Darklon and Evader (1989)
I guess the general theme of this next series of Field Reports would be something along the lines of reclaiming my lost childhood. Between Joe Con in 2009 and an amazing find at my comic shop on my birthday in 2010, I finally filled some holes in my vintage collection that were things I wanted when I was a kid but could just never seem to find on the store shelves. I still have a great deal of respect for the vintage line, however, what’s currently on display in my collection is mostly modern stuff because that’s what I have easy access to and as someone who has always been twitchy when it comes to online shopping, I’ve never really gone whole hog into using eBay to fill gaps or replace accessories long lost in the ether.
With that said, the first review will focus on a set I’ve wanted probably since 1990, Darklon and the Evader. Destro and the Iron Grenadiers were hands down my favorite group growing up. I even remember being allowed to break the December toy embargo by my parents once in my life and that was to get Destro and the Despoiler. Once that was added to my collection, Destro was in it and that version of Destro remained a favorite piece until I stored many of my old toys sometime after graduating high school. My love of the Iron Grenadiers extended to Darklon and the Evader too. I didn’t know anything about the set because I didn’t see it on shelves, but those product catalogues said it was part of the Iron Grenadiers and so I wanted it. I always tended to default to the smaller vehicles as my favorites for some reasons, save some very rare exceptions. I think that’s why the Evader appealed to my kid brain more than the Razorback. As a kid, larger vehicles meant more time used to set up and less time used to play. Later learning that Darklon was Destro’s cousin (though I have no idea how since this was before the Internet, I didn’t read comics yet at that time in my life and I don’t recall any of my friends having it) only cemented the set’s coolness to me. However, it never showed up when I was looking for it, so it eluded me. Fast-forward 19 years, and on the dealer floor at Joe Con, I had a very modest list of things I wanted to find. While I was definitely looking around to replace the missing pieces on my brother’s Tomahawk, the first two things I needed to find were a loose Darklon and loose Evader and I’m pretty sure they were my first two purchases on the dealer floor.
First and foremost, I will admit Darklon’s design is kinda weird. The colors clash badly and the
asymmetrical boots are a little strange. However, as a person who likes toys regardless of their color schemes, I thought he was neat. The mask was very intimidating and he gave off a Destro vibe, except where Destro was honorable, Darklon was more of a thug. I’m sure if I’d gotten Darklon when I was a kid, he would have been used as Destro’s primary bodyguard and enforcer. When you add in the really cool weapon that I consider some sort of heavy machine gun, it really sells the concept that Darklon is a tough guy you don’t want to mess with. Honestly, if I had any real skill with painting, I would seriously consider trying to repaint Darklon using the color scheme the Collectors’ Club used for the M.A.R.S. Invades con-set, but I don’t want to run the risk of messing up Darklon by doing a poor job repainting him.
While he may look goofy, the Hasbro designers definitely crammed a lot of detailing in his figure and I appreciate that. I like the shoulder armor and the wrist protector and you have to admire anyone who dresses the way Darklon does who also wears an armored codpiece to protect the family jewels. The boots, while a little odd considering they’re asymmetrical (Seriously, what did he do find two different boots on the side of a road in Darklonia and go “Sweet, they’re the same color!” and just decide to roll with it?) also have quite a bite of detailing on them. I find the grenades wrapped around his right leg to be a little odd, but at the same time, again it lends a little more to image I have of Darklon as a thug. Those grenades being there are just as much about intimidation as they are about use. However, I think his big knife strapped to his left leg is probably even more intimidating considering that sucker runs nearly the entire length of his tibia and fibula. Something I just noticed while actually looking at the photos I took of Darklon is that the foot detailing even goes as far as to show that he’s wearing some form of strange cowboy boot. He’s got the traditional Joe flat foot, but careful inspection of the foot shows they sculpted in a spot to represent the heel of a cowboy boot…or at least I’m hoping they’re cowboy boots. Finally, I don’t know what it’s supposed to represent, but Darklon’s torso and arms have a strange texture on it. I’d almost say it’s like a commando sweater, but considering how well-defined his torso musculature is, that can’t be the answer. Regardless of what it’s supposed to represent, it’s definitely a unique texture and is a nice artifact of the era where Hasbro actually paid attention to vehicle drivers instead of throwing parts together and repainting them to make drivers. As another Joe Con-related aside, I was shocked at how hard it was to actually find a Darklon on the dealer floor. For a figure that gets mocked as roundly as he does (even by guys like me who really do love the figure), there weren’t a lot of samples out there on the floor. I realize being a vehicle driver means he had a smaller production run, but considering that the Evader was a relatively inexpensive vehicle, I would imagine there were a lot of kids that wound up with it.
Darklon’s equally wacky ride, the Evader, is a nice, small Joe vehicle. However, while I like it, it definitely requires a bit more suspension of disbelief than most Joe vehicles. To begin with, a hallmark of Joe vehicles was that they almost all had some sort of control stick or steering wheel to put the figure’s hands on while driving. The Evader does not…which creates a bit of a problem steering unless he somehow steers it using the large guns he’s also holding on to. If they’re not part of the same mechanism, then Darklon has to take his hands off the imaginary steering system to fire the Evader’s primary weapons. The roof-mounted missiles also create a bit of a problem because any of the little consoles inside the vehicle are kind of out of his reach while he’s sitting in it. The colors on it are great since it’s hard to go wrong with black and gold. It definitely fits the motif that had been established with most of the Iron Grenadier vehicles of the time. It’s just a shame that the figures in that subset didn’t all follow suit with a unifying color scheme (Darklon’s a fashion offender, but so are the Annihilators). The vehicle mold is very well-detailed and though in a perfect world, a third color for some of the engine parts to make them stand a little better would have been nice, it still looks very cool and the details are crisp enough that they don’t really get lost in translation. I also really enjoy the fact that they gave this vehicle a seatbelt. I don’t know how much sense it makes from a design perspective to put a seatbelt in a vehicle when it doesn’t have a control stick of any sort. I’ve always wondered at why Joe vehicles started putting those seatbelts in. I know I never really used them and on the Evader, it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to belt the driver in. It’s a very small and fast vehicle that feels to me like a heavily armed motorcycle and if anything, side walls would increase driver safety more than a seatbelt. Despite requiring a bit more imagination than other Joe vehicles, it’s a nice, sleek fast-attack vehicle that I could see causing all sorts of problems if it were attacking the back end of a Joe convoy or a small Joe outpost. Conversely, it’s also a nice escape vehicle that Darklon can use to escape a battle that’s going south.
Overall, Darklon and the Evader is a set I’m definitely glad to have in my collection. I don’t know if I would’ve tracked it down if it hadn’t been a white dolphin (like a white whale only smaller) in my collection, but it’s definitely nice. I can appreciate what the designers did with Darklon and even though his colors are a bit out there, there are also worse-colored figures in the line so I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. The Evader itself is a fun toy that can be used in a lot of different capacities on the battlefield
and that’s something I’ve always appreciated about the smaller vehicles.