Jungle Assault Skydive
Sometimes an action figure really just captures your imagination. I don’t know why, but I’ve always really loved jetpacks, and the crazier-looking the better. At Joe Con in 2009, the Hasbro team found a way to make me buy another movie Ripcord figure—by making him into the Desert Battle jetpack trooper. While I wasn’t wild about Marlon Wayans’s take on the character of Ripcord in Rise of Cobra, I could just see him having a blast flying around the desert in a heavily armored jetpack system. Ripcord had a lot of fun in an accelerator suit just running fast, can you imagine how wild he would think it would be to be zipping over the battlefield taking shots at Cobra from the air? Unfortunately, this figure was one of the cool transition figures that got delayed due likeness rights on the actors. Rather than shell out a lot of extra money to make jetpack Ripcord, Hasbro decided to repurpose the figure and make Jungle Assault Skydive, who I like even more because he’s not a repeat of a character I already have in my collection and his new identity is a character I remember from my brother’s collection- growing up.
Skydive’s design still looks like a Rise of Cobra figure, but I’m okay with that. While I missed the unique uniforms from the Joe of old, the one thing they did right was make the costumes look high tech and futuristic yet still hold on to an element of realism. Skydive owes a lot of his design cues to the movie’s reactive armor. I generally only bought the reactive armor figures for Rise of Cobra characters that got more than one release. I thought it looked really cool and Skydive really fits in nicely with those guys but still looks different enough to be his own man. Generally speaking, the design looks like a reactive armor flight suit. That’s a cool combination in my mind. The legs have a little less armor than the rest of the body, but that does make a degree of sense. The exhaust ports don’t vent over the legs, so if you want to cut down on weight, you can afford to lose some armor there and still keep the operator very safe. There’s also a functional holster on his left ankle and I always like ankle holsters. I don’t know why, but I think they look good when properly executed and it looks nice here on Skydive. The arms and torso are well-armored along the lines of a reactive armor suit but slightly bulkier out of necessity since additional padding and insulation does take up more room. Unfortunately, Skydive does have a slightly cocked right wrist. It’s not as bad as 25th Airborne’s, but it’s just enough of a tweak that the pistol looks a little unnatural in his right hand. Skydive’s only recycled piece is his head, which he shares with Rise of Cobra Flash. I know a lot people don’t like Flash’s gimp mask, and I’ll admit that I wish they’d done something different to reference the original Skydive, but I’m okay with guys like Skydive and Flash both wearing masks like this. They’re using high tech, experimental gear. I think they’d appreciate having a flame resistant facemask on just in case something goes wrong. Skydive was a character I have a history with, having been in my brother’s collection. I’m glad they decided to make him someone obscure as opposed to either leaving him Ripcord or making a crazy modern update of Grand Slam. Both of those guys have gotten some decent attention from Hasbro during the modern era, so I’m happier seeing Sky Patrol’s commanding officer getting a new figure. I just wish he had a swappable head so I could have him look more like his old self. Even a repainted Mutt head would have been close enough for my needs to make him seem more like Skydive. Over all this armor and padding, Skydive is wearing more armor. He’s got a very detailed armored parachute rig on the front and a relatively plain armored back for his jetpack to attach to. I like the forethought of having your jetpack trooper also carrying a parachute. They’d want it just in case their jetpack gets damaged. It’s something I never would have thought about, and considering that we’ve never seen a Joe jetpack operator have a parachute, it’s also one that it took Hasbro to come up with, but it’s a great detail that adds a level of realism to Skydive’s rather fanciful design.
In terms of accessories, Skydive is a weird figure because he has a lot of stuff, but at the same time, I feel like he’s missing a key piece of equipment. Starting off at the top, Skydive has a great helmet. It’s substantial, but the faceplate is open enough that I don’t think it would be too dangerous to wear while zipping around the battlefield. As befitting a jetpack trooper, the helmet is also connected to his chest armor by a pair of hoses that I assume are some sort of oxygen system. The one thing that always bothered me about Joe jetpack operators (aside from the 1991 General Hawk) is that I thought a simple visored military helmet wouldn’t provide enough protection for a guy in that job. Anyone could strap on a JUMP and take off. That seemed a little strange and awfully dangerous. Like the 1991 Hawk, Skydive takes the concept of a jetpack trooper a bit more seriously, giving him additional protection in the form of a substantial helmet and a specially designed suit for the job. The jetpack is a bit of a holdover from Rise of Cobra in that it’s a spring-loaded accessory. I’ll take a cool-looking spring-loaded winged jetpack over a ridiculous missile-launching heavy machine gun any day. The design looks like a more advanced version of the jetpack Hasbro gave to the carded Rise of Cobra Hawk. I thought that design was excellent, and I like this one even more. My only real problem is that lacks a kind of important detail, thrusters. The “nozzles” (I’m using the term YoJoe used because Hasbro never really bothered to define what they are) aren’t placed in a position that makes sense for jetpack thrusters and there’s nothing that looks like an engine on the tail section of the jetpack either. Realism issues aside, this is a very cool jetpack. I like the angular wings and the spring-powered mechanism to deploy them works very well. I don’t know why, but everything about the design just screams speed to me. The jetpack has a pair of small missiles that plug into the body of the jetpack as well. I can just see Skydive using these either to deal with a FANG that engaged him in hot pursuit (after taking advantage of his pack’s speed and maneuverability to get behind it) or providing some air support for a group of Joes pinned down on the ground by Cobra armor. Finally, Skydive also has a pistol that fits very well in his ankle holster. It looks good in his hands, but that does lead me to my only real criticism of Skydive’s equipment. That pistol is the only firearm he has. That seems somewhat useless for a guy flying around the battlefield. It doesn’t really give him much firepower in the air and pistols are only accurate in comparatively short ranges. When this figure was Ripcord, he came with the standard Rise of Cobra FN-2000, and while I had gotten a little tired of seeing that gun by the end of the Rise of Cobra line, it would have worked well for Skydive and given him a little more firepower. Skydive’s weapons remind me of my only real criticism of the Snow Cat. The missiles look good, but they’re the only shots either has. Both the Snow Cat and Skydive would benefit from the addition of some sort of firearm so they can have a few more shots than just a couple of missiles to engage the targets at longer ranges.
The biggest change between Skydive and the original use as Ripcord comes in the color scheme. This figure was originally designed to fight in the desert so the colors focused around tans, browns, olive drab green and a coppery color for the helmet. However, those colors aren’t going to work for a Jungle Assault figure. Instead, his pants are an olive drab green while the bulk of the armor is a dark gray with green for the cloth, light gray for the helmet, and a little bit of red trim. I really did like Ripcord’s desert look, but I like the jungle colors even better. While I’m still not sure how useful a jetpack trooper would be in a dense jungle environment, I have to admit the colors do look sharp on this mold. He also has a tampo of the new Joe logo on his left shoulder. I think that logo is probably my favorite thing out of the Pursuit of Cobra era. The things they did with figures were great, but I really like that all the Joes were actually wearing a uniform logo. Joes wearing the American flag or a large G.I. Joe logo were pretty unusual back in the day, but I really do like the concept of a consistent Joe logo on all the members of the Joe team as long as it looks as nice as the one they designed for the Pursuit of Cobra line.
If you had told me that 21 years after his initial release, Skydive would be showing up again, I would have laughed. The 25th Anniversary did an okay job of hitting some of the more obscure branches of Joe history, but Skydive is kind of beyond obscure. Sky Patrol was a great subset, but it was another one that wound up not being as popular as it should have been because the gimmick of working parachutes drove up the prices a bit more than they should have. It seems like every time Hasbro branched into funky subteams after the heyday of the repaint brigades that were Tiger Force, Python Patrol and Slaughter’s Marauders (think Sonic Fighters and their ilk), they felt the need to also add in a new gimmick that unfortunately raised prices. That’s part of why I never went that much after the Sonic Fighters. I had access to most of them but they were more expensive that regular Joes, so why go after them? However, Sky Patrol always captured my attention a bit more and I wish I had more than just Airborne (even though in my opinion, he’s probably the best figure out of the group). Yes, they were repaints, but they were all brand new characters. I love new characters and Skydive hasn’t been seen around the Joe world in so long that while he’s an old friend returning to the shelves, he’s also a very different take on the original, grizzled paratrooper. It’s little nods like this that I appreciate Hasbro sending our way. I realize if the brand wants to keep going, they need to get the attention of kids and not old guys like me, but if they can reference an obscure guy that I remember in the form of a really cool jetpack trooper that just screams “Play with me!” when you look at him, I think the line will do well. The Pursuit of Cobra line showed that Hasbro is nothing if not inventive. Not everything they tried always worked, but they’ve had more hits than misses in my opinion. Skydive is a great example of that. Ripcord got pulled out from under them kind of at the last minute thanks to some legal issues regarding likenesses but rather than let all that new tooling go to waste, they improvised. It took them a little longer than planned to get him out, but they managed to keep everything I liked when the character was Ripcord and only had to lose the fact that he was Ripcord. Anticipation did make me set the bar pretty high for Skydive, but they managed to make me happy with him, and considering how hard he was to find, I think a lot of people must feel the same way about him.