Kre-O Checkpoint Alpha
I’ve always been a big fan of the old-school Battle Stations and Battlefield Accessories. Heck, my very first Field Reports before I became a weekly blogger here were on the 1990 mail-away Battlefield Accessories. However, I never had many of them growing up. I thought they were cool, but I just don’t really remember ever seeing them in stores, unlike some of the smaller vehicles that hung around for a couple years after their initial release. That said, I was super excited to see that one of the small Kre-O sets was the Checkpoint Alpha. I thought the original set looked cool when I first discovered it back in high school during the early days of renewed Joe fandom and I really like how effectively Kre-O recreated the original set. Plus, they included Kre-O figures that made a lot of sense to be included in the set—the Joe’s premiere MP and Cobra’s premiere saboteur.
Starting off small, I’ll tackle Firefly and his motorcycle which I’ve dubbed the Venom Cycle for lack of a better option. Surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of motorcycles on the Cobra side of things despite the Dreadnoks being a biker gang. Having a set that has Firefly riding on a motorcycle and attacking a military outpost is also a great bit of synergy with Retaliation. One of the more memorable action sequences in the trailer was Firefly’s attack on a military checkpoint that we now know was part of him breaking Cobra Commander out of prison. While the story here isn’t quite the same, the images are similar and I’m sure it was more than just a coincidence that Kre-O Firefly was released this way. The Venom Cycle itself is composed of just a few parts but they work well together and they make for a very nice little gray sport bike. It’s definitely something I could see Firefly riding to make a quick and quiet escape from whatever military installation he just sabotaged. My only real issue with the Kre-O motorcycles is that they’re all very unstable. I threw on an additional piece from the Arashikage Dojo set to make a kickstand for it just so it stays up. While I’m not a fan of how unstable the cycle is, I do like that the hollow-topped pegs are the right size to store his machine gun. The handle fits in it perfectly and it’s a great way to stow it if you want Firefly to have both hands on the Venom Cycle’s handlebars. The stickers are relatively sparse, and I do wish there was a little something to make the cycle just a tad more interesting. The pair of Cobra sigils for the sides is appropriate but the Venom Cycle is still awfully gray. Finally, I really like the rubber tires for the cycle. It’s a nice added detail that’s probably a bit more expensive than just making wheels that look like tires and faking it. I’m glad they decided to invest the money to do it that way.
Speaking of a lot of gray, Firefly is a great addition to the ranks of the named Cobra characters that get their own Kre-O minifigure. Firefly has always been decked out in some sort of camouflage (except of course for that weird green and gray phase he went through in the 90s) and this figure is no different. The body is a very light gray with darker gray tampoed throughout the body. Over top of that, they’ve also tampoed his traditional chest straps with grenades and pouches. Surprisingly, the details manage to pop and don’t get lost in the dark gray camo as I initially feared they might. All the details definitely stand out over the gray camo uniform. Surprisingly, they also carry the strap detailing on to his back even though he’s get a backpack to cover it up. While I’ve always liked the Kre-O minifigure look, I think someone with a masked head like Firefly fares just a little better than characters with bare faces. A facemask works a little better on the simplified human shape than an actual human face. That’s not a knock against the concept as a whole, but I’ve always felt the need to give the face tampos a little more of a pass if they look too generic just because you can’t do a lot of details on them. However, with Firefly’s unique camouflaged balaclava look, there’s no mistaking who this is supposed to be. For accessories, Firefly gets a silenced submachine gun, a backpack, and an explosive charge. While the scale issues of Kre-O weapons are still prevalent, I do like how just adding a simple canister to the front of a gun makes it look different enough that it doesn’t feel like everyone’s running around with the same guns. I do wish Firefly’s backpack were designed just a little differently just because there’s not a good way you can clip his gun into it and have it look okay. That’s why I had to jury-rig the back gun for his motorcycle. The backpack is a great accessory for Firefly and I love his little bomb. Yes, it’s the old school group of dynamite sticks and a timer, but there’s something just a little more cartoony about it and I’m okay with that here. After all, Kre-O is a bit more kid-friendly that regular Joe so the iconic cartoon bomb showing up as Firefly’s explosive charge is fine by me. My only real complaint about Kre-O so far has been quality control. While Firefly isn’t broken, while I was trying to pose him on the Venom Cycle once, I tweaked his left leg in just the wrong way and now the joint feels very loose. I’m a little concerned about the overall durability of these figures considering this issue. It’s a pain enough when a figure breaks to begin with, but to replace Kre-O minifigures, you either have to buy a new set just for the figure or hope you get lucky and find that the blindbagged figure you’re looking for is still available at your local Toys ‘R’ Us. Part of it is a critique on the way Kre-O handles its business via blindbagging, but I do find it a bit annoying that I have to go to Toys ‘R’ Us to replace something when I think, judging by the strength of the Lego aisles of all the major box stores, Kre-O Joe could probably do quite well as a mass-market property.
Of course, having Firefly isn’t as fun if he doesn’t have something to sneak through to sabotage and Checkpoint Alpha is a great little piece for it. The checkpoint itself is two stories. The main floor has a computer that’s part of the security system. Clearly, Firefly’s been found out because the screen reads “Red Alert” and has a Cobra logo on the screen. Up top, you find a search light and a missile launcher. Strangely, however, the search light is not built into the missile launcher and doesn’t even point in the same direction. I’d think that whoever was manning it would like to be able to see what they’re shooting at. The missile launcher can be turned to face the same direction as the spotlight, but then you can’t get someone in behind it to operate it. There’s a small ladder on the back of the checkpoint so your characters have a logical way to get up to the top. The checkpoint itself is a combination of black and gray but what really stands out is the stickers. There’s a red and white “Checkpoint Alpha” sign just like back in the day along with signs that read “Restricted Area” and “Authorized Personnel Only.” It’s clear from just looking at this piece that whatever’s beyond the red gate is something that the government doesn’t want you to get to without permission. Checkpoint Alpha definitely has a great vintage feel to it and I really love how well the set works as a whole.
Of course, if you’re going to have a checkpoint set up, you’ll want some security personnel manning it and who better to man the checkpoint that the Joe team’s K-9 security team of Law and Order. While the 30th Anniversary version of Law was modernized, the Kre-O version is all 80s and I love that. I have fond memories of KansasBrother’s red and blue Law from back in the day. I liked the character so much I almost bought that armored Battle Corps atrocity just because I wanted a version of him, but it was just too much of a departure for me to see him as Law. The tampos do a great job at recreating his blue vest that he wears over his red shirt along with a shoulder holster and his badge. While the tampo work is crisp, the paint itself is oddly blurry. The red for his sleeves bleeds down pretty badly on to his arms. The “MP” tampo is great but it’s a little surprising at how off the paint work is on the rest of him. Law’s face has got a nice little grin and I see that as a throwback to his rather fun-loving personality that we got to see in G.I. Joe: The Movie. For accessories, Law has three great pieces of police gear. First off, he’s wearing a white MP helmet just like back in the day. I love the nod to the original Law here. Secondly, he’s got a pistol for when he can’t use the checkpoint’s missile launcher to subdue his targets. Finally, he also gets an all black riot shield. I’m constantly impressed at how successful Kre-O is with their specialty accessories. The shield looks great in his hands and in terms of scale, it’s a pretty accurate representation of a riot shield. Of course, Law wouldn’t be on the beat without his canine partner, Order, and here Kre-O does a decent job. I really like the Kre-O animals. They’re a great combination of cute and ferocious. Law is posed as though he’s stalking a target, yet he still looks pretty adorable while doing it. The mold was later reused to make Timber so that’s why I’m not 100% sold on it as a German shepherd from a sculpting standpoint, but the paint work leaves no doubt in my mind as to what breed Order is supposed to be. They’re a great miniature version of a classic Joe animal handler.
Checkpoint Alpha was my first Kre-O purchase at full price. I dabbled in the line when Toys ‘R’ Us had a sale and I’ve been hooked ever since. Hasbro did a great job at making a wide variety of price points for kids of all ages and Checkpoint Alpha filled the cheapest spot. Even though it’s cheap, it’s well-designed and worth every penny. It’s a fun little set and there’s a lot of play value to be had. It’s got a built in story of Firefly vs. Law & Order and you can have all sorts of fun having Firefly trying to sneak past Law & Order and sabotage a Joe base.