gloves. That leaves Duke with some wrinkly old man hands. I guess considering his first 25th Anniversary figure had terribly arthritic elbows, the old man hands kind of fit. Duke’s head is molded out of flesh tone plastic and unfortunately, that color doesn’t mesh at all with his hands. The mismatch is especially noticeable because Duke’s neck is painted rather than molded from flesh tone plastic. It honestly leaves Duke looking just a little cheap. I appreciate Hasbro going thisway with Duke, but like the overall design, the execution on his paint work just isn’t there. Honestly, what saves this figure for me is his great gear. It just works so well with Duke and it fits with this particular look that it’s hard not to like. Starting off with the worst piece, Duke gets the same ill-fitting helmet his first 25th Anniversary figure did. It looks just as bad on his head this time as it did before. Instead of getting a set of mini-binoculars, this version of Duke gets a full-sized set of them that look a lot like the vintage figure’s original piece. Plus,they’ve got a strap so you can hang them around Duke’s neck. Duke’s primary weapon is an M-16 and considering how simple he looks, I like the idea of Duke armed with a basic military rifle instead of something fancy. Duke also has a small pistol as a backup weapon, though strangely, he does lack a holster for it. To fill his sheath, Duke also gets a knife, but shockingly it’s a new mold. Rather than the basic combat knife we saw a lot during the 25th Anniversary line, Duke gets a knife with a smaller blade and a handle with grooves for his fingers. It’s much better gear that Duke got last time, and I really do think it helps make this figure a little cooler. While he’s not an amazing figure, this comic pack Duke does something different with the character, and I have to applaud Hasbro for that. Yes, he was a simple (and cheap) figure to make, but I don’t care. There’s something kind of charming about seeing Duke dressed up like he’s a part of the original Joe team. It’s something we haven’t seen before and it appeals to my nerd brain for some reason. Sure, he’s not on display any more, but for quite a while, this was my favorite modern Duke figure. It worked better than the vintage-inspired one and it was a Duke that looks a little more combat ready, and that appeals to me. Yes, he’s dated, but so are some of the early vintage figures. That doesn’t mean they’re terrible figures. You just have to appreciate them for what they were at the time.