Crimson HISS & Crimson Horseman (2011)
For the foreseeable future, my Field Reports are going to focus on what I’ve currently got on display. That means, by and large, everything I’ll be talking about is modern style. I still have a great deal of love for the vintage Joes, but I played with those figures a lot. Accessories have gone missing over the years or have broken, and I feel that to provide an accurate review of a figure, I need to have all their accessories. I do also have a lot of new sculpt pieces that I have kept track of their accessories far better since I was in high school and college when that product started coming out, but those are in pretty deep storage. Due to the more adult-collector oriented nature of the modern style, it’s been a lot simpler to keep track of pieces since they don’t lend themselves as well to play. I have no problem with collectors not interested in the modern era items and I’ll freely admit that there are some problems especially with the early modern era product, however, this is what my collection is focused on and I hope that there will be a degree of respect extended to this modern era collection that has always been afforded vintage collectors.
This review is a major departure from my collection, a repainted vehicle—though I haven’t reviewed the original vehicle since it’s still in storage somewhere after my last move. I’ve never been a huge vehicle collector so I’ve definitely never been a completist. I bought the first PoC HISS as soon as it came out. However, I liked this design so much and thought the new driver for the Crimson HISS was so good that I actually felt it was worth buying what was essentially the exact same vehicle twice.
I was at JoeCon in 2009 when this design was first unveiled at the Hasbro panel as a prototype being shown by its lead designer without a full slide mockup. The room was abuzz with opinions and it quickly wound up on display in the upcoming product case even though it was supposed to be a long way off. However, there were distinctly two camps about the new PoC HISS—those that thought it was going to be awesome and those that thought it was way too radical a departure from the classic HISS for it to be called that. I’ll freely admit that I was in the first camp. While I have fond memories of the classic HISS, I really liked that the modern version took a classic concept and turned it on its ear to make something very distinctive.
The first thing that I recall many people questioning (even in the panel) was the lack of a glass canopy front. However, I kind of agreed with the Hasbro design team’s rationale on this one—modern warfare has made large openings on tanks pretty much obsolete. With cameras and fiber optic linkups inside, you can completely armor a vehicle and have a better field of view than a tanker could have otherwise. Plus, in my opinion, the armored front makes this version of the HISS look very menacing. Coming off Rise of Cobra, another area of concern was the “attack mode” concept—where the main body of the HISS pops up from its treads and turns into more of a static fortification. The last HISS to have an attack mode was the Joe Vs. Cobra HISS v4, which even I’ll admit was pretty bad and I’m a guy that doesn’t believe that any Joe product can be entirely bad and has to have some sort of redeeming feature.
However, the way this HISS was designed the feature was pretty unobtrusive. I should note, however, that the pivot point on the Crimson HISS seems quite a bit tighter than the one for the original PoC HISS which strikes me as a bit odd. It may just be a function of the fact that I haven’t fiddled around with this HISS as much as I have the other, but I still don’t remember the PoC HISS’s pivot in attack mode to ever be that tight. The Hasbro designers also discussed how there would be an attachment point on the back that the upcoming HISS Scout could attach to. It’s honestly kind of a shame that the Scout had such a limited release, since personally I would have enjoyed that configuration as well. However, the feature that impressed most people, the moving treads, in my opinion was somewhat unsuccessful. It was great in concept and really did make the HISS look more like an actual tank, but when I’ve been messing around with both the original and the Crimson models, I have to press down pretty hard on the tank to make the treads move properly and considering how often I played on the carpet as a kid, I really question how well they work on anything but a hard, flat table. I appreciate that Hasbro tried doing something different, and they do look really nice but I think that kind of reflects some of the problems the line had earlier in the rebirth—sacrificing poseability/play value for aesthetics. A good friend of mine in Kansas (whose house I crashed at for JoeCon) had a kid getting close to G.I. Joe age and I really don’t know if those tank treads would have gone over with him that well since it did hurt the play value of the toy in my opinion.
Arguably, the nicest part of the Crimson HISS is its armament. First of all, I’ve always been a sucker for a Vulcan cannon and the one the HISS has does not disappoint. It definitely brings a lot of firepower to bear and the ammo belt fits nicely into the drum on top of the HISS. Its other primary weapon is the missile launcher, which again, is nicely detailed and works well. The two rear weapons are also equipped with an action feature that lets you swivel them together by using a slider on the rear of the tank. The Cobra gunner operating them even gets protection for firepowr since he is loaded into the tank and fires them from a lying down position inside the back end of the tank. The front of the HISS also has a small dual cannon for the driver to use to take care of closer targets.
Now, most of the previous paragraphs can apply to any version of the PoC HISS Naturally, the paint scheme is what makes the Crimson HISS different from its PoC brethren. While I got a little tired of the overuse of crimson during the New Sculpt era, the 25th-PoC timeframe really cut back on the overuse of this color, which is fine by me. As someone who’s always seen crimson as the color for elite Cobra forces, seeing it used on seemingly every Cobra trooper under the sun really kind of diluted the Crimson Guard branding for me. However, I still found myself liking the concept of the Crimson Guard having their own set of basic Cobra vehicles. That’s why I tracked down the Operation: Crimson Sabotage set back during the New Sculpt era and that idea carries forward to the 30th Anniversary line for the Crimson HISS The shade of red is vibrant, but not too bright and the black weapons really do accent the look nicely. The stickers, while just recolored from the PoC HISS, still look very nice and I appreciate the need to put a lot of stickers on a vehicle. Stickering up a new vehicle was something I liked growing up and I missed doing that during the New Sculpt era through most of the modern stuff. On the subject of stickers, I have to mention my favorite, the two kill markers on the right side of the vehicle. It’s a nice little added detail that adds a little flair to the vehicle and I’ve always liked when both Joe and Cobra vehicle have them.
Of course, what good is a nice, new HISS without a driver to go with it? While I was somewhat underwhelmed with the new version of the HISS Driver attached to the PoC HISS, the Crimson Horseman—while essentially a PoC Firefly with a PoC Snake Eyes vest and a new head—really clicked for me. First off, I’ve always loved the PoC Firefly body and it works really well in red and black. The two shades of red work really well together and are offset nicely by the black and dark gray. The version 1 PoC Desert Snake Eyes (which started its life as an arctic figure) looks very good on the Firefly body, and honestly, with the added color it looks a bit better than it did originally on Snake Eyes because the colors applied actually help bring out the details a bit more than the flat black with a dark gray wash that it got when it was originally used on Snake Eyes. The new head sculpt is also very nice. While at its core, it’s just a black helmet, there are still a lot of details on it, that unfortunately get lost because they put most of the color budget for that piece to put a Cobra emblem in the middle of the visor. I kind of wish the head would have gotten a solid red visor to break up the monotony of the black and to help let you see some of the additional detail on it. Though Hasbro didn’t do the head sculpt a great service with its colors, it still works very well for an elite vehicle operator for the Crimson Guard and I can imagine that there are all sorts of high tech systems working to help the Crimson Horseman cause chaos and destruction on the battlefield. The Crimson Horseman also breaks the recent Hasbro tradition of vehicle drivers getting the short shrift when it comes to accessories. Though his gear is all rehashed from PoC Firefly, I’ve always thought that Firefly’s rifle was really great and I really liked the backpack and mines. Though the backpacks are ostensibly accessories for the Crimson HISS to be attached to the side ports, the Crimson Horseman looks pretty nice geared up with the rifle and the large backpack and pair of mines. I should also note that I used the pike from the chase PoC Cobra Commander to put in the port on the side like you could do with the PoC HISS and I think it looks pretty cool, especially since it has paint apps on it.
The Crimson HISS and the Crimson Horseman are a very nice addition to the Joe line and honestly, in my area, I had a lot of trouble running down the original PoC HISS and only found it while I was on a roadtrip so if you had a hard time finding it, the Crimson HISS is definitely a suitable replacement. The vehicle and driver look like they were designed with the pairing in mind, something that hasn’t always worked with some of the recent Joe vehicle drivers. While I would have liked to see a little more added value to the set with some newer weapons (maybe a second non-spring loaded cannon similar to how the Cobra Fury had a pair of missiles to put on the side as opposed to the big cannon if you wanted it to look more like the original Cobra Rage), it’s still a very nice piece really being molded in red does help bring out a lot of the mold details that I think got a little buried in the original dark brown color from the PoC age.