Cross Country and HAVOC
Every now and then, the G.I. Joe Collectors’ Club really surprises me and 2014’s membership figure was a perfect example of that. Cross Country is somebody I’ve always kind of liked but since he was so closely affiliated with his vehicle, it didn’t surprise me that Hasbro never made a modern version of him. However, that didn’t preclude the GIJCC from taking a crack at him. Even more surprising, in 2014 they also decided to do make their first run at selling a limited edition GIJCC-exclusive vehicle. I’ll admit, the HAVOC left me a little cold when it was first announced. I liked the Pursuit of Cobra Snow Cat well enough, but I really didn’t think turning it green was enough to warrant a purchase—especially at premium prices. As time went on, though, I slowly became more and more sold on the concept of it being an updated HAVOC, so when I bought a non-attending Zombie Initiative set from the GIJCC store, I figured since I was already ordering one thing from them, I may as well grab the HAVOC too so I don’t wind up having to pay a second round of (holy crap, expensive) GIJCC shipping charges if I learn that the HAVOC is really awesome. I have to say, I’m definitely glad I did. Cross Country is a great figure and he looks at home behind the wheel of his new HAVOC. So, in my opinion, the GIJCC’s experiment with vehicles is a resounding success, and though I’m not wild about how the 2015 Wave Crusher and Sub-Viper turned out just because I think the base vehicle is weak and the price point is a bit too high (and I didn’t pull the trigger on it until it got clearanced to a more reasonable price during their Black Friday sale), I think the GIJCC has got another decent money-maker on their hands in the form of a yearly exclusive vehicle (and hopefully driver).
Starting off with the free figure, I have to say, Cross Country is probably the best membership figure I have in my collection. Everything comes together exceedingly well and the GIJCC (along with some help from the toy wizards over at Boss Fight Studios) really did an excellent job on a figure that people have been asking for ever since the 25th Anniversary line wound down. However, I’m kind of glad that it took so long for Cross Country to get released because the larger parts library the GIJCC has access to means they can make a more vintage accurate modern version. He’s got a pretty long list of parts, so bear with me. His legs come from a combination of Rise of Cobra Zartan uppers and Rise of Cobra Flash lowers. Despite being from figures with two extremely different looks, the pairing looks remarkably cohesive. It’s a nice reference to his original pants and boots and it’s definitely a pairing I would not have thought of to accomplish this look. Underneath his brand new vest (more on that in a moment), Cross Country uses the Pursuit of Cobra Shock Trooper torso. It’s a great generic piece so I think it’s a good fit and it actually doesn’t look too out of place as a shirt if he’s not wearing his vest. His arms come from Rise of Cobra Sgt. Stone and Pursuit of Cobra Viper. I know YoJoe lists the arms as coming from the Rise of Cobra Final Battle Storm Shadow, but since he has the balljointed wrists, I’m more comfortable with calling them the Viper arms. Either way, the pairing works rather well. While I’ve always thought Sgt. Stone had some pretty big arms, things still look properly proportional even with the slightly smaller forearms. The Viper gauntlets are a great stand-in for Cross Country’s bracers. Plus, considering how much maintenance Cross Country does on his own vehicles, it makes sense for him to be a bit buffer than other Joes and the Rise of Cobra Sgt. Stone arms give him a little buffer look. Over the Shock Trooper torso, he’s got a brand new vest sculpted by the guys over at Boss Fight. This thing is just downright impressive. It’s an amazingly faithful recreation of Cross Country’s original torso in removable vest form. The molded wrinkles add a level of realism to the overall look. A holster for his revolver hangs from the vest’s belt (a nod to the fact that the original Cross Country had a holster molded on to his leg) but it doesn’t get in the way when he’s sitting in the HAVOC, which is extremely important. He’s still wearing a single bandolier and while I’m still not sure of the purpose of the red pad up by his right shoulder, it’s still there. Even more impressive, if you look at his back, you can see the slits where the bandolier feed in through the vest and there are matching, open slits on the other side for if Cross Country ever felt like adding an additional bandolier. Cross Country is still rocking the Confederate flag belt buckle (which still makes me cringe), but being simplified down to just a white “X”, I’m actually a little more willing to give it a pass. It’s similar to the Confederate flag, but unlike his previous incarnations, there aren’t molded details in it that make it clear what it’s supposed to be. I’m not certain, but I’d swear I’ve seen some sort of military insignia that’s a white “X” on a red background. Either way, it is a decent way for the GIJCC to reference Cross Country’s original look without referencing the traitorous Confederacy. Finally, we have to give some attention to his amazing new head. The guys over at Boss Fight did an amazing job translating his cartoon look to the physical figure. He’s got a great mullet and the face has a smirk that I can just see him having on screen in the cartoon. It’s a great look and he’s got a lot of character in his face. On top of his head, he’s wearing a Civil War styled officer’s hat with a set of goggles on top. I really find myself loving this pairing. It reminds me a little of the look that old-timey test pilots had, just wearing a regular hat with a set of goggles to protect their eyes. Everything comes together extremely well and I’m very glad I continued my membership in the GIJCC to get access to this figure.
The sculpting is perfect and while the paint work is serviceable, there are a few places that could be a little better. It’s not a deal-breaker, but from a premium figure, I do expect a little more attention to detail. The color scheme is drawn straight from the 1986 Cross Country and that’s a good call. The green is a bit darker than the 1986 version’s vest, but other than that, if Cross Country had the color on him back in the day, he’s got it here now. His pants are a nice dark gray with red pouches on the side. Unfortunately, the paint work on his left leg’s pouch is a bit fuzzy. I like my paint lines to be nice and crisp, but it’s surprisingly fuzzy on the left leg. What’s a little maddening is that the right leg is fine. Below the knee, he’s got his white spats on over brown boots. Again, it’s exactly what he had in 1986 and while it’s still a bit of a strange look, I’ll overlook it since it’s faithfully recreating his original figure. His shirt is white and the paint coverage over the flesh molded upper arms is good. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the flesh tone on his lower arms. It looks like the lower arms were molded out of the dark gray plastic and painted with the flesh tone over it. The coverage there is pretty weak. I can see a lot of the gray bleeding through the paint it’s a little distracting. Add in that on my sample there’s a bit of flesh slop on his left bracer (which of course, has perfect coverage) and I’m just a little disappointed. Almost every figure I’ve ever gotten from the GIJCC has been painted nearly perfectly so it’s a bit jarring to see such weak paint work on his arms. His vest’s green is still a vibrant hue, but looking the 1986 version’s vest, they’ve taken it a few steps away from neon and that’s a good call. I do still kind of wish it were a little darker, just so it would coordinate even better with the HAVOC, but that’s just my personal opinion. The paint work on the vest itself is very good. The black strap and red pad are painted well, with no slop. His belt is well done and there’s the aforementioned simplified Confederate flag along with some gold detailing around the buckle and for his bullets. My favorite detail, though, has to be the nametag on his vest. I’ve known quite a few people in the military, and your uniform almost always has your last name on it if you’re in the field. I like the addition of this real world detail to a military action figure. While I may have had a few paint problems with Cross Country’s body, his head is problem free and that’s perfect. I’m willing to overlook paint flaws on a figure’s body, but if there are problems on the head, it’s a big deal for me. His hair is a nice, realistic red tone and the detail on his goggles is very well done. Though there are some flaws, they’re really no worse than what you’ve seen on mass market figures, so I should be forgiving, but since the GIJCC has made this a premium piece, I do expect better from them.
Finally, we have to look at Cross Country’s gear. Much like Cross Country himself, it’s a very effective mixture of old and new pieces that really come together very well. His primary weapon is the Pursuit of Cobra Jungle Assault Duke assault rifle that the GIJCC used the year before with Footloose. I’m perfectly fine with that. It’s a great piece and I don’t mind seeing it reused a lot. Plus, considering that Cross Country didn’t get a weapon back in the day since he was a vehicle driver, anything’s going to be welcome and the fact that they chose such a good piece makes me even happier. To fill his holster, Cross Country also gets the same revolver that came with 25th Anniversary Wild Bill. It’s a nice fit for someone who’s clearly got some other stylistic ties to the historical military. It fits in the holster very snugly, and that’s a definite plus. His final accessory is a large wrench. Having grown up in a slightly-rural area, I’ve seen wrenches this size a lot used on farm equipment and I like that someone who is an armor specialist is carrying around a large tool that could be useful if his vehicle gets tread-shot during combat and he needs to change out a wheel on the fly. Honestly, I would have been okay if they’d made it even larger. Having been in a quite a few farm supply stores in my days, tractor maintenance can require some pretty colossal wrenches so you can get leverage on some the big wheelnuts and I’m sure the same is true of military armor maintenance.
Of course, Cross Country has always been defined by the fact that he’s the HAVOC’s driver, so I’m glad he’s got a HAVOC to drive. While a repainted Snow Cat might not be ideal, there are enough stylistic similarities between the two vehicles that I think it makes a shockingly good stand in. The Snow Cat is a pretty iconic Joe vehicle, but with its large front canopy and halftrack design, it does work pretty well for the HAVOC. It’s not quite the same, but it’s close enough…and if anything that sentence should probably be the mantra of the modern Joe line. The Snow Cat is a great design and with the relatively open back end, I can see it both as a battlefield combat vehicle, but also one that can haul around ordnance on the field. Since the “OC” on “HAVOC” stands for “Ordnance Carrier”, I can justify the Snow Cat becoming the HAVOC a little more easily. The large back end also makes a nice place to store the gear that the Joes in the cockpit can’t keep with them. The back end has a large, four-shot, spring-loaded missile battery. It’s actually a really great design and the firing feature is rather unobtrusive so I’m fine with it. The back end of the HAVOC also has a large panel that Joes can grab on to, but it’s designed in such a way that, in the real world, I can see it folding down for some additional storage space or maintenance access. My only real complaints come from the fact that there are plenty of reminders that the HAVOC was originally the Snow Cat, meaning it’s an arctic vehicle. The most egregious example is that the HAVOC is also armed with a pair of skipedos. Don’t get me wrong, I like the crazy design of the skipedo, but they’re kind of useless outside of the arctic. I find myself wishing the GIJCC had but a little money into the HAVOC’s mold and either recreated the HAVOC’s original back missiles or even the pair of dual cannons that could be mounted on the missile attachment points like the guns that covered the vehicle’s six originally. Yes, this would have increased the cost, but I think it would have helped sell it as the HAVOC just a little more. Plus, it would have addressed my other criticism of the Snow Cat/HAVOC—that its only weapons are missiles. I’ve always kind of questioned a vehicle that doesn’t have some sort of gun as a weapon. When you’re armed with nothing but missiles you have a super-limited number of shots and then you’re out. The other hint of the HAVOC’s origin as the Snow Cat comes from the canopy. When I first bought the Pursuit of Cobra Snow Cat, I thought it was a really cool touch that the canopy’s glass was frosted over except where the moving wiper blade could scrape it clear. However, outside of the arctic setting, it just looks a little weird, like the HAVOC is permanently driving through a little bit of mist. My final complaint is something I discovered while trying to crew up my HAVOC. I don’t know if this is an issue with Joe figures or the HAVOC, but quite a few figures’ footholes didn’t security fit on the peg. It was a little strange to find that out, and that issue did drive a few of my choices for who crews the HAVOC. That said, though, the Snow Cat works far better as the HAVOC than I initially thought and seeing more and more photos of it really sold me on it.
Where the GIJCC really knocked my socks off, though, was in the paint work. The HAVOC itself is a nice pairing of dark green and black. The two colors work very well together. The orange missiles and skipedos stand out really well against this color pairing, yet it doesn’t look out of place. Where the GIJCC goes above and beyond is the tampo work. Rather than do things with stickers, all the details that would normally be stickers are done as tampos instead. I’ll admit, I wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of dropping $42 for it at first, but seeing all the extra work that went into the tampo detailing, I totally understand the price point now. My favorite tampo is the “4” logo that takes fills the spot for the Snow Cat insignia. This was something lifted straight from the 1986 HAVOC and it’s a nice throwback. It really helps sell it a little more as the HAVOC rather than just a repainted Snow Cat.
When the HAVOC was first announced, I wasn’t really sold on it. I figured it would be a super-easy pass. However, getting Cross Country in my hands made me really long for a vehicle for him to drive. Yes, I’m sure it was the marketing plan to make Cross Country the membership figure to entice people to buy the HAVOC, but I don’t care. It worked on me and I did get a really good vehicle out of the deal. The HAVOC looks nice on my shelf and while it’s not that different from the Snow Cat, I think the paint scheme is enough. Perfect world, I’d like a little more difference, but really, I’ve always kind of wished the Joe motor pool had a little more cohesiveness to it. It seemed like there were a lot of vehicles that could pull off similar duties, and as I think about it, the Snow Cat and the HAVOC do share similar battlefield duties. They’re both fast-attack vehicles that have decent cargo capacity. Why not have merge the two vehicles together and remove some unnecessary duplication in the Joe motorpool? I’m glad I decided to pull the trigger on the HAVOC. It’s a great nod to the history of the Joe brand and with Cross Country behind the wheel, it’s an excellent addition to my collection.